Gentleman Cyclist

April 28, 2012

The Big Ride, London, 28/4/2012

Filed under: Cycling — admin @ 8:19 pm

Despite the foul weather, I’m really glad I made the effort to get to this ride.  I suppose the conditions could have been worse, but my initial reaction was that the event was going to be a poorly-attended damp squib. I couldn’t be bothered with a feeder ride and took the train straight to Lpoo St and made my way to Hyde Park Corner and then found the Animals’ War Memorial. There was no-one I knew there so I carefully ate the marmite sandwiches I had brought with me in anticipation that a few of us would have lunch somewhere. I also ordered a coffee and waited, unimpressed by the group of cyclists around the Speakers’ Corner café that remained disappointingly small. YACFers arrived in dribs and drabs: MarcusJB and Teamonster, the latter on the front of the most amazing recumbent tandem. One lovely surprise was a text from Nutkin, who was to put in a appearance. Charlotte arrived en Brompton and I still can’t get used to Jurek on a fixie with mudguards.

Nutkin, Rob, Jurek, Charlotte

After loads of hanging around we set off and then, five minutes later, we stopped again so that the organisers could make speeches that perhaps the 200 people at the front could have heard. We were not far from the amplifiers and loudspeakers, but I could not make out anything intelligible. Anyone behind us, which must have been about 90% of the ride, would have been able to hear nothing. Some of the more svelte forummers were beginning to feel the cold.

Teamonster’s monster tandem

Eventually we made proper progress, but mostly it was a test of slow cycling and balancing for as long as possible before putting a foot down. Two Flat Erics and Domestique came and had a natter: the hardy pair had caught the train from Westcliff to Barking and come in on that feeder ride. Just as we were being led into Temple Station, the official ride finish, Notsototalnewbie had a better idea and we left the Embankment and returned towards Charing Cross because she had the facility to buy cheap food at a particular café so we went there to find it shut. Luckily my calorie radar was active and I’ve noticed an “All Bar One” a short way back in Villiers Street so five of us settled round a table there. Almost simultaneously a few of us noticed that we had missed calls from Charlotte, whom I had last seen pointing her big one at people. I hastily texted a reply but by that time she was on the tube heading for Julian, who was returning from a triumphal overnight ride to Hull.


Whereas initially there were five of us there (Nutkin, NSTN, Rob, Parsley and myself) we were joined by Butterfly and Clarion, fresh from their travails to Hull, and, later, Andrij, who had been purchasing exotic velocipedes from Mike. We had a good lunch (the minted lamb burger seemed to be a favourite) and the profiteroles went down well, washed as they were by Doom Bar, merlot and latte.

Laura about to engulf a profiterole

My one regret was that I hadn’t taken with me the small gift I have for Nutkin. However, we have agreed that we need another ride some time in the not too distant future so that I can offer her some balls to suck whereas she’s going to give me a good fudge. It’ll be sweet, there’s no doubt of that.

April 27, 2012

Riding to see my daughter

Filed under: Cycling — admin @ 8:11 pm

Southend to Maidstone via the Tilbury ferry. One of the shittiest rides of All Time. The forecast was for fairin’ up but it lied.

I left Southend via a short off-road section through Belfairs woods and past some very expensive-looking ponderosa style houses which were probably built by wide boys and city slickers during the Thatcher era. From there I headed down the 14% hill past Thundersley church and on toward Sadler’s Farm roundabout where the Highways Agency have financed an enormous hole in the ground. A spiteful squall had me scrabbling for my waterproof and after that I walked for a while until I had crossed the new bridge over the enormous hole, at one point finding myself almost ankle deep in water where the surface is decidedly temporary. Eventually I took to the road again and then took a wrong turning in Pitsea. Next was Vange, possibly the most unpleasant town name in the UK, evoking, as it does, a revolting disease, or, at least, its byproduct. If you are in Vange, then Fobbing and Mucking are never far away.

