John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons and President of Afasic, wishes John Perry the best of luck for his bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise funds for Afasic between the 10th & 18th September.
John is riding 965 miles in 9 days, with 15,000 metres of climb (that’s twice the height of Everest!) and aims to raise at least £10 a mile for all his hard work. You can sponsor him on his JustGiving page or just text ‘JPRB59 £5’ to 70070 to donate £5.
John has raised £7,341.83 to date – 76% of his target.
John’s bike ride diary
All 550 of us have been briefed on what to expect.
I’ve enjoyed an excellent dinner of tomato soup, beef stew and vegetables followed by chocolate cake.
I’m in my green tent. It’s blowing a gale. But inside all is calm. Everything is ready. I’ve trained and prepared mentally.
I and my partner Victoria Rose have written to everyone we can think of to publicise awareness of AFASIC and the work they do and seek donations. I have posted on LinkedIn and tweeted. Facebook pages will be updated.
It’s now time to enjoy the Ride across Britain and see the beauty of this sceptred isle in all its majesty through a new perspective.
965 miles and 9 days to go…..
There are hills in Cornwall and Devon. Lots of them. The enjoyment is freewheeling down them. The strenuous activity is cycling up them. Today my gadget said there was 9300 feet of hills. I believe it. Yet hills provide the opportunity for stunning and changing scenery.
First the barren Land’s End, dark and foreboding at 7 am yet with the promise of sunlight that arrived as I rode past St Michael’s Mount. The route took me through country lanes, crossing over babbling rivers by old stone bridges, and rolling countryside that is all the hues of green. The border between the counties is marked by the upper reaches of the Tamar river and a steep descent out of Cornwall and a steep ascent into Devon.
The highlight of the day was the high plateau near the Minions where the panoramic views across moorland were stunning. I stopped to admire the views whilst others head down sped by. Clearly many cyclists were on a mission to reach the destination of Okehampton.
My purpose is to enjoy the journey, the solitude of hours on the road, occasionally engaging in snippets of conversation as they or I pass, but mostly connecting with nature in a way that’s unique from being on a bike.
Yes after more hills the campsite near Okehampton arrived suddenly after 107 miles and 8 3/4 hours in the saddle and 10 1/2 hours after setting off. 15 minutes massage eased the aching legs, a hot shower revived the numbed body and hearty dinner including apple crumble and custard replenished the 5500 calories consumed en route.
Day 1 done… only about 860 miles to go.
There is something special about a Sunday morning when there are no cars on the road, the villages are dormant, sweeping through rolling hills with the sounds of chirping birdsong, and the cuckoo saying good morning. The valleys cocooned in mist with wind turbines peeking above. The dazzling sun dancing through the trees. In the blue sky countless vapour trails. The cows impatient to facilitate the making of Devonshire clotted cream. The views are stunning when one is travelling on average at c. 12 mph. Each hillclimb is an opportunity to anticipate the view from the brow. Specifically Cothelstone hill in Somerset was the highlight of hills. 902 feet of what seemed like almost vertical inclines resulted in views from the top of the Severn estuary and Barry near Cardiff into the North and towards Yeovil in the South East.
The Somerset plains are flat! The relaxed cycling was punctured by the steep climb up through Cheddar Gorge and then the rolling hills into Bath to arrive at our upmarket camp for the night. No tent ! Instead a single room with bed for each of us in the University campus compete with a shower as long as I liked.
After such a spectacular day it almost seems unworthy of mentioning that I was in the saddle for 8 3/4 hours cycling 110 miles with 7400 feet of climbing reaching a top downhill speed of 40 mph and burning c 5400 calories.
Day 2 complete. Only 755 miles to go.
I awoke refreshed after the luxury of a night in a bed. Tonight it will be back to the blowup mattress and sleeping bag. The usual 5 am wake up and 7 am start. To leave Bath it was necessary to descend into the outskirts and then climb back out up a serious incline.
The first photo stop was the Severn Bridge. The first pit stop was under the gaze of Chepstow castle, followed by 45 minutes of uphill climbing before descending down the steep forested banks to the Wye near Symond’s Yat. The route followed the river bank upstream. We went through the picturesque market town in Ross on Wye , unfortunately skirted Hereford, and were snarled in traffic in Leominster. The destination was Ludlow racecourse, but before which I detoured to see the Tudor centre.
