A great ride… killer wind, broken cleat, floods, roads full of winter debris.
Starting at Tern Hill (24hr Petrol Station) I headed across the Cheshire Plains to Ellesmere for breakfast, bypassing my favourite café (Midway) and Beans on Toast at Press Heath as it was only a few miles into the ride. The Boathouse at Ellesmere is nice, and the staff are always friendly. But the food and drink are a little expensive for me. I had a couple of heavy downpours of rain with a strong wind during this leg which reduced my motivation. Leaving Ellesmere, I dropped on to the route and headed for Crewgreen and the first big climb. However, the headwind was killing me. On the Dan-O-Meter, I would estimate at it was gusting at 30-40mph as it was pushing me across the road at times. The Cheshire Plains are pretty much the same wherever you go, generally flat roads, hedgerows and pasture or cropland. I had a little diversion just before Melverley, as the floodwater was still high. The locals were out collecting the plastic and other rubbish which had become trapped in the hedgerow. From the waterline, it must had covered the Hawthorne hedgerow. They recommended that I take the high road as it cleared a few days ago. It is interesting that on my original route there were no flood warning signs, but on the high road, all the signs indicate floods and road closed! It must have been bad as the waterline was equally as high along this road too.
Crewgreen and the first climb was a welcome relief as the wind was redirected by the hedgerows and my legs were now climbing. This climb reminded me of the climbs in the Peak District. Don’t forget to look behind you for the vista across the Plains when you turn at the house called ‘new house’ as you will lose this vista. The descent down the other side, Wallaston, is quick but the lane is narrow with blind corners and I had to slow down/ stop a dozen times for oncoming cars. You cross the A road and start the climb up an incline/ ramp which gradually turns into a continuous climb. However, like the first climb, there are places where the gradient reduces, and you can recover. The descent down the other side is very fast and very steep with blind corners but you pop out at a village and start a gentler leg to Montgomery (B4388).
Every time I have passed through Montgomery it has been night-time, so I took the opportunity to look at the church and castle. But to be honest, I was so tired from fighting the headwind for the past 60miles that I could not be bothered to pull off the road to visit the castle. The leg to Newtown has not changed and it was a little descent on to the A road and a headwind battering me until I arrived at McDonald’s. After 7.5hrs of cycling, it felt like I had just ridden 600km.
I stopped for about 15minutes, just long enough to buy 3 cheeseburgers and a large fizzy drink. I knew the Kerry road out of Newtown was long and steep, so I had one cheeseburger and save the other two for my ride back. Partway up the climb to Kerry, I sheered the plastic lip off the front of my left cleat. This had the unfortunate result of the foot popping off the pedal when I applied pressure e.g. trying to go faster. Every time the foot slipped off the pedal the ankle took a knock… this became rather tedious and painful! It also slowed my progression down especially when I was trying to maintain speed into the short climbs. On the positive, the wind had all but gone and I was making good time on the flats.
I stopped at Churchstoke (Patrol station/ Café/ Coop) to have my second cheeseburger and avoid the rain shower which was passing over. Back on the bike and it was only a mile or so to the left turn and the climb over to Ford. Don’t let the incline fool you!!! Eventually, you hit the real climb which is continuous and steep. This is definitely a climbers’ climb. I did not last long as my foot popped off the pedal and I did not have the strength to get going again. I think part of this was the slipperiness of the road. The descent off the top is excellent but be aware of oncoming cars and people in the road. I opted not to stop at Ford and Dinkys Dinahs. Instead, I pushed on for the car at Tern Hill. The last leg was more Cheshire Plains riding and constant ankle banging as my foot popped off the pedal.
A great ride, full of stone artefacts (churches and archways) and photo opportunities
Arriving home from work the sun was out and the temperature was just warm! I thought a quick 100km spin from home would be a great way to spend the afternoon, I was right! Taking the usual road to Uttoxeter, I stopped at Hilderstone to have a quick look at the church. It occurred to me that I had never taken a photograph of the church. As I headed through Uttoxeter I waved at the Bull as I went around the roundabout. This marks a change in the roads, as they are much quieter except when you pass Sudbury Hall. St Pauls at Scropton was another landmark that I pass but never stop to look at, I did this time.
The roads are fast and the going was good, although a little cold. Turning at Willington for Repton was like joining a slow-moving A’road. The Church at Repton was very impressive alongside the adjoining Abbey, although it looks like a school or offices now. A few miles up the road is Stapenhill Cemetery Archway which is also very impressive. This section of the road was much quieter except when you go through the built-up areas.