I expected, once I had crossed the A13 at the Five Bells roundabout, that the traffic would become less, and indeed Stanford le Hope was rather more pleasant than I remembered it, but once I joined the minor roads towards East Tilbury and Tilbury Town it largely became worse. I had forgotten that Tilbury has, since the Victorians built a large sewage treatment plant there, been the Anus of London, and other forms of waste treatment now appear to nestle cheek by jowl with the plant dealing with the human kind. By this time it was blowing a gale and the rain was torrential and huge lorries bearing delightful substances thundered past. One appeared to be labelled “Meat recycling” (yum) but I couldn’t be sure as my glasses were streaming with rain, my eyes stung with the sweat washed into them and I was struggling against the headwind at about 4 mph.

None too soon I arrived at the ferry terminal and the ferry boat lay in the slip and I boarded, took my bike into the sheltered area and dripped. I was in good company as the shelter’s roof was leaking and towels had been distributed to soak up the water. £3.50 later and I was in Gravesend, wondering how to escape. At least the rain had stopped but now I had to contend with hills. After a bit of an effort I passed a huge building reminiscent of Brighton Pavilion and, given that the Guru Nanak Football Club had its playing field in front and the adjacent St. Michael’s C of E Primary School had a handful of turban-wearing lunchtime parents, my guess was that it was a sikh temple.

Once I found the right road I continued to climb and I had numerous competitors for the pinch-points in the form of impatient motorists. I climbed to the roundabout junction of the M2, A2, or A2(M) and then crossed the bridge over the railway line serving London, Brussels and Paris and then, suddenly, I was in the country. The headwind was still there as I was now heading mostly south, but with some meandering to circumnavigate the highest of the hills. The showers were fewer and lighter and I was treated with occasional sunshine. Most importantly, the traffic had almost completely disappeared, although what little there was drove too fast. One 4 * 4 driver slammed on his brakes and skidded towards the hedge, so slow was he to realise that he was no longer on a motorway.

The contrast with my morning riding was striking as now I was in beautiful wooded hills with scenes, farms and a variety of farm animals, including some fairly young pigs rooting around a muddy compound. I climbed above 600′ and when I was least expecting it suddenly the trees thinned and I had an absolutely amazing view from Holly Hill down towards Birling. I was unable to let the bike go on the chevron as there was plenty of detritus on the road and a stonking sidewind, but in the distance I could see Bluebell Hill and, beneath it, Maidstone. A bit more faffage through the Mallings and Barming and I was on the A26, scene of the first stage of the Tour de France some years ago. I arrived, sweaty and exhausted, but now mostly dry, to find Jan and Martha building towers with bricks.

So I’ve realised an ambition: to ride from home to my daughter’s house, but I don’t think I’ll be repeating the experience in a hurry.

April 20, 2012

St. John Street Cycles

Filed under: bike repair,Cycling — admin @ 8:09 pm

Absolutely wonderful service from SJS Cycles this week.

As a result of incompetence trying to put a new sprocket on my Rohloff I damaged the component into which the puller’s splines fit. Understandably I was rather aggrieved at this and phoned SJS for advice. I was put through to Dave, their Rohloff specialist, who said that I probably didn’t have the puller locked on tightly enough with the QR skewer, which I’m sure is right. He said “I’ve got the parts available to fix that: send it to me.”

I did, on Monday afternoon. It cost me £49.50 by parcel force, insured for £1000 on a two day delivery, so they probably didn’t get it until yesterday. The wheel arrived back this morning, fixed, repaired. The invoice for £0.00 was attached.

I’m struggling to think of better service I’ve ever had from any company.

April 15, 2012

Wing Camping Weekend

Filed under: camping,Cycling — admin @ 7:44 pm

I recorded very little of this at the time, but my overriding memory was bonking really badly on the way up. I caught the train to Bedford and then cycled the 56 miles to Wing with full camping gear. Bedfordshire is not renowned for its hills, and indeed, for the most part I didn’t climb above moderate Essex height. The problem was that there was hardly any flat – just long grinding climbs which required a lot of effort, or long gentle descents that were over in a few seconds before the next long grinding climb began. Therefore something like 80% of the time I was having to work very hard, and the 20% of descents just weren’t sufficient recovery time. My good friend Julian described me as “catatonic” in the pub. I probably should have had a pint of lemonade or coke or something to restore the blood sugar.

