Canal Paths

Day Three, Frampton on Severn to Stafford, 100m

Supposedly a shorter, easier day…

07.58 Going 4 breakfast…

08:38 Just eaten enormous breakfast and finding it difficult to move! (We’ve heard that before, but I’m pleased to know that he is starting out the day with a hot meal and calories on board…)  Dry here at present but lots of black clouds looming…

08:42 Received the message below!  Can you go to the URL and change card details, if not I will run out of credit.  (Phone credit was running out and we can’t have a man on the road without a phone.)

Sat Naff directed me down a slipway into the Severn…

and (optiministically?) out the other side.

Note canoe – I diverted.

Just before 10.30, I received a call from Roy to say that the canal path had been marked off by the police with an incident.  He had been diverted to the next bridge but the path was also closed there with no marked diversion.  A BBC camera crew then arrived and Roy discovered that a dead body had been found in the canal.  I thought that sort of thing only happened in the movies.  From the cyclist’s perspective though it was so slow.  He was already 1.5 hours in and had not yet gone 10 miles – and needed to reset the route.  Best get on!

Sneaky photo – not allowed to take pictures

13:00 Found shop in Twyning – north of Tewkesbury.  Going fairly slow. Tired legs.  Hopefully they will kick in this afternoon (It’s a bugger that, isn’t it, cycling when your legs don’t work.  Happens to me all the time…)

15:12 3 miles from Droitwich.  Just left canal we must have followed with your mum and dad on the barge.  Saw a Brookline Barge.

What is life if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

And wee…

16:46 Received message from Roy: “Only me.  On another canal path, don’t know which one.  The route just dumps you in, I don’t have a town or city, but we have been here before.  With the boys when we went to Thomas Land and we went all the way down and turned around by Tescos with a load of shopping trolleys in the canal and headed back. (Are our lives punctuated by Tescos?) I’ve just been up the final lock where we took a picture of the church.  I’ve just retaken it with someone else’s barge.  Plodding along, really plodding.  Hoping to get in  before dark or pretty dusky.  Shocking for 100 miles really, but I’ve done an extra 10 miles.  54 km to go, that’s another 35 miles.”

Been here before – on a barge

19.23 On canal path in the dark.  Don’t want to do a Myles. (Myles, do you want to share that story or shall I?)

Not much to see

but there’s murky water there somewhere!

21:07 Made it.  Call soon

And that was meant to be a good day!

Devon Hills, lack of shops and dodgy route directions (not the Sat Nav though…)

Day Two, Zeal Monochorum to Frampton on Severn, 127m

The journey continues….

6:56 I’m up. Getting ready for breakfast.  Today may be the toughest day of all.  Might not get in til quite late if the route checking takes too long.  Legs feel a bit tired.  Have to wait and see how they are on the bike!

7:40 Windy but dry also.  Eaten too much.  Setting off in about 10 so an hour later than yesterday.  Might get in quite late…

Haybale time of year.  And muck spreading!

There now follows a gap where Roy lost time due to poor road conditions on the lanes due to rain and slurry – those Somerset farmers were working their fields.  By lunchtime, Roy had only reached Taunton (one third of the way) and desperately needed to make up time.  He had also run dry for over half an hour where there was a distinct lack of shops to top up water bottles.  Tesco’s in Taunton came to his rescue but Roy was relieved to leave town – he spotted a number of thuggish type characters…  Not the sort of thing you expect to meet in a charming market town (though the one way system is a bugger!)  The theme continues….

Swans on the canal.  They look nice…

17.24 I have abandoned route sheets to save time.  Can see the m5 from here where it is split level before Bristol.

17:48  Please call B&B to say I’ll be late.  Likely only in by 9.  Guess where I am?  I am cycling around a security fence surrounding 100s of cars. (There’s a tin of baked beans in it for anyone who can guess it right…)

20:33 I’m here.  Call later

So, the main theme today seemed to be the hills of Devon – he met a 20% hill within 100m of setting out – a lack of shops – thank goodness for Tesco’s in Taunton – and the route directions going wrong – it missed out a couple of junctions. Even with the Sat Nav, he got lost two times – taking his eye off the ball and being tired.

