Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Charles Darwin went to school in this building

Good afternoon from Shrewsbury Reference Library, in a town mourning the death of the most amusingly-named football ground in the country. 53 miles this morning from Hereford, I'm hoping to break 100 miles for the day, although as that might leave me in post-industrial nowhere on the outskirts of Liverpool, I might hold back a bit.

Well on target, physically fine thanks to a man with an allen key. Sorry yesterday's entry was so abrupt - was just trying to get information down with an impatient cyclist sitting outside and time online limited. I'll continue...

Day Four (Tues 15/05/07)
Bridgwater to Hereford
Day miles 93
Total miles 290
To go c 685

This ended up being the most satisfying day of the trip so far. After struggling for 50 miles to meet M at Severn Bridge by 12pm (and I was late), I managed to do another 43 miles over some hills, through some torrential rain, and get to a town just one behind my original target. And my knee problem may well be sorted.

As I was starving by the time we met up, I insisted we went into Chepstow for lunch. M dutifully sat outside while I ate, and then while I was on here writing my blog (sorry!), but he also adjusted my seat by a half inch, as I suggested, which made all the difference to my knee. (At first he adjusted it by about an inch and a half, which nearly made all the difference to my chances of getting anywhere, ever) It's a common cyclist's problem - incorrect saddle height means you're putting excess pressure on the knee tendons. I suppose I hadn't noticed it for 3 years as I don't go up many hills in London, but also because much of my cycling is out of the saddle, so I'm adjusting the stresses on the knee.

The knee was still sore though, so the trip out of Chepstow was painful, and then as we headed up the Wye Valley there was a huge downpour, and even some thunder as we stood in some shelter opposite Tintern Abbey (it's a ruin, no idea what Wordsworth saw in it. At least Byron owned his own ruined abbey) I could tell M was getting a bit frustrated at my slow pace (and was rather bemused at the contraption I was riding), but he took loads of pics, and even some film, but I can't get on youtube to see it from here. If you read this, can you post up links to your flickr stuff in a comment, M? Thanks.

Once in Monmouth, I was feeling strong enough to get to Hereford (although Leominster, 13 miles further, would have been pushing it) I've been to Hereford before, once when I cycled from there to Hay (and I thought that was arduous!) It's a nice town, with a cathedral more noted for its literary significance than its architecture - it has a copy of the Magna Carta, the Mappa Mundi, one of the most valuable maps in existence, and a chained library with incunabula (15th century printed works, very rare and valuable) I'm sure there are plenty of librarians reading who'd appreciate it.

But I got there too late and left too early to have another look round. There aren't so many hotels in Hereford, so I accepted a room for £55 - when you've cycled for 8 hours and need a bath and a bed, that looks like good value. My waitress was new and pissed, which amused me - she had slightly smeared make-up, was trying everso hard to keep it together, repeating everything, being very solicitous to the point of irritating...well, it kept me awake at dinner.

Annoyingly, I only found out after I'd washed half my clothes that there were no drying facilities in the room. Damp (but clean) cycling top for tomorrow then.

Day Five (Wed 16/05/07)
Hereford to ...

Feeling much refreshed today. I still have a support on my knee, but it's barely hurting at all - yesterday almost every downstroke of my right leg caused pain, for about 20 miles. Try limping when pedalling, it's not an easy position.

I took the backroads from Hereford halfway up to Shrewsbury, bypassing Leominster, but in the end having to use the A49. Part of the trick of this is good navigation, avoiding the horribly busy A roads used by supply lorries who give you little space or warning, but also avoiding the hills. My bar bag has a map-holder on it, and I've always been a pretty good navigator, so much of my thinking time is spent working out where I'm going next, and how far to the next resting point.

It should be reaonably flat from here for a while, up towards Liverpool (which I'll bypass), and through the northern towns. Urban cycling should be quite quick, although held up by traffic lights. I'm looking to get a couple of 100 mile days done while I can, then see what the Scottish lowlands are like. I'm considering my options re the Highlands - it isn't necessary fot me to go via Loch Lomond, Glencoe and Fort William, although it is a beautiful route - I've been there more than once in the car. I'm not sure my body and bike are up to it. I'll see how I feel once I hit Glasgow, and what the timing's like. Scooting across to Edinburgh and across the Forth Bridge is the other option, but that leads to the dreaded A9. It's flatter and faster, but also more unpleasant and dangerous. We'll see.

My current decision is whether to head to Chester, where there's a youth hostel, or try to get further than that. I've spent too much time in Shrewsbury as it is, so Chester may be the best option. It's about 40 miles from here, I should do that in 4 hours (including rest breaks) - been averaging a good 12.2mph on the road today.


quattroken said...

Hi Phil. Glad to hear the knee is getting better. Keep up the good pace!

Your route from Carlisle to Perth is presumably open to a decision to make the balance between distance and terrain. Just remember that there is a long steep run on the A74 to Beattock Summit and other nearby roads may be even worse!

The A9 is (relatively) flat and you might be heartened to know that the railway line also tends to follow much the same route as the A9.

Perhaps I should point out that quite a bit of the A9 is "new" road and there may still be parallel roads (the original A9) that may either be unmarked or re-designated as A/B8xx or A/B9xx roads.

For example...
A824 through Auchterarder (if approaching Perth from the west);
B8079 out of Pitlochry;
B9152 Kingussie to Aviemore - becoming A95 then B9153, going left on the A938 at Carrbridge;
B9154 past Loch Moy.

However, it is possible that they (or more likely any others that you find) may divert too far from your desired route or may be more hilly than the new A9 so you use them at your own risk.

Remember that possible "short cuts" may seem to have less miles to cycle but will be through steeper terrain!

I used Streetmap for this but judicious reference to OS maps would be a very wise action - if any libraries are still open when you pass.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Hey Phil

A postyer from Cornwall, Perranporth I believe, has just postied saying he's got a set of front door keys belonging to you and if you get the chance, can you come back and pick them up?

Damien said...

You'll be lucky to get through Liverpool with your bike.

Indy said...

Nice going Phil. I share your strongly implied pain that Shrewsbury Town have missed this opportunity to name their new ground the New Gay Meadow. Or the Gay New Meadow.

Albert Herring said...

The New Camp, surely?

Anonymous said...

Give us a call on 07981 635 323 if you need a bed, we're 20 miles beyond Chester. Postcode CH43 8td, alex

Phil said...

thanks ken. I may well continue with my original plan to go via Glencoe and Fort William. I think I have time, although it depends more on the state of my knees...

LaT said...

So we're agreed on

fcking Tintern Abbey, fck off .