Pushing South – N Route Day 6

On Friday morning I got up early to say goodbye to my hosts in Pudsey near Bradford, namely Angus, Vicky, Evie, Harry and cats Steve and Frank!

It was a very foggy morning and I was informed that this was the ‘Pudsey Fog’. Apparently it’s a common occurrence there in the mornings. So, I had to go for full lights for safety as I headed out into the rush hour traffic.

Man it was freezing!!! I wished I’d had my full gloves with me as my fingers gradually froze to the bars. There wasn’t a great deal of choice for routes from Bradford to Wakefield and found myself on busy main roads. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant start to the day.


It was only 18 miles to Wakefield though and I rolled up to the cathedral at around 10am just as the sun finally won over the fog. I was greeted by a lovely lady called Elizabeth Jenkins who escorted me to the cathedral cafe where they produced an enormous pot of Yorkshire Tea – they do not mess about with tea up here! – and some breakfast rolls to fuel me up.

The cathedral is right in the heart of the city, surrounded by shops and pedestrianised streets. The east end of the cathedral is undergoing major renovation. I loved the interior which had a very warm feel.


  

The sun was warming the day nicely as I set off south towards Sheffield via the A61 Barnsley Road. The scenery was much nicer on this road as I passed places such as Newmiller Dam but it was hilly, and I mean really hilly! I was on day 6 now having ridden nearly 600 miles, so I wasn’t keen on lots of climbing. But you don’t have a choice so I just cracked on!


  
After passing over the M1 I headed towards Sheffield via Chapeltown which again was tough terrain. I spent ages trying to navigate the one way streets and pedestrianised areas towards the cathedral and was struggling to find a way in. Eventually though I climbed up to it via a lovely steep cobbled road called Paradise Street.


Sheffield Cathdral sits right next to the High Street with substantial grounds and areas for people to sit and chill. The sun was hot now and there were lots of folk milling around.

I was greeted inside by The Dean who showed me around and then took me to the cathedral cafe and bought me lunch. How kind!

The cathedral is currently hosting an art exhibition so I wasn’t permitted to take photos. There is a lovely light and modern west end which was added in the 60s and has recently been renovated. It had a really light and welcoming feel.


  

I climbed out via the steep Duke Street and passed Park Hill with its flats that are being renovated from this…


To this….


There were more hills as I headed out of Sheffield but once I crossed the M1 onto the A616 the road mercifully flattened out. So, I was able to crank up the speed as I passed places like Creswell and Sherwood Forest and eventually to Newark, where the castle looked amazing in the sunset reflected in the River Trent.


  

I checked into Premier Inn Newark, had some dinner there and then headed into town where I met an old musician friend, Jason Ashworth for a couple of pints of ‘Slap in the Face’ from local brewery Totally Brewed.


 On my long trips I have stayed overnight with friends and local B n Bs but I have found Premier Inns to be a good reliable choice when I wasn’t sure where to stay.

They are bike friendly (they allow you to take your bike to your room), comfortable and they offer the #goodnightguarantee which basically means they will offer a refund if you don’t get a good night’s kip.

Well…. I was sound asleep when I was rudely awoken by an ear-splitting fire alarm going off in my room at 4.00am! I got up and got dressed only to find out that it was a false alarm. I struggled to get back to sleep….

I brought this up when I checked out and apparently a guest had decided to have a shower at 4.00am and left the bathroom door open, which set the alarms off. Anyway…. I pointed out that I hadn’t had a very restful night and true to their word, Premier Inn refunded my room bill. So, fair play to them I say!

Next day was the final day and cathedral…

To donate to Rethink go here… https://www.justgiving.com/David-Graham15/

Newcastle & Durham – N Route Day 4

Tough day today. I’m tired so will need to keep the blog a bit shorter and let the pictures do the talking!

I was tired at the start today. My legs were killing me and the ride was much hillier than I expected. 