But the route is really good taking in canal paths and disused railways.  He had forgotten how flat Somerset was.  There are ridges and hills, but the route is contouring round them.  And to top it off, a wonderful ham and chicken pie greeted him (thanks Jan).

And on to Day Three…

And he’s off!

Day One – Lands End to Zeal Monochorum (128 miles)

Well, I said there would be a next time, and here we are again.  Only this time going from Land’s End to John O’ Groats and before anyone else says it – uphill!  And all because this man has something to prove to himself for not completing LEL after being hit by a lorry (who for all we know is still denying it…).

I mean some people (normal people) think Roy accomplished the challenge just by starting!  Stupid husband! (In our family (including the dogs) stupid means anything that gets in the way and doesn’t behave as it ought to, like horses, chairs, bean bags and yes, sorry to say it, now husbands.  You can see the pattern.)  But Roy is Roy and I am frustratingly proud of him and willing him safely home.

Right before we need to invest in a box tissues and any violinists appear,  let’s get bloke-ish and look at some stats for this challenge.

8 days

1507.2 km

758 directions

Ave distance: 188.4 km/day

Shortest day: Day 6, 160.2 km

Longest day: Day 8, 221.6 km

Most complicated day: Day 2, 163 directions

Money raised to date: 17 donations worth £266.78 (thanks to everyone who is supporting this adventure.)

Don’t you just love it when the directions says “Start: Land’s End signpost.  End: John O’ Groats signpost”?

So without further ado, let’s get on to Day One – 203.9 km, Land’s End to Zeal Monochorum 

(Page 5, N10 on my map.  Oh, by the way, you will discover some places you never knew existed on this route.  In dedication to all cyclists who take their lives in their hands – and some very sadly with tragic consequences – Roy has concocted this route courtesy of Google’s suggestion for a cyclist friendly journey using lanes, back roads, canal paths, service lanes…  Let’s hope Roy ends up where he needs to be.  That in itself will be a challenge.)

At the start post.  Pic taken the evening before – would be dark at start.

As you can see the light shines out of my…

Saturday 28/9/13

06:39 – Had breakfast. Off in 5 minutes or so.

11:10 Phone call – 40 miles in, roughly around one third in.  Shoulder starting to hurt but possibly due to stress of being on A30 (I thought he said he was on quiet roads on lanes.  Well apparently there aren’t any in the first part of Cornwall…) Windy but sheltered in lanes.  Slept well with no one bashing him or poking him (no read on…) in the ribs.  (At this point I should explain that our youngest son has taken to being scared of the dark and comes into our bed most nights, any time after midnight.  Has anyone got any tips how we get over this?) Stopping to take notes is taking some time but route is working.  Sat Nav has not taken a step wrong. (Oh hello, I can see we’re entering this love/hate relationship again with the Sat Nav/Naff (delete as appropriate).

St Michael’s Mount Nr Penzance.

13:21 Somehow, between route map and sat nav, went wrong. Back on track now.  Camel Trail (Ah, there we go, Sat Naff revealing true colours early on…)

Mushrooms on the Camel Trail – Didn’t see any camels

16:49 DEVON!! Shop found. 158 km

18.21 Nr Hatherleigh Eta 8

20:15 I’m here.  Will call once settled.

20:45 Phone call – Parcels arrived, but not enough food.  Will need to remember to top up on food as we go – there’s room in the bag.  (Note: postage costs prohibited the optimum amount of food to be sent.) Washed kit and drying on radiator.  Shoulder not too bad. Sore on fast roads probably due to tension, gripping the handle bars. Went wrong a couple of times but route worked pretty well.  Really quiet lanes, not as hilly as thought.  Handful of 10% climbs. (Ok, pretty flat then…) A lot on national cycle routes but only saw three cyclists.  (Roy, it was a wet and windy day, not a great day for cycling, not a day you would choose to be out on, unless of course you’re doing a cycle from Land’s End to John O’ Groats. Oh which you are, of course!). Kept dry though very wet on road in places. Must have kept missing the rain, a bit like last time.  (Lucky boy!)

