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!