ManxCat goes Forth… C2C from Liverpool to Lowestoft anyway…

Well, this I suppose is my very first BIG tour totally alone.
I thought of this ride earlier in the year, when I was planning my summer Audax rides, I am on a mission you see, to improve on what I cycled last year (4x 100km Audax rides included in 5,000 miles of cycling over 12 months), and this time, thanks to the new system set up by Danial Webb – that of using good ol' GPS, I can verify my ride from Liverpool to Lowestoft as a series of mini DIY Audax rides as well.

My first UK Audax (Ive done several Perm rides already this season), was the one I recently cycled in Caton, this next one has no AAA points and is in Congleton. (Stupid me, could of entered one with AAA points though and now in hindsight wish that I had as I am also doing a personal challenge – that of a AAA awarded Audax ride though out each calendar month of the year and I am missing a July one at the moment). Anyway, I looked at the rides available in Norfolk/Suffolk as my eldest brother lives near Attlebrough and hey presto, an Audax just 13 miles from his house that I could cycle to. And Norfolk/Suffolk is pretty flat if I remember, so a nice easy run out. An Audax in Garboldisham was then booked.

Looking at the map, Liverpool to East Anglia, I started to consider doing a C2C ride. I initially thought of King's Lyn, then settled on Lowestoft as it was a bit further, so I could make a route to Lowestoft a 100km from my brothers house, and there were some cycle routes into the town as well, after researching the town, I discovered that Ness Point in Lowestoft, is the most easterly point in Britain as well. When I organise my rides I always try to keep a focal point, ie special challenge, or particular reason to visit a town or village – sometimes this is as simple as a good tea shop, but this time, it is because of the Most Easterly Point in Britain, and having cycled from L iverpool to L owestoft, two coastal towns beginning with L. Daft I know, but it works for me and keeps my wheels turning.

Next, before I even considered the GPS mapping etc, was sorting out the most direct route that kept me off the A roads but, that also kept the distance to a minimum as I did want to arrive at my brothers house still able to walk and keep upright! The worst bit to organise was getting out of Liverpool and getting to Congleton as it meant going through either Runcorn or Warrington, via the Jubilee bridge I believe. I had a quick scan on the search button on the CTC forum and it seems cyclists who value their lives really should avoid the Jubilee bridge, so this meant either a train from Liverpool to Crewe or cycling the Transpennine Trail.

I purchased a boat and train ticket (having booked the bicycle on the train back home from Thetford) so I had a ticket to Crewe if I needed it. But I made my mind up, unless the Trail was REALLY horrible, I would try cycling it. I have done the Transpennine Trail before from Lymm to the Pier Head in Liverpool and although passable, it was not a very comfortable experience. Mud and more mud, over grown pathways with nettles waving at your legs, brambles and lots of glass – at one point I had to carry by bicycle to avoid a really wide area of broken bottles. So with the new road bike, and her skinny 25mm tyres I was wondering how we would manage. I expected lots of punctures.

The other bit of the T.P Trail I did not enjoy last time as the total solitude. I expected folk to be on it, I was cycling it on a Monday, but there were no other users on it that day, although it was drizzling with rain, so for more than 90% of the time I rode completely alone, and it was the only time I have felt REALLY vulnerable on a bicycle, cycling amongst quiet lanes, sheltered by trees and cycling though and past inner town estates. (Sadly, I occasionally read the Daily Mail, and so EVERY person out there is out to murder and rob you are they not?? 🙂 ) And of course, I was carrying my mobile phone, money and a GPS system as well, a good target perhaps? Not that anything at all happened when I cycled it last year of course, but I was so pleased to arrive in Liverpool to crowds of folk again last time, and the feeling of being safe in numbers. Now, I have those same worries about security and safety, but I think the risk is less than subjecting myself to the unknown terrors of the Jubilee Bridge.

Last year, we had rain every day, and this year its hot and dusty and dry, so maybe the wee road bike will love the TPT, I hope she does anyway...

It seems odd now, just one day away from my boat trip, that everything so far has slotted into place. Tomorrow I will spend the day cleaning the road bike, getting all her moving parts lubricated and checking the settings are good. I must practice getting her rear wheel off and on, as I am still not very confident at doing this with a derailler chain set. Then its a matter of chucking everything (in a very organised and military manner) into my 2 travel bags and saying goodbye to my family. Another good thing about doing the route planning for the DIY GPS Audax runs is that you have to make control points (ie choose the shortest distance between controls), by using Ordinance Survey grid references, everyone knows approximately where I shall be at a given distance and approximate time. A good safety feature I think. Or a feature where someone can scrape me up and post me home in a bag at least!

Am I worried about this ride?

Well, most of me is very excited, I have learnt during my riding days to accept that on these tours I have to be my own company, as no one fancies these lovely long rides to destinations not yet visited. So if I waited for others to come too, I would end up just doing the housework and mowing the lawn during my holiday days off from work. Many of my friends tend to think Im a bit odd, going alone, and doing such distances, (about 600 miles in total to include 2x100km Audax rides) and I have to keep part of me away from such suggestions that 'things might go badly wrong' on the self safety department. I have not told anyone on the internet of my intentions for example.

