Why and How?
Cycling from one end of the country to the other was my idea, after reading about the journey in Cycling Plus magazine over 2 years ago. Having said that, John was fairly easy to persuade. I often cycle to work and back but had never done any serious touring. John hadn't toured since he was a lad. In March 2000, John and I, along with John's wife Mary, did our only practice run, cycling from home in Worcester to Llanbedr in North/West Wales. This journey was 150 miles, and took us 3 days. It was most delightful, and encouraged us to take the plunge and organise 'the big one'.
The charities were easy to pick; my mother has suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for over 20 years, and John's sister-in-law has recently suffered with Breast Cancer. It seemed only fitting, therefore, to split the money raised between the two. We considered this journey as our holiday, and therefore paid any expenses ourselves. We do not believe in using sponsorship money to pay for our little jollies, and hence ALL money raised has gone to the charities.
Having taken the decision to 'go for it', we then needed to think about how?
There are a number of ways to attempt the trip, all of them worthy of credit, but for us the only way to do it was unsupported. However, we both enjoy our luxuries too much to consider camping, and therefore decided to use Bed and Breakfasts.
The route was originally planned using the newly opened National Cycle Network, but the mileage was 1,800 miles. We then amended the route slightly to use NCN routes, plus minor roads whereever possible. The new route went via Pershore (home) and Telford (relatives), and was calculated to be just short of 1,100 miles.
Having chosen the route, we were then very limited in certain areas of the country for finding accommodation. To avoid being homeless on any night, we booked all the B&B's in advance. This is a big decision. You have to weigh up the risk of not having a bed, with the risk that you can't complete the journey on a given day.
Where possible we used the CTC's list of B&B's in their members book. Alternatively we used the AA B&B Guide (either on the internet or the book), and our last chance was uk.yell.com which is the internet yellow pages. Unfortunately you use yell.com blind, with often no idea of how good or bad the B&B may be.
Foot and Mouth
The trip was originally planned for May 2001, unfortunately Foot and Mouth gripped the country, closing many paths and minor roads. Bed and Breakfasts booked to stay in were turning people away because they were also working livestock farms.
In late March 2001, the decision was taken to postpone the trip and swap things to August. Twenty two Bed and Breakfasts were contacted and changed. Only the B&B in Glastonbury was unable to swap, and only one other, Clayton le-Dale, made a fuss about the change.
Booking Train Tickets
The trains were booked via www.thetrainline.com. We took advantage of a number of discounts available, not least the Virgin summer deal, which we were able to take despite it running out the day before our day of travel. We got a lift to Bristol Parkway to catch the train, to avoid having to change trains with the bikes. We booked our bikes on the train at a cost of £3 each.
The tickets only arrived about a week before departure, despite me booking them 2 months earlier. We also booked our tickets back. Although we took the decision to post the bikes home from Wick via Parcel Force, rather than take the bikes by train, when we needed to change 4 times. The cost of Parcel Force was quoted at just £9.80, but see 'Advice Page' before you decide to do this.
Journey to Land's End
We took the decision fairly early on that we would travel to Penzance and return from Wick by train. This was done for two main reasons. Firstly, our families were kind enough to allow us to leave them for 3 weeks, we did not want to also force one of them to drive us to one end of the country and pick us up from the other. Secondly, one of the main reasons we both started cycling in the first place was environmental. Flying around the country would not help this cause, and neither would driving. The train was therefore the only viable option.
We had originally planned to travel to Penzance on Saturday morning and cycle to Lands End and back in the afternoon, but changes to the train timetable meant this was impossible. It also turned out to be significantly cheaper travelling on Friday evening rather than Saturday morning, even after the cost of another nights B&B.