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Month: May 2019

Stage 16: Penrith to Gretna Green (44m)

Stage 16: Penrith to Gretna Green (44m)

We were warned about the start of the ride today and it really was uphill and down dale.

Former county Westmorland (and Cumberland) now Cumbria

Elevenses by River Lyvennet

Imposing red-stoned Carlisle Castle

When we eventually made it to Carlisle, we abandoned our Sustrans route in favour of the A7 and saved ourselves 10 miles by bashing up the A-road.

Made it to SCOTLAND!

Haggis is already on the menu – for breakfast!

Hotelier was telling us that there are still about 2000 weddings a year in Gretna but that you can’t just turn up; you must apply 29 days in advance.

Stage 15: Borwick to Penrith (68m)

Stage 15: Borwick to Penrith (68m)

First things first, some of you may be wondering, we are still happily married after fifteen days of being together 24/7. This is despite a few map reading blunders by yours truly…

Our first selfie for a while

Now, we also have to fess up that we haven’t done the full 68m. We’d had enough of the very hilly (but incredibly beautiful) ride after 50m upon reaching Appleby, so we stopped. We plan to make up the miles over the next two days so that we get back on track.

Perfect Airbnb with woodburner

A view over Kendal

Most of the day was spent on the ‘Pennine Cycleway’ (NCN 68). We climbed up and over open moorland to the ridge of Great Asby Scar with the stunning Pennines looking very much like the spine of Britain they’re called.

River Lune at Beck Foot

Sunbiggin Tarn

Stage 14: Whalley to Borwick (43m)

Stage 14: Whalley to Borwick (43m)

Woohoo! Hit a major milestone today – we’re over half way! Distance to date=609m Left to cycle=591m.

Next county is in Scotland!

We escaped to the hills today and enjoyed a cracking day of cycling today through Ribblesdale and the Forest of Bowland. There were three major climbs but at the very top we were rewarded with amazing views of the Yorkshire Dales in the NE (Pen-y-Ghent & Ingleborough) and the Southern Lake District in the NW across the waters of Morecombe Bay.

Whalley Abbey

The mighty Pendle Hill

A grim story is that under the shadow of this hill in 1612, nine women and one man were accused and found guilty of witchcraft and were executed by hanging in Lancaster and York.

Zoom for other LeJoggers

Bumped into a group of mamby pamby LeJoggers who are an organised tour complete with sag wagon. I might buy my ‘sag wagon’ a pint later – Hen Harrier – his favourite beer to date! His knee is holding up well by the way.

Stage 13: Manchester to Whalley (34m)

Stage 13: Manchester to Whalley (34m)

Finally, after much persuasion, Andy did buy a knee support this morning and thankfully it’s seemed to help.

Manchester, Bolton & Bury canal

Funny old day as the mileage was low but it took ages to cycle. The first leg, getting out of Greater Manchester, took forever as it was so fiddly on the map and we kept losing the Sustrans signs.

The centre of Manchester was really lively and vibrant – there was a huge amount of building and re-development going on. However, pedalling through the suburbs was a bit sad – they’re very run down and there’s so much real poverty in evidence.

Mummy goose and her cute brood

The scenery only got really beautiful when we hit the Ribble Valley, our destination for the night, just outside Whalley (pronounced Wall-E).

View over The Ribble valley

Writing this from a pub in Whalley tonight as it’s the 2nd leg of the play-offs: Charlton vs Doncaster. Things are a bit tense at half-time 1 – 1.

Stage 12: Nantwich to Manchester (47m)

Stage 12: Nantwich to Manchester (47m)

For the first time in our lives, we were on the road by 09:30 as we wanted to take things gently. Stopped for elevenses at eleven. Amazing how it all works so well when you get going earlier… Map of the North West Section

Today was a very flat day, riding across the Cheshire Plain and the Trans-Pennine Way into Manchester. About 50% of the day was spent on off-road paths – maybe one reason for this was safety: there are a lot of motorways and major roads leading to the urban metropolis of Manchester.

Venetian Marina – nr Nantwich

Salt mines nr Winsford

Lots of industrial activity going on alongside the River Weaver. The largest rock salt mine in Britain is in Winsford. The Romans used salt pans and brine kilns in what is now Northwich and the present day mine site began in the 17th Century.

River Mersey

Off to find the famous ‘Curry Mile’ in Manchester which has some of the best curry houses in Britain so they say. Is it better than the Raj in Borough Green?!