Its sad, that when male friends go off alone, albeit on motorbikes or in cars (don't know any blokes back home who tour by bicycle). No one suggests that they might be forced off the road, robbed and hidden in the shrub for some poor dog walker to stumble on, yet I have had so many work colleagues and friends suggest that this might be my fate! For someone with low self esteem and who lacks confidence in her ablities to do 'adventures of any kind, let alone on my ownsome', this information has had to be ignored, but you cannot help but think of it and I have to keep on telling myself not to 'wish such bad luck' on myself. Even my nearest and dearest said last night as we turned out the light, how worried he was that I was embarking on a terrible and frightening journey, and that he was worried about my safety. So, am I such a selfish person to be thinking of such a ride? Is England THAT bad, that a person alone isn't safe to ride a bicycle across it, do we listen to the newspaper reports just too much? I think had I said, I wont bother to go, he would have been a happier chap, he has just got back from Glastonbury Rock Festival and not once did I worry about his safety there.

Anyway, here is my route:

Isle of Man to Liverpool Pier Head
Liverpool Pier Head to Congleton (100km)
Congleton to Jerico B and B(120km) on the A46 near Nottingham (Landlady even phoned me back to say she would collect me and bike as the road is so horrible and this bit I have tried not to mention to anyone!)
B and B at Spalding (80 km)
Spalding to Wymondam (120km)
Wymondham to Lowestoft (120km)

Friday 2nd July 2010. Im off!

I get the boat from the Isle of Man to Liverpool, to embark on the biggest cycling adventure I have done to date from 2007. When an obese, size 20, middle aged woman thought perhaps she had better do something about her BMI of 32, and that perhaps cycling might help shift a few pounds...

Its Friday. Got up really early, as I was unable to sleep through the excitement of the trip. The first part of my ride starts in Liverpool right beneath the Liverbuildings.

My favourite landmark

I have cycled this part of my route before, but from the other direction, to the ferry port, not away from it. Finding the start ie the NCN 56 cycle route was not that easy. But the residents of this fine city are a very friendly warm community of people and it wasnt too long before I was riding on cobbles and not the nice smooth road. I was truly on my way to Lowestoft.

I set up my Garmin GPS to log my track as I am recording this route for verification from Audax UK as part of a DIY GPS day ride of 100km. I was using my SATMAP device though for finding my way, as I still had not found out how to use this bit of the Garmin Edge. None of the buttons on that device seem to do the same thing each time they are pressed, but it is very good at recording and making a nice track log, which the SATMAP does not do, as I have an Apple Mac and not a PC. SATMAP prefers PC... 🙄

Sadly for me, the NCN route 56 although plotted on my OS Map, does not always follow the right co ordinates, so I am hoping Danial will be kind to me, as I missed a check point, the path I plotted assuming to be correct, in real life took a totally different direction, and so my check point was in the middle of a boggy field and not on the path I was on. Time will tell... Note to self, when plotting and Audax GPS DIY, make sure your check points are on real roads and not paths.

Beginning of Transpenne Way

As already mentioned I have cycled the Transpennine Way last year and hated it. Last year, I rode it in the pouring rain, this year it is hot, hot, hot and I am on my road bike, not my tourer. Poor road bike, she did not like the route at all. It felt I was on a bone shaker, the route is cobblely, stoney, rough, narrow, rutted, has glass on it. Oh, and did I mention the steps! In Liverpool, I had just set off, went round a corner, and next thing I was off the bike. Poor thing, lying on the footpath, thankfully her beautiful paint work was protected by the luggage. I got scrapped on the wall. We had cycled round a blind corner, nice and slowly to be faced with a grey surface, the next thing I was bouncing down 2 stone steps. Why had the top step not been painted differently I dont know. The next thing another cyclist appeared and came and helped me up, saying how dangerous these were. It really shook me up.

Jubilee bridge

The Jubilee Bridge, my reason for not using the road route to Congleton.

Very shaken, but fine thankfully, and cross at the lack of warning. Then onto the Transpennine Way its self as NCN 56 merged into NCN 62. The glass was still abundant, as were the nettles. To be honest it was 35 miles of bumpy slow riding, watching each turn of the wheel for sharp things. I was SOOOOOooo pleased to see that Lymm was the next place. Also, I had been bursting for a pee, and the route had no private places anywhere along it, soon the Rangers Hut was in view, and the kind female ranger inside allowed me to use the facilities.

Its amazing the folk you meet when out and about. The little Hetchin drew a small crowd, and one gentleman said that bicycle frame building had been his career until retirement, so we had a good chat. After another mile or so of rough passage, the track joined the road..... Oh the joy of a flat surface. I still had about 40 miles to go, but the very worst of it was now over. But my back ached, my neck ached all from the Transpennine Way. But, it was already 2.30pm, I had a long road ahead still. I had covered 35 miles in nearly 5 hours without a stop. Not good.

Pesky steps upwards this time!

An example of some of the type of steps you have to carry your bike up, bearing in mind, I could not lift the rear wheel of my road bike as my luggage was so heavy, it took me ages to go one step at a time up here, and the steps went up and up, this was just a short view of them, fine with an empty bike I suppose... but not for touring with!

My route to Congleton had not been chosen to be a short one, as I wanted the miles for Audax UK. Here is the route from the ferry to Congleton B and B, some parts of the route were diversions, the first one as a railway bridge was getting repaired. Second one as a by-pass was getting constructed and I had to use an alternative route. I meandered through Bucklow Hill, Ashley and Mobberley where the diversions for the railway bridge took place. Neither Alderly had the by-pass and this added nearly 7 miles to my route. I had to retrace my route to ensure I got the control point for Danial finally getting to Coppice Edge B and B at 6.45pm.

