CYCLE BLOG: Fenland man braves Yorkshire Dales to reach Scotland in 1000-mile bike ride

A FENLAND man who is cycling the length of the country in memory of his father has braved punishing hills and pouring rain to make it to Scotland.

James Fuller, from Chatteris - who describes himself as a non-cyclist - is now nine days into the 1000-mile Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge and has reached Cheshire.

The 38-year-old is tackling the ride in a tribute to his father Tony, who died from a heart attack in 2009. He is raising money for the British Heart Foundation and can be sponsored by visiting www.justgiving.com/James-Fuller1

Blogging exclusively for The Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard, James Fuller wrote:

Day 7 of 15 Acton Bridge to Clitheroe

Setting off from Acton Bridge, just short of Warrington, we biked through some delightful Cheshire villages until we hit the outskirts of Manchester.

As contrasts go this was pretty stark and, as we cycled through industrial estates and rundown rows of terraced homes, for the first time on the trip we didn’t feel out of place in lycra and shiny shellsuit tops.

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It’s the sort of area where you don’t argue with the women let alone the men, don’t look at people too long, and keep stops to a minimum; balancing on your pedals at the lights and firing away like Lewis Hamilton on the change.

You can’t help but feel the group dynamic would be severely tested here; unfortunate puncture sufferers may well find a pump being tossed over a colleague’s shoulder as they disappear over the horizon waving.

As we emerged from Manchester with a psychological sigh of relief we ventured out into the Lancashire countryside and up onto the West Pennine Moors where, at drink stops, there was a reassuringly plentiful amount of “allo luv’s” and “alright chuck’s” being thrown about.

The wind had an edge to it today and though conditions stayed cool and overcast the predicted rain mercifully stayed away.

So a good day in all and I fully expect to be sat at home watching Corrie in a couple of months time and see a yellow hi-vis cycling top flash past the Rovers Return window.

Miles Completed: 470 of 1,035

Day 8 of 15 Clitheroe to Kirkby Stephen

A glance at today’s route plan showed an encouragingly modest 54.8 miles until you realise that can mean only one thing, we’re in ‘lumpy country’ again and a tough day awaits through the Yorkshire Dales and into Cumbria.

The group leaders keep telling us our fitness will increase over the trip but for most our performance graphs seem set on a more downward trajectory.

The exhalations as people emerge from tents in the morning or whilst conducting their pre-ride ablutions are increasingly agonised; my knees have developed a habit of cracking on first leaving the horizontal with a sound not dissimilar to a bad gear change.

I maybe should have held back on the hilly hyperbole when talking about Devon because today’s ride was equally as tough. The climbs were different, not so much the short sharp shockers of the West Country more long slow grinders but the result was the same, burning quads and screaming calves.

In total we climbed 6,250 ft and descended 5,750 ft: as one group leader put it: “A rather inefficient way of gaining 500ft.” You could call it rollercoaster but of course you don’t have to drag yourself up to the top of a rollercoaster to enjoy the ride.

With the addition of some gusting winds it was a day to sort the men from the boys and I’m still very much in full possession of my toys.

There was an interesting interlude at Ingleton when, stopping for a toilet break, we were accosted by an old lady in a mac with what appeared to be a tea-cosy on her head. She was a Methodist and eager to save our souls with some trenchantly-worded leaflets. The six of us muttered our “no thank you’s” but it soon became clear she was not that easily deterred.

“Come on, you must be courageous. Who is the brave one here?”

She singled me from the herd and homed in.

“Are you the brave one?”

Given that I was avoiding eye contact with an 80-year-old woman for fear of confrontation I hardly felt the need to respond.

“I just want to save you. There are only two places to go in the end and I don’t want you to go to the wrong one.”

Fleetingly the idea of eternal salvation had appeal; the way I’d felt on the road up to Ingleton judgement day might not be far away. Yet with a few more pathetically mumbled apologies we were on our way again out into the Yorkshire Dales.

It is stunning country, high windswept peaks with rocky escarpments tumbling down into tree-lined valleys with shallow, rocky rivers over which swallows swoop and in which sandpipers bob and prod for sustenance.

Sheep and cattle graze the tussocky hillside grass which is segmented by stone walls that crisscross the countryside, dotted here and there are stone byres with slate roofs, sanctuaries from the hard weather to which this landscape looks accustomed.

You can see for miles and the winding, undulating road weaves a thin grey trail along and around the contours stretching out into the distance.

People of a certain age will remember the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, depicting the trials and tribulations of vet James Herriot played by Christopher Timothy. As we cycle along you can almost imagine Timothy driving past, winding down the window, issuing a cheery good morning and, having just averaged 6.1mph for the last 90 minutes into the teeth of a biting northerly, we could tell him where to go.

Cycling is like life, you have good days and bad days, and there’s no denying that when it’s tough you can have some deeply uncharitable thoughts.

Today there was man with four huge panniers front and back, looking like he’d packed most of his house with him, who nevertheless came whizzing past our unfettered machines up one of the steep hills.

Not only was he springing like a stag up the inclines he was smiling and trying to engage us in conversation at the same time, I cannot write what I thought.

Miles Completed: 525 of 1,035

Day 9 of 15 Kirkby Stephen to Ecclefechan (Scotland)

The moans and groans as people emerge from tents and during their ablutions in the morning are getting evermore audible and the bikes have to be lowered further each day as contracted legs struggle to make it up and over.

It’s a window into future old age, we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time comparing bodily complaints; we’re like a group of pensioners on an outing.

When you get into a routine such as the one we’re in now one day can often merge into the next and we’ve had many campsite conversations along the lines of:

“Where are we going today?”

“Don’t know.”

“Where are we now?”

“Not sure.”

The best thing that can be said about today really is that we chalked up another 73 miles, crossing the border and leaving England.

It rained pretty much from the moment we got out onto the road until we reached camp in the evening and a special flurry was saved to welcome us to Scotland.

Heralded by an all-enveloping grey overhead it was that very Scottish rain, the sort so cold, driving and penetrative that you know you’re not going to be properly warm again for hours.

But the other thing we’re learning is that this is proving a bit like childbirth, asked in the midst of the pain whether we’d do it again and you’d get a pretty definitive response, but ask an hour after the finish with a few cups of tea inside us and we’ve already convinced ourselves maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

Miles Completed: 598 of 1,035

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