06 November, 2014

Operation 4-Corners

by Jamie Methuen
9th – 12th June, 2014

Paul and Jamie 

Ed: Jamie is 41, and a senior manager for the NHS, from Chepstow in South Wales. Jamie and Paul's 4-day, 4-corners ride aimed to raise £6,000 to be split between three charities, and also increase awareness for the work the charities do. 

We began by thinking that we’d spend a week on the Isle of Man watching the TT [The Tourist Trophy Race was for many years the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world.] Who’s we? Jamie Methuen and Paul Burley. I’m a new biker having passed my test only 3 years ago, but Paul has been riding for over 20 years. Paul rides a 1985 Kawazaki GPZ 900 and I ride a Honda VFR800 which is a more recent machine - built in 2008.

The IOM TT proved a no-go but with the time off booked, and a touring itch to scratch we set about a good bottle of red and a map of the UK. It didn’t take us long to think LEJOG, and the same evening we called Jack Adams. Jack inspired us to plan a JOGLE journey with a twist: his suggestion was to visit the four most extreme points, a journey of around 1,500 miles, which hadn’t been done by motorbike from north to south.

And so the planning began. We both try to support local and national charities by various methods and it seemed right to put fundraising at the heart of this endeavour. We chose the Teenage Cancer Trust, Care for Casualties (Army) and a local special school, Heronsbridge School Bridgend, as beneficiaries of the journey. To make it more of a challenge, we decided to attempt the four corners in four days. The following months included route planning, accommodation selection, practice rides of increasing duration, putting up a website and engaging with the charities and those who might make donations. 

We had some good publicity in the run up and our bikes carried the names of some corporate sponsors. On 7 June at 15:00 we set off on what we called “the positioning leg,” a straight run from Chepstow in South Wales to Stirling for our first overnight stay. We arrived at the bar of the town centre hotel (they had the beer waiting on the bar for us) at 23:45 having secured the bikes after a 386 mile run. Sunday dawned showery but mild and we took a lovely run up through Inverness and some stunning scenery and the National Park. On then to Thurso, to a lovely B&B and a friendly landlady who took us into town for dinner. Returning to the B&B we were struck that this far north, darkness never really sets in.

Day 1 

A 7am breakfast and then we were off! Well, not quite. We’d had a few drinks the night before, the breakfast was too good to rush, and getting all our gear back into the side panniers seemed to take longer each time we packed. The short hop from Thurso put us at John o'Groats at 9am for a photo and sign off of our log by the local ferry office. Then we set off north to Dunnet Head 13 miles away, and only 24 minutes. 

Jamie at Dunnet Head 

Both locations were picturesque and the weather was splendid, but ahead of us was a long drag to Fort William with an approaching weather system and the dawning realisation that drinking in the scenery and taking photos wasn’t really an option given our schedule. Both bikes were behaving, and we’d noticed that the fuel injection system of the VFR gave it in excess of 40 miles per gallon which was better than the carburettor-driven GPZ meaning that the latter needed refilling earlier at around 160 miles. 

We had radios fitted to the bikes and maintained a friendly chatter throughout about the scenery and how the bikes were performing. We made Fort William with overcast skies some 6 hours and 185 miles later. So far so good, but already bits were starting to ache. How difficult can it be? we thought, its only 60 miles to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, the most westerly point in the UK. Warning! This is wrong - see below! 

We pulled into the lighthouse around 17:30 - they had just closed, the rain was falling and by this point I had lost any enthusiasm for this journey. The GPZ had been running on vapour on the way to the Lighthouse and we’d had to find and fill up at the most westerly fuel “shed” on the UK mainland although the owner did give us some sponsorship money! We took a quick photo, and headed back to Fort William in appalling conditions. Rain takes on a whole new dimension when you’re on a bike!

Mainland Britain's most westerly fuel point 

We’d planned to go on to Falkirk, but I made the decision that it was simply impossible, and luckily an old school friend now lives in the town and could put us up for the night. Time for a curry and a bottle of wine. 

Day 2 

The forecast out of Fort William was not good and we decided to wait until rush hour was almost over (such as it is in the Highlands) The first day had seen us cover over 360 miles with a few navigation errors and petrol diversions. A break in the weather was apparent and around 8:10 we set off in bright sunshine and warm weather. Today would see us traverse the UK from left to right. The first part of our journey was beautiful - the highlands, and some of the most exciting motorbiking roads in the UK, with great views and challenging terrain. 

We made good progress, and stopped for our first coffee at The Green Welly Stop, Tyndrum, Perthshire, having covered about 50 miles in a little more than an hour. A quick break, and we jumped back on for the rest of our Scottish trip. Ahead of us we had a further 450 odd miles from The Green Welly to East Runton just outside Cromer. Our next stop after about another 1.5 hours, was at the services on the outskirts of Glasgow. Mid afternoon came around quite quickly and the sun was making it all very serene when Paul's voice over the radio announced that he was low on fuel (again). 

As a biker I think this is something we get used to and most bikes have a reserve tank which can be selected. As a sometime pilot I get super-twitched when I hear or see anything which resembles a fuel “situation”. I asked, How's your reserve? to which Paul replied, That's what I'm talking about. He’d been sitting on reserve for some miles. I was lead bike on this stretch, and I took the first left. I knew the area reasonably. I'd been stationed in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force at Leeming in the 90’s and we were past there but not close to another main service station. I let Paul know over the R/T that I’d be looking for the first friendly face I could see to help us as I watched the mirrors closely for signs of Paul dropping back. I pulled over opposite a chap mowing his lawn. Why here? asked Paul. That chap has a lawnmower which equals fuel, and a car in his drive which equals more fuel, and he lives here judging by his demeanour so he knows the area, I replied. 

Paul came back a few minutes later with directions for a fuel stop about a mile away, which we headed off to. While Paul fuelled up I got lunch and we sat on the grass in the lovely sunshine chatting and eating. That tyre looks a bit worn, said Paul looking at the front of his bike; more of that later. Time to press on; it was after 3 and Norfolk was miles away. We'd been blessed by improving conditions south of Glasgow but another bi-product of holding a pilot's licence is a healthy distrust of the weather. I could feel dramatic changes in temperature and whilst I’ve forgotten most of the cloud formation names, what I could see looked onerous. 

I radioed to Paul that I'd spotted a weather front extending west to east and regardless of the route we took or the speed we could add on or scrub off, it was my opinion that we were going to get wet. And so we did. The downpour was dramatic and took about 20 minutes to pass through, enough time for the bike to dry me and itself out. We rejoined the A-road into a sea of spray which was a bit 'sporting' and I told Paul over the radio that despite this, at the first opportunity we needed to make up time. Nature was with us and as we came down through the midlands and onto roads I recognised, the sun came out and we picked up the pace. As we rode south east the weather continued to improve into a "gin clear' blue sky with the sun heating my back through the leathers. 

Gradually the horizon flattened and we began to enter the distinctive landscape around Kings Lynn. This was lovely biking weather, and we began to claw back time as the sun shone, the early evening set in, and the roads tuned to A-road country specification with loads of tractors presenting some splendid overtake situations. Paul and I had settled into a pattern where we would both fuel up at the same time, and while he was taking the opportunity to put more fuel in, (remember, he was burning more than I was by virtue of the age and technology differential of our two bikes) I would jump off and pay the fuel bill and have time to text our next destination to update them on our ETA. 

The final part of our journey on this day was blessed with continuing sunshine, and by virtue of being on a bike with good visibility we made good time and rolled into the driveway of our overnight stop in East Runton some 20 mins ahead of our ETA at 20:10. We were almost helped off our machines by our friends who escorted us into the garden to a BBQ and beer. On its own this would be just enough but our host for the evening is a master butcher trading in Cromer and Sherringham, <icarushines.co.uk>. We finally fell into bed around midnight having been on the road for 12 hours plus, and ridden for (according to my speedo) 499.6 miles.

Day 3 

One of the things we'd noticed on this trip was good plans often need 'reviewing' and so the next morning with the promise of great conversation, good coffee and more of Icarus' meat for breakfast, we simply couldn't rush off. Around 8:45 we did set off but only for the short hop to one of the Icarus Hines shops in Cromer for some PR shots. Our friend, Robert Richmond, had meanwhile sorted a new tyre for Paul through his connections at Cromer Car Centre but before we set off for some new rubber we made our way from Cromer to the most easterly point in the UK, Lowestoft Ness. 

We pulled in after a short 'tour' of the area looking for a star located in the concrete overlooking the coast - it's a fairly bleak and uninspiring place. We noticed that we were closer to parts of Europe than we were to home! In the local maritime museum our story was met with enthusiasm by the local volunteer staff who stamped our book and bade us bon voyage. Off to Norwich where a suitable tyre for Paul's 'vintage' bike had been located. Whilst the bike was sorted we located some good coffee and I updated our tweets, Facebook messages and rough journey stats.