Most welcoming B&B with my stuff littered about.

And that pretty much sums it up for today.  Till next time….

Getting nervous before the start

Well it’s lunchtime and I set off from the office on my bike to the railway station in about an hour or so.

Getting nervous and starting to come to the realisation that it is actually quite a long way. And whilst I have probably done 8 100+ mile cycles this year they weren’t all one day after the other. And I was a bit tired at the end of every one of them.

What have I forgotten?  Well the bike’s here so that’s the main thing. Everything else is just extras. But I’m glad I’m not at home because I think I would be adding all sorts of extras to my bag.

Got my train ticket?! Yes.  Argh! What about my driving license for ID to get on the plane back home…? Yes.  Flight details? Route sheets? Yes, yes! Last time you forgot to load the gpx files onto your sat nav – have you done that? Yes! Bike reservation ticket attached to bike for the train? Yes!! Lights? Chargers? Toothbrush? Turned the gas off? Yes, yes, yes, YES!!! Just shut up head!

I’ll be fine once I’m under way. Although I don’t like travelling, it makes me anxious.

I’ll be fine once I’m pedalling away from the sign post in Lands End.

Right – toodle pip!

The next voice you hear will be Jocelyn’s.

Lightweight Bike?

My bike is not the world’s lightest bike.  Neither is it the heaviest.  Or at least I thought not.

I rode it into work fully loaded this morning.  That was a shock to the system.  It now tips 20kg on the scales without water bottles.  Now, I know that’s not much compared to those who camp on the way but on my last trip the whole bike with kit weighed in at about 14 kg.  That was a lighter bike but I don’t know where the extra weight has crept in.

And talking about extra weight creeping in, I am about 8kg heavier than when I rode JOGLE 🙂

So that’s about an extra 14kgs to be lugging across the country.

Oh well, it’s only really factor on the uphills.  So at least half of the journey should be ok…


On a recent sportiff ride (Moor to Sea) I, along with everyone else, got thoroughly soaked.  This was fine until I stopped.  Within 5 minutes my teeth were chattering and I was shaking uncontrollably.  And it wasn’t really all that cold.

I normally wear a merino wool vest under my cycling tops because it retains warmth even when wet (although it does get heavy when soaked).  But, on lejog I will need to wash it every night and somehow dry it before morning, along with the rest of the kit. If there are no radiators on at the B&Bs I can’t see it happening so will have to start in a damp top.

The alternative is a techincal base layer which will dry as fast as the rest of the synthetic kit.  But I might suffer even more from the cold whenever I stop.  And if I am writing up the route as I go that is going to be a lot.

What to do?

Route All Sorted

I’ve been through the route and corrected the most obvious errors. I’ve created it as 8 separate days each leading from and to the relevant B&Bs. The routes are all printed on crib sheets to be attached to the bike and converted to gpx files for the sat nav.

On route I hope to have time to enhance the crib sheets with obvious pointers at each instruction, such as signage, for other people to use. The trouble is, there are a lot of instructions. For instance, day 2 has over 180 separate turns! Even if I only spend 1 minute at each (allowing time to stop, get out a notepad, write a note, put the notepad away and accelerate back up to speed) that will be 3 hours stopped. And I have to cycle 127 miles that day.

I think I might be cycling in the dark a lot…

Red Cross Parcels on Their Way

My parcels of supplies are now all on their way to the various B&Bs.

Each on contains 15 Trackers bars, 2 Pepperamis, 1 Pot Noodle, 1 recovery drink powder, 6 energy drink powders and 1 gel.

This brought them in at just under 1 kg. To add more would have nearly doubled the cost of sending so I will have to buy a fair bit on the road.

Day 7 parcel also contains some lightweight clothes because I have booked a meal and don’t think I can sit down in my sweaty, possibly soaking, cycling gear (I have decided to take no spare kit).

Day 8 contains a top and some shoes to wear home.

Let’s hope it all gets there!