The first section of my route took a series of backroads that make the Route 72 National Cycle Route. It was very picturesque and took me passed sections of Hadrian’s Wall. 

   
    
    
 
The picture above is Glenwhelt Bank Climb just after Greenhead. Man it was hard work! I don’t know why I hadn’t expected these climbs but they really caught me out. To add to it I was riding into a headwind… all with tired legs. 

So, by the time I got to Haltwhistle I’d been out for nearly three hours (with stops) and had only ridden 25 miles with an average of 13.2 miles an hour. I was never going to get the miles done at this rate!

So, I headed on to the main road, the A69 and got my head down. It was still tough going with plenty of climbs and headwind but I rolled into Newcastle (62 miles) just after 2.00pm, gettingy average back up to 15 mph. 

The cathedral staff greeted me and made me feel welcome. The kind ladies in the Cathedral Cafe insisted on giving me the money back for my lunch and said they would donate. ūüôā

   
    
    
 

Next up Durham. Made pretty good time there via the main road past The Angel of the North and rolled up to the cathedral via Framwellgate Bridge from which there were stunning views of the west end of the cathedral. It’s such an epic setting. If you haven’t been you really must go. 

     
    
 
The cathedral dates from 1093 and by that I mean nearly all of the main building. I was staggered to learn that it was built in just 40 years! 

I was met by a young lady called Catherine Hodgson from the marketing team who really made me feel welcome. Evensong was taking place but she took me to see the shrine of St Cuthbert. People have been coming to visit his shrine here for over 1000 years. So I felt very privileged to get 5 minutes on my own in this special part of the cathedral. 

I’m not really a religious person but during my Cathedral Tour I’ve taken to spending a few quiet moments inside to pay respects to my brother and also my Dad who passed away just a few days after Allister. It just feels right to do that. 

It was humbling to kneel at the shrine and that feeling plus I guess the beautiful music wafting over from the choir overwhelmed me. I broke down. 

Part of me did envisage this tour having a cathartic quality for me. After all, I’m doing it in memory of Allister. So, I guess that that moment arrived for me today at St Cuthbert’s shrine in Durham. 

   

    
 
By the way…. It’s not permitted to take photos inside Durham cathedral but I was given permission to take one of the nave. The picture of the shrine is from Durham World Heritage Site website. The carved head is by artist Josef Pyrz and is called The Statue of Annunciation. I found it captivating. 

After some light refreshments that were kindly supplied, I decided to head on another 20 miles to Darlington. Not much to say about that other than some verbal abuse from a van driver. I decided to stay in the hotel.

Ripon, York and Bradford tomorrow, provided and can keep my legs turning!

Donations can be made here… http://bit.ly/18svua0

Heading North – N Route Day 3

Well the title says it all, today I pretty much just rode north!

First of all though, I rode just three miles up to Blackburn Cathedral. This is an another church which is undergoing major development. Exciting for them, they are adding new building and cloisters/garden. For me though, it meant it was tricky to get photos of the outside of the building, including the modern spire which is at the East end. 

  
Inside was great though; very light and airy with a real sense of space. I loved it. There is a striking sculpture on the West wall by John Hayward, and an amazing modern octagonal ‘lantern tower’ with 56 panes of stained glass. Parts of its vibe reminded me of Coventry cathedral. 

   
    
 
I then headed up out of Blackburn (it’s hilly!) and out past Preston. I past through Garstang, whic was nice….

   
 
I then headed back on to the A6, which was my main track of the day. I was worried about that but I needn’t have been. It really wasn’t that busy at all and is so wide most of the time that passing vehicles can give you a wide berth.

It’s a good road which wound its way over and under the M6 taking me through Lancaster with its castle and then on to Kendal which had lovely views over the River Kent today….

   
    
    
   
After Kendal I headed up past the Lake District to my left. The weather was incredible and apart from a bit of distant haze, I can’t have imagined better views. I kept having to stop to take photos! 

