2013 Land's End to John O'Groats

Day 7: Runcorn to Condor Green

6th July 2013

The Holiday Inn at Runcorn is OK. It’s quite big, has a gym & swimming pool, a good restaurant & decent rooms. Why it has to upset its guests by charging £12.95 for a night’s WiFi I really don’t know. We told the nice lads on reception to tell their management that Landladies were giving us B&B for a pittance & throwing in WiFi, so they needed to alter their policy

The night before went well & we all used the facilities to their maximum. Rodney had his first ever sports massage (& pronounced it a success) & the bar & lounge were both well used. Paul’s niece (Emily) undertook an hour’s drive with her partner, just to surprise Uncle Paul. I think he was most touched by the gesture.

We refined the plan for Day 7, which was roughly to leave at 06.15, ride as far into the day as we could, pre 11.00 & then stop at a pub, with Sky, to watch to final & deciding Lions game against the Wallabies. Rodney & I planned accordingly; we put the alarm on for 05.15 (but beat it), put our days riding gear to one side & made two bowls of cold ‘Pam’s porridge (1 part Jordan’s Oats, 1 part unsweetened Soya & 1 part natural Yoghurt – don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it as it will keep you going all day & up the steepest mountain – give or take a bit, that is). All went to plan & we finally left the hotel at 06.30 (the moan about the WiFi & then making friends with the receptionists so as not to hurt their feelings took a little while)

We soon realised that the day’s Rugby activity had inadvertently turned this leg to our advantage. I would imagine that navigating Warrington on a normal day, at around 08.30/09.00, would be a nightmare, both to navigate & also not to lose a team member. As it was, we swept through the town like a true peloton. Dave Brailsford would have been proud of us and with a blue sky & the sun streaming through the abundant trees; it was a wonderful way to depart. We went over waterways on lovely old bridges & thoroughly enjoyed our speed & the ease of travel. I was able to text Judith that at minutes to 07.00 we saw our first signs for her birth place of Wigan & at 07.00 precisely, crossed the Mersey to the sonorous voices of a number of the team who couldn’t resist the ‘Ferry me across………’ etc. 

We also collected some lovely new names such as Locking Stumps (sounds like a marital tiff doesn’t it?) & a pub called ‘The Comfortable Gill’ (probably the landlady used to make a few bob on the side)  

I can’t say we were too enamoured with Blackburn, which didn’t look too bonny, even under a blue sky & with sleep in our eyes. It did however seem to trigger something in Tony & he broke into song whilst we were waiting at a set of traffic lights. His voice seemed a little higher than usual, but I’ll put that down to the shorts. The song was ‘A day in the life’ which I think is from the Sergeant Pepper album & one particular line goes;

‘4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire’

If this is referring to the potholes, then we’d like to have the song updated as we found 4,000 & didn’t even go on the other side of town.

However, we suddenly left all the ‘Final Liquidation’ & ‘Chippery’ signs & boarded up premises, to see in front of us, a rise of unadulterated, unsullied land, which was sign posted Chew Moor (good dietary advice?). What a lovely area, sort of a mini moor & not at all vast & forbidding as many of the Northern moors can be. We climbed to the top where there was a row of cottages, identical to those in The Last of the Summer Wine series & which have a porch running along the front. We had a lovely ride across the ridge & then down the other side & along the Dingle & Springs reservoir, proudly looked over by a grand old building belonging to Bradford Water Works, as evidenced by colourful cast iron, hand painted plaques. There was more moorland as we made our way to the (original) planned lunch stop & we all acknowledged that the ride would be markedly different, were it wet & cold. On our ‘new’ schedule, we arrived at the original lunch stop at 09.30 – great progress, so we carried on as quickly as we could & finally arrived at our designated pub at about 10.40, to hopefully watch the game & eat. It was closed & had no indication of having Sky in any event. We therefore pressed on a couple more miles, with no success, but checking all the pubs, as we went along. At 11.00, nothing – we carried on & even had a lady invite us to watch with her & her husband, as she was sympathetic to the Macmillan cause. Finally, at 11.10 & 52 miles, we found the Townley Arms Hotel, which not only gave us the warmest welcome in the world, but also proceeded to serve us an ‘all day’ breakfast. We, meantime, watched history being made & joy of joys, a fabulous result at the end of a proper game of rugby, with all the drama & tension you could possibly want. We made friends with all the locals in the pub, some of who promised to look at our website & make a donation – if any of you guys & lovely ladies behind the bar read this, thanks so much for making us so welcome & for sharing the occasion with us.