Setting off, all seemed well for about 200m, when Paul radioed to say he had a problem. Somehow the speedo cable hadn't been properly re-attached and we returned for another 20 minute re-work of the front wheel, setting off again south-south west behind time. We'd planned to make it to the Ace Cafe in London, a biking mecca, and did so around 15:30 in need of coffee and lunch. This was the point at which the tiredness really showed. We hardly spoke through lunch and it's a testament to our friendship that we knew words weren't required. 

By the time we were ready, traffic was already building and its fair to say the next hour was a pain as we dodged and weaved school traffic around London - not good. Our next destination was Brighton where we were due to meet some of my family at Brighton fire station. Compared to our seemingly rapid progress though Norfolk the previous day, this journey seemed to drag on. We rolled into Preston Circus around 18:15 and were welcomed by cold drinks and a fire tender ready to hose down our bikes. 

A Welcome at Brighton Fire Station 

The next leg was one I'd looked forward to. I knew the road well which would take us along the A27 skirting Shoreham (where I'd learned to fly), then Goodwood, Southampton, then on to the New Forest. We made good time as the traffic improved, the A-road became motorway, and the sun set. The air cooled as we dropped into the outer reaches of the New Forest and the miles clicked down as we approached Chewton Glen. Five minutes later, we were sitting on the driveway of our next overnight stop at a friend's home, and the smell of bolognese and the sight of a cool beer took on almost biblical significance. 

Day 4 

We knew that if our gods were with us, today would see the end of our challenge. I think, as we munched through cereal and said our goodbyes to our hosts, we silently reflected on what we had achieved so far. We had covered quite a few miles, and for a novice rider, this was no mean achievement. From Paul's perspective, I think he had begun to realise how having a lesser-experienced person riding can slow down decision making and progress. We'd also realised that covering this number of miles in this short space effectively cancelled out any opportunity for sightseeing, journal making or even photography. With the exception of the stop in the highlands cafe, we hadn't really admired our surroundings.

A little after 9 we set off from BH25, heading west with the sun on our backs. We had a loose plan to stop off at Jamaica Inn, although I'm not sure how Paul thought he was going to navigate us there - I had the GPS (a last-minute thought to replace the packet of paper maps I'd printed out - good call!), and he was having to cope with an increasingly unreliable speedo since the 'fitting mistake' in Norwich.

We set off towards Exeter and then south west aiming for Lizard (the most Southerly point in the UK). As we approached Lizard I could smell aviation fuel, and looking skyward, I noticed a HAWK trainer manoeuvring at about 1000 ft, meaning we were close to RAF Culdrose. The view of the airfield and the coast made for a pleasurable 10 minutes as our journey towards Lizard closed down. The last few miles of country lane led us to a gravelly car park on an incline just up from the Lizard National Trust visitor centre.

I was absolutely shattered, and looking at the way Paul eased himself off the bike, he was too. Paul had entered the car park ahead of me and I watched him gingerly negotiate the uneven gravel surface. Bikes are great when they are upright and moving but try moving one around under your own steam on a loose surface. I almost gave up and parked at the top, but pride got the better of me. As I came to a halt the VFR showed its first sign of displeasure. We'd encountered slow traffic coming through the village and engine temperature was up to 105 degrees as I edged down the cramped slope into the overfull car park. The cooling fan and the engine were coughing as the outside air temperature moved to 25 degrees.

My needs were basic: icecream! So I dispatched Paul to find someone to sign off our log book whilst I found some change and set off in search of calories. Paul was nowhere to be seen so I wandered down the path and bumped straight into him. He introduced me to the local NT warden who wanted to know all about the trip, and offer us a seat in his cool hut. So, we'd achieved our ambition of visiting the 4 most extreme points of the UK - but our trip wasn't over yet. In order to complete the LEJOG challenge we had to check in at the Land's End visitors centre. I could have happily laid back on the grass at Lizard and let the hot summer air wash over me, but we knew we had an evening engagement and we had at least an hour's ride ahead.

We made our way following signs for Land's End, rolling in around 16:30. We were surprised by the somewhat insincere look of the place, although I'm not sure quite what we were expecting. A quick conversation with the hotel reception, and we were directed to ride our bikes down toward the official sign post for a couple of quick photographs, and some texts home to let family and friends hear our news.

In all, we'd been on the road completing the challenge (so excluding the positioning ride) for 4 calendar days, over 8 hours per day.

Driving time and Mileage:

Monday 08:00 - 20:15, 311 miles
Tuesday 08:15 - 20:00 499 miles
Wednesday 08:45 - 20:10 384 miles
Thursday 09:30 - 17:30 216 miles


The sense of completing an adventure, the time away with a good friend
Achieving something special
Helping charities
Seeing parts of the UK for the first time
Arriving safe and well at every location


The dawning realisation that the expectations of our own schedule left little or no time for sightseeing, and every night we'd be dog tired. One cautionary note too: the roads to Adnermurchan are far from easy to navigate even on a narrow motorbike. You should allow yourself double your estimate and then add a margin to that on top.

Observations on the 4-Corners Route

I've mentioned the roads to Ardnermurchan, but they're worthy of a reminder - they really are very narrow, barely passable by 1 bike and a car. The surface, while good, collects a lot of debris which on a motorbike turns the road into the equivalent of riding on ball-bearings. I had a brief excursion into the heather, which on a bike weighing over 240kg, out of balance with panniers, was my least favourite biking experience to date.

The scenery at Dunnet Head on a good day is amazing. Get there early to avoid midges and crowds, and breathe in the Scottish air. I'd start at Dunnet Head first - you're not going to get anyone to sign your logsheet because the lighthouse is automated and the old lighthouse keepers' cottages are now private residences. We took a photograph which was auto-date-stamped. Go from there to John o' Groats where, if you time it right, you'll again beat the crowds, and in between ferry departures, the local ferry office will stamp your sheet with a pleasant smile.

The reality of roads is that in Scotland, at least the Highlands, everything resembles a 'non-motorway' and you should take your time to see the sights, especially north of Inverness. There are some lovely motorbiking routes, and if I did this again I'd probably take 3 days just to do the Scottish leg. We popped into Thurso for evening dinner before setting off. It's a town dominated by the nuclear industry, where, in the summer months it rarely gets dark. There is some lovely scenery along Fort William, down past Loch Lomond, not to mention through the Highlands. Once you get close to Glasgow, it's far more motorway oriented. We had to deviate from our 'non motorway' plan at this point to pick up time, so again, if you want to stick to "non-M" you'll need to factor in time.

The A1 down through Yorkshire is a bit of a conundrum. I drove this many times when I lived and worked in the North East. It’s fast, dangerous, clogged, but quite beautiful in places. I think on reflection, we should have avoided this road.

If you are riding a bike, and its not a 'sit up' variety, your neck will began to hurt mid way through the second day especially if you have ridden up to start your challenge. Whatever you do, factor this in by either adjusting your handle bars with risers, taking time off the bike or booking a massage.

Be prepared to be underwhelmed by Land's End. Take your photos, raise a glass, and get the heck out - we rode to Newquay to meet some friends for a celebratory bash.

05 November, 2014

A Tandem or a Tricycle - Which Set a New Record?

by Geoff De’Ath

This article is loosely based on two which appeared earlier this year in different issues of Cycling Weekly. The first was about an attempt on the End-to-End record for men’s tandem. It was entitled “No end to End to End tandem quest” and took place on the 4th/ 5th May.

The challengers were Glenn Longland, a no-nonsense long-distance time trialist and his pilot Dominic Irvine. They had planned their attempt meticulously and had worked out their precise route complete with timings. They were followed by a support team of several cars, helpers, timekeepers, a doctor and a photographer. Their tandem was custom-built by Orbit and Irvine had calculated the ride down to the last detail and estimated they would turn the pedals 250,000 times and each would burn 19,000 calories.

They left Land’s End at 6am on the 4th May and hoped to beat the 48 year-old record. However, after almost 26 hours of riding and 457 miles, their attempt came to a halt in a lay-by just north of Penrith. Fatigue and lack of compatibility had taken their toll. Longland collapsed on a grass verge in need of oxygen, a drip in each arm and a trip to the local A&E. Although both were good cyclists, they were not an effective team and with two riders more things can happen, right down to comfort breaks. The pair seldom picked up much of a tailwind and had to ride through chilling fog in Cumbria. Longland churned out the miles and stuck to his diet of a rice and fruit salad smoothie, Eccles cakes and sandwiches whereas Irvine, with all the technology aimed to ride the distance at a precise wattage of 240.

