An English Adventure

On Thursday 3rd September I set out on an adventure exploring England by bike…

The plan was approximately 1200 miles of pedalling over 10 days, exploring the English Coastline and eventually heading inland for a couple of days to get home

I am pleased to say I made it back in my 10 day timeline having covered the majority of my route as planned, with a few small detours/amendments along the way…

Iv decided to recap my adventure for anyone who is interested but also to keep a momentum for myself as it really was an epic trip!

Day 1 – Thursday 3rd September 2020

I had prepared the majority of my kit the night before, laid out everything that I planned to wear, loaded up my bike including water bottles so all I needed to do was get up, have breakfast, get dressed and hit the road!

At about 6.30am I heard a car pull up on my driveway – weird as I live in a little private turning, I presumed someone was lost! Until I realised it was my friend Lisa! She knew I was planning to leave at 7am and had headed over to wave me off! A very welcome surprise, even if I was worried she might witness me unable to get my bike moving!

Bike moved off ok and I headed out to meet my friend Oly on the route, he had kindly agreed to ride the first 70 miles with me out to lunch and then he would head home whilst I continued on my trip! Poor Oly! Close to home we hit a 8% hill I didn’t know was there and seriously debated if I would need to get off, id never ridden up a hill on my fully loaded bike! I was worried! Luckily I made it up, I was concerned that if I’d had to get off on a hill in Essex that would not have boded well for the rest of my trip! We carried on out to the countryside, then hit the seafront at Southend and had some lovely fast straight riding along the sea front before heading slightly inland back onto country roads. Here I had a slight lack of bike control moment! Bikes normally turn quite easily with an adjustment of body positioning, my fully loaded bike needed quite a bit of persuading to get round tight turns and at one stage I ended up on the wrong side of the road, giving Oly a fright and being told in no uncertain terms I needed to ensure I didn’t do that in oncoming traffic! I hoped that I’d soon get the hang of the changes in the way my bike handled!

We stopped at Tiptree Tearooms in Heybridge Basin for lunch, and met up with my friend Abi who would be joining me the following day for the majority of my trip! A lovely group lunch of jacket potatoes and scones, filled up my water bottles, then headed back out onto the road. The next 90 miles of my day would be solo!

I don’t mind riding solo, and soon I was back tracing the coastline. I got a little bit stuck on a road called ‘Ferry Road’ that headed to the river Colne but didn’t have a ferry… So that resulted in a bit of a detour to find a road across the river… but thankfully only a few miles extra, then I was back on the route.

I stopped at Clacton and had an ice cream next to the seaside, topped up my bottles again, took some photos and headed on for the last section of my day.

About 40 miles from my final destination it decided to pour with rain… I sheltered under a railway bridge for a few minutes whilst the rain bounced off the floor, then it eased to ‘normal’ rain and I was back on the roads.

Eventually I arrived at my accommodation for the night, a glamping pod type structure in a pub garden near Aldeburgh, I was very grateful to make it there after 10 hrs and 160 miles of cycling. After checking in, showering and hanging my wet kit in front of an electric heater I went into the pub for dinner and ordered copious amounts of food, multiple pints of apple juice mixed with lemonade and a yummy dessert!

After dinner I moved the soggy kit around in front of the heater hoping it would dry overnight, rinsed and filled my bottles back up. Then went to bed… Another big day of riding was ahead for the next day…

Day 2 – Friday 4th September

Another reasonably early start for me, up and on the road by 7am, only to get a little way down the road and realise I had left my gloves behind (I don’t usually wear gloves so remembering them didn’t come easily). Quick detour back for the gloves, then I was on my way.

It was a gorgeous start to day 2, lovely roads, I went through forests and nature reserves, saw deer, birds, squirrels and really enjoyed the first part of the ride!

I was meeting Abi at about 70 miles on the route, which I had anticipated being a similar time to my first 70 miles the day before, but I’m reality I was a bit slower, and way hungrier! The cornflakes i’d eaten for breakfast weren’t cutting it, even supplemented with a breakfast bar as I rode. I got to 70 miles and should have been less than 7 miles from where I planned to meet Abi but I was later than planned and the route was trying to take me on a sandy and flinty bridleways for 7 miles… not a good idea on a heavy road bike. So with a bit of assistance from google maps I rerouted on the road and eventually got to Abi 80 miles into my day, tired, hungry and having a bit of a meltdown!

