Day 1: Sidmouth to Littlehampton
The trip started with an excellent send off from friends, family, crew and supporters and we felt really honoured to be a part of something which was truly important to so many people! We set off without incident and across the rolling hills towards Poole we were faced with a strong easterly headwind. The fundraising at the Dorchester branch of Waitrose went well with many people taking a shine to our knitted crewman ‘Sid’. The traffic in Bournemouth was a challenge as Dean was soon without the support van, he was soon however found and all was well! 4 stations were visited as per schedule and Hamble lifeboat of particular note for their warm reception and, albeit brief, hospitality. Glyn on his first leg of the trip had an unfortunate incident with his deraileur which left him awaiting assistance and eventually setting off on the spare bike. We arrived in Littlehampton on time and on schedule to meet our hosts (from two separate rotary clubs, Arundel and Littlehampton) who, on our first night, were incredibly generous with their hospitality and also in giving us a lift back to the meet point at 7am even though they lost an hour through the clock change!
Day 2: Littlehampton to Ipswich
The team met up as per schedule at 6.45 am and set off in the direction of Brighton, supported by a kind Rotarian who used his local knowledge to find the flattest route. A highlight of the day happened just a few miles into the ride when a kind stranger overtook us on the dual carriageway and, having read our sign, pulled in at the layby to clap us through and make a donation! From Brighton we headed upto Biggin hill, which as you can imagine is a Big hill! Followed shortly afterwards by Adam’s stint into London itself, which was a navigational nightmare. Having conquered London via Croydon and then Romford, Glyn then set off towards Colchester however as was becoming something of a habit already Glyn then picked up a puncture! Michael took on the next 35 miles solo on a very tricky road and we arrived in Ipswich an hour ahead of schedule to be greeted by our excellent hosts from the Rotary Club of Ipswich Orwell. So far on route we have raised roughly £120!
Day 3: Ipswich to Kings Lynn
We set off from Ipswich slightly late due to a navigational issue and without naming names, our medium sized rider arrived just before 8am which allowed us to set off! We made up the time well however as we hit the flat roads of Norfolk and the east coast. A gloriously sunny day gave the team an excellent morale boost and when they arrived in Kings Lynn they were met with fantastic accommodation at Timbers Hotel and Restaurant. As was traditional by now Glyn had received another puncture which required fixing!
Day 4: Kings Lynn to Scarborough
The team departed onto the lovely flat roads towards Hull and, despite Adam suffering a puncture early in the day, made good time in reaching the impressive (albeit extremely foggy!) Humber bridge. After meeting Humber Rescue at the foot of the bridge we headed to Hornsea and up the suddenly rolling but attractive coastline to Scarborough! On the final leg Glyn’s deraileur once again decided to take a trip into his spokes which slowed progress temporarily, with a quick fix and abit of tinkering the team were able to set off and reached Scarboroigh rugby club for a lovely reception and were treated to a substantial meal followed by a lovely nights rest at Blands Cliff lodge, Scarborough.
Day 5: Scarborough to Berwick upon Tweed
We set off from Scarborough in a deep cloud of fog and were instantly met with the sudden terrain of the North York Moors, the fog was welcome as it was able to cover the view of the constant hills Phil was faced with. More incidents with a certain troublesome bike took a significant chunk of the morning to resolve however a very satisfactory solution was found with great help from the Halfords at Coulby Newham. After climbing for what seemed an eternity (especially at Runswick’s station!) we then found a much more steady route to Boulmer Rescue across the rolling hills of Northumberland. We finished in good time, just shy of the Scottish border in Berwick upon Tweed and were escorted to our hosts from the Berwick rotary club to their most welcoming homes.
Day 6: Berwick Upon Tweed to Aberdeen
The Scottish leg starts in earnest as we headed off towards Edinburgh and and then on to cross the Firth Road bridge which was unfortunately masked in fog or sea fret as it’s known up here.
Kirkcaldy soon came into view and we changed teams for the afternoon push on to Aberdeen.
All riders have equal mileage to cover but Adam drew the short straw with some challenging terrain on his way to his change over point where Phil was waiting. After losing his hat in the draft if a passing lorry he jumped on the bike and arrived in Aberdeen just as the light was fading.
Day 7: Aberdeen to Inverness
After some discussion with our hosts on the preferred route for today we headed off for Inverness.
With a reduced mileage needed for the day we were able to adopt a slightly more leisurely pace. The morning team were able to follow a railway line through the valley and as the fog lifted we got our first real glimpse of the countryside…stunning!
