Rotary Club of Great Missenden

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Charity Cycle Ride - DAILY REPORTS
Lands End to John O'Groats Sponsored Cycle Ride, for NSPCC, July - Aug 2004

 

 

5 Aug 2004, Thursday

The team arrive at Heathrow and are greeted by our club's immediate past president, Alan Maizels.

 
L to R: Simon Plews, John Shipley, Erik Nauta, Derek Lawton and Gavin Plews. [Where is Jim Grufferty?]       Photo by Alan Maizels


4 Aug 2004, Wednesday 6:10 pm

Hearty congratulations to the whole team - they made it to John O'Groats around 3 - 3:30 pm to-day!

I believe Gavin felt very emotional for about 20 miles prior to reaching JoG. He claimed those feelings had dissipated by the time he was phoning me - but I could tell from his voice that he was still very emotional.

Weather was foul to-day - another day of rain and poor visibility. Some farming is going on - but one wonders how people manage in these parts. Saw Dounreay. Saw loads of sheep and they were beavering away ... they thought the sheep were trying to tell them "buy me" ... but it turned out that they were cheering them onto their end point!

They went past a place called Dunnet ("Done it") ... and to the most easterly point Duncansby Head which is two miles farther east than JoG on the coast. They all hugged and congratulated each other. Took lots of photos, got official stamps - saw the four women they had previously crossed and so on. When the excitement was easing, they realised that Erik was missing. He had gone to the hostel!

Some health matters are slowly emerging although Gavin concealed it so far ...  Gavin has had the inevitable piles for the last five days ... the support team has got him some cream from the Chemists to supplement the Ibuprofane. John Shipley has also had sore bottom for a few days.

They tried to contact Kathy Hunter and sing Auld Lang Syne - as the first person to be advised of their success. But unfortunately she was not available.

Jim Grufferty's daughter Anne Marie has joined them. They will be going to the pub at 7 pm. In the morning, around 8:30,  Anne will take them to the airport.

Well done folks! Now it is over to us the readers of these pages to ensure we get the maximum sponsorship money as a reward for their endeavours. In case some of you had forgotten, it was all to raise money for NSPCC charity ... so please get going. Click here for donation details.


Some agonising decisions await them to celebrate tonight! Whisky or champagne or both? I said they could have one on me... 


Some pictures folks!

[Better quality high resolution photos are available on this site - especially for those with broad band internet access. For others, it may take longer to download. Please click on the appropriate button next to the photo's description if you need them]        



The team at Lands End "with the bikes"  L to R: Jim Grufferty, Eric Nauta, Simon Plews, Kathy Hunter, John Shipley, Gavin Plews and Derek Lewton.
[Click here for High Resolution photo]


The team at Lands End "without the bikes"  L to R: Erik Nauta, Alan Jones (support team), Jim Grufferty, Kathy Hunter, Gavin Plews, John Shipley, Derek Lewton, Simon Plews.
[Click here for High Resolution photo]


Watch this space for a picture gallery - Jim has sent lots of superb pictures on a CD via Jenny Plews ... and they will be added to this site shortly.


Tuesday 3 Aug 04, 6:20 pm
 
[966 miles on the clock and only 55 miles to go!]

They arrived at Thurso fairly early, at 2:30 pm. They had excellent weather in spite of forecast of rain. They were by the beach and the river Thurso. They can see people fly-fishing salmon.

About 30 to 40 miles back, they came past waterfalls [Shin waterfalls] and Shin woodlands. One of them at least saw a salmon leaping [Haven't we heard this story before from some one else?]. It was a pleasant day. Countryside was rugged and barren but not very hilly.

They are now at the coast. They can claim they have done 'coast to coast' even if they don't make it to John O'Groats! They are all talking about plans for tomorrow - the logistics of putting all the bikes and other things in the van ... and the celebrations.
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Monday 2 Aug 04, pm [921 miles completed]

Contacted Gavin in Carbisdale Castle. Apparently it is beautiful and big - it can take over 140 people. There is a Tartan carpet at the entrance. There is a great marble hall with alabaster statues of naked women.

On that day they had travelled from Glen Moriston, taking in half of Loch Ness, then through Ross and Cromarty. From high moorland, passed a number of valley divides, into farming land - Drumnadrochit - them steep hill, farming land - back in moorland again. Fertile soil. Stopped and laid in grass to have some sandwiches - looking out into Cromarty. North end of it opens out to the sea. Saw five big oil rigs for miles. There were swans at the fresh water end. Went through Muir and Dingwall. Another glorious day. Have taken photos in the castle. After settling down in the castle, they had some rain.