The road continues past the power station and to Walton-on-Trent where you cross the river Trent using a single lane bridge, but there is a walkway/ path on one side. A few minutes later you are in Barton-under-Needwood which has an impressive church set back from the main road. Looking at Google images I should have taken the time to cycle to the other side of the Church as it looks much more impressive. I had intended to have a cafe stop here but it was so busy with parents and students leaving school that I just kept going.
The roads become very quiet as you undulate through the countryside. I was taken back when the Church of The Holy Angels at Hoar Cross appeared from behind the trees. I can only describe it as a mini-cathedral. It would be interesting to have a look inside, but it was starting to go dark and I did not have a front light, so I pushed on.
Rather than taking the main road back to Meir Heath (the road I came out on) I opted for the small back roads which I have never used before. I would definitely use these roads again as the climbs are less server and there were very few cars.
Rather than taking the main road back to Meir Heath (the
road I came out on) I opted for the small back roads which I have never used
before. I would definitely use these roads again as the climbs are less steep
and there were very few cars.
What a great ride, I would definitely do this route again
but stopping to look at these landmarks in more detail.
Rather than taking the main road back to Meir Heath (the road I came out on) I opted for the small back roads which I have never used before. I would definitely use these roads again as the climbs are less server and there were very few cars.
What a great ride, I would definitely do this route again but stopping to look at these landmarks in more detail.
I was up and fed the girls (6am) and delivered the wife’s cup of tea, as normal. Wife: are you cycling today. Me: I’ve not spent any time with you guys over the past couple of weeks, so I am spending the day at home. Wife: why don’t you go for a quick spin and we’ll spend the afternoon together… I am already leaving the house before she had finished the sentence!!!
The road was wet, and the wind had a cold bite to it but considering it is winter it was a pleasant morning. The section from Meir Heath to Uttoxeter is a familiar road as it is my route into the Peak District. Crossing over onto Loxley Lane at the back of Uttoxeter I experienced the first of two near misses on this ride. This time it was a mountain biker in his car overtaking me on a single lane bridge, he must have been millimetres from the wall of the bridge as I was riding just off-centre towards the curb. The section from Uttoxeter to Rugeley is very much a cut-through for mountain bikers heading for Cannock Chase so I would imagine that it is a commuter cut-through during the week.
With the sun rising the illusion of warmth was beginning to set in. However, once the sun had risen it quickly vanished behind the clouds and I never saw it again, but I did see the rain. It started to drizzle as I turned to take the back road around Rugeley to Cannock Chase, in a bid to avoid the traffic and built-up areas. The climb was pleasant and listening to the bird’s song made me feel like I was out in the countryside.
The long descent to Penkridge quickly arrived and I needed the first right to visit the commonwealth war graves which I last visited when I was leading mountain bike groups around Cannock Chase back in the early 1990’s. It is interesting how somethings change every couple of years, but others never change.
Arriving in Penkridge left me a little confused regarding the road layout, I could see the faint road markings, but I could not identify what I was meant to be doing…. so I just made it up! I would imagine that crossing at this junction during the working day is very dangerous. I did not stop at Penkridge as I decided to push on to the cafe at the Red Lion Farm, Hughton. I opted for somewhere warm and dry to have a cup of tea rather than standing in the rain trying to eat a sandwich outside Sainsbury’s.
The section from Penkridge to Hughton is mainly very narrow country lanes and the section between Bradley and Hughton has an extremely poor road surface. So much so that there were more potholes than tarmac. I will consider rerouting this small leg if I do this route again.
The section between Haughton and Stone was flat and
uneventful and I would suspect that when it is not raining it would be nice. I
immediately knew that I had hit the main road at Bridge North as the traffic
was almost continuous and has I approach Stone I had a young lady trying to
force me off the road as she attempted to squeeze past me on a zebra crossing,
accelerating to overtake me and nearly clipping my front wheel with her rear
bumper. This upset the traffic behind her as I rode the next couple miles to
the main roundabout dominating the lane, stopping other cars from overtaking.
The section along the Trentham to Stafford road was pleasant but a little dangerous as I had to cycle away from the curbside of the inside lane, as the first 1.5 meters was standing water. However, the car drivers did move into the other lane when they overtook which was great.
