Lands End.

Trip Start Jul 01, 2007
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Trip End Jul 20, 2007


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Sunday, July 1, 2007

The trip finally got under way about 3.30pm on Sunday 1st July. After all the futtering around and preparations this is what it is all for.  The longest cycle trip starts with a single push of the pedal and  revolution of the wheel.

The wind was at my back as I headed northwards. As it was already late in the day and bearing in mind my lack of cycling fitness right now, I set St Ives as my first target.  I met a few cyclists heading south after ten miles or so. They shouted that I was lucky to have the wind on my back. I thought they were lucky to be almost there.

I have set myself a few aims for this trip. Firstly is to get fit again so that I can enjoy  the trip to China in September. Secondly was to get an appreciation of the English countryside. I have visited London, Birmingham and Liverpool, etc, but my knowledge of the English countryside is pretty much limited to what I see on Countryfile, the Sunday morning  magazine programme on BBC.

Finally I wanted to attempt the iconic end to end trip. I didn't really expect  to complete it. In fact my plan was to cycle to Birmingham, then at some stage during the second week to take a train for up to a couple hundred miles to save some time and then cycle the length of Scotland.

The Cornish countryside was beautiful and wild and very hilly. I passed the remains of old mine buildings and got regular glimpses of the ocean. It was tough going and before I reached St Ives I renewed my aquaintence with my old friend the rain. I was drenched when I finally arrived at the hostel, but the trip was officially under way.

I was hoping to get to Newquay on day 2, but the weather deteriorated badly in the late afternoon just as I got onto a very busy A road. The combination of wind, rain, spray and draught of passing trucks made me think it would be a wise decision to stop soon. I did at the next campsite I passed.

The campsite, Silverbow park, was as much a nature reserve as a campsite. A couple in a touring caravan in the neighbouring pitch invited me in for a cup of tea, which was very welcome indeed. This friendly act was surpassed next morning by the offer of a sausage sandwich for breakfast as I packed up.

I choose Boscastle as my next destination. Now I should explain at this point that I am using large scale Collins maps and they do not show contours. Today I learnt that whilst Boscastle is a very scenic village, the only way in or out by land is via one of two very steep roads.

It was only when I had enjoyed the thrilling descent to sea level and looked along the river towards the coast that I thought the town looked a little familiar. Then it clicked that this must be the place that suffered severe flooding several years ago.  This was confirmed by a public information notice on the track to the hostel which conformed that the River Valency had all but washed the village away in August 2004 and outlined what the new flood defence works entailed.

After getting cleaned up and dried off I had dinner in The Cobweb pub, nice food and lovely local bitter. Comfortably full (of food!) I wandered down past the pier and watched the huge waves crashing against the narrow entrance to the small fjord a while before calling it a night and returning to the hostel. The wind charging in from the sea seemed almost gale force, but was still blowing in the right direction for me. Keep it up I though to myself.

Day 3 dawned with the lovely prospect of regaining the height I had so carelessly lost the previous evening.  I did futter around and put of my departure as long as I could. I took a little walk along the path behind the hostel and admired the harbour from the opposite side of the bay. I watched the workmen driving their little dumper trucks into the river bed and reversing out with another load of the river bed and even spend a little time checking on emails in the visitor centre.

But the time to leave, as it always does, eventually came round. My final delaying tactic was to go into the little shop at the bottom of the hill for a pointless look round. Outside I gritted my teeth and started pushing. I didn't even attempt to ride the first part and concentrated on pushing the bike up the hill. The hills levelled out slightly after a while and I was able to ride up most of the final stages. I was back on the A39 much sooner than expected.

A while later I passed a sign that announced my arrival in Devon. I was glad to see it. I was just starting to think that Cornwall and these hills went on for ever. My target tonight was Great Torrington.  On a quiet country lane in the hills a few mile from Gt Torrington a postman in his little postman Pat van pulled up beside me as I checked my map at a crossroads. I pretty much knew where I was, but checking the map is always an excuse for a break.

He gave me good directions into town and recommended the Black Horse as a good place to stay. He also suggested that if I had time I should look up the local doctor, a frindly chap who had just recently completed the end to end trip on a bicycle himself.

The Black horse was a nice, if somewhat old fashioned, old hotel and the staff very friendly. I went out for a kebab later on and had an interesting converstation with the Turkish guy behind the counter. He was amazed that there were several kebab shops in letterkenny, and amazed that in Ireland kebabs are often served up by Irish people. He had also assumed that Irish people all spoke Irish until I corrected him. (My accent probably sounded like a foreign language to him anyway!!) It was good craic chatting to him as I waited for what turned out to be a huge kebab.)
Back in the hotel, the headlines on the local BBC news was the massive increase in the rabbit population. Those amorous little bunnies!
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