2013 Land's End to John O'Groats

Day 6: Monmouth to Runcorn

5th July 2013

The White Horse Inn at Clan is a winner on all counts. The atmosphere is welcoming & it successfully combines a local pub feel along with excellent accommodation & a great restaurant. We enjoyed the bar & the great range of local beers (Tony chose one beer which a neighbour claimed had been made at the back of his house). I had a pint of Thundering Molly Cider – absolute nectar! The restaurant had a great menu, but with local beef on offer, it wasn’t a difficult choice was it?

If yesterday was a bit of a relaxed day, then today had to be a grafter. Not a particularly hilly day, but 80 miles (79.9 in reality) does take a bit of getting through, even when the conditions are good & the wind is kind. What strikes me at this point is that I don’t recall anyone taking their cameras out. That could be a bit of an insult to a whole host of places & I apologise if it appears that way, but we were a bit preoccupied with putting on the miles & in truth there wasn’t the dramatic scenery we’ve had over the first few days. Bucolic, lovely fields & farms, some great looking buildings, but much flatter & with none of the big climbs & dramatic views that we’ve had before.

Probably the most memorable cycling event of the day came quite early, when we entered the village of Hope (wouldn’t you just love to deliver the line ‘We live in Hope’ & wait for the response?) & then enjoyed what is described in our route notes as ‘a long gradual descent that seems to go on forever’ & indeed it did. It was fabulous. Even though the weather was clear, fine & warm, it was actually quite cold & shady on this long ride down the valley & although very lovely, with lush foliage & lots of ferns, it reminded me of why I prefer a hilltop home & a view of the sky. There have been a number of comments from the Jersey contingent over the past couple of days, that much as we love the countryside & views, it’s a bit disquieting to be so far from the sea.

Once again we had some lovely English names, en route; Plox Green/Wagbeach & The Bog to name just three. We also cycled past Percy Thrower Avenue (for those of more tender years, he was the guy who gave us gardening tips before Charlie Dimmock & Alan Titmarsh were invented).

It’s a shame that we spent most of our time in Shrewsbury in a bike shop, as it looks a beautiful town. However, we had a variety of kit needs & I had suffered a few days with a saddle that kept altering its pitch, when subject to any sort of pressure. Quite disconcerting when it’s so close to the family heirlooms. Tony, our incredible support driver (support everything actually) was reluctant to over tighten the bolts as the stem is carbon, damages easily & is quite expensive. Even though the shop was busy (Dave Mellor Cycles on New Street –, I was given immediate service, the guy Googled the product on line & ascertained he could apply additional torque & then fixed it. He also replaced the plug at the end of my bars. In all, about 15 minutes of work & when asked the cost merely suggested I ‘put a couple of quid in the charity box’. How good is that (& the saddle has held up all day)

We were warned that navigation through Shrewsbury could be tricky, but in the event, Ken did a great job, using his route notes & we went through without a problem. Welsh Bridge, over the River Severn was particularly impressive, with many of the towns inhabitants enjoying the water, on what was turning into the most beautiful of days. There is also a most dramatic sculpture by the river, dedicated to Darwin

Lunch was at the Burlton Inn, a very smart restaurant with an impressive menu, although we had been asked to pre order. Everyone was delighted with their choice & in particular those who chose to enjoy either of the desserts (Chocolate Brownie or Sticky Toffee Pudding). I think the calorie counter said we’d used up around 4400 calories at the end of the day, so what harm can a big pudding do (& I need the energy)

Although we crossed a couple of busy junctions & spent time on short stretches of main roads, the majority of the day was on roads with a B in front of them & four numbers, so the riding was pleasant & relaxed. We also added Herefordshire, Shropshire & Cheshire to our County tick list. The latter seems a very posh place & has some seriously ‘des res’ places. We also had long, long views West over what I presume would be Snowdonia.

Tony, our support, said that today was typically the point at which groups fall out, presumably due to a combination of tiredness, uncertainly & pain. I shall therefore register that we all seem to be doing just fine. There’s been a great atmosphere in the Group & no one seems to be looking to be ‘Top Cat’ & there’s great mutual support. Long may it last!

Tomorrow we have to see the Lions match – unanimous decision &  no question. The current plan is to leave at 6.00 & find a pub around the 48 mile mark where we can eat & see the game & then complete the remaining 30 miles. God bless our boys & give them a win against those pesky Aussies. At this point, I am acutely aware that my son in law, Tom, who edits & posts this diary, is an Aussie. Over to you Tom !

Got to go to bed now, up at five!

Enjoy your weekend

Awards of the Day

Trek Domane 4.5              REB’s wants it officially recorded that his decision to purchase this expensive, carbon framed road bike was entirely right & that he is completely in love with & ‘at one’ with this bike

Tony Warne                      Tony is our support everything guy. He is an avid cyclist & gets our gears oiled, our rims cleaned & our tyres pumped, almost on a daily basis. Add to this our ‘brew stops’ (which is like a mini Sainsbury) & this guy deserves a medal. On Saturday, his Grandson, who he coaches, has an important cycle race in Blackpool. We wish him good luck.

Philosophical thought of the day

Man sacrifices his health to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die and then dies having never really lived                           

Vital stats for the day;

Distance                               79.90

Cumulative                       418.05 

Average Speed                 14.7 mph

Time riding **                   5 hours 55 minutes

Climbing                               2,342 feet

** I should make a point this is time actually riding, not time out on the road                       

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