The day started out wet and windy, which we are now getting used to. Our aiming point in the morning was Carnforth Railway Station where we met up with Dave Ellis and Katie Mason of the Railway Children, with their support team Jules and Fred. After hot drinks and some cake in the lovely ‘Brief Encounter Café’ Dave and Katie joined us for the rather undulating ride to Windermere; we were really grateful for their company as the miles sped by.
After a short break at our hotel (Hillthwaite House Hotel) we set off for one of our biggest biking climbs on the challenge, namely ‘The Struggle’ which is three miles of 1 in 5 gradient from Ambleside up to the top of the infamous Kirkstone Pass. The descent in to Patterdale was fast and well earned! It was then ‘just’ a case of following the shoreline of Ullswater along a typically undulating British road so beloved of Felix.
The weather is deteriorating, faster than we are
The picture for today is of Felix and Colin with Dave and Katie under the clock at Carnforth Station. This is the classic setting of the film ‘Close Encounter’…
Stats for the day: 75 miles cycling with a total climb of 5424 feet
We are now at the halfway point so here are the total stats so far:
Miles Cycled: 75 miles
Total Height Climbed: 25,980 feet, plus, the Snowdon total of 3349 feet = 29,329 which is higher than Mt Everest and we are only half way!
Calories Burned: 18,790
Just for you Thomas – cycling totals in Eurospeak are 872 kilometres and 7919 metres !
A good early start to the day. The trip up over the moors was punctuated only with Colin freeing a sheep that had become stuck in a fence and Felix changing his clothes. A long ascent was followed by an even longer descent down to Chester where we had a great breakfast and went shopping in Field and Trek for some warmer clothing (the temperature dropped like a stone for a while and caught us both out). After this it was a fairly fast route which took us first to Frodsham, then Widnes (traffic between the two was particularly unpleasant) and on to Preston having met up with Ruth and Bridget for a late lunch in St Helens. A day that tested our navigation skills to the full! The route covered 85 miles, had 3400ft of climbing and used up 2800 calories. Looking forward to tomorrow when we will be joined by Dave and Katie from the Railway children (along with Jules and Fred – Dave has his own support team!), and towards the end we are going to be doing a classic climb… more on that tomorrow (assuming we survive)…
After a leisurely start to the day we set off to arrive at Lake Bala at about 1030. We launched the kayaks via the nice, but rather shallow launch area at a local caravan park (very smart place). The warden was due at eleven so we hastily removed ourselves from the car park as soon as the boys had set off.
We parked ourselves at the agreed RV and waited for the boys to arrive. On the way around to the RV Gillian had spotted a rather nice coffee house with a public parking area and a decent launch / landing area for the kayaks. It was agreed between us that it would be a top idea to move there and contact the boys by phone to tell them to keep to the left hand side of the lake and not cross over to the right and RV as agreed. We arrived at the car park, walked the dogs and met with Steve and Jean (which gave me a good chance to compare TVR’s, ). I had just picked up the phone to let the boys know and it rang before I could use it… it was Flackie “where are you?” He did not see the funny side of our unannounced RV move, particularly because it resulted into another quarter mile kayaking into a head wind. Luckily he was placated with a nice hot chocolate and a cake, Felix tucked into a cream tea that he had promised himself since breakfast. We were grateful for their quick traverse of the lake, given the really black clouds gathering over the top of us.
Richard Popple left us today with the Kayaks ready to relay with Rob Hopkin who does the Lakes and the Scotland stint. A massive thank you to Richard, we hope you enjoyed the trip.
The afternoon has been spent planning routes for the next cycling stint which starts early tomorrow. Gillian and I have been shopping for warmer layers for Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis (it was fairly inconceivable leaving last week in 27 degrees that we would need to dress for 2 degrees
As I write this Felix is fettling his trusty steed in the hallway of our hotel ( thanks to a very kind and tolerant hotel owners Adam and Helen at the Elen’s Castle Hotel in Dolwyddelan near Bewtys-y-Coed.
Rather sad to be leaving this beautiful area but looking forward to the delights of Preston…
Colin, Felix, Gillian and Rich, plus Lilly, Rosie and Florence were dropped off at Llanberis Station of the Snowdon Mountain Railway this morning, to ascend (today’s posh word) Mount Snowdon, ably guided by Elidir, our local expert. The walk up to the Halfway Cafe (sadly closed) was uneventful. Just above the cafe, a strong westerly wind rose, bringing with it rain, hailstones and a robust level of wind chill. The three dogs were bemused but happy, the walkers less so. By the time the team had reached the top, visibility had dropped to close to zero. Colin, Rich, Elidir and Felix retreated to the comfort of the summit cafe, to mingle with the people brought up by the railway. Gillian had to stay in the entrance area – her dogs were not allowed in.
