The FINAL cathedral!

Well the day finally arrived. I had one cathedral left and it was only just under 60 miles away. The end was in sight!

I set off from Newark just before 9am. I’d spent ages planning a route that took me south avoiding the A1, but almost as soon as I left Newark the road I’d chosen was closed and I had to start busking the route.

This went ok…but I had to keep stopping to check the map on my phone and some of the roads I wanted to take turned out to be bridalways!

It was a calm, if cloudy morning though and I enjoyed the quiet country riding…


  

Next up was Grantham, a town that was famously voted as “England’s most boring town”. To be fair it isn’t that exciting although does have some nice features including St Wulfram’s church with its impressive spire and a town hall with statues in front. Also, although my family are all from Scotland, it is believed that they originally came from Grantham, hence the name ‘Graham’.


  
I had arranged to meet with members of my cycling club Velo Club Rutland, so that they could ride in with me to the final destination, Peterborough, the cathedral for our diocese.

The rendezvous point was a lovely cafe called The Tea House at Rassell’s Nurseries. I’d promised to arrive between 11.30am and 12.00pm so was quietly pleased to roll up at 11.31am!

I was blown away to see to nearly 40 fellow cyclists waiting for me and applauding my arrival. If I hadn’t had my emotional moment at Durham Cathedral I think I would have struggled to maintain my composure. I was genuinely touched that so many had come out to support the ride.


The chap on the right of the above photo in the Rethink jersey is my brother Fraser. As the challenge was in memory of our brother Allister, he wanted to be part of this final stage.

I’d loaned him my spare bike less than two weeks before and he managed to complete the full 64 mile route from Oakham to Peterborough and back. Kudos to you bro!

It was a pleasant sociable and flat (!) ride into Peterborough. I was worried about the large numbers and the traffic but we let cars by as best we could and thankfully there were no car/cycle rage issues!

   

Peterborough was alive! The city was full of Millwall fans as they played Peterborough that afternoon, and we had to navigate our way round them, the police and a live band before finally rolling up to the cathedral!

There was a small welcoming committee including Rev Jenny Opperman from the cathedral and Rob Persani from Rutland Radio who instantly engaged me in an interview. Thanks to him for coming on his birthday! We stood for a group photo (thanks to Rachel Harris for that) and the job was done!


    

I also met a lovely lady called Feath Newton who is a great supporter of Rethink and everything they do. She has followed my journey all the way through and made very generous donations including an additional cheque on my arrival at Peterborugh. What an amazing lady! Thank you Feath!


Peterborough Cathedral kindly laid on tea, coffee and biscuits and Rev Jenny took me on a whirlwind tour of the cathedral. It’s an amazing building and has been a place of worship for 1300 years!

The ‘new’ building at the East end with its incredible ceiling was built in the 1400s. We were also shown the final resting place of Henry the VIII’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon (d. 1536). I love living in a country with such history!


  
  
  
We had a casual ride back via Stamford to my home town of Oakham in Rutland and then gathered by the Buttercross in the market place for a final photo. Journey over.



After that I rolled back home and to my love Belinda, without whose support I couldn’t have undertaken any of this challenge. I’d missed her so much.

So, there we are. It’s over. Am I glad? Well yes I suppose I am. I set a challenge and I’m pleased to have completed it.

I have truly enjoyed it though and will miss the travelling round our amazing isle. It’s been an monumental task logistically and physically but also a tough one mentally.

Losing my younger brother at just 32 was tragic and I just hope that I have managed to raise awareness of the plight of those that suffer with mental illness and the work that charities like Rethink do to help them.


Allister – may you rest in peace brother.

X

To donate to Rethink go here

Into Yorkshire – N Route Day 5

I was determined to get off to a better start today!

So, I got up at 7.00am and set off from Darlington just after 8.00am on a bright but very crisp morning. It was really cold!

Didn’t take long for it to heat up though as I headed on a cross country route towards Ripon. 

   

  

 

Ripon Cathedral is sat on top of the hill and it looked amazing as I approached the city. There’s a lovely cobbled area around and a pedestrianised street opposite with cafes and antique shops. I wished I had more to time to look around. Nice place. 

   
    
   
I had a quick coffee and left around 11.00am for York. Again, I took back roads most of the way and it was a lovely route. Boroughbridge was very picturesque. I also stopped to take some photos at a privately-owned toll bridge. 

   
    
   
Soon enough I rolled into York. I always forget how beautiful it is and the Minster is breathtaking. I’d had trouble contacting York Minster but Rethink kindly rang them for me and I was escorted in. 🙂

   
    
    
 
I had a spot of lunch opposite the cathedral at a place called Bennet’s. Tourist prices but it was really nice and the perfect spot! I then headed out over the river and on towards Bradford. 

   
  

After fighting my way through the traffic on the ring road I descended into Bradford and to the cathedral. The staff were so welcoming and brought me the most enormous mug of Yorkshire Tea and biscuits! 

I met some of the clergy and a friendly chap called Lindsay (sp?) kindly showed me around. He pointed out the stained glass windows; the West window has a design featuring women from the Bible and there were others with amazing detail by William Morris. 
   
    
    
 
I then headed back towards Pudsey where I’m staying with my old mate from Oakham, Angus Smith and his family. 

Wakefield and Sheffield tomorrow which will just leave Peterborough on Saturday. Nearly there now!

To make a donation to Rethink go here… http://bit.ly/18svua0. 

 

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. 🙂

   
    
    
 

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!

 

Northern Route – Day 1

My Northern Route got off to a flying start start today. 

I wasn’t able to leave until 11.30am for various reasons but the weather was amazing plus the wind gods were with me giving a gentle Easterly tailwind to my first destination, Lichfield.  

The route took me north of Leicester through Bradgate Park and past Cropston Water which was shimmering in the autumn sunshine. Also, met a friendly young cyclist called James who joined me for a few miles…

   
   
I took a short rest in a lovely village near Tamworth called Harlaston which had an interesting church called St Matthew’s that caught my eye. 

   
 
I rolled into Lichfield at around 2.30pm. I’d never been before and I though it was a beautiful town. It had a quaint pedestrianised centre with winding lanes which led past a lake up to the cathedral. 
   
   
I loved the cathedral and its setting with spacious lawned areas which had commissioned sculptures dotted around (sorry didn’t get the name of the artist!). The cathedral building itself dates from around the 12th century and is stunning. Go and visit!

   
    
   
I refuelled at a garage – food not petrol! – and then set off towards Cheshire via the A51. This was a fast main road but still quite picturesque. Power stations aren’t traditionally thought of as pretty, but I thought these water towers looked cool near Rugeley…

  

The last 15 miles were really hilly and I was tired but finally rolled into Sandbach at about 6.30pm where some friends are kindly putting me up. Popped into town where the ‘super moon’ was hanging over the church, and then went to the Old Hall for some food and a well earned pint of ‘Headless’ from the local Redwillow Brewery. 

   
   
Chester, Liverpool and Manchester tomorrow!

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!