Day One – Land’s End to Fowey

Any thought that the England we all felt we knew & loved, as kids, is gone, can be dispelled by this one day’s bike ride alone. Amazingly pretty villages, perfect houses & gardens, picture book cottages, steep sided, wild flowered bedecked hedgerows & gorgeous estuaries & coastal towns abound, not to mention forests & fields & long rolling, unsullied views. There is however a process you have to go through before you’re entitled to start this ‘end to end’ challenge. One obligation we knew we had, was to be photographed in our kit sponsors gear i.e. Vistra, Proviz & also the kit of Peak Tours who were organising the trip. This might not have been a problem, but for the fact it was misty, cold & windy as we left our village pub square & headed of some 7 miles to officially start our trip, so we put on the lot & merely peeled off a layer as the photograph dictated. What is amazing is that until lunchtime, we kept it all on! Happily thereafter, we did see some sunshine & also some pretty big hills so that excess clothing became something of a handicap.

Land’s End was quite special, even on a cold & misty day, in its massive significance & we signed the register to say were attempting to do an ‘End to End’. If we do so, we will sign at the other end & will be entered into the ‘End to End’ Archives. OK then, let’s do it!!

Towns & villages with names like ‘London Apprentice’/Lower Sticker/Par/Mevagissy & Praze en Beeble have got to mean a journey through antiquity & time. Morning coffee under the shadow of St Michael’s Mount was magical & very welcome, in particular as Rodney has devised a method of serving us freshly brewed Italian blend (100% Arabica no less!) A chain drawn ‘King Harry Ferry’ across the impossibly pretty estuary of the River Fal (50p for cyclists, but they let us off) & pubs called the King of Prussia, has to all add up to a very special day, whatever your age, whatever bike you have or where else you’ve been in life. We met two guys on the 5 minute ferry ride over the river. One had done our ride in 8 days, the year before. He was young, handsome, charming & sprinted up the very steep hill on his carbon-framed bike, when we left the ferry on the other side. The other chap was overweight, not exactly cool in looks or dress & had Saracen steel framed tourer bike; heavily laden with panniers, to the point I couldn’t lift the rear end. He was also doing Lejog, single handed, with no electronic navigation & in the same time that we were intending. He had a huge smile; an oil smudge on the end of his nose but none of us doubted he would make it!

Lunch was at the Royal Oak, where a Sunday crowd met us with big smiles & interesting enquiries on the trip – I suspect not every such pub group around the country would respond to a group of lycra-clad oldies, in quite such an open & friendly way, but we were grateful & enjoyed their company.

By now we were beginning to think we really had got the day cracked & after a rather steep climb to the afternoon coffee stop maybe even more so. Big mistake! The last quarter of the day was such a dose of hills that the ‘we’ll be finished at 4 – 4.30’ turned into a rather tired but happy finish at almost 5.00. A lot of very steep hills, a lot of very tired legs but the biggest of smiles!

Rodney & I are at a B&B at 28A Park Road & despite a very ordinary house look; it is extremely comfortable with a big modern bathroom & very acceptable double bedroom. A most congenial dinner at the Boat House, in the wonderful harbour town of Fowey & the day closes to an end with the Group not displeased with their day & getting along famously. Tomorrow we are told is the BIG ONE!!

Awards of the Day

King of Mountains Paul Rebours (REBS)
Most improved/impressive Rodney
Best Joke Paul D (the women & son in a London taxi – I’ll tell you later)
Most damaged bike Paul D – one bent big chain ring which he’s coping with, but has to spin his legs like a hamster in a wheel, on the small ring (the very able Tony the support driver is on the case)
Most rubbish equipment Garmin – my 500 Edge played up all day & the Garmin Etrex we bought has been less than useless. Thank goodness for Peak Tours excellent maps & route notes

Philosophical thought of the day

Rodney’s ‘DIK’ theory:
He tells it stands stand for ‘DO IT NOW’
I know, I know but he can’t spell either!

Vital stats for the day;

Distance 71.10 miles (includes Penzance to Land’s End & return)
Average Speed 12.5mph
Time in saddle 5 hours 54 minutes
Climbing 4,569 feet

The Departure

28th June 2013

Left home at 7.50, with the Specialized on the rack & the over-stuffed bags in the car & headed for the Harbour. Everyone arrived on time & there was an air of excitement with the blokes & the partners not sure where their emotions were. The weather was grey, the sea a mite choppy, but the overnight boat is big & ugly, so not really a worry & indeed the crossing was smooth & gave us a decent night’s sleep.

29th June 2013

Portsmouth at 06.30 is not the most uplifting of places & the bus station at the railway station even less so. However, Tony, our support driver, was there to meet us, took away our bags & bikes & we were left to get ourselves to St Just. The greasy spoon cafe opened at 8.00 & gave warmth & the usual fare (‘we don’t do brown bread’), so a couple of hours was passed relatively pleasantly, before we could board a train at 09.20 en route to Havant to Westbury to Taunton & by 5.00 to Penzance. Despite the trains being full to capacity, there was a good mood amongst the passengers & staff; the trains were clean & efficient & spot on time, all along the way. The sun came out, the kids heading to Glastonbury were amusingly giddy & the countryside just got better & better, to the point where we were seeing beaches & familiar seaside place names & our own anticipation levels began to rise. Ken made the comment that he’d someone remarkably like the picture’s he’d seen of Rodney who sure enough, was in the next cabin. The peloton is complete!

By 17.30 we were in the Wellington Hotel in St Just. Tony has the bikes & van organised & equipped with spares & a brand new toolbox. It’s agreed we shall dine at 7.00, Tony will give us the lowdown (although he says it’s up to us as to what we want to do each day) & we shall get an early night in anticipation of a pretty hard & hilly ride tomorrow. The weather is a little cold, there’s mist in the air but hey ho, we’re just about to start our adventure. John O’Groats, brace yourself!!