End to End by Tandem - 2nd to 23rd June 1998
by Anne & Mike Wesson
Our journey took us to 10 counties in England, 1 in Wales and 8 in Scotland. It lasted 21 days - finishing on Anne's birthday as planned. It covered 1,117 miles (plus 17 to get back to Wick). It passed through what has to be some of the most varied and beautiful countryside in the world. What's more, we are all still good friends!
We are left with so many memories:-
A few bad, like -
- The wicked Devon hills that don't give you time to recover from the swoop down and to change gear for the inevitable climb up - they always come in pairs!! This was the only place we had to walk. Twice up and twice down!!
- Riding all day in heavy rain alongside the heavy traffic on the A76 to Kilmarnock, when it wasn't worth taking the scenic route - we couldn't see anything anyway!!
- The one poor B & B, at Axbridge.
- The traffic and noise of rush hour at King's Cross on our return.
But mainly of the good sort, like:-
The people -
- The "Whistling Landlord" at Belmont - fancied himself as a Ronny Ronalde.
- The staff at Truro Cycles and St. John St. Cycles whose help was timely and well above the call of duty.
- The landlady at Kilmarnock who insisted that our tandems had to stay in the hallway of the house and put on the heating to help us dry out after our worst day's ride.
- The kilted son of the house in Fort William whose non-stop banter as he served at table was a tonic.
- The helpful traffic wardens (seriously!) of Inverness who used their communication network to find us a cycle shop and to save us a wasted journey to the Nigg ferry, by confirming it didn't run at weekends. They also sorted us out a good alternative route - probably better than our original!!
- The coach full of Japanese tourists who commandeered us in a lay-by in Glencoe for photo calls. Closely followed at the bottom of the valley by a similar group of Irish visitors.
The places -
- The incredible variety of scenery, flora, fauna and even of the towns and villages themselves.
- Invergordon's spectacular lightning storm, which blacked out Scotland. (Fortunately in the early hours.)
- The Scottish rides - Arra (rugged and impressive), Glen Kilmichael (beautiful and deserted), Lock Fyne, Lock Awe, Glencoe ("Like cycling through a picture postcard", to quote Anne), the Flow Country from Helmsdale to Thurso (with 2 totally contrasting and peaceful valleys on the same ride).
- Coming back was something of an anti-climax but the banners, balloons and posters arranged by our children and grandchildren as a welcome home helped, as did handing over the £1,500 plus sponsorship we collected for the Kent branch of CLIC (Cancer & Leukaemia in Childhood).
- When someone inevitably asks us why we did it, it is difficult to think of a simple answer - but one thing of which we are absolutely certain - we would not have missed it for the world.
Reflections on our tandem ride from Land's End to John†O'Groats
by Harry Rae
I was asked by one of my golfing buddies, "was it a holiday or was it an endurance test?" I think I was speaking for all four of us when I replied that it was a holiday. We spent three weeks on the trip and although we could have done it in a shorter time it would not have been as enjoyable.
Dereck, who was originally to be cycling with us with Gail, opted instead to buy a Post Office - a rather drastic way to get out of the trip. However, he very kindly drove Anne, Mike, Mary and me plus the tandems, down to Sennen where we had booked our B & B, then drove straight back to balance the books!
We registered at Land's End then dipped our feet in the water at Sennen Cove! Wednesday 3rd June we set off and over the next three weeks we averaged 55 miles per day. One of the surprises, especially in Cornwall and Devon, was that not one of the B & Bs were owned by local people but by ex-pats from Kent, Herts, Essex and London! We used the CTC recommended B & Bs where convenient but otherwise Mary & Anne popped into the local Tourist Office and sorted something out. Out of all the stop-overs, we only had one that didn't come up to our standards.
In England we more or less followed the CTC route with slight variations. We regretted not having taken a compass with us as some of the lanes had no direction signs and the instructions were to continue in, say, an easterly direction - we ended going round in circles at one point! We also went along part of the Bath/Bristol cycle path and it was no joke heaving the tandems over some of the barriers. We've taken this up with Sustrans.
The most scenic parts were the Idless Valley from Truro, the Cheddar Gorge, the Wye Valley, Ironbridge, the West Pennine Moors between Belmont and Blackburn, Lithsdale, Isle of Arran, Kilmichael Glen between Tarbert and Dalmally, Loch Awe, Glen Orchy, Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, the reflections on the water of Loch Ness, Strath of Kildonan in the "Flow Country".
We met lots of interesting people on the way - amazing the number of "old timers" who rode tandems years ago. We sampled lots of different beers and I (a Scot) have to admit that the English bitters were far superior to the Scottish ales! Despite the full breakfasts, picnic lunches, excellent evening meals and the alcohol, Mike and I managed to lose weight whilst Anne & Mary retained the "status quo"!
We collected a total of £1,577.75 for CLIC (Cancer & Leukaemia in Childhood) and much appreciate the support from everyone who sponsored us.