The only slightly dodgy moment I had was on a big climb over the fell before Shap. A long section of the road had the descending carriage way closed with a temporary traffic light system. Anyway, once it went green I was only half way up it before the traffic – headed by a juggernaut – started coming down. I just had to stop and get off to try and let them by!

   
   
I stopped at lovely little town called Shap for a well earned coffee, accompanied by a local meat and potato pasty at a friendly cafe called the ‘Abbey Coffee Shop‘. They were so nice and owner Rowan (pictured) took details to donate to my cause. Visit them if you’re passing!

   
   
Next I passed through Penrith which has a pleasant town centre and a fantastic ruined medieval castle. Unfortunately, local planners thought it ok to build a supermarket right opposite. What are these people thinking?! 

   
 
After that it was just the push on to Carlisle. It was a lumpy ride but overall trend was downhill. I finally rolled into Carlisle at around 6.00pm. It took me 30 minutes to find the cathedral. Maybe just me but the roads were really confusing with lots of one-ways and central pedestrianised section which you have to navigate round. 

The cathedral dates from 1133 and this is the second smallest of the ancient cathedrals. It looked lovely drenched in sunset. 

A service had just finished and I was reluctantly allowed entry for five minutes. I really don’t get this about the cathedrals. I’m a pilgrim and sometime it feels like they want to get rid of you quicker than a pub at 11.20pm!

Inside is nice but I found it strangely claustrophobic, largely I think because the organ is placed centrally which obscures the view from the east to west ends and vice versa. It has a cool medieval feel though, largely engendered by the old worn stone pillars and arches. Oh… I think they spelt one of their signs wrong outside.

   
    
 
I had a comfortable night in the Premier Inn last night but you feel strangely disconnected from the town; like you’re in a service station or retail park – which I was! So, I decided to buy local and checked in at a friendly B & B called Cartref Guest House. Really nice room (and much cheaper than Premier Inn) and they even agreed to wash all my cycling kit. I take two day’s worth… but it’s been three! So very grateful for that!

  
As I write this I’m sat at the bar (can you see my beer?) in a really cool bar/restaurant called The Thin White Duke. Enjoying a lovely pint of ‘Double Hitch’ which is brewed locally by Hesket Newmarket Brewery. I had a Gourmet King Burger which was probably one of the best burgers I’ve ever had! If you’re passing through, eat here!

   
    
 
Heading across to the East coast and Newcastle and Durham cathedrals tomorrow. And then start heading back south!

Thanks for reading.  If you haven’t donated already then please visit my Just Giving page

North West Excursion – N Route Day 2

Wow! Busy day today!

After an early night (for me) and chilled evening with friends Andy & Lauren Scott, I left Sandbach at 8.30am. 

It was a bright, crisp morning with that sort of early mist that you know means it’s going to be a sunny day. I headed out on a cross country route towards Chester across some beautiful Cheshire countryside. 

   
    
 
I arrived in Chester at about 10.00am; a walled city with lots of Tudor character buildings dotted throughout the centre. Apart from the high street shop signs (why can’t the make them tone those down?!), it’s like stepping back in time. 

   
    
Took me a few moments to find the cathedral, until I spotted a helpful sign. It’s a lovely cathedral but unfortunately the exterior is currently undergoing major renovations, so was decorated with scaffolding. Well, at least they’re looking after it!

I loved it inside though. The nave is beautiful and features some incredible mosaics which are apparently ‘Some of the finest 19th century Pre-Raphaelite mosaic works in the country’. Amazing organ too (fnarr) and Lady Chapel. I sought out the Cathedral Refectory which was one of the best settings for a cafe I’ve seen – can you spot my coffee and rhubarb crumble slice?

    
    
    
     

I then headed up towards Birkenhead with a nice tailwind and headed for Woodside to catch the infamous Ferry cross the Mersey. 