Therefore the record set on the 8th June 1966 by Pete Swinden and John Withers of 50 hours, 14 minutes and 25 seconds still stands even though there have been nine attempts to beat it, including mixed tandems, none of which has succeeded. Olympic rower James Cracknell tried and failed twice, once with Rebecca Romero and once with Jerone Walters. Although a tandem should go faster than a solo bicycle, the record for the latter is over six hours quicker. Gethin Butler set it at 44 hours, four minutes and 19 seconds in 2001 (before he continued, to break the record for 1000 miles).

The second account covered a new record set on the 7th August by 47 years old Jane Moore who became the first woman to set a record for riding a tricycle from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. She rode 849 miles in three days, 16 hours, 45 minutes and 12 seconds. Nobody had attempted this before and it was suggested to her by the father of Lynne Taylor who currently holds the women’s solo bicycle record. Moore was formerly an ultra marathon runner with a history of long-distance endurance events. Saddle soreness scuppered her plans to continue on for the 1,000 miles trike record but she is planning to try again and then do the 1,227 kms long-distance classic, Paris-Brest-Paris. Her nutrition tip: pasta, vegetable soup, peanut butter and jelly babies... The things people get up to!

Jane Moore, with celebratory tipple. 
Photo courtesy Peter Faulks

04 November, 2014

End to End by Penny Farthing

from Katharine Arzul

This May, Andrew Donald and Chris Saltrick cycled LEJOG on antique Penny Farthings to raise money for Cancer Research UK. They accomplished the distance in five minutes short of 12 days, and raised more than £13,000.

03 November, 2014

A Christmas Puzzle

by John Blanchard

Ed: Long-standing member John Blanchard did his first LEJOG in 1953, when he was 20 (and as John pointed out, thirty years before the Association was founded). 

This puzzle is similar to those of Geoff De'Ath. In this case the 18 words in column one need to be correctly paired with a word from column two. This will leave an unused word remaining in column two. I realise that members in the southern hemisphere suffer a slight disadvantage because of the nature of the seasons (and I have to add that one pair of words relates to an all-year-round food) but otherwise the pairs all form expressions connected with Christmas/Winter/December.

  • Column One 
    •  1 BLACK 
    •  2 BRANDY 
    •  3 CHOCOLATE 
    •  4 CHRISTMAS 
    •  5 COLD 
    •  6 CREAM 
    •  7 FANCY 
    •  8 FIR 
    •  9 HOLLY 
    •  10 HOT 
    •  11 MINCE 
    •  12 SLEIGH 
    •  13 SNOW 
    •  14 STOCKING 
    •  15 STUFFED 
    •  16 THREE 
    •  17 WHITE 
    •  18 YULE 
    •  19 
  • Column Two
    • BELLS 
    • FILLER
    • HATS
    • ICE
    • KINGS
    • LOG
    • MAN
    • MEAT
    • PIES
    • PUNCH
    • ROBIN
    • SAUCE
    • TIDE
    • TREE
    • TURKEY
    • WREATH

01 November, 2014

JOGLE 3013

by Meriel Shotton

Meriel Shotton and Janet Bootyman at John o'Groats

[Editor's introduction: Meriel's late husband Bill was a member from 1998, when he drove from John o' Groats to Land's End on a B.S.A. Bantam motorbike, via Lowestoft Ness (East-most point), and Lizard Point (South-most point). His friend accompanied him in his car as back up. By the time they realised they hadn't included the furthest West point, they had already booked their holiday time from work, so they couldn't fit it in, as it added about 3 days! An article was then published in Quo Vadis? about his "Box the Compass" ride.

Meriel told me she had planned to go with Bill in 2005 (or maybe 2006?) on the back of his modern Royal Enfield bike, but she had a stomach bug on the start day so she sent him off without her as she couldn't face changing all the B&Bs. She joined him at Perth, and they travelled together from there to Lands End. Then Meriel could say she might be the only person who hadn't started the run but finished it!

In 2011 Meriel and her friends, members Janet and Derek Bootyman, drove by car in memory of Bill, and she finally became a member of the Association. Janet and Derek had taken her to Perth to meet Bill on the previous trip, and that's what aroused their interest in the journey.]
Meriel writes:

In 2013, Janet and Derek Bootyman and I did the trip together again, with Derek doing all the driving. Many thanks, Derek. We arrived at John o’ Groats on Wednesday 18th September at about 4 p.m. We checked into Sea View Hotel and saw several others from our group who had already arrived. As it was wet and windy we drove the short distance to John o’ Groats and looked around the shops and had a cup of tea. We went back to the hotel for a break before meeting everyone for dinner at the hotel. It was good to see old friends and acquaintances again and to meet other members we had not met before. After a delicious meal and plenty of chat and laughter we went off to get some sleep before our journey began.

We all met at John o’ Groats after breakfast for a group photograph before setting off. Derek had decided not to use any motorways for the trip. We had done this on our trip in 2011 and we all agreed it was more interesting and Derek said a lot less boring for him! Last time we had gone to the East and so this route was new to us. We drove through some lovely scenery. We had decided to stay in B&Bs and our first B&B at Fort William was set in its own grounds with views of Ben Nevis. It was a bit shrouded in mist while we were there but still beautiful. We arrived in the afternoon and had time to look around the town before going to the B&B, Torbeag House. We were amazed at the lovely views of the loch from the High Street. We met others from our group also exploring the town. We had a good evening meal at The Moorings Hotel, just down the road from our B&B and by the Caledonian canal and the Caledonian Steps, the 8 locks on the canal. After a hearty breakfast we left the B&B on Friday morning and stopped to look at the Caledonian Steps and have short walk along the canal. We realised what an amazing piece of engineering it was. On Thursday we had crossed the canal and waited while the swing bridge opened to let a boat through.

Our route to Carlisle was very beautiful with varied scenery including mountains, lochs and woods. We drove alongside Loch Lomond and so, of course, quoted “we’ll take the high road …”. As well as going through expected places we also saw signs and drove through some very distant places such as Alexandria, Dunkirk, Virginia and Botany Bay. Fortunately we were not asked for passports and it did not add to our mileage or journey time! We had another good B&B in Carlisle, within walking distance of the town. When we told the owner what we were doing he said they have a lot of walkers and cyclists doing Land’s end John o’ Groats but he had never heard of the Land’s End - John o’ Groats Association. We gave him the website address and he said he would look it up and pass on the information in future.

After another hearty breakfast we left Carlisle on Saturday morning and set off for Gloucester. Our route took us near Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth and Kidderminster. We spent the night at a Premier Inn outside Gloucester where we had stayed in 2011 and were able to book rooms at £38 per room! On Sunday we had another pretty trip to Land’s End. We passed Jack and Theresa and their friends on the A30 and later they passed us! We arrived at about 4 p.m. and it was a lovely sunny afternoon with blue sky and sea. In 2011 it was very windy and dull and we almost blew away! It was lovely to see it calm and sunny.

After the group photograph we went to Hayle to join everyone at the Premier Inn for dinner, and we were joined by some four people who had not been able to do the whole trip. We were presented with our special medals for the anniversary trip, and chatted about our journeys together. After breakfast we said our goodbyes and set off for home. We did use motorways for this!

Many thanks to everyone who helped to organise the 3013 trip, a very memorable occasion for our 30th Anniversary.

07 August, 2014

Issue 84 has been posted

Association News, Issue 84

Our Chairman, Brian Dawson had a hip replacement in April. After his hospital stay he graduated from having two arm crutches to one, and then dispensed with them both at the end of May. The surgeon is happy with Brian's progress but showed him the x-ray which indicates that he will have to have the other hip replaced within a 6 to 9 month period! We wish Brian all the best; happily he is back on his feet and (carefully) getting some gardening done.

Jack Adams has very kindly volunteered to take the position of Social Secretary, and Chris Hatton has offered to take over his role as Route Advisor. Jack writes, Chris has a wealth of knowledge of walking routes, which I have always found to be the most difficult to plan, and he will be a great asset to the Association. Thank you to both Jack and Chris for volunteering their time, and helping prospective members.

05 August, 2014

for the cyclists...

Mulga Bill's Bicycle 

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"

"See here, young man," said Mulga Bill, "from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, there's none can ride like me.
I'm good all round at everything, as everybody knows,
Although I'm not the one to talk - I hate a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wild cat can it fight.
There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof or wheel,
But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight;
I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight."

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above the Dead Man's Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But ere he'd gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver streak,
It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man's Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
But Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, clung tight to every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then, as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek,
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dead Man's Creek.

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, "I've had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I've rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,
But that was sure the derndest ride that I've encountered yet.
I'll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it's shaken all my nerve
To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.
It's safe at rest in Dead Man's Creek - we'll leave it lying still;
A horse's back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill."

Andrew Barton Paterson, 1896

04 August, 2014

Welcome to New Members

David Jones of Bristol completed the journey by motorcycle on 14 June. He drove from 4am to 10pm!