Almost as soon as we left the pub, we went onto the Lancashire Cycleway/Sustrans network, which was an absolute joy. This is such appealing countryside & we all agreed the sort of ambience you felt you could touch, feel, smell & enjoy. It was particularly intoxicating, warmed under the sun with smells of hay, mown grass & farmyards around every corner. Everyone en route was also quick to say ‘hello’ or wave & we’ve decided we really like Lancashire, its glorious countryside & its lovely inhabitants.

With about 3 miles to go, we found a piece of heaven – Wallings Farm Ice Cream. If I tell you that between us we had the following flavours, you’ll understand what I mean;

  • Blackcurrant & liquorice
  • Rum & Raisin
  • Fruits of the Forest
  • Raspberry & something we can’t remember

We sat like kids; swinging our legs & all with giant cones. Having checked the calories used thus far in the day, (around 4,000) we happily decided we were also still well in credit.

Tony, our driver had gone off to Blackpool at lunchtime as his Grandson protégée was riding in an important cycle race. He’d told us we’d like The Swan, at Condor Green & he wasn’t exaggerating. It’s great; a real pub, one of only a few buildings on this wetland/estuary (probably best described by looking at the photographs we’ll try to post or on line). It has a beer garden, a play area for kids & lovely, helpful staff.

 I’d normally say that what goes on tour, stays on tour, but was mildly shocked when Rodney went into the bar & said he couldn’t wait to get stuck into a Lancaster Blonde (& still in his sweaty lycra at that). He had a massage last night & now this. I’ll ask Tony to adjust his saddle tomorrow; that might calm him down.

So here we are – half way already, the week has flown by!

Tomorrow we’re heading into the Lake District where I understand there are some hilly & wet bits, so we’re drafting in a couple of locals to guide us through & to feed us. Peter Dawson, Keswick master baker & renowned sailor & golfer is to travel South with his mate, have breakfast with us & then take us to his Keswick home where we will be fed & watered by his lovely wife Beryl. How good is that on this glorious, sunny Sunday morning. Rodney’s wife Pam is also staying with Peter & Beryl & it will be lovely to see her. Hopefully, Rodney, she will be in a forgiving mood.

Awards of the Day

Those Magnificent Lions  All involved in this amazing series, nail biting games & fabulous final

Ken                                        This lad’s guiding expertise is growing by the day & there’s never a moment       when he doesn’t have his plastic bag of instructions to hand. Rebs & I are negotiating to sell him to Peak Tours at the end of the trip

Northern Jokes

A wealthy Northerner had ordered an expensive headstone for his beloved, recently departed wife. It was to read ‘She was thine’ & was dismayed to see the result which read ‘She was thin’. ‘Thar a daft bugger’ he ranted,’tha’s missed off ‘e’, gerrit put reight fer t’morra or thall gerra clout’

He returned the following day to see the corrected work which read;

‘E She Was Thin’

There’s been an explosion of a particularly nasty use of the rave drug ecstasy in the North of England, we hear, with club goers injecting the drug into the mouth. This frightening habit is known locally as ‘e by gum’

Are you impressed I’ve not lost my accent?

Philosophical thought of the day

We’ve been sent a personal message from Max Hewitt reader of our diaries, friend of Tony & friend & retired colleague of Rebs which says;

May you all get to heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead

Thanks for thinking of us Max & assurances we’re not planning on going there any time soon                       

Vital stats for the day;

Distance                               71.35

Cumulative                       489.40 

Average Speed                 12.3 mph

Time riding **                   5 hours 45 minutes

Climbing                               2,542 feet

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

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