Only about 100 more miles to go. They expect to be at John O'Groats on Wednesday around 4 pm. The support team of Belinda and Mandy are volunteering to cook a great deal.
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Sunday 1 Aug 04. 4:30 pm [856 miles on the clock]

Gavin had left a message on the answer phone rather early. They were in the Youth Hostel at Loch Ness, right on the shore. He was sitting on the beach. One could hear the waves lapping - just three feet away from him. 

They went past various lochs. Covered 60 miles on a glorious summer day - absolutely glorious weather, glorious scenery - real joy to be alive.. didn't quite know what else to say. 

He had heard from Kathy Hunter. Apparently Paul will have to be out of work for three months and she is trying to organise an ambulance to get him back south. It seems like a long waiting game.

Incidentally he forgot to say that yesterday Eric prepared breakfast - egg fried bread, fried apple generously doused with cinnamon. It was quite a treat. For dinner, Simon prepared chicken stir-fry. All the talents of the team are coming out bit by bit. No one has seen his talents yet.

Guru has not conveyed another message from Erik's mum...
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Saturday 31 July 04, evening [Just four miles short of 800 miles on the clock and only four days to go]:

Gavin had left a message with Josefina. They arrived at Loch Lomond. It was a glorious day. 'A' roads - although they were climbing, they did not feel it. Came through Sterling, Argyle and highlands. In Glencoe tonight. Have lovely photos. Unbelievable day. Scotland is treating them well.

They will be cooking tonight as the food is not served in the youth hostel.

Couple of bums hurt but nothing to worry.

Guru has forgotten to convey the message from Erik's mum and family.
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Friday 30 July 04, pm [729 miles on the clock]:

Based on a message as well as a conversation with Gavin. They are all physically fit. 

They set off from Wanlockhead - apparently it was a lead mining village with lots of cottages for miners but only one pub. As it was cold when they started, they needed extra clothing. They had to cope with two punctures. They cylced 15 miles without seeing any hills. The route covered M74 north, South Lanarkrshire, Lark Hall, Hamilton, Rotherflanns, skirted south Glasgow. Had lunch in a pub.

They found a 20 mile cycle route - following River Clyde and Clyde canal. Went past Exhibition Centre, Science Park, tall ship, around new development centre of Clyde - into Glasgow back streets. Rather difficult to navigate ... lost a bit ... road to take them over the river was closed ... found a different route. Wouldn't recommend it due to lack of signs. Now in Alexandra, on the edge of Loch Lomond.

Staying in a mansion house after covering 70 miles. Started from Wanlockhead with misty and poor conditions but ending on a beautiful evening. The colours are fantastic. The view from the bathroom is magnificent - and it is well worth a few showers and photographs. 

In most other Youth Hostels there were usually them and just a few others. They may go to the pub together. Here, it is a big place with lots of kids rampaging all over. It can take 140 guests. The hall is impressive and gothic in style. Have to cope with midgets though.

Erik prepared curry. To-morrow is promised to be another glorious and beautiful day.
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Thursday 29 July 04 (6:40 pm):

Based on a message left by Gavin at an earlier time than usual as they were setting off to a pub.

They set off from Carlisle. Pleasant day and they crossed the Scottish border at 600 miles. They had a pleasant day. They could see a hill for 49 miles. Got more hilly ... pretty little valley.... then barren mountainous country. Dry all day and rain during the last few miles.

The Youth hostel is at Wanlockhead -  highest village in Scotland.

I passed on two messages - one from Keith Skinner to John Shipley and another from Sarah Hoddey.
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Wednesday 28 July 04 (10.10 pm):

Gavin reported. It was an 80 mile-day and the team were pretty tired. On the rest day (yesterday) they managed to meet the family, get the laundry done (wonder who did it), and did some maintenance work on the bikes.

They also met up with four other female cyclists who were a day ahead of them as they did not have the rest day. Apparently, they were delayed as they went to report that a sheep from a nearby farm was killed in an accident by a motorist. Gavin and team believe that they saw a harassed motorist go past about half-an hour earlier.

They started in the moors in a mist. Slow progress - in the hollow of the valley and then a long long climb. Most of the morning they were climbing hills. Went through Shap - known for long grinding slope up the valley. It is the place where lorries queue up and it is very slippery in winter. When they arrived at the hostel, they were pleasantly surprised with a greeting card from Paul and Angela Glover (Honorary Rotarians of Great Misssenden Rotary Club). Apparently Paul commented that the Shap road used to be much lower before it was rebuilt.

They stopped at Orton and they had heard that there was a chocolate factory. They had lunch in the park and discovered that the factory was right in front of them. They went in and stocked themselves.