The weather was cloudy but no rain. The scenery was Herefordshire at its best. Hills, valleys, and rivers. Almost another 100 miles including 6900 feet of climbing. Base camp was organised, hot shower and hearty dinner.
Day 3 complete. Roll on Shropshire tomorrow
I set off at 7 am as the sun peeked above the Ludlow hills with a flock of geese in perfect V formation leading the way. Most of the first 4 hours was spent winding through Shropshire’s country lanes in different peloton that depended upon whether or not I was able to keep up on the hills.
On top of the Shropshire hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) at Kenley I stopped to talk to the local farmer who pointed out the local hills and distant Shrewsbury. He is used to the annual entourage of RABers and enjoys hearing the bewilderment of many at how scenic this area is. Within 100 yards I stopped to say hello to Maddie – long legged Jack Russell Terrier who had recently given birth to 6 puppies. I resisted the urge to adopt one.
Down the steep hill into the vale and over the tranquil Severn River with views of The Wrekin the summit of which is of volcanic origin 680 million years old. I skirted Telford and saw a signpost to Edmond and Newport where I spent some of my childhood. This is the beauty of the RAB to see new places and familiar places through a new lenses even if mine are nearly 60 years old and I am wearing wraparound Oakley sunglasses.
It was 45 miles to the first pit stop followed by another 30 miles across the north Shropshire and Cheshire farmlands. It was a relaxing ride at a steady pace of c. 15 mph assisted by riding in Pelotons. There was still time to stop to watch the canal boats. The personal highlight of the day was a 45 minute pit stop at The Bell Inn in Lower Peover – south of Knutsford – to have a pint of lemonade shandy with my partner Victoria Rose – who is wandering up to JOG – and my parents. It’s all part of the journey pausing to connect and enjoy.
The last 25 miles up and over the Manchester Ship Canal were spent in light drizzle arriving at Haydock racecourse at 5 pm. After 108 relaxing miles and 4300 ft of hills I was greeted by thunder and lightening. The hot shower was perfect and dinner was delicious. Day 4 done. Over 425 miles completed.
I expected today would be enjoyable, scenic and a day to recharge the batteries in preparation for Scotland. I was in for a shock on two accounts. Another 7 am get away on the basis that I would have time to spare at the end of the ride that did not materialise.
Once we out of the suburbs we hugged the M6 criss-crossing it and the railway on a regular basis. The farmland was similar to others we had seen. It would seem that we are a nation of sheep and cows! And an opportunity to stop to buy “fresh free range happy hen eggs”. The vicinity of Quernmore in the Conder valley was delightful.
At midday I crossed the river Lune north east of Lancaster. The midway point between Land’s End and John O’Groats on my journey. At 3 pm I was at the beginning of the Scap Fell ascent. The organisers had kindly organised a message. “Scap Fell. 1362 ft – see you at the top”. I don’t mind short hills or up and down hills. Scap Fell is neither. It was 100 minutes (with many stops – not just for photos) of 8 tortuous uphill miles. Yes the scenery was majestic, but the cycling was not enjoyable. But the promise of a coffee and cake on Scap Fell village after 6 miles downhill on the other side spurred me on. But I arrived too late and disappointed. Coffee shop already closed.
I finally arrived at base camp at 6:30 pm very tired after 107 miles and 6250 feet of climbing. However a hot shower, a massage of aching legs and large plate of spaghetti bolognese lifted my spirits. Day 5 complete.
There is I can report an important difference between England and Scotland. It is state of the minor B roads. I began at 7 am from a wet campsite in Hutton in the Forest. The red sun exploded over the hills and took the chill off the damp air although only for a while.
The English roads through to and past Carlisle were very smooth and straight, I waved to the fly fisherman standing waist deep in the river Esk and reached the border at Gretna within 90 minutes. Welcome to Scotland where the same road becomes instantly bumpy and continues criss-crossing the motorway. However I was prepared having put on two cycle bib shorts to smooth the bumps.
At each pit stop there is welcome quote. Today’s was “Don’t ride a bike to add days to your life, ride a bike to add life to your days”. Afterwards it was a methodical metronome climb up through the wooded hills that turned into barren mountains, each turn of the pedal accompanied by a bump from the uneven road surface with the incessant hum of the traffic travelling on the even road surface of the motorway, and the occasional Virgin train.
The sun finally shone vastly improving the colour of the landscape. I was in no rush because I had agreed to meet my partner Victoria Rose – that you will have gathered is giving me huge support and encouragement by meeting me often en route – at 1:45 pm at pit stop 2 near Abington. A very pleasant lunch hour sped by catching on fundraising (now reached £4600) and strategy for further promotion and publication, and chatting with the RAB team.