Now that I had left the harbour the mission was revealed. A stealthy approach going wide and attacking from the rear was the principal attack pattern. Midway was sighted through the clouds and targets were plotted. After several attacking waves, the beans on toast was finally devoured and two cups of tea were drunk to toast my victory.
Now that my presence was revealed I tried to hide in the rain to make my escape back via a cheeky shortcut through the strait only to find that the enemy had mined it. A strategic withdraw was ordered and a route around the peninsular was taken.
I had fighter cover for a while from a couple of spitfires but they had to leave. A welcome shoreline was spotted and the usual navigation hazards were encountered to reach my mooring and safety. Final duty before disembarking is to honour the fallen.
Disclaimer: All events and people identified in this mission log are fictitious and in no way represent real-life events and people!
I opened the front door and it was monsoon season, I gave serious thought about closing the door and climbing back into bed. I knew it was going to be one of those rides. By the time I made it to the top of the hill, about 2km, I could feel the rain running down my skin on the way to my already cold feet. I realised that I left my heart rate monitor at home, but I knew that if I went back to get it, I will call it a day. Only 2km in and I was not a happy bunny. By the time I reached Stone (5km), I was also very cold, so much for my winter kit keeping me warm and dry. At this point I would settle for wet and warm. I still had hope, as I could see a break in the clouds where the first light of the sun was breaking through, so I told myself to keep going. My new neoprene lined winter gloves were not doing very well as my fingertips were like fish fingers, we’ll what do you expect from eBay, I said to myself!
Pushing on in my misery, I realised that only a few years ago I would have enjoyed the challenge, now I am just a feeble rider, a wannabe Audaxer. As I approached Hodnet (40km) the rain started to break and the morning sun had started to get warm me; the world was a much nicer place. Although the rain had stopped, I was continually faced with flooded roads. To be honest I never really warmed up all day, but my speed did increase mid-morning just in time for another monsoon downpour. I made it to Ford (72kms) and sat eating my breakfast (fry egg sandwiches and a cup of tea) in my personalised and private puddle of water.
The next 70km to Chester were a lot more pleasant as it did not rain. However, my route planning sent me down a tarmac track, which gave way to a gravel section which turned into a wheel gripping mud section, and finally into a swamp-like path which eventually arrived at the tarmac road. I just needed to cycle on another half a kilometer and I would have avoided knee-deep mud and swamps. However, this was on me and my route planning.
It was a welcome relief to arrive at Chester and been greeted by the mandatory Hen do. I could not work out if they had been at it all night or if they had an early start, but they looked rough. I popped my head into Subway and asked if I could put my bike just inside as normal, sorry we are not allowed anymore was the reply. Ho well, I just push on to Bunbury and the cafe which was closing when I arrived but the ladies were kind enough to serve me a slice of cake and a warming cup of tea. I am always impressed with the service at Tilly’s Cafe and they were happy for a wet and muddy cyclist to sit inside to get warm.
The last leg back to Stoke was uneventful and pasted fairly quickly but the sun was leaving me now, I just wanted to get home for a hot bath to warm up again. I could tell I was approaching Stoke on Trent as the car drivers were much more aggressive, getting too close and pulling in front as if to make a point. Just to cap it off, it felt like the cycle lanes were being used as parking lanes so I had to keep moving out into the main flow of traffic which was very dangerous and I came close to getting hit a couple of times. So, I just rode in the main lane which made a few car drivers very unhappy!
I have only ever seen Pistyll Rhaeadr from above during a multiday expedition across the Berwyn’s range when I was a teenager, it was about time that I saw it from the bottom! This is one of those rare occasions that I rode with another Audaxer. We also took the opportunity to undertake the two mountain roads (Llangynog Climb, Bwlch Long) to and from Bala at the same time.
It was a typical Welsh misty morning when we started from Guilsfield near Welshpool and to be honest, we never really lost this Welsh mist as every time we climbed it was into the cloud and mist. We had a pleasant ride to Pistyll Rhaeadr with a few sharp climbs along the way, but we were looking forward to the cup of tea at the tea shop. The waterfall can make for a spectacular photograph if you can hairbrush out all the other tourist trying to get a photo! The wet rocks can be slippy in your cycling shoes so take care.
Leaving Pistyll Rhaeadr it did not take long to reach the first mountain road over to Bala (B4391) but thankfully it was a long gradual Cat2 climb with a wide and fast descent off the top. It does get a little twisty towards the bottom, but you pop out at the Bala lake and it is a fast sprint to the café on the high street. We saw four Red Kites along this section and two were very close to the road, I am assuming they were using the thermals.