I have stayed before at this B and B, and it is the most perfect B and B, Nigel and Nicol both are touring cyclists and give me and my bicycle a warm welcome each time I visit with them. Bikie gets her own shed all locked up and secure. I get a 'better-than-home' accommodation, shower and fabulous breakfast. I am a fussy moo, but Nicol serves me just what I love, yoghurt, honey, homemade fruit compote, porridge, wholemeal toast, home made marmalade and jam plus pots and pots of tea.

Here is a link to my first days riding: Garmin Connect.

Saturday 3rd July 2010

My day of rest and relaxation. Good start to the day ahead as Mr Sunshine was out and about. Much warmer here than at home. Today I visited a National Trust property near Biddolph and enjoyed the stunning grounds. Sadly, their cream tea was rubbish, as my scone was like a biscuit and inedible. They could do with fresh ones. I had to leave it. I doubt it had been baked in July...

Biddolph NT

The National Trust Gardens in Biddolph, the gardens were superb, and you half expected Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit to appear at any moment.

Alice in Wonderland


Huge shoals of fish in the grounds, I saw a very healthy Heron when I was waiting for the grounds to open.

But I had been recommended this pub in Swettenham, so after buying my family small (tiny weeny, lightweight) gifts, I cycled in a circle away from Biddolph towards Swettenham. This took me over Mow Cop, this was quite hilly, and on top of the hill, I took a picture of the landscape beneath. I understand that Mow Cop is the very beginning or the very end, depending on your direction of the Pennines.

Mow Cop

Bikie, enjoying the last good views, as this was the end of our hills when we got going...

Swettenham was an area of outstanding natural beauty. The roads became narrower and I walked Bikie over a ford bridge where water was still running despite the warm summer. It was a lovely place, the Swattenham Arms. They sold local beers, local cider and their home cooked meals had an Italian feel to them. I ordered a pasta dish, and it was superb. I shall remember this place next time I am here, as it is only 3 miles from the B and B.

It must be strange to some folk, a woman being alone. Last night in the pub where I ate, I had the waiting on staff ask me why I was alone, and they asked me the same thing here... I didnt mind, but do blokes get asked this , when they eat out alone? I always felt I should justify my 'loneliness' with a brief description of my ride, to get 'Are you doing it for Charity?" "Well, no, Im not this time..." – Guilt trip. No one thinks twice of touring by car and not doing that for Charity do they?

How my self confidence has grown, to even go into a pub alone, as I can assure you, my mother would not have approved!

Sunday 4th July, Just the Plains of Cheshire. Audax UK 117km

Weather, mild, warm and breezy, clouds but with sunny spells.

Rugby Club Congleton

Cyclists collecting at the Rugby Club Headquarters just at the start of the 100km Audax ride.

This Audax finished with me achieving my personal best for an Audax ride so far. A good medium to fast pace saw the 30 or so riders set off from the start and one I was going to try my very hardest to try to keep up with. One thing about Audax riding, it might not be a race, but riding with others does get you cycling harder than you usually do on a pootle about the countryside. This was my first unhilly Audax this year, I was 2.5 stones lighter than last year, I was on a road bike with a frame that weighed just 23 pounds instead of 38. Bikie has skinny tyres as well, everything was in my favour to improve on last years ride.

I recognised Darryl, he is a member of the CTC Forum and lived a car ride away in Wales. He introduced himself to me last year and he was among the front riders on this ride, I really enjoyed my cycling, I was at the back, but at the back of a group of front riders, not where I usually ride on an Audax, which is right at the very very back! Last normally. It meant I could be lazy and allow the navigation to be done by others who knew the area and route, although I kept glimpsing on my SATMAP to ensure I was indeed going correctly. Everyone at the club house had been very friendly and welcoming, Rob the organiser and his wife, and noticed my weight loss, which is always nice, girlies just love that!

Darryl, Congleton Audax 100km

Darryl and another rider, sorry its a rear pic, I tend to always be at the back.

Arrived at the cafe stop in good time, the Ice Cream Farm near Tattlesbury. Poor Darryl, I think I encouraged him to eat up fast and go a bit earlier than he really wanted to, we ended up assuming the rest of the riders would catch us up as they were a faster group. We set off and at each bend assumed the group were behind us, they were not. Darryl's map reading was brilliant, and it matched my GPS info so we sped along nicely. I think Darryl might of wanted a slightly faster pace, but he was a gentleman and kept with mine. The next thing, we were back at the start having set off at 9.30am we arrived back at the club house for 3pm and over 117km we averaged 15.7mph. 5 hours 32 minutes, which is a record for me! A personal best. Last year, I did this Audax in just over 7 hours.

Robs organisers had laid on a grand spread of sandwiches, cake and biscuits and I tucked in. What a feast and very very welcome. Saying goodbyes and see you next year, I cycled the 2 miles back to my B&B and was asleep by 8.30pm.

Monday 5th July 2010. Tynwald Day at home.

After my success yesterday, now I was on my way again for my C2C ride. This was something new to me, that is riding 70 odd miles yesterday, and repeating the miles, today I was to cycle 80 miles to just outside Nottingham to a small place called Cotgrave and the Fosse Way on the A46. B and B is Jerico Farm.


Bikie gets to Derbyshire.

Mercia near Derby

This pic is for Mick. I very nearly bought a Mercian and not a Hetchins, it was the location that swung it for me, Preston is almost on my door step.