Jamie Methuen of Monmouthshire also drove by motorcycle: from John O’Groats to Land’s End via the four most extreme points.

John Greer of Peterborough walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats:
It was an ambition for many years, and two years in the planning since finishing work. 99% went according to plan. Low points were during the early weeks: constant rain, deep mud, and boggy, flooded marshes. High points were all the friendly, helpful, generous, supportive people I met along the way while I was carrying a 22kg pack. I lost 25lbs in weight. I had the best weather in Scotland for most of June.
Geoff and Lawrie Mason of the Isle of Wight drove a Land Rover:
This journey was to mark my 50th birthday and my son's 18th birthday. We did it because we wanted to, in an old Land Rover, just to prove that it could do it. We drove via A-roads only, because it added a further challenge. A low point was the dismal weather on the west coast of Scotland, and the high points were all the funny, great and inspiring people and places we saw on the way.
Welcome to all our new members. We would love to read more about your journeys, and please send us any photographs you would like to share. 

Carolyn Dixon of Oxford is a new Associate Member. She will be travelling by train or bus along with her son Caspar Dixon, who is cycling the Deloitte Ride Across Britain from 6th—14th September 2014. He turned 40 this year and thought it a good way to mark his birthday. Caspar lives in Singapore, and his ride will raise money for ShelterBox. Welcome to the Association, Carolyn, and good luck with your journey!

The Deloitte Ride Across Britain website is: http://www.rideacrossbritain.com/
Have any of our members previously taken part in this challenge?

A Request for Carolyn

Do any of our members live along Caspar and Carolyn's route? Carolyn does not drive, and is looking for help with her travel arrangements and accommodation bookings. Please have a look at the itinerary and get in touch with us if you can offer assistance or recommend good places to stay:

Tuesday 9th September: accommodation in Haydock 

Wednesday 10th September: train/bus from Haydock to Penrith; accommodation in Penrith

Thursday 11th September: train/bus from Penrith to Hamilton (near Glasgow); accommodation in Hamilton 

Friday 12th September: train/bus from Hamilton to Fort William; accommodation in Fort William

Saturday 13th September: train/bus from Fort William to Kyle of Sutherland; accommodation in Kyle of Sutherland 

Sunday 14th September: train/bus from Kyle of Sutherland to John O'Groats; accommodation at or near John O'Groats.

03 August, 2014

The Munros

by Krister Andrén

Whichever route is chosen for the End-to-End journey, it will pass not very far from some or several Munros. The definition of this term is mountains in Scotland that are at least 3,000 feet (approximately 914 metres) high.

The person behind the name was Sir Hugh Thomas Munro, 4th Baronet of Lindertis. Born in London in 1856 but brought up on the family estate of Lindertis near Kirriemuir in Angus, he became a passionate mountaineer and also travelled extensively abroad. Despite being active in politics he failed to become an MP. At the outbreak of the First World War he was too old for active military service but did volunteer work with the Red Cross in Malta and also in France. After the war, during the influenza pandemic (the Spanish flu), he caught the infection, which developed into pneumonia and he died in 1919 at the age of 63.

Sir Hugh would no doubt have been surprised and, perhaps, also pleased, if he had known that his surname is today being used as a generic noun. His name lives on because he published a list, later known as the Munros Tables, of the mountains according to the above definition in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal in 1891.

This fascinated a lot of people and stimulated, and still does, hillwalkers to “bag” some or all of the Munros. There is even a term for this affliction – munroitis. More than 5,000 persons are now registered by the Scottish Mountaineering Club as having “compleated” the list.

The first person to climb all the original Munros may have been the Rev. A.E. Robertson, in 1901. The first continuous trip was made in 1974 by Hamish Brown, one of Britain´s great walkers and mountaineers. His journey lasted 112 days and he used a bicycle for transport, and ferries to the Hebrides. And, yes, he has also walked JOGLE, in 1979, and not by the shortest route; he visited several of the Munros, the Four Peaks of Britain and even traversed Ireland during his journey! And then there are, of course, the record breakers. The current record holder seems to be Stephen Pyke. He made his self-propelled round in 2010 and it took him 39 days, 9 hours and 6 minutes. He did not use any motorized transport, only a bicycle and a canoe.

The original Munros Tables list 283 summits, which Sir Hugh regarded as separate mountains, and 256 subsidiary tops. Unfortunately, except for the minimum height, Sir Hugh did not specify distinct topographic criteria for a peak to qualify as a Munro and this has given rise to some debate.

The Munros Tables have been changed several times. Recently, new height data caused a further revision. A few peaks have been demoted from Munro status and a few have been added and the current number of Munros is 282. The old methods of height measurement seem to have been surprisingly accurate. Land surveying in the period we are talking about, around 1890, was a complex and painstaking process, requiring a car-load or, perhaps, a horse-drawn carriage, of technical paraphernalia, such as pedometers, pace measuring chains, plane tables, calibrated brass plates, tripods, plumb lines, telescopic sights, barometers, theodolites, triangulation instruments, current maps etc. – and the knowledge to use them.

Sir Hugh´s main source of information was the Ordnance Survey´s maps of Scotland, one-inch and six-inch to the mile. The one-inch map showed contour lines but only at 250 feet intervals. He must have spent a great number of days poring over the maps, in addition to going on many expeditions in Scotland. Sir Hugh conferred frequently with fellow hillwalkers, who often carried aneroid barometers, which work on the principle that air pressure lessens with increasing altitude at a measurable rate. Air pressure is also affected by temperature changes and it required an experienced person to obtain accurate results.

During the End-to-End journey one has the option of adding one or more of the Munros to one´s list of achievements. As for myself, I had, during my homework, identified Schiehallion as one of the most accessible Munros and it was close to my route. On 8 November, 1996, I was walking on the B846 towards Tummel Bridge and saw the geometric cone of Schiehallion about four miles to the west. I have to confess that I decided to leave it alone, mainly because it would have cost me another day and I saw little point in “bagging” an easy Munro and further damaging the already heavily eroded footpath to the top. At least I had said hello to a Munro, even if from a distance.

I was never keen on hillwalking but it would certainly have been nice to have summited Mount Everest, preferably without using supplemental oxygen, which purists regard as unsporting. My only, very modest, mountain experience was on 8 August, 1979, when I went up Mount Hekla, the highest mountain in Iceland. Hekla is 4,892 feet (1,491 metres) in height, and thus towers over the highest Munro, Ben Nevis, which is 4,409 feet (1,344 metres) and also has the distinction of being the highest mountain in the British Isles.

Climbing Hekla does not require any mountaineering skills but a reasonable degree of fitness. The ascent is scenic but, occasionally, unpleasant because of the sulphurous fumes and the gurgling sounds from the underground. In medieval times Hekla was thought, not unreasonably, to be a gateway to hell and a meeting place for witches. While at the highest point, I kicked loose the then peak, a piece of lava the size and shape of a grey, porous skullcap. It weighs 1,751 grams and now rests on one of my bookshelves. Hekla is an active volcano and seems to have an eruption every ten years or so (1970, 1980, 1981, 1991, 2000).

But I am straying from the topic. Let us get back to Scotland. Many of the Munros have fascinating names, some of which are quite a mouthful. What about the following examples?

Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich
Bidein a´ Choire Sheasgaich
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain
Carn a´ Coire Bhoidheach
Meall nan Ceapraichean
Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan
Inaccessible Pinnacle

The latter peak, which rises from the summit of Sgùrr Deargh on the Isle of Skye, has the reputation of being the most difficult Munro but, despite the name, it can be reached by rock climbing.

There are also other classification schemes in Scotland - the Corbetts, peaks between 2,500–3,000 feet (762-914 metres) and the Grahams, 2,000-2,500 feet (610-762 metres). And, believe it or not, there are also the Marilyns, with a wink to Marilyn Monroe (?), who, sadly, died prematurely in 1962. Marilyns are hills or mountains in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or Isle of Man that are at least 492 feet (150 metres) high.

Sir Hugh had, no doubt, intended to visit all his peaks but he saved a few for later enjoyment. One of the peaks he did not get around to, was the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Death intervened. If anyone ever deserved a full “bag”, surely it would have been Sir Hugh. For a delightful picture of him in his state-of-the-art mountaineering outfit, held by the Scottish Mountaineering Club Archives, click here.

Recommended further reading:

The Munros by Cameron McNeish
(ISBN 0 947782 50 8)
This book, which is well-researched (the author has made the full round) and has many maps and dramatic photographs, will be helpful to anyone planning an expedition to the Munros and it is also suitable for the armchair traveller.

The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain by Christopher Monger
(ISBN 0 552 14327 8)
This book has nothing directly to do with the Munros but it is a delightful novel about whether a particular protuberance in the Welsh terrain is a hill or a mountain and gives interesting insights into land surveying about one hundred years ago and also, perhaps, into the Welsh soul. It was filmed in 1995 – the book, not the soul.