The other memorable part was the extremely low overnight temperatures, and there still being white frost on my tent at 9am. I remained pretty warm with my lovely down sleeping bag though.

I rode the return to Corby with Julian and we passed the UK’s longest masonry viaduct, carrying a railway across the Welland valley, and using 84 arches to do so. Spectacular!

Carved tree
Frosty tent
Rutland Water
Welland viaduct

April 10, 2012

Loop from Berwick

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:06 am

A very fine rounding off of the holiday with a 27 mile pootle to Etal for 11ses, the Chain Bridge Honey Farm for lunch and then back to the B & B. The 10 miles out to Etal took us two hours on account of the vicious headwind. A similar distance to the Honey farm took us half that. It was quite odd eating lunch on a Bristol Lodekka bus, of a type that was new-fangled when it took me to school in the 1960s.

Whilst negotiating the boundary of the Paxton estate we saw a buzzard swoop down and take something but we are pretty sure it was nothing more exciting than a choice cut of roadkill pheasant.

We finished off with an excellent curry at the Villa Spice.

April 9, 2012

Selkirk to Berwick

Filed under: Cycling — admin @ 11:56 pm

Posted on 9 April 2012

Sunday 8th April

This was possibly the best day’s cycling of all. We left The Croft at about 10 a.m., walked up the track to the road and spent the first half-mile or so climbing to about 980′ and that was the highest point of the day. The next 8 miles, to St. Boswells, were the cycling equivalent to a bobsleigh run. The wind was behind us and the gradient was with us. 45 minutes later we stopped at the Buccleuch Arms for very good coffee and shortbread. The sun was putting in an occasional unexpected appearance and the A699 was so innocuous that we eschewed Sustrans’ finest and went via the direct route to Kelso. We had some lovely views of the Tweed and the Teviot and I photographed the confluence of the two. A pair of goosanders was diving for food. We speculated that if YACF named a river it would be called the Deviot.

In Kelso we walked, to avoid the discomfort of the cobbled streets, around the large and impressive town square until we found a very welcoming pub called The Cobbles. We had not really intended to have a particularly large lunch but to ther cyclists were tucking into what looked like a very good ham salad that we followed suit, and I had a portion of chips as well. Jan had tea, but I ordered a pint of Tempest, a very hoppy golden ale which was just perfect.

The two other cyclists had been slogging their way over from Berwick, fighting with their headwind which was our friend, heading for their B & B at Inverleithen. They left the pub a little before we did but the Cobbles is a real find: friendly, excellent food and even better beer. I must go to Kelso again.

Encouraged by our morning A-road experience, we decided to used the A698 out of Kelso as it involved less climbing than the Sustrans route and gave better views of the Tweed. We turned off a mile or two before Coldstream and joined NCN 1 and it was shortly after this that we were overhauled by a group of cyclists and had a quick chat with them. They were staying at a private school near Berwick which does accommodation for cycists at £40 dinner, bed and breakfast. I think the place they mentioned was Longridge Towers and it seems to be worth investigating. One of the chaps, who originated from Grays in Essex, was a cyclechatter and was familiar with Arch, also of this parish.

By this time the weather had closed in rather. The skies had become leaden and the wind was up but, fortunately, still favouring our direction. Jan was beginning to struggle on some of the climbs so we decided to miss out the chain bridge and honey farm and head directly into Berwick. We found the B & B with no trouble, taking care to photograph the viaduct from the road bridge. From our room we have a lovely view of the viaduct.

So, we have just about finished our quirky coast to coast. It’s been fantastic fun and I’m really proud of the way Jan has taken to solo touring. Some of the terrain we have tackled has been quite tough and on one or two days the weather had been challenging as well, yet she has done exceptionally well. Today’s average speed, in favourable conditions, was over 9 mph and we managed a 40 mile day with no trouble at all.

I suspect that we will do a little unladen cycling tomorrow, probably out to the honey farm for tea and cake. The afternoon looks as though it’s going to be wet so we will probably walk around the walls, never before having visited Berwick other than as a spectator on a train.