After lunch, we traced our route back to Bala lake and traversed its length before starting to climb back over the mountain road (Bwlch Long) to Vyrnwy. This road felt much steeper and it differently became steeper as you neared the top. I would say that we had amazing views but we had a few feet of visibility and misted-up glasses.
The descent to Vyrnwy is fast and there is a lot of loss gravel and potholes so take care. As you reach Vyrnwy lake there is a wonderful stone arch bridge which you will ride over and is almost hidden in the trees. The road along the lake is fast and in places, some of the trees which line the road would me make a specular photo, but the weather was not on our side for photos.
The final push back to Guilsfield provides some of the steepest climbing of the day and apart of one vista there was not much to see, except the eagles sitting on the telegraph poles! If I do this route again, I think I would take a more flat and direct route back to Guilsfield.
This blog combines photos from two seperated rides.
This route is a variation of the Ashbourne loop and takes in the Elkstone valley climb twice. Another early start (3am) which I love as it means the roads to quite and I am home for midday to spend time the Campbell clan. The weather forecast is for dry and 10mph winds until about 11am when the wind increases the risk of rain just to 50%, so I should have a dry ride! I had made to Rocester (16miles) and the first of the many monsoon rain showers hit, this resulted in flashed floods and debris being washed into the road.
The climb from Blore to the A52 along Marten Lane provided an excellent view of Ilam Valley and Derbyshire plains. Although the excessive number of signs indicating that there are bulls in the field did begin to worry me. As I cycled past the bull, he just looked at me with those eyes, “idiot.” The short climb along the A52 is quick and when you turn right off the road the descent is very quick on wide roads. Keep an eye open for the deer in the field just after turning off the main road. This is the only time you will see deer during the daylight hours.
Be careful you do not miss the left turning to Ilam as it arrives very quickly. This leg is also fast as you descend into Ilam valley but careful of the shape corners as you approach the bottom they had a lot of tiny gravelly like ballbearings which can catch you out! Just before you arrive in Ilam village you pass over a lovely stone bridge, see below.
Climbing out of Ilam it was clear that the wind had grown in strength and it was going to cause me issues along the exposed moorlands. The little detour to Milldale was lovely as there was no one else there and the sound of the river slowly falling over the stones was very peaceful. The climb out to Alstonefield was another very steep climb which just keeps giving all the way but the tree on the village green was amazing. From here a quick and shape decsent into the manifold valley and the long climb out to Grindon. I stopped at Grindon to look at the church which is very grand and a little larger than I was expecting considering how few people live in the surrounding area.
The rain came back as I was climbing out of the manifold valley and on the open roads, the wind was whipping the surface water up and driving it directly into my face. Yes, I was having fun, I think!
The second half of the ride (Bottomhouse to Bottomhouse) was more about dealing with the wind and rain than it was about cycling. The climb out of Elkstone valley was hard but I made it this time. When I last did this climb on a Peak Audax I had to walk. The second attempt at the climb I had a little walk on the first steep section but rode the rest (a few weeks later I did the ride again and rode it this climb both times without stopping).
Along the top road (Blakelow Road) heading back to Bottomhouse, the wind was gusting and pushing me across the road into the other lane. The last time I experienced such winds on my bike was when I did the End-to-End in 2012. Although the wind reduced as I descended to Ipstone it was a constant battle all the home.
This route is excellent as there are lots of vistas and special places along the way. However, some of the smaller lanes are rotten with potholes, tree branches and gravelly (I think that this was responsible for the crack in my rear wheel). Also, at the start, there are sections on major roads which are very busy during the day. Alongside this, the climbs are often steep.
I had intended to do some stargazing at Llyn Stwlan (at the back of Ffestiniog) but when I arrived at the start (Bala) it was raining. I did consider having a couple of hours sleep before setting off, but I knew that I would sleep right through so I just headed off into the rain. This meant that my first food and water stop would be Penygroes (50miles) which was okay with me.
The initial climb out of Bala past Parc was long and steady although the rain and wind, which gradually grew stronger made it feel much harder. The electrical noise from the overhead power cables was so loud that I could hear it over the wind which was now whistling in my ears. I have completed this section before on John Hamilton’s Snowden, Lleyn and Lakes permanent 200km, which is an excellent ride and takes you to Aberdaron at the end of the peninsula.