Awoke at 5am. I cannot sleep away from home, although I sleep soundly until this early start, so plenty of hours of kip in at least. Minor niggle was a sore patch appearing on my left sit bone. I had purchased ladies Asso shorts for this ride, and was using Asso cream as well. I got a bit tender today, but the skin remained intact so all well. Brooks Finesse Saddle was working ok, as I had never had to break this one in, unlike the Flyer on my tourer which needed a full 500 miles to break in, and over distance it was never comfortable to ride on.

Weather was mild and warm with lots of sunshine among broken white fluffy clouds – perfect in fact. Today was the day I was to try to stop myself from getting squashed on the A46. It was having a birthday, and the part I was to cycle on today, was all coned off and partitioned as the road was being developed into a dual carriage way. I was not looking forward to meeting a huge intersection on a bicycle at the end of a long tiring day.

But, the arrival at the Jerico Farm B and B was not half as horrible as I had imagined, the slip road was a bit narrow and scary with the big trucks sucking me as they passed by, but it was only for about 300yds or so. Then it was just a busy fast highway, at least everything was going in one direction and in a straight line. This is a Roman road I understand.

Here is my Garmin Route to Jerico Farm B and B. Another good choice by the way, lots of good space in the bedroom, a great shower and I expect a superb breakfast too.

I arrived at Jerico Farm on the big ring for most of my riding, distance was 79.7 miles and I averaged 15mph. Because of the farms isolation and this road, I had brought sandwiches from a pub I had eaten in at lunch time. Ham ones they were. I settled down, rang home, had my shower turned on the telly, and ate my sandwiches and a biscuit as I was not going out to eat.

Oh dear... within minutes of eating my sandwiches I started to feel very bad, very bad indeed. Tummy bloated up and I knew things were not at all ok in the digestive department......

I finally stopped being sick at 4am. I crawled into bed, unable to sleep and worrying about the 60 miles I had to do that day. I carefully sipped warm tea, then some hot chocolate to get some calories into my body, I burned up 4,000 of them yesterday, and lost all my evening meal. Now, I was unable to keep much down at all. I turned up for breakfast, but could not face anything, and just sucked on spoonfuls of natural yoghurt with honey. Belly was sore (I felt I had been doing sit ups all night), and I felt weak.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

It was not the best of starts, but what could I do? There was no one to bale me out, no one to collect me... So I packed paid and left back along the A46, but turning off after a mile for the flat country of Lincolnshire.

I had so been looking forward to this particular day, flat as a pancake, I had intended to keep in Big Ring all the way to Lowestoft from this point, but instead I was tired and my legs felt heavy and not wanting to cycle much that day. Every single stroke of the pedals was hard. I had no appetite whatsoever, and could chew on nothing without gagging, and I struggled to keep water down as well, but I did avoid further purges at least. (Oh, to listen to my own words about food hygiene, hot days and black panniers! Stupid, stupid stupid woman that I was...)

I stopped each 10 miles, like I used to do in my early cycling days. When I would stop and sip gently on my water bottle to force hydration into my body, I was using electrolite drinks today, to keep salts up and I think the bicarb was settling my sore stomach too, as the day progressed, I started to feel better, but I still could not eat anything.

Belvoir / Beaver

Bikie having a 10 miler rest, while I took stock of my horrible weakness following food poisoning. OK how would YOU pronounce this place... Well, it seems its pronounced as Beaver! I know, I couldn't get my head round that one either! 🙂

Today, similar to the roads chosen on Friday, were mostly traffic free, they were small B or C quality roads with hardly any cars on them at all. But, this added another problem. The villages were very small, and well spaced apart. I thought I would buy ice lollies as these were cooling and I could get some sugar from them, but not once did I find a village on my route that had either a one stop shop, or a post office, not one! No pubs either, no where...

In one Village, I gate crashed a MacMillian Coffee Morning, and was welcomed in, they gave me hot tea, but I was still unable to eat anything, they were very interested in my cycle ride, (again, I felt I had to justify my ride as I was not collecting for Charity...) and I left them a good donation for plying me with hot drinks and the tea really refreshed me up, together with the rest and sit down.

Shortly after this, I met up with a chap on a very large carbon framed Claude Butler bike, who cycled with me for 3 miles or so as part of his 50 mile cycle training route. It was good to chat, and it encouraged me to cycle harder with another rider beside me.

What a waste of a grand day of cycling, the sun was out, it was mild and warm, no wind, totally flat and I was feeling dreadful and wishing I was elsewhere except here on my bike. I was seriously in danger now of getting a 'bonk' from lack of food and hydration, but I also knew I had no choice but to keep on pedalling. My average wasnt even in the teens.

Leicestershire cheese county

Not sure where Lincolnshire sign was, I did pass through that too, but never found a sign for it.

Soon the first signpost to Pinchcreek. The roads were now dead plumbline straight for miles and miles and miles and miles. Road surface was poor, but there was no traffic on it all day long. Bike was wondering if we were back on the Transpennine Way, when suddenly there was a 90 degree turn, and the tarmac ran out! That was a shock... I had wondered about the dotted line on the map, but some dotted lines back home are still passable as roads. This was no longer a road, but a sand track.