The afternoon was a bit different as the rain started to fall and the fog set in. We met the crew at Moray Rescue and had a welcome cup of tea. They were set upon a beautiful lake next to the sea which is a very popular location for water sports enthusiasts. We had an early finish in Inverness and took the opportunity to service and clean our bikes.
Day 8: Inverness to Fort William
We had a later than usual start today to give the team a chance to rest weary legs. As we headed out of Inverness we had Loch Ness to look forward to and it didn’t disappoint. With every turn we were gifted with another stunning view.
Half of our team Went up to Dornoch and visited East Sutherland Rescue Association Inshore Rescue. This was our most northerly independent lifeboat that we would be visiting and so anything from this point means we are on our way home. Just a little matter of the west coast of the country to cover on the way.
Day 9: Fort William to Prestwick
The day the weather hit hard and we headed South. We departed Fort William from within the lee of Ben Nevis and headed along the twisting, scenic roads through the Loch’s and high peaks of Scotland towards our boathouse of the day at Luss, Loch Lomond. During the morning ride the heavens opened and a strong headwind provided a stern challenge for our riders. Upon arrival at Loch Lomond they were greeted by a fantastic welcoming crew who had provided an exceptional welcome party for us. Whilst showing two of our crew their vessel they were tasked to a jet ski in trouble and our crew were asked to assist, which they gladly did! Once they had completed this task we continued our trek towards Prestwick and for the final leg of our ride we were treated to stunning blue skies and welcomed by our hosts on the seafront.
Day 10: Prestwick to Carlisle
We left Prestwick after another evening being looked after by our hosts from the Rotary Club. Most of the team enjoyed having an empty house to themselves which the owner had entrusted to us whilst he was away on business. Once again we are grateful and humbled by the lengths our hosts have gone to to make us feel welcome.
With a stiff climb out of Prestwick we continued along rolling roads enjoying the view but it wasn’t long before the rain found us again as we pressed on. The winds had dropped a little today and so progress was swift and it was soon time to hand over to the afternoon team. The ride into Carlisle was uneventful other than to say we all enjoyed the moment we crossed over the border into England as it now starts to feel that we are not far from home.
Sid had a bigger day to celebrate as just before he left Scotland he married his new girlfriend at Gretna in a very understated ceremony. We wish them all the best.
Day 11: Carlisle to Southport
We began the day at the heart of Carlisle with the prospect of the stunning Lake District to tackle within the days venture. We soon realised that this stunning scenery came at a cost, of unforgiving terrain and driving headwinds. During the days climbing, several of the riders came nose to stem with their handlebars simply to keep their front wheel from rising from the worn rural roads. Within the hills several boathouses were found, one of note being Maryport who had just that day been given the keys to their new boathouse and were very proud to show off such a stunning facility. The afternoon saw the hills become non-existent, whereas the strong constant headwind came into play much more and the team motored onwards to Preston. Upon arrival to Preston the team were greeted with a fantastic reception from the days sponsors, Lisa Craig who had sadly lost her husband who was also a close friend of one of our riders.
The final leg to Southport was a challenge due to the strong head on winds, the riders arrived slightly behind schedule but due to a communication error ended up touring the blustery seafront several times before finding the fantastic Clifton Hotel and our hosting Rotary clubs, as well as the most welcoming Southport Lifeboat crew.
Day 12: Southport to Tewkesbury
Day twelve started with another trip along what has to be the longest seafront in the land as we headed towards Liverpool. With a North Westerly blowing this made initial progress fairly slow but at least the terrain was in our favour. We navigated through the city with ease and soon found ourselves underneath the Mersey in the tunnel. After a few words of encouragement from the local traffic police we were on or way again and the traffic levels calmed as we continued on South. Our final destination of the day would be Tewkesbury and all of the cyclists reported good roads with little wind which made a refreshing change for us all.
The collection point of the day was the Waitrose at Stourbridge. We received a very warm welcome from the staff in this branch and the customers were very generous which resulted in our best collection total for the trip so far.
Day 15: Weston Super Mare to Hope Cove
We had a great start from Weston Super Mare with relatively flat terrain and little wind and we quickly had the Hovercraft Search and Rescue at Burnham on Sea under our belts and on our way to our half way change over point. The wind picked up later in the in the morning which resulted in pedalling hard downhill to maintain progress.
The afternoon was quickly upon us as we headed for our overnight stop in Hope Cove. The worst hills of the day were waiting for us during the last 5 miles one if which cyclists were advised to dismount!
We were warmly welcomed at Hope Cove with several of the local lifeboat crew turning out to greet us with a much welcome pint of your choice. This is the last night that the cycling team will spend together and so some light celebration commenced mindful that we still have the minor detail of 72 mile ride home to Sidmouth to contend with in the morning most of which is uphill.