The decent to Ffestiniog was hard work as the wind was driving the rain into my face and the darkened sunglasses was like shutting my eyes, although the rain did not hurt my eyeballs on impact! Blaenau Ffestiniog was fairly flat and pleasant as there was no traffic on the road. I would imagine that during the day this road is busy. I did stop at a bus shelter for a bit of shelter from the wind and rain and to take on some food before the next big climb to Llyn Stwlan.
The start of the climb was easy to find as there is a small road from the cafe carpark which climbs up and over the level-crossing and to a kissing gate. Fighting with the wind to get my bike through the kissing gate would have made prime time TV or gone viral on youtube! I started to climb again, been battered by the wind and rain, and for a moment that little voice asked if this was a good idea considering the severity of the weather. I thought about it and compared it to previous mountain experience and decided to push on.
The climb (1.7miles, 10%) itself was much easier than I had anticipated if I factor out the wind and rain. The sheep were much more of an issue as they insisted in running from one side of the road to the other… some even turn around and ran back across the road. I don’t blame them if I saw an orange Marshmellowmen on a bike coming towards me in the dark I think I would be a little afraid! I did not release I had reached the top until I was a couple of meters from the dam as the visibility was that poor. The dam was closed to the public for repairs and I am just stupid enough to cycle across it in this server wind.
I took a few minutes at the dam as the raised embankments either side of the road were providing shelter from the wind. The descent down was more of a crawl as I found it hard to see the sides of the road as I had to turn the light down to 100 lumens as the light was being reflected at me by the fog\ cloud. The sheep’s eyes did help a little!
The section from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog was more fighting with the wind and rain which made this descent feel hard and long. As I drew closer to the coast the wind and rain eased off and it was actually pleasant sitting on the Porthmadog high street benches having a little food and a rest even though I was wet to the bone but warm. As I anticipated the petrol station was closed (opens at 05:30am).
By the time I reached Penygroes, it had stopped raining and the clouds were slowly lifting, making it a little more pleasant. Just before you drop down towards Penygroes there is an excellent view of the mountains giving way to the sea. I was unable to take a photo as the weather was very poor. I stopped at the Co-op in Penygroes for a small bottle of blue milk and some water. The ladies were a little surprised as I suspect they were not used to tourist turning up as they open the doors. I did stand just inside the door using the heater to dry me out a little whilst I drank my milk.
The lead-in road to Nantle Pass is fairly flat and pleasant mainly due to the wonderful views. I briefly chatted to a couple of commuters who overtook me as I climb Nantlle Pass, which was nice. I stopped for a photo just off the top of the pass, the weather was very different from when I last did this pass last summer!
Joining the A4052 road to Beddgelert I knew that it was a nice long roll into Beddgelert expect this time, I would have to fight the wind a little. Turning at Beddgelert to Llanberis the wind had all but gone as I was now sheltered by environmental features and landscapes. It is a long climb to the top of Pen-y-Pass from Beddgelert so I set a steady pace and enjoyed the climb. There was very little traffic on the road as I think most holidaymakers decided to have a late breakfast. In fact, there were four cars parked on the roadside parking area at the top of Llanberis Pass and the ticket man was reading his paper.
I stopped at Pete’s Eats in Llanberis for beans on toast and a cup of tea, the roadside carpark here was full but there were very few people about. The wooden floor in Pete’s Eats was very slippy, even with my cleat protectors on so every time I move it was like watching an elephant ice skating!
The climb over to Bethesda was nice as the clouds had lifted and I could see most of the mountains reaching into the sea. There are some excellent photos to be had along this section so camera on standby. There is a short and sharp climb just before Deliniolin which takes you over the tops to Bethesda. I did note a tarmac road which climbs up into the mountain on the far side of the valley. I looked this up on the map, it would make a great little route to the lake and around to the surge pond on the face of Elidir Fach. From here you would have a commanding view of Llanberis Pass.
The traffic was still light so the climb up Ogwen Pass and over to Capel Curig was pleasant. The sun had come out now and I was feeling dry. I discovered where all the people were! People and cars everywhere, although the traffic on the road was light. The section from Ogwen Cottage to Capel Curig is fairly quick and I overtook a three cyclist at different points along this section. I actually like the section from Capel Curig to Betws-y-Coed as it is mainly downhill and for the most part the road is wide and I managed to gain some Strava PR’s on these descents (even though I was three kilograms heavier this year).