Abi bought me a hot drink and a bacon sandwich that I struggled to eat, I’d gone beyond hungry, not a good state for a cyclist… We decided that we would try and map the shortest possible route to our overnight stay which Garmin suggested was 49 miles… Eventually we got back on the road, only for me to have a bit of a further slump 16 miles down the road, we stopped in a town, Abi headed into a shop and bought me a coke, some crisps and chocolate and I sat on the pavement, giggling as it was either that or cry… this was a definite low point of my trip. The route had been flat and windy, I’d let my energy levels deplete too far, this was not good. We checked our route again, and despite having ridden nearly 20 miles apparently we now had 68 miles to ride!! Not a good idea for an exhausted calorie depleted cyclist. We started again, and a few miles down the road my right Achilles decided it could ride no longer, it had started hurting earlier in the day and had now swollen dramatically and wasn’t letting me pull on my pedal at all! I sat at the side of the road to tape it up with Rocktape. At this point I messaged my fellow Primal Ambassador Rachael who I was due to stay with that night and told her no matter how far I cycled I seemed to get further away!

Whilst I was at the side of the road a road work person suggested that the best way to get to where we needed to go would be the A11 and the A14 – not the best roads for cyclists! We ignored this advice, remapped the route on Garmin, which my Garmin refused to load – telling me it was too busy! Back on the road we went! Then Rachael called and suggested her and her partner could come and pick us up somewhere on the route if we wanted them to. By now I’d ridden almost 100 miles and wasn’t feeling fab, after a chat with Rachael’s partner Matt it was agreed that we would ride for another couple of hours towards them and they would head out to meet us as soon as they were able and could pick us up on the route.

We then rode through Thetford Forest and the next miles passed quite smoothly, we stopped in Brandon at 123 miles, purchased chips and prawn crackers from a local Chinese and awaited our rescue party…

It took Racheal and Matt an hour in the car to get to us, it would likely have been more than 40 miles to continue to ride to them, in the wind and probably the dark. I 100% believe that my decision to call it a day at 123 miles on day 2 was the right decision!

We got back to Rachael’s house, showered and settled down with a cup of tea, kit in the wash, and Matt headed out to buy us dinner. We refuelled, warmed up and rested, something that wouldn’t have been possible had we continued to ride the last 40 miles!

Day 3 – Saturday 5th September

Up a fraction later today, Racheal, Matt and a number of their friends from a local cycling club – Chatteris CC had kindly agreed to ride the first 38 miles with us out to a cafe for breakfast to see us on our way!

These guys were incredible, they asked what pace we wanted to be at, and then sat with us in the pack at a steady 17mph moving speed. The fens are flat and windy, without these guys they would have felt bleak and demoralising, but in the group they passed quickly and happily! I will be forever grateful to these guys for riding with us and ensuing my day 3 started off far more positively than my day 2 had ended!

Breakfast consumed, Abi and I headed on for the next 80ish miles! We headed up to Skegness before stopping for a hot chocolate and a toasted tea cake- these were soon to become regular fuel on our trip! From there it was flat but crazy windy and we battled our way up to Grimsby, feeling the full effects of the headwinds…

We spent the night in a conservatory that belonged to a friends family member – odd choice of accommodation but to be honest we were glad to be out of the wind and off the bikes. We once again purchased Chinese and then settled down for the night.

127 miles done, but tough windy miles which equated to almost 8.5hrs of cycling…

Day 4 – Sunday 6th September

This was one of 2 ‘recovery days’ factored into my plan… 102 miles up to Scarborough but flatter easier miles, a less aggressive headwind. We set off a little later at 8.15 and we really did this day right! We stopped just before the Humber Bridge and bought croissants and milkshakes as a extra breakfast, crossed the bridge and headed up to Withernsea where we stopped at a seaside cafe for lunch. Then found a seafront selling hot doughnuts and hot chocolate for a mid afternoon snack, before it rained for the last 20 miles up to Scarborough – our end point for the day!

The night before we had decided to book a travelodge for the night which turned out to be the perfect decision as we arrived cold and wet! I actually got in the shower in all my kit – I was soaked through anyway! Warmed up and washed my kit at the same time, then it was another day for hanging tons of stuff in front of an electric heater and hoping it dried out!

The weather brightened up and we headed out along the seafront to find some dinner, we got takeaway pasta and garlic bread from a local Ask restaurant and ate next to the beach… A perfect end to our recovery day. We also bought bagels and cheese for our breakfast the next day, some snacks, cakes and crisps and planned an evening of eating snacks and drinking tea in our room, in reality, we got back after dinner, moved the kit around on the heaters and went to bed… I got into bed with a giant bag of chilli Doritos… I think this could have been a high point of my life to date!