02 August, 2014

Elimination Puzzle – Issue 83 The Solution, Results & Comment

Geoff De’Ath

On the 16th April a white envelope correctly addressed to me as, inter alia,“emeritus” (something I’ve always wanted to be as well as “pundit”, “polymath” or “oligarch” – fat chance) drooped through our letter box. (I intended to say “dropped” but changed my mind). No prizes for guessing whence it came ……….. but inside was an A4 sheet of ruled paper on which Mr. Teabags (who else?) gave his solution to this puzzle. For artistic impression it was good. No doubt about that. It was attractively stamped round the edges in a variety of smudgy green, blue and yellow stamps (inc. tortoise) bearing the optimistic captions “getting there”, “outstanding” etc., and there were five neatly ruled vertical columns containing the clue letter and the two relevant words and number that applied. All done by hand and clearly set out. Very stylish. It had impact. I liked it. I liked it a lot………Nice… When it came to technical merit……..a different story; very different. I suppose getting about two thirds of the clues is tolerable but in many cases one of the two words was right but not the other – how he managed to associate “rump” with “flower” or “hammer” with “gate” is beyond me! Such aberrations cause chaos amongst the remaining words. But he had a spirited go and strangely finished up with the right “odd” word – which led, immediately below his solution to the following lyrics of a popular wartime song which the wife believes used to be sung by Anne Shelton (can anybody please confirm this?)
There’s something about a soldier, something about a soldier, 
something about a soldier that is fine, fine, fine.
He may be a great big general, he may be a sergeant major,
he may be a simple private of the line, line, line.
But there’s something about his bearing, something in what he’s wearing, 
something about his buttons all a-shine, shine, shine.
Oh, a military chest seems to suit the ladies best.
There’s something about a soldier that is fine, fine, fine.
……….So now you all know the odd word!
There was room, on the right-hand side of the fifth column, for the following, typed, comment:
“I have a hell of a game sorting out the words. They have been jaggled, jeggled, jiggled, juggled and yes, even JOGLED (get it?). Well, never mind, because I’ve decided the odd word out is……….(WAIT FOR IT……………) SOLDIER”.
………..And that’s not all. At the foot of his letter he has written:
“I now need a holiday or at least a break after this gruelling quiz. If the postmark is different to my normal one, you’ll know where I am. I’ll write to you again – when I’ve recuperated and tackled Quo Vadis?”*
With that single sentence, “……you’ll know where I am……….” he poses more questions than he’s answered. What does he mean by it? I obviously scrutinized the postmark on the envelope (something I don’t normally do) which clearly stated Southampton. Now that is interesting. At the risk of upsetting somebody or everybody, for which apologies in advance, surely Southampton is not somewhere people go for a holiday. It might be a means to an end but it can hardly be considered an end in itself…………can it? So, casually telling us “you’ll know where I am……….” does no such thing.

Where is his holiday destination? I think of Southampton primarily as a ferry and liner/cruise ship terminal. So I deduce his holiday must be in one of three places. The first is the nearest from the mainland – the Isle of Wight, a popular and much visited island which he could comfortably cycle round in a day. The second is a trans-Atlantic voyage on one of the Queens to New York for sightseeing and self- indulgent RT and the third is a cruise on one of the many ships for which Southampton is the home port. Did the ship turn left at the Nab Tower for a northern European destination, e.g. the Baltic, or right to the Med. for the Balearics, or even the Caribbean? I think we are entitled to know and we should not have to guess or speculate, so please, Mr. Teabags, write to our Editor with a full and frank explanation so she can publish it in the winter issue. An account of your vacational antics would be even better.

The next response, as an e-mail attachment, came from highly respected and long-standing member from Sweden, Krister Andrén. His correct/incorrect pairings were very similar to Mr. Teabags’s though his “odd” word was not correct. Considering English is not his first language I have the greatest admiration for him. Apart from the word Hej which he has taught me and means Hello I don’t know a word of Swedish let alone begin to understand or attempt to answer a similar quiz all in Swedish!

I then received two more solutions – from John and Margaret Desborough. Their envelope was addressed to “Quiz Master Extraordinaire”. Save for a single word being switched, they were identical. You will see the solution I was looking for at the end of this article and it is different from John’s and Margaret’s though that is not to infer that theirs are wrong; just not quite the same and frankly I never knew that “soldier” and “hammer” were both types of orchid – hence flowers. For the two synonyms they both gave “joy” and “triumph” whereas I expected “joy” and “elation” only to be informed that “elation” is apparently the model of a Citroen car! Never knew that either! Interestingly, in my Collins Paperback Thesaurus, “triumph” is not given as a synonym for “joy” (whereas “elation” is), though “joy” is given as a synonym for “triumph” (as is “elation”). An anomaly and a dilemma for me. However, I think and hope you all agree with me that “test” is not normally associated with “crossing” (as they have asserted). Are not “ford” and “double” more obvious or am I missing something?

Krister enquires how I construct my puzzles: “Could you perhaps tell us sufferers a little bit about it? A page or two in the next QV??”.Well, Krister, it hardly deserves that amount of space. I remembered that years ago the Sunday Telegraph ran an Elimination Puzzle so I decided to replicate it. Constructing one is a lot easier (I find) than trying to solve one (the same goes for crosswords).

All I do is think of a word with which perhaps two or more can be associated. For example, the word black has many associations – “mark”, “day” and “board” are just three possibilities. But each of those words may also be associated with others – mark = “water”, “tide”, “hall”; day = “time”, “break”, “wedding” and board = “room”, “hard”, “card”, “drawing” etc. and drawing might go with “pin” or “room” (again!). So that’s easy; the tricky bit is for you to sort out which is which and which cannot be associated – for example “board” and “tide” don’t go together, nor do “black” and “pin”. Another old chestnut is the “flower”. Is this a river or a bloom?

Of course, anagrams and synonyms usually and hopefully have no alternatives (except when J or M D are around!) and some pairings are “straight” – e.g. two birds – skylark and goldcrest, neither of which has other words with which they can commonly be linked (at least I don’t think so!). The knack is to have pairs of words that are neither too obvious nor too obscure. I assure you it is a lot simpler than you might think. So now it’s your turn, Krister. You relish a challenge and I’m sure that for a man who has walked End to End pushing a rebuilt shopping trolley containing your paraphernalia you’ll find this a doddle. I know Katharine is longing to hear from you and it’s an opportunity for you to wreak revenge – and exhort me to have a go! I’m looking forward to doing so after your puzzle appears in next winter’s issue – if it’s not too difficult! Just one condition, though. Please do it in English! Most of us have trouble coping with our own language and we get few enough solutions as it is, so to do it in Swedish would really put the mockers on it!!

I didn’t really expect any more solutions but on opening my e-mails on Easter Monday, there was one from John Blanchard. As far as I recall, John has never responded to my previous puzzles, but he writes,
I have often amused myself with your puzzles in the past but I have never given enough time to get anywhere near a solution. However, on this occasion I think I have paired off 36 words fairly logically so I am writing in to say I make the odd one out No. 19 – soldier."
John attached the spreadsheet on which he had given his pairings …………………. And WAIT FOR IT…….. I am delighted to announce that they were spot on – all of them correct! Congratulations John! A much deserved book token has been posted to him.

My Solution – and John Blanchard’s:

2 field events 12 discus 30 hammer
2 flowers 29 test 14 tweed
2 combine to be of no value 11 worth 36 less
…just the opposite for these 28 price 24 less
2 make musical instrument 7 glass 8 harmonica
2 containers 6 can 27 tin
2 for an anagram 13 acre 23 acer
2 associated with crossing 4 double 22 ford
2 makes/models of car 2 triumph 34 javelin
2 may be suits 1 pinstripe 21 hearts
2 make transitional section 15 bridge 31 passage
2 synonyms 3 joy 35 elation
2 birds 5 garganey 37 scaup
2 gates 16 bill 20 flood
2 combine for security 9 pad 32 lock
2 parts of a bird 17 breast 25 rump
2 organs 10 barrell 26 ear
2 trees 18 yew 33 ash

Which leaves: 19 soldier.

Since typing this in late April I have been patiently waiting to hear more from Mr. Teabags. It is now almost the end of May and so far not a word. Nothing. From this I deduce there are two possible explanations: either he is still enjoying his protracted holiday or he is still tackling the last issue. Surely he could not have forgotten…………….