An hour later I found that I was the only one left to leave for the final 33 miles to base camp. No matter it was fast 2 hour ride downhill all the way to Hamilton racecourse. Another 100 miles and 4200 ft of climbing. I’m getting used to this! Excellent facilities – the must have hot shower.
Day 6 complete. But Day 7 – Friday – will be different day. Wake up is at 4 am with a start time at 6 am for the 126 mile ride up over Rannock Moor and down to Fort William. All that and day 8 up past Inverness and day 9 to John O’Groats to be published on Monday.
The Highlands. Friday morning I woke in my tent on Hamilton racecourse at 4:30 am to ensure that I had sufficient time to have breakfast and pack for a 6 am start in the dark cold morning. Sunrise was at 7 am by which time I was in the Trossacks.
The first pit stop was at a primary school where for £3 I bought home make cakes and tea. From there it was into the Highlands with spectacular views all round and a few further hill climbs. After further pit stops I rode into a headwind through Glencoe that was biting cold too. The descent down to Loch Linnche was fast and scenic.
So that’s why by 6:20 pm when I arrived at the camp I was shattered and exhausted after the longest ride (126 miles) that I have completed in one day. That it should take place on a glorious day of sunshine in the most spectacular of scenery between Glasgow and Fort William through the Highlands says it all. This is truly a beautiful country.
Loch Ness. What a day ! I awoke to see Ben Nevis from my tent. I treated myself to a lie in until 5:30 and so set off at 7:30 am. In order to see the countryside the route took us up the very steep Borlum Hill. It said 1362 ft to the top but that ignored a 300 ft downhill in the middle. It was a slow relentless grind. At the summit I was greeted by the support team waving flags and ringing bells. The views were breathtaking as was the very fast 3 mile descent.
The route took me along the Eastern shore of Loch Ness, through Inverness, Beauly with hanging baskets in full bloom, stunning views of the Dornoch Firth and then Bonar Bridge to the campsite basking in a warm sun at 6:20. 111 miles and nearly 11 hours start to finish. Looking forward to the final day on Sunday only 104 miles to John O’Groats.
Roof of the World. 4:45 wake up now seems to be routine. Final day of my 965 miles in 9 days to raise awareness and funds for AFASIC. Another hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, baked beans, sausages, toast, cereal banana, orange juice and tea. And I’ve not gained an ounce in weight. Maybe burning 5500 calories every day helps.
Off I set at 6:30 am with lights on with the full moon dominant, a cold chill protected by the merino wool base layer and two padded cycle bibs for protection against the bumpy Scottish roads. In the East the wispy clouds turning red. By 7 am as I cycled through the moorland of Lairg the sun was casting long shadows of me and my bike adjacent across the grasses. The rolling hills appeared to be floating on a sea of mist. On and upwards on a single track road winding across the moorland to the roof of the world with endless views of distant peaks and then a steep descent to hug the shoreline of Loch Naver where I passed the Altnaharra Caravan Club in the most idyllic setting (the nearest shops are 20 miles away).
By 10:30 I was at Bettyhill where I saw sea again for the first time since Cornwall. By now I was on the final leg and a dash along the uphills and down dales of north coast that resembled Land’s End. Blue skies and sun. And then suddenly after 104 miles of stunning scenery with a following warm wind and 7 1/2 hours of cycling I arrived at John O’Groats to be greeted by my dearest Victoria Rose waiting with open arms and the Union flag to wrap around me.
I admit to crying with emotion as the magnitude of my accomplishment sunk in. We took time to take it all in, buy an official RAB hoodie with the map of ride across Britain on the back, fridge magnet, send postcards. Even time for a shower, coffee and cake. It’s all over. I’m still processing the experience and no doubt will be doing so for some time. It has been a most amazing journey for my mind, body and spirit. All have be cleansed and renewed and reenergised. There have been hours when my mind has been in a meditative state in a bubble with only nature as my companion.
It has been extraordinary. And so in conclusion I would like to firstly thank my dearest partner Victoria Rose for her love and support on this journey that started back in February when I committed to the ride, to thank Mark Thompson and all the AFASIC team for their support, to our families and friends worldwide for their encouragement, and not least to the c 120 donations that have so far raised c £4800 for AFASIC. Thank you.