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…!

Newquay to Glastonbury – SW Day 5

I knew that today needed to be a big riding day…

 So, I’m pleased to have clocked up 140 miles and get out of Cornwall, across Devon and up to Glastonbury in Somerset. Ooh arr!

I set off from Newquay at 8.50am and decided on a route that would take in some main roads. It’s not fun cycling on big roads but they really do eat the miles up. They tend to be flatter, smoother and more direct. It’s easy to average over 20 miles an hour. Sometimes it’s just the only way to get it done. 

So, I took a deep breath and hit the A30. I was flying until Bodmin where there are signs saying cyclists are permitted no further. So, I had to turn off and take the A38 to Liskeard where I’d been yesterday! 

   
   
I had decided that I DEFINITELY wasn’t going back over Dartmoor. It was a great experience but twice in 3 days is too much in my opinion!

So, I took the B3254 towards Launceston which took me further north towards Wells. It was a nice road, hilly of course but with more gentle gradients and some lovely views…

   
 

I did have a bit of a drama just after I took the above picture…

It was at the top of a descent and after taking the pic, I waited for a van to pass and then followed on down the hill.
When I got to the bottom and turned into a little village called Middlewood the van had stopped because there was an oncoming car and the road was narrow. 

Now I’m cautious on descents – especially on roads I don’t know and when they’re twisty – so I didn’t exit the bend very quickly and was able to brake and stop comfortably. But because the van was so close to the bend, I stopped about 2 feet behind it…

As soon as I released the brakes, the van’s reverse lights lit up and it started moving towards me, to let the other car through. Not good! I was still clipped in on one side and did my best to shuffle backwards whilst shouting expletives!

Fortunately the driver heard me, because the bike was already down and I was about hit the deck too when it thankfully stopped. 

I’m totally fine but for those of you on Strava, you’ll see that my peak heart rate was 195bpm, and mine rarely goes over 178bpm. It was scary…

The lady driver apologised profusely. She just couldn’t see me in her mirrors because I was too close. 

I was shaken but fortunately a couple called Pam and Tony Mills overheard and offered me into the garden of their B & B called Hillview for a coffee. They were lovely people and I’m so grateful to them for making sure I was ok. If you need accommodation in that area, stay there!

   
   
Once I hit Launceston I got back on the A30 to eat some more miles and then turned off through Okehampton and headed through Crediton (not that nice but cool church) and then the A3072 to Tiverton. 

If you want to cycle in that area then I highly recommend this road. The scenery was amazing, plus some lovely Devon cows/bulls and Tiverton is nice too!

   
    
   
Again, I hadn’t decide where to stay but really fancied getting to Glastonbury. The road from Taunton to Glastonbury is basically flat, so I was able to push on and make it! 

Glastonbury doesn’t have a cathedral but does have an abbey. So I took a pic there anyways….

   
    
 
Cathedrals tomorrow! Lots of ’em….

Thanks for reading!
 

Made it to Truro – SW Day 4

Well I made it to Truro. It’s the farthest cathedral on my list from my home in Oakham and it feels like it!

I left from Tavistock just after 10am. It was raining quite heavily and pretty grim. By the time I descended down to the River Tamar I was soaked but it was beautiful there…

   

 

 
The route was still very hilly early on with 20% climbs. The miles were clocking up very slowly and I was only averaging about 11-12mph! 
After 10 miles and a long climb out of Frogwell (I think) I was already starving, so rolled up to a strategically placed pasty kiosk and had a sausage roll and a coffee…

   

Soon I hit Liskeard which was nice enough but I didn’t hang about…

   
Damn I was hungry today!!! 

So after some quality red/yellow food I headed past St Austell and via a rare section of FLAT road onto Truro…
   
    
 
Truro Cathedral is only just over 100 years old but a stunning building to rival some of the older buildings. It’s set right in the centre of of town and was full of folk sat around chilling. 

After taking a few photos, I popped inside where I received a warm welcome and then I went outside for an obligatory pasty!

   
    
 
I hadn’t set a final destination for today and as the weather was so nice, really wanted to push on for another 30-40 miles. But after a 40 minute phone conversation with my wife Belinda on the computer, we worked out that Cornwall was full!

So, I looked local and found a room in Newquay. Worked out a nice cross country route and headed over…

   
    

   
  
Newquay is definitely a cool place with a hippy vibe and plenty of dreadlocks and beardy dudes but outwardly it does have a bit of a tacky feel…

I struggled to find a nice homely pub to curl up in with a pint of local ale. Most of the bars had neon signs with ‘Costa del Sol-type’ terraces…  but I finally settled on a music venue called ‘Whiskers’ that had an open mic night. I felt at home here and had a nice chat to a chap called Danny whilst drinking a couple of bottles (!) of Tribute. 

   
   
It’s 1.43am as I’m writing this and I’ve just seen the weather forescast which is saying sunny for Tues/Weds – awesome! – but very stormy for Bristol/Hereford area on Thursday.  Not good!

I need to crack on tomorrow! Thanks for reading! 

