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!
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
Day 2 – Hungerford to Bridport
Day 3 – Bridport to Tavistock
Day 4 – Tavistock to Truro and Newquay
Day 5 – Newquay to Glastonbury
Day 6 – Glastonbury to Hereford
Day 7 – Hereford to Oakham
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!