They criss crossed M6 a few times... changed route slightly following advice. Went past Kendall and into Carlisle. All except one took the wrong-turn.... cost them half-an-hour. Apparently they changed routes but did not confer enough. The four girls passed them but probably they also made the same mistake. They were riding for the Heart Foundation.

They thought that the Youth Hostel would be an old brewery. But it turned out to be a University hall of residence in a fairly big complex. They had a room each for the night ... a real luxury. Gavin put up a washing line to drip dry clothing. Belinda and Mandy prepared Chili Con Carne, rice and potatoes.

They had clocked 580 miles so far.
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Tuesday 27 July - rest day ... well I suppose I needed a rest too. When I asked Jenny Plews what she thought of the team, she said it varied from "Why did I start it?" to I can't wait to get to the end!". Here is a report from Alan Jones, who is a support team member:

Lands End to John O’ Groats – 500 miles gone, 500 to go ! Half way report from ‘ Man with a Van ’

On Tuesday 27th July, the cyclists rest day I handed over the van keys to Belinda Plews and returned to Bucks with Jennie. It is good to be back in Great Missenden on a fine sunny southern morning after 8 days driving the support van from Lands End to Slaidburn, Lancashire.

In spite of being an extensive traveller, it did take some time to acclimatise to sleeping in a  small hostel dormitory, with 6 other male adults, usually in a top bunk, each person having their own, retiring, sleeping and rising idiosyncrasies. It made submarine life seem spacious ! Also sharing ‘well used’ shower and toilet facilities in hostels. I do not need to elaborate !

It was good to meet the cyclists, John, Jim, David and Erik whom I had not met before. They complemented a determined and sociable team. My reflections on the cycle ride so far are :-

  • Huge admiration for all the cyclists, each having their own personal challenges especially given that 4 are well over 50 and 1 over 60 years of age.
  • Congratulations to Gavin and the team for the thoroughness and professionalism of the organisation. All issues and possible contingencies have been thought through and provided for well ahead of the event. These include training, diet, spares, detail routing, systems, back-up etc.
  • The fantastic countryside in England, which we often take for granted from Cornwall and Devon up through Somerset and the Wye Valley into Shropshire, then up to the Lancashire moors.

In supporting the team I have visited many supermarkets catering for all palates and other shops to meet various needs including opticians, chemists and cycle shops and – oh yes, one or two Pubs. It was good to join up with George Tyler in Devon for research on dining establishments. Erik has emerged as something of a culinary expert and in Clun with assistance from Kathy and Simon prepared an excellent meal for all. My daily shopping duties included at least 2 bottles of red wine, some beer and Dutch lager to compliment Erik’s cooking. 

No crises arose in the first week which involved repairs to cycles or cyclists  on the road but I was sad to divert to Yorkshire on Monday 27th July to reunite Kathy with Imogen and Paul’s family and we all wish him a speedy recovery.  

This is a fine Rotary project by our President including challenge, achievement, fellowship and the Plews family involvement. Sadly other commitments prevent me from being in John O’ Groats to congratulate everyone on their assured success.

Best wishes to all
Alan Jones

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Monday 26 July (8 pm):

Gavin reported from the middle of a road (as the mobile signals were better) by a pub called 'Hark to Bounty' in Slaidburn (near Clitheroe). 

During the day, unfortunately, Kathy Hunter was called back as her husband Paul was in intensive care suspected of a kidney stone. We all wish him a speedy recovery.

The team covered 85 miles - the longest ever and they were all very pleased they could do it reasonably comfortably. They had three hours of light rain but it does start to get cold after a while. They stopped at a pub, and some had sandwiches. The sun then came through.

They travelled from Chester covering North Lancashire - the industrial north including Bolton and Blackpool. From the high points of the moors, they could see the whole of Manchester and Liverpool. They could see across the Lake District and Blackpool Tower. The scenery was even better when the sun came up. They went down cracking hills around 40 mph. Within the last five miles, they crossed through the 500 mile mark - half-way from Lands End to John O' Groats.

They will spend two nights at Slaidburn. It is a small village with stone houses and fantastic green hills. Jenny (Gavin's wife), Jean (John's wife), Belinda and Mandy have now joined them. They are going to rest tonight and all day to-morrow (Tuesday). There may well not be any reports from them!
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Sunday 25 July (9 pm):

Gavin reported by phone. They were staying in a really big posh youth hostel in the middle of Chester. They get an official stamp from each of the hostels as proof to obtain their London to John O'Groats certificate from CTC (Cycling Tourist Club). Incidentally, they all became members of CTC to get insurance as well.