I continued to cycle along the sand track, until another 90 degree bend in the road, to find a locked 5 bar gate. Oh pooh. Now what, I had cycled about 10 miles along this route without a warning of the road ending abruptly like this. Over the gate, there were some houses, and I suppose they had to be linked somewhere, so the bike was unloaded and basically flung rather ungracefully over the gate. Bags reloaded and on our way again. The sand track ended thankfully onto more rough tarmac.

This part of Britain, must be a very poor region, many of the houses and homes were unkept, boarded up, with broken cars outside them, I suppose there wasnt much call for work in these places. The flat fields were full of wheat, peas, broadbeans and more and more wheat fields. I thought they were supposed to be fenlands, but they were now crop lands. No hedging or private places for a girl either I might add, it was rather alkward at times. 🙂

Thankfully, I spotted another sign. Spalding was just 3 miles away.

Here was my route from Garmin Edge:

The relief of my arrival was enormous, I had made it, with nothing to eat since lunch time the previous day and only drinking 500ml of water all day as well. Bike had nice conservatory to live in for the night, so she was happy, and I had the very best first class accommodation I have ever been in. I arrived at about 3pm and forced a shower and slept until 8pm. Where I ate some dried breakfast cereal provided, and the complimentary biccies plus more hot chocolate. I retired properly at 9pm and slept soundly until 5am.

Oh how much better I felt, still not 100% but about 90%, just no appetite, but belly no longer sore and accepting food forced into it, and allowing me to drink properly as well. Today, would be a good day!

Wednesday 7th July 2010. Arrival day at my brothers home.

Ate like a Lord at breakfast, 2 boiled eggs (favourite food), toast, honey, finished the jam jar off, cornflakes, milk tea and finally had to leave a croissant as it was a bit heavy, but I was very pleased with my effort. At last my ride was starting to be fun again. Spalding is a lovely small town, it was very nice to stay here, and the Riverside Walk B&B is well worth the stay, best B&B so far, and cheapest to be honest at £35 per night. Land lord Kate and Ted were very kindly and warming.

Ted warned me of the hills of Norfolk and Suffolk, to this day, Im not sure if he was kidding or not? 🙂

Riding in Lincolnshire you really saw how the landscape had changed from the rolling limestone hills of Derbyshire with its fields of sheep and cattle, to miles and miles of wheat fields, trenches, no trees or hedging and scurry of green copses in the far far far away distances, with the National Grid Pylons breaking up the ruler sharp landscape. No farm animals at all, the odd field of ponies, so I wondered where the meat and milk came from around here but sometimes I could smell pigs and poultry so I suppose intensive farming must be taking place here. (There is no intensive farming on the Isle of Man).

The Flat Fenlands

Flat, flat, flat and very flat is how to describe this part of the ride, the roads were plumb line straight, and turned with 90 degree bends on them.

Houses seemed poverty stricken, gardens were scorched from the hot summer weather. I felt I was really in a foreign land, so very different to the lumpy bumpy landscape and scenary of the Isle of Man and the fabulous hills from 'oup North'.

I ate briefly in a pub, basically as soon as I found one, near lunch time I stopped and locked up the bike, I wasnt going to miss lunch now I was able to eat again. Ate some pasta with an O2 Orange for the sugar and then rode on.

Cycled through Wisbech. I wanted to stop here, but it was a very sad little town, and I did not feel comfortable, so cycled onwards.

By 4pm one hour earlier than expected I arrived at my brothers house. Another 122 km ride, my bike in Big ring the entire way today, and I averaged 14 mph, burnt off 3,700 calories.

I am not putting on my route to my brothers family home for security purposes, but it basically went through the following villages:

Spalding, Wisbech, Downham Market and Attleborough before the village where my brother and his family live. Sticking to B roads as much as possible.

Norfolk sign

I have been very lucky with this route, from Liverpool right up to Wisbech, all the roads (except the A46 for half a mile) were almost completely free of traffic. What traffic I did encounter was slow cars. Maybe it was because the schools are still in, or the football or something. But very quiet rides I had. Sometimes hours passed and I didnt see a single soul, let alone a car. Lincolnshire was the quietest of all. This did bring a disadvantage to the traveller, in that there were simply no one-stop shops, post offices or local stores where I could top up water, take a break and eat some chocolate or just have a rest and eat something. Back home there is a village shop in almost every single village, most even do tea and coffee to go. A sign of the times, I suppose, a further indication of our reliance on the motorcar to take us further afield for the newspaper or pint of milk.

Thursday 8 July 2010

Day off for family visits. (I did cycle though, but just 28 miles).

Friday 9 July 2010

Today was to be the official 'end' part of my C2C, where I would cycle to Lowestoft and meet the North Sea, infact I had planned to reach Ness Point, which is the most easterly point in Great Britain. Awoke to sunshine all the way, infact it was forecast to be a scorching hot day, and the mercury eventually reached 32 degrees at lunchtime. Today would end my GPS recording for Audax UK as well, as the next long ride was an organised Audax meet at Garboldisham in Sunday.

Bungay sign

Bungay, a small town enroute to Lowestoft.

Sorted out the SATMAP and loaded the Garmin to record and set off, bike loaded with water, repair kit and money for icecream and lunch. I set off at 8am so I could miss the worst of the heat. Even at 8am it was over 22 degrees, a very warm morning as I set off, not much breeze, but the movement of cycling produced one. My chosen route was as always the quiet lanes of Norfolk and until I reached Bungay, there was little in the way of traffic. How anyone living in these parts every managed before GPS I shall never know, the flat landscape doesnt change at all, there are few landmarks and all the lanes and forks seem to look the same. Even using my GPS I sometimes miscalculated a 'bear left' for a 'true left' turn, and had to go back to a turn or junction in lanes. I was hoping to see a glimse of the infamous Norfolk Broads, but I did not see them on the way to Lowestoft. No high places at all to find a view.