I stopped at the petrol station on the way out of Betws-y-Coed as I discovered where all the other holidaymakers were! I encountered a group of about 20 bikers on their way to the Island of Man races who had started in Poland. Their partners were exploring different places along the way in the van whilst they were touring on their bikes.
The next 15miles is generally uphill (and very steep in places) and by the time I reach the Ffestiniog to Bala via the Tryweryn road I had started to wish for a flat route or a gun! This section was differently mentally challenging and there were times where I considered stopping but I knew that I needed to keep going if I was to back before the Audax cut off time. There are more excellent photos to be had along this section but the weather was not with me.
When I finally reached the Tryweryn road I was so happy, I actually felt the neurohormones in the brain kick in! Then I went around the corner and saw my next long and steep climb. Once over, this section to Tryweryn lake (Llyn Celyn) is very nice and I was able to roll at 18-20mph most of the way. When I hit the road which travels along the side of the lake I was able to average 18mph until I started to descend towards Bala. There were a few cars which were going a little slow for me and they were surprised to see me overtaking them.
This was a great ride and if I do it again I will take a quality camera as there are amazing photo opportunities all the way around. There are lots of places to stop for food and water and the roads are in good condition. Some cars did get a little close but for the most part, car drivers were excellent.
This is not my first 600km, what makes it different is the Audax time allowance. I know that my fat belly would play a key role in my success! I wanted to be home late evening so that I could have a shower and a little food before jumping onto my bed when I returned. This meant that I had to start at 4am, which was fine for me as I love early starts or overnight rides. In terms of equipment, I did not pack anything new, but I did increase the number of energy gels to 15. I sometimes suffer from not being able to eat solid foods and I did not want this to stop me.
Hilderstone to Prees Heath (52km: 32miles): This is a section I know well as I often use this route to head for Wales or the Cheshire Plains (See A Place Called Hope for photos and write up). I made good time along this section as there are only two hills which slow you down. I stopped at the Prees Heath truck stop and had beans on toast and a cup of tea (£4.20). However, there is a 24hr petrol station a few meters down the road.
Prees Heath to Middlewich (103km: 64miles): This leg is very pleasant and offers views of the Cheshire plains and no significant climbing which meant I was able to make good time. There are cafes and a 24hr petrol station at Middlewich along the way should you caught short. St Michael and All Angels Church is on the cross-road and I have been told that it is very nice inside.
Middlewich to Poynton (136km: 84miles): For those of you who have done other Peak Audax rides these roads will be familiar to you especially the section between Middlewich and Poynton. Arriving at Poynton I opted for Costa Coffee as they had a toilet even though Greggs is cheaper. I sat outside under the shade of the tree drinking my coffee and eating a tuna bake trying to zone out two ladies complaining about their friend’s behaviour. This was my last stop before my leg over the pennies.
Poynton to Park Head (187km: 116miles): Although the route takes you through built-up areas it was not that bad, but it felt like the Saddleworth climb was a long time coming. Along the way, you pass the Stockport Hydro Project which is worth a quick look. I stopped here to change into my summer cycling top as I was starting to get a little warm. When you reach the Saddleworth climb it is long, consistent, but not as excessively steep as I thought it was going to be. I anticipated that I would struggle the combination of the sun and the exertion of the climb, which was true as by the time arrived at Park Head I had sunburnt my head (even with suncream). I am assuming that the suncream had sweated out of my skin as I climbed from Poynton. The result of which was heatstroke, which I was to suffer with overnight.
The views are of a typical moorland landscape and to be honest I could be in the White Peak by the Cat and Fiddle Inn. The descent is long and in places fast so tuck in and enjoy the ride to the Coop and 24hr petrol station at Park Head.
Park Head to Goole (254km: 157miles): This section follows the main road (A635) which is wide and does offer a one-meter wide strip of tarmac, in places, which can be used to move out of the main flow of traffic. Be careful at night as there are both large objects (tyres, car body parts etc…) and sharp objects (glass and reinforcing wire for car tyres). Although this road feels like you are climbing all the way it is a fast road so try to hang onto your speed. I was plodding along and without too much effort and I was able to cycle with a local group of rides whilst chatting to them. I was averaging about 18mph.
This main road gives way to smaller roads and country lanes as you grow nearer to Goole. Take a minute when you pass through the longest village in Yorkshire (Sykehouse). There is a bench area by the information board. I did notice that the church is set at an angle from the road, I am not sure if this was by design or by the environment, either way, it seems a little different to me. I finally arrived at McD’s (£5.85) and I had a rest here before moving on, I was starting to feel ill from the side effects of the heatstroke.