They were sitting in a quiet room reminiscing on the day, and the journey between Clun and Chester. It was undulating - steep at start - rather cold as they needed an extra layer of clothing. The sun was nestling on the hill but overall the sunshine they were expecting did not materialise. It was not too hilly. Around Nynv, two of the party who shall remain nameless (well, Gavin and Simon) shot ahead without a map and missed a critical turn. They were doing 45 mph without pedalling until they were called on the mobile by Derek. They did not have an easy time returning to join the rest of the party. They stopped at a pub called Admiral Duncan in Baschurch for lunch. Apparently they keep off alcohol.

They covered 70 miles - again 10 miles longer than the scheduled 60. They have a big day coming up to-morrow (Monday) with 80 miles on the schedule. They will have an early breakfast and set off. They are all looking forward to the 'rest day' on Tuesday.

John's wheel bearing has settled down after some clunks and clicks. They have some cunning plans to fix Simon's chain wheel.

They will be joined soon by some of their spouses and new drivers of the support team - Jean (Derek's wife), Jenny (Gavin's wife), Paul (Kathy's husband), Belinda and Mandy. 

Watch this space for more photos which will be sent through Jenny.
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Saturday 24 July (9:45 pm):

Gavin reported by phone - after enjoying a lovely meal that the Dutch cyclist Erik had prepared, ably assisted by Kathy and Simon. It was pene pasta base with chicken curry, cashew nuts etc.

Today they covered 60 miles rather than the scheduled 50 miles. The weather was warm, and they had T-shirts all day. But the scenery was not as spectacular as yesterday. It was a quieter low key affair. They continued along the Wye valley and Clun (near Leominster in Shropshire). The hostel is situated on a mill, and they are on the first floor. Each time they switch the lights on, they can see the mill machinery.

There have been some bike issues. John's back wheel bearings required attention this evening. Also, Simon's chain wheels are becoming loose for some reason - and he needs to tighten them every 10 miles!

There have been also some changes in circumstances. Alan Jones's replacement in Scotland were due to be Belinda and her boyfriend Steve. Now, Steve will be replaced by Mandy - Belinda's sister. Gavin has to ring all the youth hostels to rearrange accommodation for Mandy.
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Friday 23 July (around 9 pm):

Gavin reported by phone from the youth hostel at Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. They spent last night at Street (name of a place!). Woke up .. sun was beaming down .. country side looked splendid ... terrific panoramic view ... had a good start ... left at 9 am and arrived at 6.45 pm and had to get ready for dinner at 7pm.

The journey covered 76 miles - higher than anything they have done so far on a single day.

It was beautiful around Mendip (moorland) - Kathy didn't like the two mile grind. But they stuck together. Saw the Clifton suspension bridge. Crossed Old Severn Bridge although they had difficulty finding the cycle track. The bridge vibrated a fair amount. Went past Tintern, a tourist area. Cycled along the Wye Valley. The river is just 50m from where he was reporting.

At Symonds Yat, there was a track in the woodland. Apparently Kathy didn't enjoy it. Signs were not too good. From the valley they had to go up a hill to reach the hostel.

They are all standing up physically - having covered 300 miles in four days! (That is 30% completed already).They had never done so much in such a short time during their training. But they feel that the training has paid off.

They have got a relatively easy day to-morrow. They will be going around Chester.

I conveyed the message from Clair and James to Gavin.
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Thursday 22 July (8 pm):

Gavin reported by phone that they were in Street, in Somerset. Cloudy day, long day. Everybody is in high spirits. Crossing the Welsh border to-morrow (Friday).
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Thursday 22 July (pm):

Just received a two page hand-written note from Gavin via George Tyler, along with some photos. It was written from the Bridgford Inn, near Runsford, deepest Devon. Will be published as soon as possible.
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Thurs 22 July 04 (11:35 am):

Based on phone conversations with Gavin Plews / Jim Grufferty and John Shipley: Caught them again having a break in North Devon, about two miles from Hinton, in a park bench. They had a fairly frantic schedule yesterday. After a fair amount of "ups and downs" they are now looking forward to a more level riding. George Tyler (a Rotarian from our club) met up with them. They had lot of maintenance to do on the bikes.

Jim tells me that there are no internet cafes at the youth hostels from where they could send us messages. They will send some photos taken at Lands End and a short report via George Tyler. I said a low resolution photo is sufficient for our website.

Conveyed the messages from Keith Skinner and Roger Lerry - acquaintances of John Shipley.
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Wed 21 July 04 (11:50 am):

Based on a phone conversation with Gavin Plews: They were just having a break with, yes you guessed it, a few mars bars etc. They were feeling fine - just didn't have time to send any reports or photos taken at the starting point Lands End. By the time they shower, dry up things and have a meal, they are exhausted. They will send us reports as soon as possible.

Conveyed well wishes from Jay Lucas to Gavin.
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