Fire, Ambulance & Police: Driving three vintage emergency vehicles from Land’s End to John O’Groats

by Dave Loud 

After completing the first challenge successfully of driving a vintage fire engine from Land’s End to John O’Groats and back, the fumes, concentration and the constant threat of breaking down in itself would put most people off attempting to drive vintage vehicles from one end of the country to the other and back, again. But to make up for all that I took great comfort in the people I met on the way - so kind, helpful and willing to assist you on your way. Thanks to the like-minded people who relish the challenge and shared their experiences, I decided to complete the challenge.

I started to look around for a vintage Ambulance, but finding one was not easy. Most were either converted into mobile homes or ice-cream vans and the rest were in museums. There were a few in private hands but they were not for sale at any price. It was only by chance I stumbled across an advert “Ambulance for hire” on the net. It was about the right age, and being used in the filming industry. I rang the gentleman hoping to hire it and as luck would have it he had just decided to sell it that week, so I bought it there and then on the phone.

That was October last year. It took me about three months to go through the engine and all the working parts so that I was confident it had a chance to make such a long journey. Once that was completed it was just a matter of timing time off work and the weather, so I decided to do the first part from Bridgwater to Land’s End and back over a weekend to save holiday from work, leaving on Friday night and hoping to be back Sunday afternoon. I waited and waited but it was not until March that the weather was good enough to go.

The first leg of the journey was non-eventful. From Bridgwater to Land’s End I quite enjoyed waving to people who stopped and stared at the old Ambulance passing by. On the return leg it was different: first there was a puncture, then the engine started to play up, and finally the exhaust developed a large hole in it, so I was glad to see the Bridgwater sign.

I spent about a week or so repairing the Ambulance with a new exhaust box and two new tyres. The engine was more problematic - it took me ages to work out why it kept spluttering and losing power. Finally by process of elimination I found the petrol tank had been contaminated with either rust or sand and was clogging up the carburettor thus starving the engine of fuel. Now with the Ambulance fitted with a fuel filter and its petrol tank cleaned, I started to think of the next leg, Bridgwater to John O’Groats and back, and also count my blessings that these problems hadn’t occurred somewhere in the remote parts of Scotland.

As I said at the beginning, the weather was being watched for the best time to attempt the journey. It was still snowing in the highlands of Scotland and I needed a window of opportunity to go on the second leg. Some may say, “Why not wait for summer?” - my ideal was to attempt the journey in the early part of the year so that the temperature would be lower. This would help keep the engine cooler as engines of that age were not designed to cool themselves as well as modern ones.

Finally the window of opportunity came and I set off carrying spares and food. The first day went well and the weather was good. Traffic was light and I made good headway: after seven hours and three hundred miles of driving I arrived on the Scottish border and parked for the night. I used the Ambulance as a mobile home - the bed was quite comfortable. I had a good night’s sleep only to wake to the Ambulance surrounded by local people who were wondering where this old Ambulance had come from.

The second day was just as good - weather fine and traffic light. The trip through the mountains was quite splendid. The snow line was level with the road but not on it; at one time I could see both the sun and the moon, and as night fell which was about one hour early in that part of Scotland, the light on the mountains was quite eerie. I made just short of Inverness that night. The Ambulance was going great and by then I started to relax and enjoy it.

The third day I reached John O Groat’s around dinner time with no problems, took some photos and chatted with the locals and had the Ambulance pictured outside the local coffee shop so they could put it on their website.

I started the journey back at about three in the afternoon after offering a lift to a fellow traveller who want a ride back to the nearest large town, which was Thurso - and he enjoyed the ride. From Thurso I set off again, hoping to get to Nettle Bridge which is south of Inverness, where I knew I could get a great breakfast in a golf club in the morning. Night fell and I found myself getting quite tired so I stopped for a rest and wondered if I should stay the night there or go on. I decided to do the last sixty miles on to Nettle Bridge.

I found on the way up that it was better to travel in the early morning and early evening to avoid holding up traffic, as I was only capable of about forty-five miles per hour top speed, and long queues were forming behind me on single carriageways, and I had a few people wave at me for the wrong reasons.

After a good night’s sleep in Nettle Bridge and a good breakfast I decided to stay and look around the area for a few hours to give me more time to rest, and later that day set off for the border taking the A9 south though the snow-capped mountains. The weather had got quite bad: it started to snow, and there were gale-force winds for about seventy miles. On the other side of the mountains the weather became a lot better with some showers and light winds. All was going great until about fifteen miles north of Perth when the exhaust came off and the Ambulance was making a horrible noise. I pulled into an industrial park where a garage mechanic put it on a ramp so he could see where it was damaged or had come off, and told me to come back in about an hour, which I did after going downtown and getting a paper.

When I got back to the garage not only was the Ambulance fixed but there was a crowd of people who had come to see this vintage vehicle. Having spent about an hour talking with them, I went to pay the garage mechanic and to my astonishment he would not let me pay: “On the house!” he said, “Anybody who drives a vehicle like that from one end of the country to the other needs all the help he can get.” With that I went to the local shop and bought him some flowers for his wife and a bottle of wine for him, and went back to the garage to give it to him. In his Scottish voice he said, “’Ark I’ll not take both those home in the same week laddie - she will think I’m going soft. I’ll take the flowers today and the wine next week, thank you!” With that, off I went, heading south on the way to the border.

Having spent a night on the border, I set off down the M6 to the M5 all the way to Bridgwater for home. This was uneventful other than I had an Ambulance on a blue light run slow on the M5 as they passed so they could take a photo!

Now I’m going to have a well-earned rest before I attempt the third challenge with a Police car, which I have already bought.

01 August, 2014

New Cornish Safety Model

from Geoff De’Ath 

Cyclists desperate to improve safety on Cornwall’s main arterial road, the A30, on which two End to End cyclists died last year after collision with a lorry, are hoping to place life-sized model cyclists along the route to alert drivers of their presence. Bike Cornwall, the local cycling group, are campaigning to install the models and a spokesman for the group said that most cyclists on the dual carriageway section of the road are End to Enders who want to get through Cornwall very fast and the road often sees vehicle speeds in excess of 70 and 80mph. The spokesman added that there is no signage warning drivers about cyclists, more and more of whom were taking that route because it was the quickest way through Cornwall. He thought models would be a great way of engaging the community, and children could design signs and make it a campaign to raise awareness.

A CTC official explained that the Highways Agency would probably remove any model bikes because of the possible distraction for drivers. This is ironic, as it is to show people are not observing cyclists on the road. He added that campaigners were in talks with the council to add a cycle track along sections of the A30 as part of a road-widening scheme but were falling foul of the usual excuses. It was yet another scheme where, despite a national commitment to improve cycle safety, at a local level there were the familiar reasons for not doing so - lack of money and insufficient space and cyclists. He believed the council was not looking to the future and the CTC wanted to increase tourism, and considered that many more people would use it for commuting if it were safer to use.

31 July, 2014

Bicycle Safety in South Africa

by Elaine Crawford

Cycling is a very popular sport in South Africa enjoyed by very many people, but it is a potentially dangerous sport. When participating in organised events, the wearing of bicycle helmets is compulsory. “No helmet, No ride” is the motto of the organisers. When cycling casually, the wearing of bicycle helmets is encouraged. In South Africa, we do have an exceptional volume of traffic on our roads. Only recently are the authorities adding “cycling lanes” to the road system. Funds from the Roads Department are very limited so this process will take time. Cyclists are not allowed to cycle on our Freeways (Motorways).

We do have a Pedal Power Association in South Africa (PPA) who arrange organised cycle rides both off-road and on-road. There are road marshals in attendance warning cars that bicycles are using the road for an event in progress. In order to increase “Bicycle Safety”, PPA have recently had a law passed enforcing cars to leave a distance of 1.5 metres between the cyclist and the car (or any motorised vehicle) when passing. Cycle shirts (pictured) have been made and are sold to cyclists by our PPA at a reduced cost. Bumper stickers are also available.


Editor's note:
Congratulations to Elaine on the arrival of her fourth grandchild: her younger son and his wife had a little boy in May. She writes that he has a mop of dark hair and is so beautiful. Now she has 4 grandchildren: 2 girls and 2 boys. Planned that well, didn't they?

And some more news from Elaine: “I would still like to do another End to End. Hopefully this year. I have not cycled the Argus Cycle Tour [the world's largest timed cycle race] for 3 years so I am not up to date on it I am afraid to say. I did enter to ride this year, but the wind was blowing so strongly and I cannot cycle down Chapman’s Peak in those strong gusts of wind. There were some bad accidents but 32,000 did cross the finish line.”

30 July, 2014

The Royal Festival Hall Revisited

by Geoff De’Ath

“We would like a full report please”. These words were contained in an e-mail sent to me by a Very Distinguished Member to whom I had written, telling him that Anne and I had spent most of the voucher for £100 which had so generously been given to me by members of the Association at the Presentation Dinner during the Torquay Weekend in January. To all of you, I would like to repeat my sincere thanks for this handsome gift. It was totally unexpected and most kind.