Goole to Gainsborough (352km: 218miles): The section across to the Humber bridge (298km: 185miles) seemed to take an age and there is a section of gravel which I was not expecting so it took me a few minutes to make sure that I was following the route correctly. There are a couple of petrol stations along the route but the one I stopped at (Morrisons) closed at 11pm. When I reached the bridge, I ended up carrying my bike up the steps as I missed the ramped pathway, I do this every time! Crossing the bridge was fairly uneventful as it was very dark, and I could not see anything when I looked over the bridge rails except the buoy’s flashing lights. Either way, this was a landmark in my ride as I had passed halfway.
The section from the Humber Bridge to Gainsborough was a gradual climb which I remember from my 400km Moor and Wolds. This section is fairly uneventful and considering it was dark it just felt like dark roads connecting villages. The sunstroke was really taking its toll now and felt like I was a drunken rider, I needed to stop and get some sleep but I could not find any bus shelters with a bench in it. I finally stopped at Stow (225miles) for 30minutes in a bus stop with a concrete floor.
Gainsborough to Boston (442km: 274miles): Gainsborough, every time I visit Gainsborough I imagine that this town would be posh and inviting, ales it is just like another uninspiring town. At least there is a 24hr petrol station where I purchased items from. Another uneventful section and the last five miles into Boston are fast and the roads are long. To be honest, I am not liking the Fens.
Boston to Colsterworth (Grantham) (496km: 309miles): Why is it that every road I cycle along in the Fens seem to have a slight upward incline and I never get the road which offers a slight downwards decline! I saw some more dog size deer as I cycled away from Boston.
Even though the main road (A151) which runs from East to West was busy, it is fast if you are prepared to work to maintain your speed on the little climbs. I was able to regain time along this road which helped to mitigate my loses from my overnight issues. To be honest, I felt at home on this road, but the traffic was fast and getting a little close when I traveled along it during the daytime.
The roadside diner (A1 Stadium Diner) at Colsterworth was just like the American diners on TV. So I took the risk on some solid food (beans and eggs) and 15 minutes of sleep in the cigarette shelter. The food service was fast and the staffs were pleasant.
Colsterworth to Donington Services (552km: 342miles): The road after the Colsterworth was much more urban and narrower but the traffic had reduced and there were far fewer trucks. To be honest, I do not remember much about this leg. I think I had switched off and I was just focused on making it Donington services and home. So I turned the music on and settled in for the last 60miles. This was a long section and by the time I reached Donington Services I had elected the Queen song, ‘fat bottom girls’ as the song of the day. I must admit, it was nice to be back on familiar roads as it said that I was home, well not quite. It was just a little matter of 40 more miles.
Donington Services to Uttoxeter (596km: 370miles): For a fuller write up of this section please see The Boston Tea Party of 1773. This section was fairly quick as for the most part it is flat and most of the hill you can maintain your speed. I did experience a couple on electric bikes overtaking me on a short hill over a bridge but I think they were showing off as I overtook them about a mile further up the road. I stopped at Uttoxeter Burger King for a cold drink and to prepare myself for the final 10 miles…. which I knew would be brutal.
Uttoxeter to Hilderstone (614km: 381miles): This is differently the second hardest section of the ride and is described as “a few irritating lumps”. I acknowledge that it was my last 10 miles but the irritating lumps just keep coming and they are fairly steep in places. The last irritating lump before Hilderstone, in my opinion, was the hardest along this section but once you are up this lump you are reward with a fast roll into Stone.
What I learnt: I need to do something about the heatstroke issue, but I am not sure how to tackle this without losing my belly fat. However, a little bit of reading may yield some useful information. The USB battery pack (Anker Astro E1 5200mAh) which I have, got me through the 40hrs, but it had gone flat by the time I arrived at Donington services.
I also need more carrying space to store food and water which I purchase along the way. Currently, there is no free space when I start the ride (Orbit 2.7lt saddle bag, top tube bag 1.5lt) and I carry very little solid food with me as I prefer to buy food as I travel. One solution is to purchase a bigger under saddle bag or a midframe bag. I will have to give this some thought too.
Arriving home from work at 5:30 I had planned to have 2 or 3 hours sleep before starting this ride. However, this did not happen, which is becoming a bit of a trend. I also realised that if I waited until 9 or 10 o’clock which was my original intention it would be very unlikely that I would start this ride. I had already packed the bike and charged up my lights, power pack and Wahoo Bolt so I was ready to go.
