It might have been the effects of dehydration, perhaps the sun was stronger than I could have ever imagined, but somewhere along the Coast to Coast walk I started to wonder about other bits of countryside within the UK and how I could best travel through them…
Later in the walk I started to meet cyclists, and having crossed the country from left to right, I started to wonder about journeying on a bicycle from Lands End to John O’ Groats – a small matter of around 950 miles, but perhaps a jaunt of a lifetime to compare with excursions in the planning on trains across Canada, the Americas and even Eurasia.
Further research I came across LEJOG on Google, what at first I thought might have been a fun run in France but with a little reading turned out to be an acronym for Lands End to John O’ Groats (sometimes also called end-to-end).
Then the madness truly set in, my bike was in Winchester and Becca was wanting to borrow it over the summer for excursions around Sussex – I saw the opportunity and not to be persuaded otherwise I planned to cycle as far from Winchester as possible towards Piltdown.
It could have been more than 70 miles in total, but I was fairly sure that would have been impossible to do on my first cycle ride for quite some years. I would have been pleased with halfway, and ecstatic at any further (as long as I could walk the next day).
With the sun breaking through the clouds, and having met Howard with my bike at Winchester station, I set off along the A272 at 9.02am. Having made it to the bottom of the city at 9.05 I was thinking my decision to do this was a bit rash when I first looked at the hill out of town. A quick adjustment to the seat to make it higher and I was out of the city and head east at a good speed.
Petersfield came quite quickly, within a couple of hours. I must have lost track of time a bit – almost as quickly as I had lost sensation in my bottom, which by this time was rather numb. I found a cycle shop and their rack of different saddles, spying a squidgy gel seat I snapped it up and had it attached to the seat post and I was off again. I then passed the most demoralising sign, it said Haywards Heath 42 miles – I was not sure if I could make 4 miles, or even 2 miles, I was certain I would not be able to make those 42 miles.
Fate was not on my side. (Or should it be fetes). Every town and village I was travelling though seemed to have a School fair or village fete that afternoon, and the storm clouds were gathering. There had already been a couple of claps of thunder from the west, and nearing Cowdrey Park the sky had darkened considerable ahead of me. I sheltered from a shower of rain at a petrol station, and standing next to the litter bin I found a (news)paper had been thrown away recently – this would make excellent padding and probably the best use of the Daily Star. My school days and years of education had not been in vain – I had learnt something after all!
While the first few miles out of Winchester had gone by quickly, I also had a good way of measuring progress – the road signs were counting the miles gone by (though in some instances the distance would peculiarly rise, fall and then rise again). At this stage they were just pointing the way with no indication of distance which was really disheartening. (Note to self – if I LEJOG I need good maps and perhaps a gadget or two to measure speed and distance).
After the brief shower had stopped, and the sun was once again shining to the south, I was off again – padding in place. However it was soon to rain again with the full menace of a thunderstorm. Arriving in Petworth I thought it prudent to call in the retrieve crew (Dad). I would cycle a few more miles but would keep my head up to spot him coming in the other direction.
Wisborough Green had a large village fete that afternoon, it matched the size of the thunderstorm overhead. I found shelter in the bus shelter, in front of the pub, and decided this would be a good place to wait to be retrieved. I would have waited in the pub, but I had found my saturation point – and perhaps even supersaturation. As luck would have it, by the time Dad had arrived the sun was out again – but the (news)paper was soaked as was not providing as good a padding as it had and being soaked through I was quite ready to pack the bike away and climb into the car.
Looking at the map when I was back home I had covered 42.1 miles in just under 5 hours. The last 29 miles took about 45 minutes.
Apologies to the reader, I forgot my camera on this trip – so all I have to show is the map of the journey and retrieve below…View the map in Google Maps, or here is the Google Earth KML file.