We bought two tickets for a concert in the Royal Festival Hall on the 8th April. Anne and I go to so many recitals, usually piano or instrumental, at lunchtime at a variety of venues in London – the Royal Academy of Music, the LSE (both during term time), St. Lawrence Jewry plus other churches in the City, where we are fortunate enough to listen to highly talented students or mature musicians, often of international renown, that, by way of a change, we decided to forsake the warmth and intimacy of these familiar places for a full blooded orchestral concert in the Festival Hall. We had not been there for a concert for about 30 years (though when we do a South Bank walk from Westminster to the City most Mondays, we usually call in there for a brief pit stop).

My heyday goes back to the mid - late 1950s when, with a group of my pals, I used to go there regularly. I was an articled clerk in an office in Norfolk Street which ran from the Strand to the Embankment (Norfolk Street no longer exists), so it was easy for me to nip over Waterloo Bridge in my lunch hour and buy tickets.

This was at the time Klemperer and the Philharmonia reigned supreme, Josef Krips conducted the LSO in a Beethoven cycle, an annual Hoffnung concert always sold out, Geraint Jones and others gave early evening organ recitals, I once saw Dr. Albert Schweitzer in the audience and Von Karajan conducted with his eyes closed throughout – I know this because in the evening of the last day of my finals in November1958 we sat in the orchestra stalls and listened to/watched him conducting a thrilling performance of Bartok’s concerto for orchestra, never once looking at the members of the orchestra or, apparently, the score! Quite extraordinary. I believe tickets were about 5/- at the time; a bit different from today’s prices; ours were £38 each!

So back to the 8th April which happened to be a beautifully fine and warm evening. We arrived in plenty of time for a drink before taking our seats in the centre of the stalls; perfect. The dress code has certainly changed in the last 30 years. In the 1980s most of the audience dressed up and the men wore suits and ties. Now, more or less anything goes – but where is this not the case today?

However, the enthusiasm was as keen as ever and as the auditorium filled to capacity, the buzz of expectation palpably increased. Hardly surprising with the appearance of the prestigious Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (the majority of whom were women including the leader of the second violins who is head of the Historical Performance department at the Royal Academy and has the wonderful name, Margaret Faultless) playing period instruments and conducted by the highly esteemed Semyon Bychkov which raised this above the level of a routine concert; it was an occasion. They performed Beethoven’s 7th and Schubert’s 9th symphonies (the Schubert being particularly close to my heart), and, as you might expect, were rapturously applauded. We could not have chosen a more uplifting programme which was broadcast live on Radio 3. Did anybody hear it? It was definitely one of the highlights of our musical year so far.

Thanks to all of you, it was a memorably enjoyable evening…. And we still have £24 of the voucher left! As there is no expiry date, we shall take our time…….but who knows? I might do another write up before the year is out!

29 July, 2014

The Queen’s Baton

from Harry Waugh

In 2012 I think there was an Olympic Torch Relay article in Quo Vadis? which featured a few End-to-Enders who carried the Torch when it was relayed from Land's End to John o'Groats as part of the world's longest relay.

I was wondering if we were doing something similar with End-to-Enders who carried the Queens Baton for this year's Commonwealth Games? Once more I had the privilege and the honour to do just that as the Baton came through Dumfries and Galloway on the 19th June 2014. How many of us End-to-Enders have done both, or is it just me? I would be interested in finding out.

Left: Harry with the Olympic Torch in Cairnryan, June 2012
Middle and Right: Harry holding the Queen's Baton high for his stroll down the Leswalt High Road, Stranraer, June 2014

Editor's note:

Harry Waugh was 67 when he carried the Olympic flame through Cairnryan in 2012. Here is an excerpt from his nomination letter:
I met Harry in the local pool and although I have been a swimmer for years I had no idea that I had the potential he saw in me. He used his expertise to help me to train for 3 years to achieve an unbelievable goal: for my 50th birthday I swam from Ailsa Craig to Girvan beach which is about 11 miles but ended up being 17.5 miles due to adverse tides. Harry was beside me the whole way in a fishing boat.

Harry stood on the beach for hours in all weathers while I trained sending me signals and encouragement. In his sea kayak he was by my side as we tackled challenging training swims. I raised over £13,000 for Alzheimer Scotland by listening to his endless ideas about fundraising to which he is no stranger. Harry is a community activist and an inspirational athlete; he challenges himself and others to events and activities.

Last year he completed the 10 Tors challenge on Dartmoor as part of a team of men who were the first boys to tackle the challenge in their teens. Fearless and determined, Harry inspires me to be the best and to achieve what seems out of reach. He's a loyal and loving friend; I can't think of anyone more deserving to be part of the greatest sporting event in the world.
Congratulations to Harry for both of his relays - what a lovely event to be a part of! Were any others of our Members Bearers of the Queen's Baton this year?

28 July, 2014

An Offer of Accommodation from Harry:

from Harry Waugh:

Here are a couple of cottages that I am letting out in South-West Scotland. The village is called New Luce. I have hosted 3 End-to-Enders this year to date. There’s free bed and breakfast for those who are daft/brave enough to include S.W. Scotland in their Journey North or South. Contact me for availability - I am often away doing my own mad things. Have fun all you crazy people!

Email: chucksandducks@hotmail.co.uk

27 July, 2014

A Long-Distance Walker

by John Desborough 

After walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End in May/June 2000 and from Land’s End to John O’Groats in May/June 2003, I have given a talk on the subject at 28 different local locations, to ladies’ groups, men’s groups and mixed groups. Two questions are frequently asked, namely, “Have you always walked long distances?” and “Where will your next long-distance walk be?”

Have I always walked long distances? No. My very first long-distance walk was from John O’Groats to Land’s End, and it was to celebrate my 60th birthday (which I celebrated at Camelford just two days from Land’s End) and was in response to an article which appeared in the Saga Magazine. In this article David White invited Saga readers to help prove that the over 50s are not short of energy, commitment or discipline. His article concluded with these words: “Even though, in others’ opinion, I suffer from all the ailments of age, I intend to walk from one end of Britain to the other and gather some of my peers en route.” He was very disappointed that no-one joined him! Whilst not agreeing with all his sentiments, it inspired me to have a go. I completed 1,000 miles’ training on Dartmoor. At the conclusion of the training I knew that my body wouldn’t let me down.

At the last group I spoke to I was introduced as “a serious long-distance walker.” Personally I do not see myself as a serious walker, for that title belongs to those who complete the LEJOG walk entirely off road, usually along national trails, across moorlands and on canal towpaths, etc. I covered the walk almost entirely on tarmac so that Margaret (my wife) could drop me off and pick me up at an agreed location each day.

I found the experience very exciting because I could enjoy the scenery, whilst filling my mind with unusual street names, odd street notices like “Caution – heavy plant crossing,” and meet lots of people. Some stopped and chatted, some wanted to know all about the walk (and the Association) and a few just said hello. Vehicle drivers flashed their lights, blew their horns and cheered me on my way. Every layby café offered me a drink and food at no cost (I always accepted a mug of tea but declined the food offer). I sang almost all the way and once, having sung whilst walking along with a lady, was introduced to her friend as “the singing walker”. I was asked for my autograph, and received a number of gifts for my chosen charity. I also met a number of cyclists who passed me on their way to John O’Groats. They were always very encouraging, expressing their surprise that I was walking on average 23 miles a day and left me with the words “See you at JOG” to which I always replied, “Not at my pace you won’t”. I think I would have missed all this if I had been a “serious walker” off road.

My answer to the question, “Where will your next long distance walk be?” depended on when the question was raised. Since my two walks recorded by the Association, I have walked 4,000 miles round the coast of Britain (over a period of 6 Mays and 6 Septembers), twice walked The West Highland Way (the second time walking with Margaret), spent two weeks on the Isle of Arran, and walked the Offa’s Dyke Path.

I am not a serious long-distance walker; I am a fun walker and will continue to walk until I no longer find it pleasurable as well as challenging.

The Coast-to-Coast Walk

This May I completed Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay. It was not "a piece of cake" as was expected by some. I found it very strenuous at times; every day was different - in terrain, in gradients, in wildlife, and in the number of fellow walkers I met.

I was nicknamed the sprinter, the fast old man, the marathon chaser and other names I couldn't repeat but they were all very good-natured comments/titles and Margaret was praised very highly for her part in my solo walk.

I had one or two days when there was a threat of a shower or two and I always carried my mac in my rucksack just in case. One day I had a very long and heavy drizzle when I was between Rosthwaite and Grasmere – walking from cairn to cairn before the descent into the valley leading to Grasmere. The stone steps up from Rosthwaite were all wet with a stream running down them, as was the descent into the valley leading to Grasmere.

