Monday 8 – Wednesday 17 September 2014
Well, after all the farewell parties, drinks, dinners and so on, and after staying up til a miserable 3am cleaning the kitchen, we finally managed to extract ourselves from the flat on Monday 8th by around lunch time.
Beau and Izzy saw us off and we wobbled off down Wenlock Terrace trying to get used to the weight of our luggage; John was especially wobbly as his pannier rack, which has lasted remarkably held together for the last 7 years with gaffer tape, was oscillating rather alarmingly from side to side. After many years of fine service, I think we have finally asked too much of it. A new Tubus rack has duly been ordered and posted ahead to Somerset for us by the lovely Piers at Cycle Heaven.
Our hopes of riding into the evening and getting to Whaley Bridge (where John’s brother Mark lives) in one day were hopelessly over-ambitious. Exhausted, we camped up off the Strines Road near Barnsley, just on the edge of the moors, in a generous patch of scrub and wood which provided us with copious moonlight and birch boletus mushrooms, which were delicious with Japanese udon noodles. An auspicious first night after a stressful start.
Day 2’s challenge: a short but tough ride over Winnat’s Pass and on to Waley Bridge just over the other side of the hills. The 1 in 5 was too much for me and, I confess, I had to get off and push. More remarkably, John had to stop and catch his breath half way up – unheard of, even in most strenuous passes in the Alps!
After a pleasant stop in Whaley Bridge with Helen, Nellie and George (but sadly no Mark, who was working in Wales), we headed on to Bristol. First mechanical adventure came with a crack in John’s back wheel rim. We made a bad decision to try to limp onto Bristol where we could get a good replacement – within a few hours,it looked like this:
The only bike shop nearby had no suitable replacement wheels, so one of the engineers pilfered one off his dad’s old mountain bike. In the end, we paid £45 for a replacement wheel for the old guy plus work fitting his knackered wheel to John’s bike, and headed off on a threadbare and very fat mountain bike tire and holey inner tube that sprang leaks all the way down south. To make things worse, the old rim took out a brand new Schwalbe Marathon tyre with it. An expensive bad decision… Ordered a new super-strong wheel to pick up from touring specialists Thorn/ SJS cycles in Somerset and limped onwards.
Despite all this, we made it to Ironbridge, near Telford, which features (as the name suggests) the world’s first iron bridge, built in 1779.
A remarkably big day (85 miles!) finally got us to Bristol. Lovely stay with Jo, Ash, Woody and Morgan, as well as a visit to the SS Great Britain (pictured here from the dry dock below the water level)…
… and another remarkable iron bridge – this time Brunel’s:
Now at Simon’s gorgeous cottage in Somerset, with the comfiest bed in the world and a rib roast in the oven…