April 8, 2012

Moffat to Selkirk

Filed under: Cycling — admin @ 11:44 pm

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the surprise meeting with GlasgowDave & Perkygirl* at the cafe overlooking the Loch o’ the Lowes. I’m not sure what Lowes are, but there are some more at a Loch of the Lowes near Dundee, where we saw ospreys in the summer of ’93. In the 2012 version, Jan and I had just partaken of burger and chips and we were onto the tea loaf and a second pot of tea. I became aware that a couple in the queue seemed to be looking at us and having asotto voce conversation when the chap walked over and said to me “Excuse me… are you Wowbagger by any chance?” We spent a happy time having a natter about various stuff and then we went our mostly separate ways, although their car overtook us a little later. The meeting was recorded for posterity but the evidence, which is on my camera, will have to wait until we arrive back in Southend.

The day began with an interesting conversation with a young chap at the B & B who was exploring Scotland for the Classic Car Club. He was based in London and was really enthusiastic about his work, not surprisingly. Over an atlas, I suggested a trip to Tomintoul & Braemar via the Spital of Glenshee and he seemed very keen on this idea. We set off from the B & B at around 10 a.m. and the first port of call was the Moffat Toffee Shop. I bought a few bits and pieces and I have, hopefully, fulfilled a request made of me some seven months or so ago by a lady of this forum. However, I have been unable to supply the molluscs she requested and I hope that she will be well satisfied by the balls that I can offer by way of a substitute.

As always seems to be the case when we are touring, as soon as we leave the town where we have spent the night we start climbing. The first haul was enough to force us to walk for a short spell but once we got into our stride we plodded on with few rests. We found an open cafe, but it was still too soon after a full cooked breakfast. There was heavy cloud cover and a light rain was falling steadily. Every so often it stopped for long enough for me to remove my waterproof but then a few minutes would elapse and I would have to put it on again. The scenery was still quite spectacular. Some of the hills were in the clouds, but every so often there was enough of a break for us to be able to see the snow that was still lying at the higher levels.

Despite this road being given the grand title of the A708, the most encouraging part is that underneath the direction sign from Moffat is a sign saying “unsuitable for HGVs”. We were overtaken by a few cars, but mostly they were in ones and twos, with prolonged gaps between them. It was a perfect road to cycle and I would love to do it again on a bright sunny day.

After about 12 miles we reached the summit, about 1100 feet up, and then enjoyed the descent to the cafe where, as has been described above, an extremely pleasant surprise awaited us.

The 20 or so miles from the cafe to Selkirk is mostly downhill, and Dave & Perky (how embarrassing: I didn’t think to ask what Perkygirl’s real name is) had mentioned what fun it was to ride on the tandem. The final mile or so is very much up hill and we were pushing the bikes again for some of this. I had to buy some batteries as some of the older rechargeables I had brought with me were not up to the job of providing the garmin with enough power for tasks like increasing and decreasing the scale. As luck would have it, the Co-op were doing a two for one offer and I bought 8 AA duracells  for £4.99.

With our new-found powers we soon reached the B & B which is outside the town and therefore already up the hill we would have had to climb tomorrow morning. We asked the landlady about eateries and she suggested the County Hotel. We went there and the food was OK (I had garlic mushrooms and we each had lasagne) but it’s so disappointing when pubs don’t serve ale. Tonight I was too hungry, and the hour was getting too late, for us to find somewhere else, but I just don’t think it would ever occur to a landlord to try and fob a customer off with corned beef when they had ordered steak.

April 7, 2012

Thornhill to Moffat

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:34 pm

Aware of the high off-road quotient of today’s ride, we ordered an 8 a.m. breakfast. It was just as well as Jan found it especially difficult to get going today. I was also aware that we might have to take food with us. Although various websites informed us that there was a thriving Mountain Bike Hire and licensed cafe at Ae, the village after which the forest was named, I also knew that there was no backup plan should that oasis prove to be deserted. A couple of days ago I had phoned the Glentrool visitors’ centre and was assured that there would be an adequate lunch for us on our arrival, and so there was. I tried phoning the Ae cafe several times but no-one answered. I feared the worst: that it was no longer serving. On the strength of that fear, we went into Thornhlill and stocked up on pro-thingstoeat. I bought some fruit cake slices and custard creams in the Co-op, some jelly babies in the Spar shop and a couple of steak pies and doughnuts at the baker’s.