The only other rain was as I left the woodland on the approach to Richmond. I already had my waterproof trousers on and quickly put on my mac. In seconds the heavens opened and the next twenty minutes was a real soaker. By the time I reached the Tourist Information Centre, where I was due to meet Margaret, the road and pavement were awash with water, not just a stream but a river, with it coming halfway up my boots! Whilst I waited for Margaret – I phoned her and she was just a few doors away in a café – the rain turned to hail resulting in a heavy covering on the roads and pavement which looked like snow but was very slippery.

The Black Sail YHA Hut (midway between Ennerdale Bridge and Rosthwaite) has obviously had a very recent, good make-over. It was occupied by two couples also doing the C2C walk and they were having their packed lunch whilst sheltering from a very blustery wind. There was a land-rover parked at the side of the hostel but no sign of a warden!

I was a bit concerned that I might lose my way crossing the Lake District because there were no C2C way markers and I cannot read a compass. However, I had Martin Wainwright’s book “The Coast to Coast Walk” which included a map of each section plus a detailed description of the route.

Walking from Patterdale to Shap I stopped to eat my lunch at the point where I could see The High Street (the roman road) continuing directly in front of me and the path leading to Kidsty Pike on my left. A number of walkers went straight passed me and would have walked straight ahead and joined The High Street. I told them that I thought they needed to turn left if they were heading for Kidsty Pike and Shap. One group were walking using the Ordnance Survey maps, another group were using GPS(?) and others were using Wainwright’s book. It took a lot of persuading for them to turn left but I passed them all later and they were very grateful to me for my advice. Proof, if any was needed, that my book was the most reliable and saved me from any further worry.

I nearly lost my way after negotiating the steep climb out of Grosmont. My book said “look out for a cattle grid, walk straight ahead where the road bears off to the left and be careful crossing the main road and walking down to Hawsker”. Well, I crossed a cattle grid and looked at my map which showed a footpath immediately going right and another going directly left and up to a disused quarry, but the path and road continued straight ahead. It took me a long time and effort to find the right path (after a couple of attempts walking across the heathland) but I finally did after I crossed a second cattle grid which was not shown on my map. This was the only time I was let down by my book.

Most of the other walkers I met – and passed - were also walking just with day packs, having their luggage transported by “Sherpa”, “Packhorse”, or by supporters like Margaret. Of the dozens of walkers, I only met 4 men who had huge rucksacks on their backs. None of my fellow walkers envied me my speed but they almost all envied me having my wife support me in the car and, when they met her at one of the various Hostels or B&Bs, told her so.

I completed every day’s walk within minutes of the time suggested in my book which worked out at 2 mph each day except for the two 18 miles stretches when we were expected to walk at 3 mph, which wasn’t easy. A Dutch man caught up with me as I sat and ate a banana and had a drink having walked up the steep road from Kirkby Stephen and heading for Keld. He was convinced that I was a local man, used to walking in the Lake District because “you always look so relaxed and make the climbs look easy”.

I had remembered to pick up a pebble at St Bees, and I threw it into the sea at Robin Hood’s Bay and bought myself a certificate. I completed each day with a genuine sense of achievement and was so glad that I did it. It was probably the hardest walk thus far but I haven’t stop walking yet!

26 July, 2014

GB ExtremeTour 2013

by Graham Brain, winner of the Joan Cave Memorial Trophy

20th May 2013 to 23rd June 2013

My wife and I went to Land’s End for the first time in September 2011 and whilst there we visited the “End to End” story. As I looked at the exhibit, I took in the amazing journeys others had taken. I looked and wished that I had undertaken the journey when I was younger, lighter and fitter, but in the days that followed, I kept thinking about the possibility of still doing it, or at least having a go, and this is when the idea for my adventure began.

I looked at the route and thought, given the right amount of dieting and training over the next 18 months; I could try and cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s Ends. As time went by, I thought that it would be nice to put a different slant on it and slowly the idea began to evolve of taking in the UK mainland four extreme compass points, Dunnet Head, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, Lowestoft Ness and the Lizard, all sort of en route (Not).

Fortunately or unfortunately, this idea seemed to grow and take on a life of its own: I would also visit the highest, (Ben Nevis - just because I was passing by) and lowest (Holme Fen); then the most central (Whalley – not including the islands) followed by the furthest point from the sea in any direction (Church Flatts).

The furthest point from the sea, Church Flatts
In conversation, someone suggested that I should really visit a geographical extreme where I live in Wales, so after a lot of searching, I chose the highest tidal flow in the UK which is along the Severn estuary. This latest extreme together with the other points, the furthest distance between to UK mainland settlements and the journey being against the prevailing wind meant I now had a journey with 10 geographical extremes on route and one to battle against, the prevailing wind, and boy at times it certainly was a battle. With all the extremes, the distance increased from the 874 miles to 1,500ish miles. To accomplish this, I allowed 35 days which included 4 rest days and a day to go up and down Ben Nevis, the highest extreme.

To help with the planning, over the five day period of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee weekend, my wife and I drove the route and it was only then I realised the enormity of the challenge. In preparation, I lost 4 stones (1/2 of a hundredweight or approximately 25.5 kg), bought a bike and tried to get some in training on the hilly lanes of the Vale of Glamorgan. Unfortunately with the winter of 2012-13, I only really only got out on my bike from early March 2013, not ideal as I had planned to start my adventure on May 20th! However I did manage a dozen or so shorter training runs and three or four longer ones including a 56 mile trip from Brecon to Cardiff Bay along the Taff Trail.

About two to three weeks prior to the start, I started getting problems with my left knee and not wanting to wimp out, as most of my friends and family thought I would, I managed to stock up on a carrier bag full of anti-inflammatory pills and painkillers from my GP which helped to keep me going throughout the journey.

Encouragement from the grandchildren!
After 18 months of planning and over 100 telephone calls that my wife made to sort out my accommodation, I was ready. At the age of 62 at, 9 A.M. on the 20th May 2013, a grey and misty morning, I started my adventure from Dunnet Head and headed to John O’Groats and from there southwards, towards Land’s End my final destination, but with a few minor detours on route to take in the extreme points.

Throughout my journey I had many low points, one of which was the weather: the battle against the wind, rain, hail and sub zero temperatures (yes even in late May) as I cycled down A9 alongside the Cromarty Firth, but that day dwindled into insignificance compared to getting up the morning after my 11.5 hour round trip to the summit of Ben Nevis! I staggered to the breakfast room on incredibly painful legs that felt like lead weights, in full knowledge of the 52 mile forthcoming long haul up and over Glencoe and Rannoch Moor on my bicycle. I could hardly walk and the only way to get on my bike was to stand on some steps to enable me to get my leg over the saddle.

View from the top of Glencoe
On the other hand, I had some fantastic experiences and highs and three of these really stand out. The first when I succeeded in cycling over Glencoe and Rannoch Moor to my destination after the experience of Ben Nevis the previous day. The second was in reaching the most Easterly point at Lowestoft Ness, which meant that when I turned around, I was at last heading in a westerly direction towards my last couple of extremes and Land's End.

Jack, Graham and Clare at Holme Fenn, the lowest point
I had to wait until the end was in sight for the third high point, the icing on the cake. On arriving at the entrance to Land’s End, I was met by my eldest daughter (my youngest had cycled with me from The Lizard) and her husband along with their 3 children, my wonderful grandchildren, Hannah 6, Adam 4 and Tessa 3, all on bicycles to cycle the last 200m to the end of my amazing adventure.

On completion of my journey, I went to see my consultant over my left knee, and had a half knee joint replaced. I now have two matching scars on my knees; my right knee was replaced in late 2009.
The Isles of Egg and Rum
I undertook the challenge not only for personal reasons, but, as I have worked in an industry closely aligned to road safety for almost 30 years, also to try to promote road safety within the UK. So the charity I chose to benefit from my challenge was Brake. I have raised just over £9,500 to help them carry out their vital work. Brake is an independent road safety charity which exists to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads and to provide support for families bereaved and people seriously injured in road crashes. It relies solely on donations from individuals and charitable grants.

I attended the 2013 National Safer Roads Partnership Conference with my colleagues on behalf of Serco as an exhibitor. At the gala dinner, I presented Laura Woods, Research & Information Officer for Brake, with the ceremonial cheque for the monies raised by my GB Extreme Tour cycle challenge. To my complete surprise I was then presented with the first “Annual Road Safety Support Award for Individual Excellence in Promotion of Road Safety” by Meredydd Hughes CBE, Executive Chairman Of Road Safety Support Ltd.

Graham and Laura Woods
Editor: Congratulations to Graham, for both well-deserved awards, and for sticking with what sounds like a gruelling journey, to the end.

The full account of Graham's journey can be found at: gbextremetour.wordpress.com You can email him at: gjbrain@gmail.com

Graham at Land's End