All of a sudden, the clouds lifted and there was a great view, right out to sea. Felix was very happy, another bet won! The descent was easy and graced by a great view all the way down. In Llanberis, Colin and Felix were treated to a depot visit by Mike Robertshaw, the engineering manager of the railway. He gave a great overview of the railway’s projects and plans.
Snowdon added some 3700 ft to the tally of ups (thanks to some dips in the path). Sadly, the calories required for Mount Snowdon did not amount to enough for a decent dinner.
The Chepstow start was delayed due to a technical problem with Colin’s bike. We received some great advice from previous ‘end to ender’ and friend Ray Webb who told us to go to Fred Baker Cycles in Bristol to fix the problem. We arrived there first thing to meet Donny who provided a brilliant technical and informative service (which is code for giving Colin a telling off for being a dork), our grateful thanks to you both. Another big day, 4200ft of climbing, 89 miles and over 3000 calories. Felix’s navigation skills came to the fore and so the fact that we were in the pitch black for the last two hours mattered not and we found our way to Montgomery. While waiting for Ruth we discovered the local chip shop… not sure if fish and chips are the correct food for recovery but… really nice! (Colin)
Day five started with a long demoralising trip back to our finish point of yesterday. Now over to Felix: The ride from Montgomery to Oswestry was fast, really fast, thanks to a gentle side wind and really good roads. There was the peculiar sight of Welshpool’s station separated from the tracks by the new bypass and the sad corpse of a polecat alongside the road. Just after Oswestry I won the day’s £1 bet: There was a real shadow for 5 minutes and, hence, proof of sunshine… In Llangollen we had lunch at the railway station cafe and met up with TVR friends (Steven and Jean) of Colin’s and Ruth’s. And that was the end of the good part of the day.
From Llangollen, we followed the A5 to Betwys y Coed, in the driving rain, on a road that rolled uphill, in a fierce headwind. Sadly, the calorie calculator did not take this into account! The run downhill to Betwys was great – pity about the uphill stretch to Elen’s Castle Hotel on the way to Dogellau. And the support team just laughed at the sorry state of the End-2-Enders… (Felix)
From Ruth, Mr Billy and Buster
Its our turn to blog tonight. This is because Colin and Felix have not arrived back at the hotel yet, its now 1930hrs and its dark…
However, I have just found out that they decided to push on to Chepstow later today because they were feeling pretty good and wanted to get some extra mileage in as the weather is due to change. I left them at the Clifton Suspension Bridge (a favourite for Felix – as in the picture). They are currently at Severn Tunnel Junction waiting for a train back to Bristol Temple Meads which is opposite the hotel. I have spoken to Colin by telephone and he said that the Severn Bridge in high wind was an ‘experience’ on a carbon fibre bike!
Today the boys have ridden some very nasty hills (the ones up to Bristol Airport were awesome), but they were really buzzing about the ride. Felix may have even used his lowest gear today!
I have just received instructions from Flackie on finding an Italian for pasta refuelling. I have asked Mr Billy if he wanted to come and he said that he and Buster would prefer something from the mini bar instead… they are currently on the bed in the room and not looking like moving too soon
Colin is going to use my Trek road bike tomorrow as he wants me to get his gears serviced as he thinks he has stretched the linkage – or at least that is what I think he said. My bike is 6lbs heavier than his, that will slow him down! I had his blown out tyre replaced today which raised a smile from the chap in Halfords!
The dogs and I are getting in some good walking, its really nice to walk every day in a different place with them. They seem to be getting used to this travelling lifestyle, although they have no plans to move to Dale Farm just yet!
Looking forward to arriving in Wales tomorrow, is it hilly there too
Bye for now
Stats: 87 miles, 4036ft of climbing and 3000 calories
I think that we were both pretty pleased with the fact that our bodies were not hurting too much when we set off today. It was always going to be a long day on the A30 and it did not help that after just 10 miles I had an emotional blow out on my back tyre… only emotional because I was doing about 30 mph when it went ahead of one of the many hills of the day. Thanks to Felix’ skills with the puncture repair kit I was back on the road after about 30 minutes. 76 miles and over 3600 ft of climbing today but it did not feel like it. As an aside, does anyone know why it is that people towing caravans seem to have a monopoly on trying to kill cyclists… I know I might be alienating a number of good mates here, but they were singularly the most tedious drivers on the A30. We were not sad to see the back of the A30, just south of Exeter when we took the back roads to get us to Tiverton (lovely last 12 miles along the Exe Valley).
It’s the end of day one and Felix and Colin have completed the first leg of 60 miles, including 3200 feet of climbing!
We have been and are continuing to be really moved by the phone messages, emails, texts, and cards that people have sent to support us! Also the donations are steadily building so thank-you all. I am setting out shortly to collect Felix and Bridget from Plymouth Station… then the team is in place!
Buster has been busy getting used to his backpack, ready for the mountains. Yesterday he managed to lug, two bottles of water, two pasties (his and mine), a tuna baguette, plastic bags, a diet coke and a pair of Croc’s…