The staff there were really friendly and even locked my bike in their office while I had some lunch outside. The ferry was as touristy as you like and was even painted like something out of a Beatles movie. 

There was also the pre-recorded tour blah with about three renditions of ‘that tune’ which to be honest I’ve never liked. But hey, when in Rome (!) and the views were awesome… 

   
    
 
The quayside has been developed really nicely with lots of places to sit around plus the striking museum and art gallery buildings. 

   
 
I then headed up to the cathedral which is massive! In fact, it’s apparently the fourth largest in Europe. The Dean, the Very Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox kindly came out to meet me for a photo…

   
   
The East window of the cathedral features an amazing sculpture by Elisabeth Frink. The Goldmark Gallery in my home county of Rutland actually has some of her work in stock. So if you fancy seeing it up close then maybe pay them a visit? 

The scale of the interior is breathtaking. I tried hard to take some nice photos but they have some very bright spotlights which challenged my photography skills, so apologies!

   
   
Next stop Manchester!

I was quietly pleased with the route out of Liverpool which I’d planned through a residential area and park. After that I stopped in Warrington for a coffee and took a rural route through the lovely Lymm…

   
 
Soon enough I arrived in Manchester and towards the cathedral via Deansgate. I got there at about 5.10pm and found it all locked up! I know cathedrals have to close but this caught me out and I was a bit disappointed to be honest. But hey, there you go!

   
 

   
    
I then decided to bag some more miles and headed up to Blackburn where I intend to visit the cathedral in the morning. 

It was a picturesque route which took me into the hills with a gorgeous sunset towards Darwen…

   
   

I checked into Premier Inn ‘Blackburn South’. Comfy, friendly, good food but no real ale! So, had to make do with a couple of San Miguels. Such is life….

Deep breath and ride to Carlisle tomorrow.  Forecast is great again and I’m actual looking forward to riding through the hills and enjoying the views!

 

The Final Trip

I have now completed plans for my final trip to the remaining 14 cathedrals in my challenge.

I will set off on my 675 mile Northern Route on Sunday 27th of September and will arrive at my final cathedral, Peterborough on Saturday 3rd of October.

The cathedrals I will visit and approximate schedule is….

Lichfield Cathedral – 27/09/15

Chester Cathedral – 28/09/15

Liverpool Cathedral – 28/09/15

Manchester Cathedral – 28/09/15

Blackburn Cathedral – 29/09/15

Carlisle Cathedral – 30/09/15

Newcastle Cathedral – 30/09/15

Durham Cathedral – 30/09/15

Ripon Cathedral – 01/10/15

York Minster – 01/10/15

Bradford Cathedral – 01/10/15

Wakefield Cathedral – 02/10/15

Sheffield Cathedral – 02/10/15

Peterborough Cathedral – 03/10/15

Here is map of the rough route….

Northern Route

As usual I will be staying over in either B & Bs or with friends who have kindly offered to put me up. I intend to keep up my tradition of sampling local ales on my way round (it’s a hard life!), so please feel free to suggest any¬†beers you think I should be drinking!

Join me for the Final Cathedral

All being well, I will reach the final cathedral, Peterborough at around 1.30pm on Saturday 3rd of October.

Peterborough Cathedral

As this is the conclusion of my challenge I would like to invite as many fellow cyclists as possible to join me on the ride into Peterborough for a final group photo outside the cathedral. This could make a great photo and will really help on a final push to reach my fundraising target of £4200. Total at time of writing is £3186.23.

For those that don’t know, I have undertaken this challenge in memory of my brother Allister who died in 2008 aged just 32 owing to mental health problems. So, all I ask is that anyone joining makes a minimum donation of ¬£5 (but can be more!) to my chosen charity ‘Rethink Mental Illness’.

Or even better, why not create your own individual or club fundraising page and join my Just Giving Team? I will do my best to arrange for a FREE Rethink cycling jerseys for any that join my fundraising team.