Just over 102 miles done, recovery and refuelling sorted… Day 4 was a good day!

Day 5 – Monday 7th September

Slightly later start again, up at 7 to leave at 8.15 and it was pouring rain when we got going… really really raining… made me wonder why we’d gone to all the effort of drying our kit the night before…

The first 20 miles was brutal… some rather tasty climbs heading up to Whitby, including some very steep sections at Robin Hood Bay… heavy bikes, soaked cold riders, big climbs… Altogether not the best combination. When we eventually got to Whitby we had done about 20 miles in 3hrs, we were soaked and exhausted. We stopped in a cafe and ordered tea cakes and hot chocolates… the guy joked that I needed to pay him £26 for those and I actually gave it to him… 20 miles into the day and I was already exhausted! Oh dear!!!

Thankfully the climbs subsided after Whitby but the wind was ready to make up for that! Some brutal headwinds that got worse and worse as we headed towards Middlesborough, we were tired, hungry, windswept, we plodded towards a McDonalds and ordered enough food to feed a family…

The transporter was closed so we had a slight reroute in order to cross the water over a bridge. We then got a few miles of respite from the wind, before turning back to face it full on for the remainder of our day up to Newcastle. We were staying with my friend Jason that night and I had messaged him to tell him we were slow. He had sent us the ferry timings for going South Shields to North Shields and told us even if we averaged 10mph we would still make the ferry crossing that night – we laughed… little did he know that might actually be our speed!

We made the 6.45 ferry and were met the other side of the water by Jason, rode back to his house, drank tea, ate snacks, showered, put our kit in the wash and actually headed out for dinner! Had a lovely meal in an Indian restaurant further up the coast and it felt like a surprisingly normal evening…

98 miles done, but over 8hrs of tough riding, tough climbs, tough weather and a long day out!

Day 6 – Tuesday 8th September

Day 6 was a bit of a milestone day on our trip really, it was the one that would take us coast to coast, leaving the east of the UK and heading west to begin our journey back down towards home…

A big day on the plan with lots of climbing, the route crossed the Pennines and then the Lake District…

Alarms for 5am, with the aim being to leave as soon as dawn broke and get the majority of riding done in daylight. We were on the road by 6.20, escorted for the first few miles by Jason.

Once again I’d forgotten my gloves, but Jason offered to head back and find them then drive out to find us on the route… the first 20-30 miles passed quite easily, then we started climbing into Durham, a few steep climbs, we stopped and ate a croissant at the top of one, we hadn’t really entered the hills yet, this was only going to get worse…

At 38 miles we stopped in a village for breakfast… considering the first section was pretty flat by 38 miles we had done 3800ft of climbing… that’s a lot of elevation in a short space of time…

After breakfast we got back on the road knowing the worst of the climbs still remained. We headed out and soon saw Jason driving past us on the road, he gave us some extra croissants and said he would drive to the top of the next climb to cheer us on before heading home, we warned him it might take us a while to get to the top as the next climb went on for a few miles.

Climb done and we stopped to say goodbye to Jason and take photos. Then headed on with more climbs in sight! Some of the climbs on this day went over 7 mile, into headwinds… I must have looked vulnerable on one as a rather gutsy sheep squared up to me refusing to move at one point! Climbing is tough enough without sheep as obstacles!!

My Garmin gives me some data on climbs before I get to them, and after miles of climbing one flashed up that said average of 10% over 1 mile, in reality this means lots of steep sections and a few slightly flatter sections, we decided to get off and walk this one… my ankles were both blown by this point, walking would be no slower than cycling but would use slightly different muscles and hopefully provide some respite… turns out not for my ankles, it was just as painful to walk, sections of the climb were so steep we could barely push the bikes, the pain in my ankles made me scream, Abi offered to push her bike to the top and come back for mine, we joked that then I could crawl to the top. We carried on walking as Garmin showed 15%, 18%, 22%, we had made the right decision to get off.

At the top of the climb we met a pair of guys coming the other way, as part of a 3 day trip, they couldn’t believe how far we had come/were planning to go. We stopped at the top, ate our spare croissants, chatted to the guys we had met. They assured us there was nothing as bad left as that which we had already covered…

Another big climb left to cover was Hartside Summit, with an elevation sign showing 1903ft elevation…

A steady slow climb, which ended up in a cloud… we put on jackets at the top to descend through the cloud into the headwind… it was cold, damp, windy, and not as fast a descent as we might have hoped!

