Saturday, 31 May 2008

One day to go

This card arrived in the post yesterday. Thank you!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Tom on the BBC

Tom will be making an appearance on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire this Sunday, 1st June, to talk about the ride. He'll be interviewed live by Matt Jamison at 10.20am. This will be an opportunity to hear Tom explain why he's using the ride to raise money for Headway Cambridgeshire.

Sunday is the day we leave Cambridge for our trip: immediately the interview is over, Tom will get on his bike and cycle half a mile to Cambridge railway station where he will join the rest of us on the 11.15am departure to Penzance via London.

For those not in Cambridgeshire, you can listen to the programme online via the station's website.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The Charity

If you’ve seen me in the last few weeks you may know that I’ve recently started wearing spectacles for reading. They’re a minor annoyance that I’m sure I’ll get used to before long. But finding my eyesight in need of slight correction after many years of more or less perfect vision has made me realise how much I take the ability to see things – and see them clearly - for granted.

In my case putting on my reading glasses makes my vision perfect again. However I know that many people are not so fortunate. That’s why I’m using this ride as an opportunity to raise money for Derbyshire Association for the Blind.

DAB is a registered charity providing services and support to visually impaired people throughout Derbyshire (where I grew up), with a small paid staff supported by a large number of volunteers. They help not only the totally blind but also the much larger number of people who have a partial sight loss. I saw a DAB collection box recently which seemed to sum up why I wanted to support them. On the side of the box it simply said, in very large print, “If you or somebody you know has difficulty seeing and does not know what to do, call DAB on 01332 292 262.” Many of us are likely to suffer a visual impairment as we grow older. I hope that if this happens to me I will be able to turn to an organisation like DAB.

Please support me on my 950-mile ride with a donation to Derbyshire Association for the Blind. You can use my donations page at here.

Please support Tom

Fellow tourist Tom Howes will be riding with us to raise money for Headway Cambridgeshire, a charity that supports people with brain injuries. Tom explains why why he has particular personal reasons to support this charity here.

To make a donation, send a cheque payable to Headway Cambridgeshire to Ann Weitzel, Office Manager at:

Headway Cambridgeshire
Headway House
Mill Road

If you are a UK taxpayer, write 'I want my donation to be under gift aid' on the back of the cheque and sign it. This will allow Headway to reclaim basic rate tax from the Government.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Bags and beds

When I tell people I'm riding from Land's End to John O'Groats, one of the most common questions I'm asked is whether we'll have a support vehicle to carry our bags.

The answer is no. This isn't a professionally organised ride, it's simply a bunch of cycling chums going on a cycle tour. So we'll be carrying our clothes, tools, spares and personal things on our bikes.

Riding with loaded panniers is quite different from riding an unloaded bike. Cycing is much more of a steady trudge: you can't sprint up a hill, you have to engage low gear and wind your way up it. Although plenty of people have ridden the End to End in fourteen days carrying a full load (even carrying camping gear) , this isn't the type of cycling I particularly like. I don't want this to be a fortnight-long trudge.

I’m therefore going to try to carry as little as possible. No non-cycling clothes at all. There's no need to: we won't have time to do anything other than cycling anyway. And no camping gear: we'll be staying in bed and breakfast places, plus perhaps the occasional youth hostel or hotel.

We’re going to find places to stay as we go along: this means that we won’t be restricted by fixed overnight stops. If things are going really well we can go further. And if we have awful weather, or a breakdown, we can have a short day.

However we’ll need to keep up an average of about 70 miles a day if we are to reach John O’Groats by day 14. If we don’t get there in time, I’ll miss my booked train home, and I’ll have to explain to my boss why I can’t get back to work for several more days…

The route

We’re hoping to make the journey in 14 days of cycling, plus a day at the start to get from Cambridge to Land’s End and a day at the end to get back from John O’Groats to Cambridge. That’s 16 days in total.

We’re going to follow the same general route that fellow tourist Mick Cousins took when he cycled the End to End a few years ago. Mick has a set of OS 1:250000 maps with the route he took highlighted with a pen, and I suspect if we no-one proposes a better alternative then we’ll be taking the same roads as him.