Setting off from home is actually really nice and knowing now when I finish the ride, I will be back at home make life easier, this is something I can get use to. The initial leg which took me from Stoke on Trent to Donington services is mainly downhill and for the most part quite pleasant, which surprised me as I had not cycled most of the roads before. I would definitely consider using these roads again especially between Uttoxeter and Kings Newton.
At Swarkestone there’s a lovely old stone bridge which crosses the river and leads onto a raised narrow road which continues across the flood plain I would imagine that there are some amazing photos to be had here but I was too busy competing with the cars. The last mile to Donington services is very heavy with traffic especially delivery vans and lorries going to and from the terminal. Also, the last roundabout which takes you onto Donington services is very fast and potentially dangerous if you get caught out. However, the services are just on the other side of the hedgerow and you can follow the grass verge around into the services and thereby bypassing the roundabout. (Greggs at the petrol station only serves cold food.)
The section between Donington Services and Stamford was completed in the dark but the roads where nice and the climbs were generally short. Along the way are some lovely stone houses and bridges. I stopped at Ockham Texaco petrol station for a meal deal and a small milk. Not the nicest of places but needs must. It was not long before I was accosted by two drunk ladies and their partners. They were using my flashing lights as disco lights, I learned a long time ago to just go with it! They ask why I was riding at night and I said I was heading for Boston for breakfast. One asked if I was going to cycle across the sea and the other said that is two hours in the car. Then followed the usual questions but this time they want selfies! I had already started to make my escape when one of the ladies face-timed her friends and they waved me off…. only on an Audax!
Arriving at Stamford, there was a very different feel, much more light and much more money. Even the 24hr petrol station was open to customers entering the shop! Sitting having a few minutes on the forecourt change this. Three teenage lads, very possibly still at school were walking down the street and one of them had, what looked like a scaffolding bar and was using it has a baseball bat. To be honest, I was not concerned with this, I have worked in an inner-city school! I was more concerned with the way they entered the petrol station. I initially through they were going to cause issues but they walked out with their purchases and continued down the road hitting things.
I was glad to get back on the road for the solitude and quietness! Stamford represented the descent into the Fens and the flat stage to Boston. It was still dark so it was hard to see the landscape. However, I did see an animal which looked like a baby dear, I did not realise that there were deer this high up. I did take a few photos along this stage but it was still too dark.
This overnight ride to Boston has been full of surprises even more surprising was the two security officer at Boston McD’s. I thought I was in the middle of London or Manchester! I was politely told that I had to leave my bike outside, I explained that I had just cycled from Stoke-on-Trent and I wanted to bring my bike in so that it was safe, no, it needs to stay outside. They did compromise by standing outside having a cigarette and chat watching my bike for me, which I had locked to the fence. The positive so far is that the cars do actually moved over into the other lane when they overtook, this was a new experience!
I was three hours in hand so I took 40minutes at McD’s before heading off to Lincoln. On the way out of Boston, I stopped to take photographs of St Botolph’s Church in the town center. It was during this stage that I realised that the Fens were not actually flat, between Boston and Lincoln the flat roads were actually very slightly inclined. This does make sense as I was climbing from sea level to Lincoln. This section reminded me of a moor but with rivers which had carved out straight river beds. To be honest, I was not inspired. On the overhand, I did see a Mink and a couple of white (barn) owls.
Arriving at Lincoln was another disappointment, but this was my own fault as I purposefully avoided going into the town center. Rather I stopped at a petrol station which had a Subway. Second breakfast! This also represented a major milestone in the ride as I was now heading home which was about 100miles away.
As I progressed I came across a local community event selling cakes and drinks but I had no cash which I found disappointing, maybe I was craving other people after cycling alone. Instead, I settle for a random cafe further up the road which accepted a bank card. They did a lovely sausage roll and a cup of tea, unfortunately, my stomach spent the rest of the ride trying to digest it! This resulted in stopping at small shops to buy milk to reduce the stomach acid feeling.
Arriving back at Donington was a welcome relief. I think I just became bored with the roads and fed up the stomach acid. A cup of tea, fizzy pop and a sandwich from Greggs in the petrol station and sitting in the afternoon sun was nice and I started to feel positive again. It is strange how little things can switch you off (stomach acid) and on (a cup of tea)! Only 40miles to home.