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DAY 5 - Bristol to Telford (96 miles)

PhotoA long but sunny day.

It felt great to be starting the day with a clean bike and a clean me! I met Nige, Di and about 5 members of Di's spinning class on the A38 at the end of the lane. One of the class members led us up to the Prince of Wales pub at a pace that clearly showed that he wasn't going too far! At the pub the Spinners turned back to Thornbury and the trio were alone again.

Route finding for most of the day was a breeze and we just followed the A38 North. The towns seemed to pass by in a haze – Gloucester – Tewkesbury – Worcester – Stourport. We stopped for some food in Bewdley (left it a bit too late again!) Nige remarked about my diet of tuna sarnies and Scotch Eggs and how its not really ‘the food of an athelete'… We got accosted by the Town Wierdo again. I don't know what it is – maybe we look too tired to make a quick getaway, but the town weirdo always seems to want to chat. I got drawn into getting a cup of tea from his favourite ‘café' and it wasn't until I went to pay and they said that they didn't charge but I could make a contribution if I could afford it – then I realised that I wasn't in a café, I was in a church! Not just a weirdo but a religious weirdo!

An hour of tough riding now followed out of Bewdley which made us regret our big lunch! I soon found my pace again – much to Nige and Di's annoyance and I think I might have them convinced that a Scotch Egg is indeed the fuel of champions!

I had some difficulty Navigating through Bridgenorth and have found the best way to get through a town is to head for ‘Town Centre' then ask a local for the road out: “Excuse me, do you know how to get to Ironbridge?” OS maps are really hard to use in towns and sign posts are geared for the car driver rather then the cyclist who just wants the shortest/flattest route between two points.

A steep descent to the bottom of a gorge and we were in Ironbridge. A pretty little town and well worth a revisit. I took a couple of photos of Nige and Di and the famous bridge. Nige was clearly keen to get going again “are you taking that photo or what? David Bailey!”

The problem with Gorges is that when you're at the bottom the only way out is up! There was then a steep climb out and up towards Telford. At the top of the steepest hill we stopped and checked the map to find the way to the B&B. Nige and I agreed “over the next two roundabouts taking the second exit on each, taking the first exit on the third roundabout”. With Nige at the front we negiciated the first two roundabouts as planned and on the third Nige got carried away, missed our exit and went whizzing straight across and down the other side! I thought “he'll notice in a minute” – he didn't, Di pulled-up beside me and I had to go back and get him – now retracing our steps up the hill, against the wind!
I was over the moon to be able to nav to the B&B in Wellington almost spot on. Having a small copy of a map of the B&B's location, printed from Google Maps works well. The OS map gets you close, then the

Google map gets you on target (like course/fine changeover for the Gunbusters!!!)

We slipped into the same pattern again – tea – shower – food – tea – plan. Our evening routines works really well. It helps us to relax, focus on the next day and chat and laugh.


DAY 6 - Telford to Warrington (56 Miles)

The toughest day yet!

It seems ridiculous to label this as the toughest day; relatively short, easy to navigate and no big climbs. But by far the toughest mentally day yet!

We were lashed by the wind and rain all day. The road traffic was horrendous. Nige and I developed pain in our knees and I just remember feeling miserable all day. At no stage did I want to quit, but I did feel that any more day like this will make the whole thing a really tough challenge. But I know that the beauty of Loch Lomond awaits and today is just a blip.

I think we put the toughness down to a whole bunch of things: a long day yesterday, the weather, the traffic and having no real challenge – no Dartmoor to cross, no big distance to cover. Today was just a day in the saddle, getting from one place to another. The day of ‘spinning' is what killed our knees I'm sure.

I can remember sitting on the floor of a garage forecourt, just north of Northwich, 10 miles from Warrington and feeling utterly fed up.


DAY 7 - Warrington to Ingleton (86 Miles)

Another day of frustrating nav.

Getting out of Warrington was tough but nice to have the life of a busy town around you first thing in the morning.

Di got into a fight! We were approaching a busy roundabout, near the M6 and where our road went over the M62. We needed the middle lane to go straight on, I was leading and moved out into the lane when I noticed a car pass inside me and stop about 20meters short of the roundabout, his reverse lights went on and the guy got out of the car ‘must've broken down' thinks me! Then the guy sharts shouting “who are you calling a ***** *****”. He had come really close to Di as he undertook us and she had given him some primitive sign language. A few words were exchanged and he got back in his car and moved on – all the way up to the now red traffic light. We pulled up next to him and the abuse continued. Nige and I stayed silent, Di was giving as good as she was getting and the guy was looking for a fight, if Nige or I had started he would've taken the opportunity to get punchy. As we moved off I assured Di that if it had got physical I would've helped out – there was no way he could've beaten Di up on his own!

The roads around Warrington, Wigan and Chorley are really busy and the cycle route we took around Blackburn was a welcome relief. Quiet country lanes and some amazing views of both the cities behind us and the Yorkshire Dales. We passed a cyclist who nodded “end t end? Tha's passed tha shite bit nah…” I'll get that translated one day!

We stopped for lunch in Clitheroe before the days big climb onto the moor and met the town weirdo again! This guy was brilliant. I'd gone for a sandwich and came back to where we were stopped outside a pub. Nige was talking to this over-loud chap in the street. He was asking what we were doing and why and when Nige told him he went nuts! “do the press know about this, you need to get them told, local newspaper is just down there on the right, get them told, you're heroes you are, all of you. Unsung is what you are, that's right you're just like them unsung heroes..” Brilliant! I can just see the local hedlines:

After Clitheroe the unsung heroes headed up a really long hill that then kicked the heroics out of them! This climb is a double climb with a spot of downhill in the middle before getting steep again. The weather now came in and it got very cold and wet very quickly. On the descent Di went over a cattle grid quite hard and got her second puncture of the day. Nige acted as the worlds worst windbreak while Di timed me – puncture fixed and back on the road again in 6.5 minutes – ave it!

There were some fab descents off the moor into Ingleton, but we are all getting quite twitchy when going downhill in the wet, and despite being a B Road there were one or two large lorries and loads of farm traffic on it.

We arrived at Ingleton YHA tired, wet and cold at 4pm only to find that the reception was closed until 5pm! We would've got showered but the disadvantage of travelling light meant we had no towels! I walked down to the local swimming pool in a vain hope that we could get in and swim to warm up – only to find that it was an outdoor pool (yikes, in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales – hardy folk up here) and closed for renovation.

When the reception opened we were able to hire towels and the guy put us aall in the same dorm. I felt a bit odd sharing with Nige and Di at first but it made sense as we were able to have a room just for us, a godsend on a busy Bank Holiday weekend. All the other dorms were full of members of various walking groups who are spending the weekend walking miles and drinking heavily – not the best environment for a tired cyclist to sleep in!

I always forget just how great YHAs are. If you don't mind roughing it a little bit they are a really cheap and adventurous means of accommodation. I suppose they are a bit like old times for me!

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