Zzzzzzzz

A Tougher Day – SW Day 3

Well things got a bit more serious today…

I’d researched the route and I know the South West is notoriously hilly but knowledge never quite prepares you for the reality!

I set off from Bridport just after 9.30am and the big climbs started immediately. Now then, I’m not going to make excuses (or maybe I am!) but I’m fairly good at climbing hills. I like it. But the 3kg of luggage really makes a difference….

Basically, on steep gradients I have no option other than to hit the lowest gears and stand up. It’s HARD work. I mean really hard. But hey… I knew it was going to be hard!

One of the early beasts of a hill was the climb up the A3052 towards Lyme Regis after I turned off the A35. It was long and very steep at the end before finally descending down to the sea…

   
 
I recently discovered that two old friends, Jo and Jacqui had just relocated to Devon. So, I headed back up and out of Lyme Regis to Seaton Tower and along the A3052 towards them in Sidmouth on the coast. 

After a nail-biting descent down to the River Col in Colyford; a big climb out called Harepath Hill; and passing a place that sounds like it would suit me called ‘Beer’, I rolled into Sidmouth where Jo and Jackie were enjoying a Sunday lunchtime sherry. As you do….

   

      
 
Having been gratefully replenished I headed out towards Exeter. After a few wrong turns in town, I finally rolled up to the cathedral; an impressive building sat in Cathedral Yard with open areas and shops around. I stepped inside for a quiet moment (as I always do) and then chilled out for a bit on the green….

   
   
I chilled out because I knew what was coming next…. Dartmoor!

I’d chosen to take the route via the B3212 which goes right through the middle of Dartmoor National Park. It just seemed the right thing to do!

It started off fine with a ‘European-type’ climb which was long but consistent and never that steep. I was enjoying it. But then it changed. The climbs started to get much steeper and by the time I hit what I thought was the top, I had to stop for a rest, both there and in the small town of Moretonhampstead….

   
    
   
As you can see from the photos, today was a more overcast day but with some sunny breaks. Once I got on top of the moor proper though the weather changed quite dramatically. It got colder, rainy and soon I was basically riding through clouds!

Visibility got so bad that I put all my lights on and to be honest wished I’d had my winter ones with me. I felt a bit like one of those naive tourists who on seeing the sun shining in Fort William decides to stroll up Ben Nevis in a pair of flip flops, Bermuda shorts and a vest only to discover that it’s blowing a blizzard at the summit! Luckily I had my arm warmers…

   
    
 
I hadn’t decided on a final destination for today other than that I had to get over Dartmoor. I’d had notions of pushing on as far as Liskeard but I have to admit that after nearly 7500ft of climbing (with my luggage! Yes it is an excuse and I’m using it!), I was pooped. So, I decided to stay in Tavistock which is where I’m sat now writing this and enjoying a well earned pint of Proper Job from St Austell Brewery. I like beer….

Truro tomorrow!!! Thanks for reading!

   
   

Salisbury and the Seaside – SW Day 2

Today was probably the best bike ride I’ve been on.

Woke up in Hungerford to one of those slightly hazy bright skies that you know is going to be a scorcher… and it was!

After a hearty cooked breakfast, I left at 9.20am and headed south through the Wessex Downs. It wasn’t long before a bumped into Pewsey Velo on their Saturday club run. The scenery was rolling and open…

   
   
30 miles later I dropped into Salisbury. Spent a bit of time on the ring road before finding my way up to the cathedral. 

I hooked up with my old mate Tony Rimmer who had trained it up from Dorchester to ride with me in the afternoon. 

We were then met by Canon Ian Woodward for a photo outside the cathedral which is easily one of my favourites so far. It is simply stunning and I couldn’t stop taking photos. I think it’s the setting too… the cathedral close is just idyllic…

   
    
     

 
We then headed off for a healthy lunch at the Museum Cafe via a quick look at Ted Heath’s house. Nice lunch but hot and too many wasps!

  
   
The afternoon route took as across Cranbourne Chase which was beautiful and a bit like the land that time forgot. Quiet villages with quaint pubs and a maze of tree lines country lanes. I can honestly say that this section of the ride was some of the most enjoyable biking I’ve ever riden…

   
    
 
The high point (literally!) and hardest section was the climb out of Bulbarrow. This was a tough climb by any standards and I was straining out of the saddle in bottom gear for most of it, but it was worth it for the amazing views west…

   
 
We then headed downhill to Milton Abbas and finally to Dorchester where Tony lives…

   

   
After a quick bite, I decided to push on and do some more miles. I took the A35 towards Bridport, a rolling road with some sharp climbs but lovely descents. 

I decided to ride down to the coast at West Bay (Broadchurch!) to end the ride and so glad I did! It was a glorious evening. 

After that, I headed into Bridport for a well earned pint of the local ale, Palmer’s, at The George. 

   

    
  

 
Seems crazy to say this but I know that the first two days have been easy in comparison to what’s coming! Tomorrow I head towards Exeter via Dartmoor and then Cornwall with its endless hills……