We descended into a village and saw a sign for a bakery, we headed in and asked if we could order food, to which the lady at the counter replied they would be closing soon so we could only choose food from the counter as they closed at 4pm. Neither of us had any idea it was that late in the day!!! The last 30 miles had taken us hours!!!

Some quiche and hot chocolate later we carried on through the Lake District, about 20 miles later it started to rain. We were exhausted, we’d been on the road for almost 12hrs, not covered anywhere near the distance of other days but far more elevation, we hadn’t had a hot meal, we were flagging…. 10 miles later we got to Keswick, we pulled over soaking wet and shattered and decided that another 30 miles in the rain without food or rest would be foolish… We made the decision to get a taxi the rest of the way to the coast.

We had ridden possibly the hardest 98 miles of my life. We had done some incredible climbs, and we had nothing to prove by trudging through the last 30 predominantly flat miles in the rain!

The taxi driver gave us black bags to sit on so we didn’t get his cab wet. Bikes went in the back and we were chauffeured to Whitehaven… We checked into the cutest B&B, had a cup of tea, showered and hung out our wet kit (are you seeing a theme yet) then went out in search of food, found a Dominos locally, bought loads of food, and went back to eat it sat on the double bed in our room, food everywhere, tired but finally warm and fed!

98 miles of mostly ascent, headwind, clouds and rain… the toughest day on our plan was over!

Day 7 – Wednesday 9th September

Now no matter what I tell you about this day it will never be enough. I feel like I rode my whole trip for this day!!

We had a later start to recover from our tough day, alarms at 7, breakfast at 8, on the road by 9…

Out of the B&B and straight into quite a tough climb! Oh dear, that wasn’t fun on tired legs! But it didn’t stay brutal for too long… Soon we were heading out on rural coastal roads.

For the most part of the morning the roads followed the coast, with the coast on our right and the mountain ranges on our left, the roads weaved along the coast, offering us stunning views of both the sea and the mountains. I did not stop smiling, I could happily live my life riding up and down those roads, surrounded by natural beauty, I’d happily go back and ride those roads at any point! Gorgeous rolling countryside, I really was in my element!

Late morning we bought some snacks in a bakery and debated our route… the route I had planned stayed on the coast and went round Barrow-In-Furness, but both our taxi driver and our B&B host had suggested we shouldn’t do that… Our B&B host had suggested a fell road that went across avoiding Barrow but up in the hills… As we ate our snacks we looked at the options and decided we would go for the fell road, it would reduce the overall mileage but would increase our elevation.

Turned out to be a fab decision! 16 miles of stunning climbs and more gorgeous scenery! Once out of the hills and back on the coast we found a pub and stopped for lunch!

We continued along the coast, through a forest, alongside some gorgeous sandy stretches before we got to our end location for the day which was Carnforth. We weren’t wet today!!! No need to hang out soggy kit!

Had dinner in the restaurant of the hotel we stayed in, headed to bed early!

90 miles and 7hrs of riding done on day 7!

Day 8 – Thursday 10th September

The 2nd of 2 recovery days planned for this trip. Today we were heading down the coast to Southport. With an overnight stop planned at Jenni’s. I was very excited about this! An easier days riding, a night with one of my best friends, if we could get in early afternoon we would have a whole evening to rest, relax and recover!

We were on the road just before 8, and the plan was to get as far as Blackpool without stopping, that was approximately 55 miles, then we would have about 40 miles left to get to Jenni!

The miles passed quickly enough but a 55 mile stint on day 8 was still a big ask but we made it! Got to Blackpool at lunchtime stopped for lunch and a quick break, before getting back on the road, heads down heading to Jenni!

We got to Jenni about 3.30 in the afternoon. 95 miles completed for the day. We were in early, with tons of daylight hours remaining! Jenni was a star, we soon had big cups of tea, showered and borrowed baggy pyjamas, fluffy socks, settled down with snacks, fire on! It was amazing! Jenni made us dinner, and popcorn, even more tea! It was amazing!

We settled into bed! A perfect recovery day done! 95 miles, 6.5hrs of cycling. Ready for 2 final big days of riding!

Day 9 – Friday 11th September

Another early alarm, with a plan to set off at first light again as we had a big days riding on the plan.

Jenni and her friend Craig had kindly agreed to ride with us for the day so at 6.30am we all headed out together.

