Thursday, April 13, 2006

In the Beginning

The challenge of travelling from Land’s End to John O’Groats has been nagging away at me for a long time now. When I was younger I wanted to do it on foot, having walked many of the official long distance footpaths like the Pennine Way, Offas Dyke and Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. The idea was there, but for one reason or another, the timing was never right and eventually it was put on the back burner when I moved to the Lake District in 1989. Thereafter, I simply indulged myself in climbing the fells and exploring the mines and I never really thought about it any further.

The turning point for me was suffering a severe ankle injury whilst walking in the Lake District in 1998, the only time that I’ve been taken off the fell on a stretcher. Although I recovered to resume my outdoor activities, the ankle has never been the same and a fell walk now is always a compromise between the pleasure of being out and the pain that I suffer along the way.

In 2001, when Foot and Mouth closed the countryside, I took up cycling as the only way to explore the Lakes under my own steam and I realised immediately that on the bike I suffered no pain at all from my ankle. I suppose it must be the constant flexing of the ankle-joint that matches the movements that I did during physiotherapy, as each turn of the pedal stretches the ligaments to good effect.

The next few years saw a gradual shift, from walking to cycling. It wasn’t immediate but the trend was there. Eventually, the penny dropped and the bike became all important. I suddenly realised that I could explore the Lake District from a different perspective.

I also started to think about travelling further a field and wondered about replicating my backpacking days by cycle touring instead. The obvious challenge had been staring out at me all along as the C2C route passes right in front of my house. Over the years I have seen hundreds of people cycling past.

In 2005, I decided to follow them. My younger brother came up from Bedfordshire and together we did the C2C and the Reivers Route. We started at my house, cycled east to Sunderland, along the coast to Tynemouth, before completing the return journey via the Reivers Route to Whitehaven. We then cycled the remaining part of the C2C back home again. We did about 350 miles in 7 days, a self supported camping trip.

So here I am, a year later, planning to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I’m wiser now, a bit more experienced and I’ve got a good idea what cycling is all about. I’m on my own this time, however, but I’m confident all the same. It will be another camping trip as it wouldn’t be in my nature to do it any other way.


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