Where I live we have no heavy traffic roads, and no big roundabouts where the road is divided into sections to prepare you for your turn. To avoid the roads I had planned on using the cycle paths that 'lead into' Lowestoft, I found one and had a go, only to find myself going round in confusing circles, they were a nightmare, no directions that meant anything to a stranger to the place and no East, West, North or South on them so I had no idea where I was going and subsequently got lost for the first time. I used my GPS to get me to a road, and stuck on the busy A12 into Lowestoft, as at least that road had signposts that were understandable!

Brave, be very brave I told myself and think that you are a small motorbike. I then got into the right hand lane and cycled my heart out to get to the turn off I needed, riding the Primary the whole way. I made it too! I even kept up with the speed of the town traffic wiht ease. I got to South Beach for about 11am, and walked the one way street towards Ness Point. It was a bit industrial was this part of the town, but the big wind turbine showed me the way and I soon found the desolated and deserted Ness Point. After taking lots of photographs of Bikie, finally, some walkers appeared and agreed to take my picture, before making me feel bad, that I was not doing my ride for Charity... 🙄

Bikie and Me at Ness Point

Bikie and I at Ness Point.

On the way back to South Beach, the town traffic was grid locked, and I walked to the Harbour, where I locked up Bike for lunch and ate at the Harbour pub. An impressive looking building, I went in. They sold the wonderful Aspalls Cider and I ordered a glass and had a vegetarian lunch. It was one of the best pub lunches on my tour. Well presented, not too huge and over bearing, and colourful, lots and lots of colour! Ie not brown.

Bikie rests on the Most Easterly Pt

Like this picture of the Manx Legs on the Most Easterly Point name plate.

Douglas IOM As the Crow Flies

Douglas as the Crow Flies is just 280 miles away, I had done over 500 miles by this point! 🙂

So this was it... my C2C was at its end point. My very own personally organised and planned C2C. Through the wonderful changing countryside from hills to the plains and fens and all in perfect weather so far. Still couldnt believe how quiet the roads had been up to Norfolk. I reckon 80% of my run was traffic free, apart from the market towns and Lowestoft.

The weather by now was very very hot indeed, I have never been in such intense heat before. I had lots of suncream on, but breathing in this temperature was uncomfortable, it dried you out from the insides. I copied my route back to my brothers house, and the GPS said I had covered 77 miles, so enough for a 100km DIY, I was back by 3.30pm, and we all enjoyed a nice glass of wine in the warm evening after a meal together.

Saturday 10 July 2010

Another hot hot day, but no cycling planned as such. It was my brothers 50th birthday today, and a bit of a do was organised for the afternoon and evening, so visited my sister in Diss, and took a quick detour back to my brothers house to get a picture of the cycle shop in Diss, before getting back, had little time, I intended to go in, and say 'hello' to the fellow cyclists in there, as I had seen their advertisment in Arrivee for Audax UK, but just had enough time left to take picture and go.

Sunday 11th July 2010.

The Penultimate Day. My last day of cycling any real distance. Having had a day off yesterday, just cycled about 28 miles or so, my legs were itching for a good run out. The day was clouded over, and about 7 degrees cooler than yesterday, forecast for a temperature of about 24 degrees C, much nicer, there was a good breeze in place as well.

Ate a hearty breakfast, nice and early, 2 eggs, plus big bowl of cereal, and 2 bananas. Loaded Bike with water, repair kit, GPS and paper map (just in case) and set off for the 13 miles I had to cycle to get to the start.

Garboldisham Audax 100km

The Start, another Rugby Club Head Quarters, this time at Garboldisham.

Tea, coffee and biccies were available. How do clubs afford these wonderful luxuries when the entry fee is so low? When I had horses, I never entered anything for less than £40 a day, and there was NEVER free biccies and tea provided, but here again, as with Congleton lovely nice things provided that kept the cyclist going, this time for donation, but it was a choice. I met with Ken the organiser and his wife and supporters. This was going to be a very busy day, there were 3 Audax runs going off, a 50km, 100km (me) and a 200km. In all 130 riders were going to be out and about. In hindsight I wish I had had a go at the 200km, as the roads were so flat, as by now, my times for a 100km are less than 6 hours. But I am never a great one at changing things at the last minute.

At least Bikie would stay on big ring for the entire day, as she has since Spalding. We set off prompt, and I was with a group of chaps at the front, I hadnt intended for this, but I knew if they sped off, I was in control of my day, I had my trusty GPS, I would be fine. (something scary even now, of being left behind.... I mean I had been alone for nearly 600miles and still being left behind bothered me?)

I cycled along side a young lad from Diss cycle club (according to his jersey). He had just finished Uni having studied a degree in Architectural Design and History, something my youngest is interested in. He was cycling on a big steel framed fixed bike from the 1970's. Not sure of make, as its frame had its make faded and rubbed off, Im sure he told me, but I have forgotten it sadly. It was well lugged and its quality had stood the test of time. The front runners soon started to outpace me, we moved from an average of 18mph, to about 20 and I knew I had a long way to go, and so allowed my Bike to slow to a more managable pace, I might be quite fit, but I am not a racer, I have staminer and I intended to finish wiht a good time, not with tired out legs.