We rode just under 40 miles down to Frodsham where Jenni’s brother lives and his girlfriend Emma was home and she kindly made us tea and toast before we started our journey inland, actually starting to head home!

At 80 miles we stopped for lunch, Abi has some issues with nerves in her hand and was starting to have problems, so we looked up possible train options, which were far from straight forward, so after a good meal we all headed back out. Jenni and I stopped at a shop to stock up on snacks whilst Abi and Craig rode on, the route turned a little bit wild and took us through a rather rough gravel track for a mile or so, before rejoining the roads! Soon after we caught up with Abi and Craig we passed through a town with a train station, Abi and Craig stopped to get the train and Jenni and I rode on, with 50 miles left to go for the day!

Some climbs, and some windy weather later Jenni and I stopped for a coffee in the strangest little town, but the corner shop had a coffee machine and sold chocolate! What more could 2 cyclists want?

We arrived at our end location for the day just as the sun set! We were staying with Jenni’s aunt in Bidford-on-Avon. Craig and Abi had arrived just before us and it was like an adult sleepover! Jenni’s aunt had made us home made lasagne, and provided tons of garlic bread, puddings, cheese and biscuits! Music on, dancing round the table is the most surreal memory of my 9 nights on the road, but so much fun!!!

138 miles covered with just under 10.5 hours of cycling done!

Day 10 – Saturday 12th September

The last day on my adventure!!!! Again an early alarm and off as soon as daylight broke! Jen’s aunt had made us flapjacks, we packed a few each to get us through the morning!

We rode through the most stunning countryside that morning, it was gorgeous, lovely roads, perfect scenery, sun just rising and it was a beautiful day!

We took a small detour about 60 miles into our route to head into a town for breakfast. Then our next stop was going to be Hertford where Abi’s husband was coming out to pick her up. The section of the ride after breakfast was a bit surreal, we rode on a cycle path parallel to a busway between Dunstable and Luton that was so weird! Like nothing we’d ever seen before, but incredible, took us through the heart of the cities protected from the traffic, avoiding the junctions etc, it was perfect, but weird!!

Eventually we arrived in Hertford, 107 miles done! I was starving. We stopped at a McDonalds that was drive through only, which was a bit of an issue, luckily Abi’s partner was happy to go through the drive through for me and soon I was losing chicken nuggets and chips into my bar bag as a takeaway picnic!

Solo for the next few miles but I was on the home stretch, and I knew some local cyclists were heading out to find me so I should only have an hour or so on my own. This hour turned out to have a climb… and an off road section! Me and my hippo bike went off roading, alongside ploughed fields and through single track woodland… I did look up the road alternative to my rather unsuitable route file but it would have added quite a few miles so I opted for the rugged route!

About 12 miles later I arrived in Sawbridgeworth and met up with Lisa, Hasan and Sam who had ridden out to ride home with me! They laughed at my chicken nugget picnic!

Soon we were back in familiar territory, place names I recognised, mileage ticking down. It still felt tough, but I was counting down to home instead of an unknown location!

Eventually we arrived back home, 146 miles ridden on my final day! I can’t tell you how it felt as I don’t know! It’s so surreal to have planned and executed an adventure and for it to be over!!

I spent 10 days cycling around England!! I covered 1181 miles, with 58,494 ft of climbing.

I got caught in the rain multiple times, battled brutal headwinds, fought up some tough climbs.

My only injury is the strained Achilles’ tendons, which I’m putting down to not training enough with the weight on the bike.

I had no saddle sores – I know that’s what everyone wants to ask… none… I didn’t use any chamois cream, I had my kit washed 3 times by friends en-route, washed it once in the shower, but I did shower myself each night.

Neither of us had any mechanical issues… no punctures, no trouble. We did nothing to the bikes en-route, after a few days I adopted an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it attitude’ we didn’t even pump up tyres or lube chains! I checked my tyres today and they are now on 80psi, not bad going after all those miles and some sections of questionable surface suitability!

I had the best time, I saw more of England than I ever have, visited friends, spent so much time outside, spinning my legs over constantly was weirdly therapeutic…

Instead of arriving home tired and broken like I expected to Iv come home feeling alive, in awe of my body for how it coped, super grateful to the friends who helped along the way, relaxed and strangely rested. It was just the holiday I needed!

If anyone has an urge to plan an adventure I’d go for it! You really only live once. You are capable of more than you believe. Our bodies are incredible, they really can cope with far more than we realise!