Please note that¬†I do not expect any further donations from those who have already donated or helped with fundraising but would love you to join me….

I will be starting out somewhere near Newark on this date, so people can either….

  • Meet me at Rasell’s Nurseries¬†& Cafe in Little Bytham between 11.30am and 12.00pm. I will set off from here at noon.
  • Join me en route. I will still be publishing a tracker link.
  • Meet me at the cathedral.

So, whether you fancy coming on your own, with some friends, or with your local cycling club, please feel free to start organising your route to join me on Sat 3rd of October.

I will depart from Peterborough around 2.30pm on my final leg home to Oakham, followed by some well deserved ales in the evening.

Thanks for reading and please do spread the word!

The Grind Home – SW Day 7

I set off from Hereford at 10.30am with 3 final cathedrals in sight; Worcester, Birmingham and Coventry.

I hadn’t decided where to stop. Birmingham was only 60 miles. I didn’t fancy staying in Coventry and after that it seemed a bit crazy to pay for a hotel so near to home. So, I decided to crack on and see if I could possibly make the 3 visits and the 125 miles home.

I made pretty swift progress to Worcester via some lovely back roads which kept me well away from traffic and through some picturesque countryside with views of the Malvern Hills to the south…


I rolled into Worcester at about 12.30pm and took in the view over the River Severn towards the cathedral. Inside was impressive!


  
  
I never cease to be amazed by the massive errors of judgement that town planners and councils make. Worcester is a classic example where they thought it a good idea to develop this beauty right opposite a building with roots from 680!


Conscious of the time, I jumped back on the bike and headed up the A38 to Birmingham. I made myself stop for food and refreshment at a convenient roadside cafe called Sampson’s between Droitwich and Bromsgrove. Angie who served me was sympathetic to my fundraising cause and kindly made a donation which was very sweet of her.


I wasn’t looking forward to cycling in and out of Birmingham, and rightly so. It was the least enjoyable part of my whole trip. Cycling can be challenging in lots of ways and urban riding is certainly that. No cyclist would choose it for fun. You have to keep your wits about you at all times and have eyes in the back of your head. But hey… cycling into cities is part of my challenge so I just got on with it!

I messaged a cycling mate from the Rutland area called John Hunt who works in Birmingham; 200 yards from the cathedral in fact! So, we hooked up at the cathedral – which was closed for refurbishments – and had a quick coffee before I marched on to Coventry…


  

I took the A45 out of Birmingham which wasn’t too bad apart from a very busy section around the airport and M42. Once I was passed that I took some back roads and dropped into the centre of Coventry.

It took me a little while to find the cathedral as there are a number of churches and spires in town.

For those that don’t know the history, St Michael’s Church was built in the 14th/15th centuries and was elevated to cathedral status in 1918 when Coventry Diocese was created. That building was heavily bombed during the Coventry Blitz in 1940 and basically only a ruined shell remains.

A new St Michael’s Cathedral was completed in 1962 with large pillars and a cross that adjoin the original building, effectively making one larger entity. I found this very powerful and was struck by it immediately.

The inside of the modern building was something else though. It’s huge and has a modern design that reminded me slightly of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The contemporary stained glass window is breathtaking. I love the history that comes with the older cathedrals but it showed me that they don’t necessarily need to have that heritage to be impressive. Not to me anyway….


  
  
  
It was just after 5pm and 50 miles home. I worked out that I should be able to do it in 3 hours or so and get back to Oakham before dark so I went for it!

It started off ok but about 30 miles from home near South Kilworth I hit the wall and bonked (that’s what cyclists call running out of energy BTW!). So, I stopped and ate all the flapjack and bars I had and pushed on.

Then it started raining. Heavily. The miles were clocking up so slowly. I just had to keep thinking that if my legs were spinning I was getting closer to home. I felt dizzy and was almost hallucinating! I was cold, soaked and exhausted. This was without a doubt the hardest 30 miles of the whole trip.