Stage 11: Bridgnorth to Nantwich (52m)

Stage 11: Bridgnorth to Nantwich (52m)

We felt a little delicate this morning after over indulging in the local inns (Pete and Richard’s bad influence!) However, a jarring morning ride along a stony riverside track to Ironbridge livened us up.

Coalport bridge

Ironbridge opened 1781

Telford was a rather horrid new town so we didn’t stop there; Donnington’s suburban sprawl was ugly too.

We pushed on gently over a couple of gradual climbs as Andy was suffering with a bit of knee pain. Considering a rest day tomorrow if it’s no better. The next stage is pretty level though, so he’s feeling optimistic.

Churches Mansion, Nantwich

Pleased to reach the black and white timbered buildings in the centre of Nantwich. Staying in one of them – The Cheshire Cat hotel.

Stage 10: Worcester to Bridgnorth (45m)

Stage 10: Worcester to Bridgnorth (45m)

Lots of off-road cycling today in beautiful sunny weather on canal tow paths, the Wyre Forest Nature Reserve and the Severn Valley Country Park. Worcester and Birmingham Canal

Lovely to escape a city on a traffic-free path along a canal. We were soon back into the countryside and on NCN 45. Cycling heaven: sun, a tailwind and not having to worry about cars.

Arley Station (Severn Valley) – one for Andy’s Dad!

On our way to Hampton Load, with the River Severn on one side and the steam railway on the other, we were all surprised by the chuff of the train and the sound of its whistle!

Accommodation of the tour is tonight’s 16th Century Grade I listed Airbnb! Exquisitely restored and a privilege to stay in – such an amazing building.

Bishop Percy’s House 1580 in Cartway, Bridgnorth

The biggest surprise of the day was opening the door to Richie and Jennie! Not one but three visitors today!

Stage 9: Gloucester to Worcester (33m)

Stage 9: Gloucester to Worcester (33m)

Lovely to see Pete arrive on the 11.30am from London Paddington. No time for elevenses, we hit the road immediately.

Met a white stallion – his name was also Pete!

On a more cultural note, we visited a tithe barn next and Petey explained the feudal system to me.

Appleforth tithe barn

Cycling buddies reunited

Next, we stopped at Tewkesbury Abbey for a relaxing picnic lunch. Our friend was astounded by the quiet country lanes Sustrans use and the impressive range of Worcestershire dwellings we passed from manor houses to thatched cottages.

Finally, we pedalled in alongside a very picturesque canal and spent a couple of very pleasant hours drinking beer in the sun.

Stage 8: Bristol to Gloucester (47m)

Stage 8: Bristol to Gloucester (47m)

Well the things you do to keep the old man happy… for him to watch his beloved Charlton in the play-offs, we had to be on the road very early for us. We crawled through Bristol’s sprawling suburbs and had great views of the River Severn virtually all day.

One happy CAFC fan – they won!

The best day of weather so far today: sunny and 17 degrees. Lots of families out cycling along the Gloucester & Sharpness canal. This was once the widest and deepest canal in the world to allow ships to dock in Gloucester, avoiding the dangerous tides and loops of the River Severn.

Emergency pizza stop

The waft of a delicious mobile pizza oven stopped us in our tracks about 10 miles outside Gloucester, in a village called Frampton on Severn. This Margarita gave us the fuel to get us into a lively docklands area of town where there was dragon boat racing going on.

Gloucester cathedral nr our hotel

Looking forward to seeing our friend Pete tomorrow who’s cycling the next two stages with us.

Stage 7: Glastonbury to Bristol (37m)

Stage 7: Glastonbury to Bristol (37m)

Fortunately our weather’s been better than in Kent – no rain. Glastonbury and Wells were so lovely that we lingered there until lunchtime.

Glastonbury Tor

The Tor has been a site of religious and spiritual pilgrimage for centuries and has fantastic 360 degree views over three counties. Historically, when the Somerset Levels have flooded, the Tor became an island and shepherds led their sheep to its higher slopes to graze.

Vicars Close, Wells

A perfectly preserved residential street of 14th Century houses in the very attractive (and smallest) city in England.

After lunch, there was a sharp climb up the Mendip Hills where we passed through Wookey Hole with its limestone caves and saw signs to Cheddar Gorge as well.

View from the Mendips

At the end of the day, we saw lots of Bristol. We didn’t mean to but got horribly lost trusting SatNav.