My GPS was a huge advantage to me, most of the riders were local, but even they were getting lost and muddled with their paper maps. A group of riders in front of me were dithering about which way to go, and I grinned as I sailed passed shouting "this way"... but nope, they preferred to dither, I was after all from outside town! 🙂

This meant, I was making really good time. Several times a particular group sped past me, only for me to speed past them as they make route decisions. At the lunch stop, a few came up and discovered my secret,and I ended up with new pals 🙂 After lunch, the pace hotted up a bit, I am always a better rider after the cafe stop on an Audax ride. The thought of being about half way round, knowing how my legs were feeling, the level of energy in them and knowing I had eaten always means I can up my pace.

I teamed up with a new Audax rider called Nigel. I thought at the pace he went on the first half that he was a regular Audaxer, but he mostly rode social rides with his CTC club. Nigel was a naughty chap, as he drank very little if anything, and only had a chocolate bar at the cafe stop as he didnt like to eat when cycling. In these temperatures, he was soon struggling. I was very concerned about his health. He was very sweaty, so he was likely dehydrated, and his legs were cramping and giving him jip. I had eaten all my supplies and had nothing to give him, as I only had about 500ml of water myself. We kept stopping to let him drink as he was not having a good time trying to use the water bottle when riding. It is a worry when on a hot day, your cycling partner is counting down the miles and you have about 15 still to go.

He kept telling me to go on, but he had no map, and wasn't local to the area. He was one of the riders where the maps had run out, and so he had to choice but to try to ride without a map, and even local riders were getting lost with the lanes and turnings as few had signposts or landmarks.

Thankfully, the end came to us and Nigel managed to get to the finish. With tea, cake and a sit down he soon recovered, but his legs did look sore, when he stood up! I dont think he will forget this ride in a hurry. 🙂 But at least he finished in a cracking good time, we managed this one in 4 hours 45 minutes, which is a personal best for me as well. So more homemade lemon cake, tea and coffee. I left a donation in the box, as they were fund raising for Cancer research. I said my goodbyes, and with a good feeling of success in my belly, I took to the road again to finish the final 13 miles back to my brothers house. What a day. I ended up cycling 93 miles (almost, almost a Century – I have still to do one of those), and averaged 15.5mph over this distance. My last 13 miles, I belted along those country lanes, I was determined not to slack off and listened to music to help pace my ride back.

What a day! None better. Returned to earth, when I realised that this really was IT. I had done my C2C, I had completed 2 Audax rides, and now just the train journey home tomorrow. Had I been able to book out the extra days off work, I would of returned by road, I felt as fit as anything, and never in my entire life have I ever been as fit as I am right now, I have surprised myself, I really have. As each day passed, my cycling became easier and easier, so much so, that if I am ever down here again, I shall do the 200km over the 100km. I lost another 5 pounds which I expect I shall regain once home, but I am a healthy size 10, and I owe all of this to cycling.... What a fantastic way to get about eh? 🙂 Cycling has changed my life for ever and I never want it to stop.

Next long ride, is my Lands End to John O Groats, you know, I might just make that! 🙂

Sorry this account is soooo long, I really am bad at short tails.

Must be a Manx thing.

16 comments on “ManxCat goes Forth… C2C from Liverpool to Lowestoft anyway…”

  1. ruth williams wrote:

    Hi Mary
    So pleased to find you on this site. I communicated with you via ctc last year having been inspired by your Totoise and Hare Trip!Well... Ive been cycling for the year and am contemplating upping my adventure byway of a small cycle tour ths summer.
    Im also glad to see you have to juggle the "safety" question. I fInd as a mum of three teenagers and a wife (V SUPPORTIVE HUBBY) colleagues and non family members frequently queston my safety. After much consideration I have decided that I take no stupid risks and you could brake down in an unsavoury area in a car and probabaly with less equipment to get you out of a scrape. To top that, balancing the dangers surely being fit and healthy outweighs the dangers of ill health so... carry on and good for you!
    Id love to know a bit about the garmin versus satmap... satmap looks so user friendly!!
    Keep cycling and posting, you have been a great source of inspiration to know there are other women out there starting out on bikes (You are miles ahead of me... im still back with the Tortoise!)

  2. Patrick wrote:

    Well done Mary. That's a fine achievement. Your passion for cycling comes over very strongly and I think it's nice that you wrote in such detail. The description of sailing past the lost riders with your GPS is very funny. When you read your account again in a few years you'll be reminded of things you forgot.

    I think the reason why people ask whether you're doing it for charity is that they can't imagine doing it for pleasure. They should be ignored! I'd feel the same about people going on about the dangers for a 'lone woman' cyclist. It's wise to be cautious about riding off into the unknown but really, I think a lone male is at more risk of attack as they (we) are more likely to respond to provocation, so a better bet for troublemakers.

    But I can see how heavy traffic would be a worry. Perhaps one day you'll be able to tour in Denmark, Holland, Belgium, or Germany. You'd feel a huge difference in the way cyclists are treated by motorists and there are cycle paths everywhere. The UK environment is great for cycling but it's spoiled by too much traffic – much worse in the south than the north.

    You'll manage your end to end next year, I'm sure. It might be worth trying camping a few times if you can. You might like it and it gives you flexibility. It's easy to find campsites with showers and there are some very small lightweight tents available these days (and cookers of course).