I finally made it to the top of Cold Overton hill and shouted out loud ‘YES! You did it’ and rolled down into Oakham and the Grainstore for a well earned pint!

Summing Up

In the end I visited 11 cathedrals on this leg of my tour, by cycling a total of 721.6 miles and climbing 40,180 feet of hills in 7 days.

Here are the links to the routes for each day….

Day 1 – Oakham to Hungerford

https://www.strava.com/activities/363537551

Day 2 – Hungerford to Bridport

https://www.strava.com/activities/364436530

Day 3 – Bridport to Tavistock

https://www.strava.com/activities/365262237

Day 4 – Tavistock to Truro and Newquay

https://www.strava.com/activities/365948340

Day 5 – Newquay to Glastonbury

https://www.strava.com/activities/366771328

Day 6 – Glastonbury to Hereford

https://www.strava.com/activities/367690283

Day 7 – Hereford to Oakham

https://www.strava.com/activities/368345789

I know it sounds like torture to some readers but I really enjoyed it! Apart from loving cycling, I loved reminding myself what a beautiful country we live in and how naturally kind people are. If you think the opposite then I strongly suggest getting out more…

I’d like to pay special thanks to all the people that allowed me to stay over, fed me, washed and dried my kit etc. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks also to the team at Rethink for their support all my way round. And finally thanks to my wife Belinda, who held the fort at home/work. I couldn’t do any of this without you.

I have now visited 28 of the 42 cathedrals on my list, so just 14 to go now!

My next journey will be the Northern Route up to Carlisle and Newcastle with a total of 13 cathedrals. I intend to do this at the end of September and beginning of October, which will just leave Peterborough to do!

I hope you’ve enjoyed following my miles around the South West as much as I have riding them!

D x

Four Cathedrals – SW Day 6

I’m starting the blog late again (!) so I’m going to try and keep it short so I can go to bed earlier!

I felt knackered today and for the first time wasn’t looking forward to getting back on the bike. The ride to Wells was only 7 miles but it felt hard. It’s a beautiful town and cathedral. If you haven’t been, go!

 

    
    
    
   
I then took the A37 to Bristol – only 24 miles but was much hillier than I expected with a massively long climb out of Wells. I reached Bristol Cathedral at 1.20pm having only done about 30 miles in total. I wanted to get to Hereford (93 miles) and with so little in the bag by this time thought that I wasn’t going to make it. I was finding it really tough…

Bristol were very welcoming and to boot my cousin’s wife Chrissie Graham (whom I’d never met before) came to surprise me with her lovely daughter Hannah (what relation is Hannah to be then? Let me know!)…

   
   
Canon Precentor Nicola Stanley had kindly come out to meet me and then escorted me to a lovely tucked away place for lunch called the Folk House Cafe. I ordered plenty and chilled before heading off on the 40 miles via the A38 to Gloucester…

   
   
It was fairly flat but there was a NW headwind which made it hard work. I felt a bit sick halfway and had to stop to settle down. I didn’t feel strong at all. But I made it and Gloucester Cathedral is amazing. The original building including the main circular pillars date from 1039, and the cloisters were awesome…

   
    
   
After a quick trip to Maccy D’s for a refuel, I headed off at 6.10pm on the last 30 miles of  ride to Hereford. 

Fortunately the route was relatively flat (relative to Devon!) and I was able to push on and get there by 8.00pm. Lovely views of the Breacon Beacons in the distance as I rode in…

  
The cathedral looked majestic bathed in the setting sunlight and soon enough an old school friend Rachel Minto turned up who had offered to let me stay with her family in the town. We went for a quick beer at The Barrels and sampled beers from local the local Wye Valley Brewery. Mmmm….

   

    
   
Nearly there now. Only 130 miles and 3 cathedrals to go – on this leg…!