I won’t provide a road-by-road description of the route in detail at this stage, partly because I don’t want to sound like a pub bore with a length discussion of the relative merits of the A82 versus the A9, and partly because I simply don't know exactly what route we're going to take. I’ll write more about the route as we ride it. But this map should give an indication of our approximate itinerary:

View Larger Map

(Editor's note: I've updated this map retrospectively to show the actual places we stopped at overnight. You can see a GPS-based track of the exact route we took each day at the top of each day's diary page.)

As you can see, we'll be following the northern side of Cornwall and Devon before crossing Somerset to reach the Severn Bridge.

Once in Wales we run along along the Welsh border to Monmouth and then cross back into England. Then through Herefordshire and Shropshire to the Cheshire plains. From then it's almost directly north, trying to avoid Warrington and the towns of the north Cheshire south Lancashire conurbation as we press on to Preston.

Then we leave urban England behind for good as we skirt the Lake District near Kendal and climb over Shap to Penrith and then Carlisle.

Once we're over the border into Scotland we head north-west towards the Ayrshire coast. Then across the Firth of Clyde on the Gourock to Dunoon Ferry (no, this isn't cheating as it actually takes us further away from John O'Groats).

Then we have what should be an unforgettable couple of days winding our way along the edge of a whole series of western Scottish sea lochs to Fort William.

Then we turn north-east along the Great Glen, first along Loch Lochy and then along Loch Ness. When we see Urquart Castle brooding above the loch it's time to turn north again, heading via Dingwall, Bridge of Orchy and Lairg up to the distant, mysterious north coast at Bettyhill. And then finally we turn east and run along the coast to John O'Groats.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Dress rehearsal

With just one week to go before the start of our trip, I packed my stuff this morning, loaded up the bike and went for a quick spin to Newmarket and back. The idea was to find out how my bike feels when loaded.

It's Spring Bank Holiday weekend, so of course it's pouring with rain - and there's a pretty strong wind from the NE. Even better! I can pretend I'm riding in Scotland!

I switched on The Gadget to record a GPS track. In about two and a half hours of cycling I got absolutely soaked, as well as a bit cold.

I was travelling relatively lightly, carrying two half-full panniers and a handlebar bag, but the Airnimal felt quite different, at least initially. The main feeling was of reduced manoeuvrability: I don't know to what extent that was because of the panniers or because of the handlebar bag. Whatever it was, it wasn't helped by riding into a strong headwind as I headed east out of Cambridge, and I found myself exploring my newly-added range of low gears. After a few miles I began to get used to the load and started to feel more comfortable.

The approach to Newmarket was along a long gentle descent: on a normal day I could have easily managed 30mph on the Airnimal coming down this clear straight road. However with the panniers and bar bag I felt a bit of wobble over 25mph, so I took it easy.

On the way back from Newmarket this sign caught my eye. See how filthy the weather is!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Please support Geoff

Geoff Nicholas has announced that he will be riding to raise money for Cambridge Cancer Help Centre. Read his web page here and make a donation to this deserving local charity.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Tourists

The five other cyclists I'll be riding with are Mick Cousins, Averil Martin, Tom Howes, Geoff Nicholas and Ian Wright. We’re all touring cyclists, not racers or sports cyclists. We’ve all cycled together many times on CTC day rides over the past few years and I think we’re pretty well matched. However this is the first time we’ve all cycled together for longer than a day so it will be interesting to see how we get on.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The Journey

My name is Nigel Deakin and in June 2008 I'm going to spend two weeks cycling the “End to End” or "LEJOG" from Land's End in south-western England to John O'Groats in north-eastern Scotland.

This is probably the longest journey you can make in Britain, between the two most distant places on the island. The straight-line distance is about 600 miles, but that would involve crossing a lot of water; the distance by road is closer to 900 miles and by the route we’re planning to take it is about 950 miles.

It's a trip that I've been meaning to do for several years and so it’s mainly been a case of getting around to it and finding the right companions. So when I heard that several other members of Cambridge CTC were planning to do the ride in 2008, I didn't hesitate to join them.

There are six of us making the journey, and I've started this blog to tell our friends and anyone else interested about our plans and, once the trip has started, to give a regular update on how we are getting on.

So please come back periodically and find out how we are getting on. You can send us comments using the “make a comment” feature of this website. We’d welcome any tips and suggestions you’d like to send us about the ride or the places we will be visiting. And of course encouragement is always welcome.

Some of us are also using this trip to raise money for charity, so watch out for blatant appeals for money in a future posting.