  3. Chris wrote:

    What a vivid post, Mary. Thank you, I really enjoyed it. I know it's not all about the numbers, but I am very impressed that you averaged 15mph more than once.

    So, it was a curly Hetchins after all! And from famine to feast we have so many photographs. Perhaps we'll be treated to a close-up of the lug work next time? When I commented on your last post I looked at the Hetchins web site. I couldn't quite make out whether they were still being made, but it now looks as though potential buyers have to contact someone to get any details. Such a lovely bike.

  4. Mary wrote:

    Hi Ruth, I have replied to your email, but you know, I might put on a small (did I say small...?) report about the SATMAP. Expensive, but in my opinion, its worth its weight in gold for me, and I do prefer it to the 'other gps system I took along'. Good luck with your C2C ride, do let me know how you get along, its a great route with lots of other cyclists to share your experiences with. After my ride, I really will ignore those negative numpties regarding safety... like you said, you could be in the same situation in your car (never thought of that).

    I have wondered now about Europe Patrick, I did enjoy reading about your Denmark ride. I have 2 teenagers about to go to University, next year is my final long ride for some time due to costs of keeping them in education in England. Funny, no one but me seems to think that that is dangerous 🙂

    Yep Chris, you were right about Bikies breeding.

    She was ordered in April 2009, and I went to Preston to see David Miller. Bikie was in tubes on his kitchen table when I arrived! They are still being made, but in a bestoke sort of way. It was great fun choosing the paintwork, if she was to be wearing chrome or not, and choosing her chainsets etc. She is a Magnus Opus Delux. Renolds steel frame of course.

    I did consider in 2009 a Mercian, but Derbyshire was expensive and difficult for me to get to. The Hetchin was surprisingly, a good bit cheaper as well..... 😯

    She was cycled home of course.

  5. Hilary wrote:

    Great post Mary. Your bike is absolutely gorgeous – I always wanted a curly Hetchins, I've looked at lots of 2nd hand ones on the internet but ones in good condition are too expensive and ones in need of restoration require skills I don't possess. Roberts is much handier for me geographically and they also build lovely bikes.
    As for safety I've been warned about it all my life. People always seem to think that the world is a much more dangerous place for a woman when in reality young men are the group most likely to be attacked. A few years ago there was a tragic accident here when a guy was killed sitting on a deckchair on the beach. A car reversed over the sea wall and landed on top of him. The most mundane and apparently safe things are not necessarily so – its a terrible shame that many people (women in particular) are put off doing things because of unecessary fears & worries. 'There is nothing to fear but fear itself'. 🙂

  6. Rachel Luckett wrote:

    Hi Mary.

    I'm glad you are well and still cycling marvellous distances.
    I used to read about your exploits on the Ctc forum.
    Nice to have found you agin.
    Well done for your recent achievements.

  7. Patrick wrote:

    Mary wrote: I very nearly bought a Mercian and not a Hetchins.

    The latest CycleClips newsletter links to a Guardian article that mentions Hetchins bicycles. It seems you made a good choice of bike builder.

  8. Darryl wrote:

    Hi Mary,
    What a great adventure you had. It was good to see you again at the Congleton Audax, and yes you were indeed looking in very good shape!
    It was a fast pace and to be honest I don't think I could have gone any faster. Our average speed was my fastest yet, by quite a long way! So well done to both of us there.Keep up the cycling, and posting for us to read and be inspired. I look forward to seeing you again next year,
    Regards, Darryl

  9. Darryl wrote:

    Your Hetchins bike was absolutely gorgeous! I must try to save up and get one!!

  10. Mary wrote:

    Thank you Darryl, glad you liked my bike. I must admit to lovin' the steel framed baby myself. So light, responsive and a bit of a beaut.

    See you again in Congleton.


  11. Malcolm wrote:

    Hi Mary
    Glad to see your still enjoying two wheels and getting about, Like the new bike 🙂 Take care, best regards

    FW aka Malc

  12. Mary wrote:

    Hi Malc

    Good to hear from you.

    I do miss the CTC forum, and from time to time, I read everyones exploits. Say hi to all on there for me. And next year I am cycling LEJOG... sadly not alone... which is what I would of preferred. 'Him in the shed on two wheels with an engine' has insisted I ride the distance as a holiday with a group... (Cos its safer that way...) Nice, but not really how I wanted to do it, but at least i get the opportunity to ride the route.

    I am already planning 2012, and a LONG ride somewhere alone once more.

    Sad person that I am, but I prefer to plan my own rides than have them planned on my behalf.



  13. Malcolm wrote:

    Nice one! I hope you enjoy the LEJOG 🙂 I've got a pipe dream at the moment that I want to do the double next year, 😮 yes, mad I know, and seeing as Mick suggested it last year I'll be enlisting his services, not that he knows yet ... he he. nice to hear from you, take care. Malc.

  14. anniesboy wrote:

    I along with many others hope to see Manx back on CTC forum soon, please don't let one idiot shape your thoughts.
    You have inspired too many people to stay away.

  15. Jonathan wrote:

    `Hi there,

    I'm putting together a site to celebrate Britains most easterly point... ... is it ok to put a link to your great blog ?

    Do let me know

    Best thoughts


  16. Mary wrote:

    Hi Jonathan, I have sent you a personal email.

    Glad you enjoyed the blog. Good luck with your site, Im sure it will become very popular with cyclists. 🙂

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