Rather later than I intended, we set off. Leaving the village involved a climb, gentle initially but steeper later. We still haven’t encountered a chevron on this trip, but this morning must have been a close-run thing. There were plenty of occasions when we walked and Jan needed a rest, and the first 4 miles took us over an hour. Some of the roads in the area did not show up on the Garmin, although present on the OS map, including that down which a farmer on quadracycle and his two dogs drove a flock of 50 or so sheep and lambs. We also went under a railway bridge which, minutes earlier, had had a train cross it. There clearly had been a station there at one time, but now the nearest was Sanquhar, about 20 miles away.

Once we were 1000 or so feet up, the next 8 miles were almost all downhill and our speed picked up. There was very little traffic on the road but whenever a car or cattle truck did turn up, we just stopped and let them past. There was rain in the air and, although the weather was mild, the landscape loses so much of its appeal under cloud cover.

Just before we arrived in Ae I stopped to take a photograph of a small cottage which boasted an enormous collection of motor bikes all around it. There were dozens of them. They looked fairly clean for the most part and many of them bore current tax discs, but there seemed to be nowhere to hide 70 or 80 superannuated hell’s angels. Neither had we seen any motorcyclists on the road. It was most bizarre.

Soon after 1 pm we arrived in the village and found the totally deserted cafe which had clearly carried out no business for quite some months and also proved the veracity of the answer to Radio 4’s oft-repeated rhetorical question:

“Ye’ll have had yer tea?”


I congratulated myself on my foresight as I tucked into my excellent steak pie and doughnut. There was a family of mountain cyclists who had been trundling around bits of the forest and we had a conversation about closed cafes. Then, with some 12 miles of off-road track of unknown quality to traverse, we set off.

I’d done a fair bit of research into this bit of the ride. Googlemaps was sufficiently aware of the road that Bikehike would happily send a route along it. Furthermore, it was easy to pick out from aerial photographs as it snaked its way through dozens of square miles of conifer forest. The critical question was “Was it rideable?” and there was only one way to find out. However, I was encouraged by the following website:


Cycling around Dumfries

Locharbriggs and Heathhall
Local Cycle Route 10 runs from Dumfries Rail Station north on to Edinburgh Road out to Locharbriggs and Heathhall. For a great leisurely cycle ride in the countryside, follow Route 10 further north out to Ae Forest and Moffat.

We were further encouraged by a large blue Sustrans-style sign that told us that Moffat was 16 miles away along local cycle route number 10. Initially the surface was OK and we rode, but the signs advised us to leave my planned route and to follow a different track. Again, not a problem. The forest was a labyrinth of tracks like this and one would be very much like another.

We started to climb steeply and of course that meant getting off and pushing. Once again, I had no objection to this. I knew that we would be climbing to well over 1000′.  Every so often the gradient lessened and we could ride, but progress, even by our standards, was slow. I had warned our landlady for the night that we might be late arriving, so she wouldn’t be sending out search parties unnecessarily.

The worst bit, and I’d defy anyone to ride on this surface, was where the Forestry Commission had “repaired” the road by covering it in lumps of rock roughly the size of a cricket ball, but mostly cubic. On occasions more frequent than I care to recall we pushed our bikes up a steep ascent only to find that where the slope became rideable once again, some cretin had dumped tons of rubble all over it. Jan is not the most confident cyclist and is particularly unnerved when suddenly her back wheel leaps sideways on account of  dreadful road surface. Neither is she given to displays of histrionics but at one point she screamed out of sheer frustration before giving me a vigorous hug just to tell me that she knew it wasn’t my fault. To describe this as “a great leisurely ride in the countryside” was about as far from the truth as it’s possible to be. Firstly, it was far from leisurely, and a Hard Slog would be a more appropriate description; secondly, much of the time we weren’t riding; and thirdly, when one’s view from the road is occupied entirely by unceasing millions of pretty much identical sitka spruce, it’s about as great as riding through a massive industrial complex.

Eventually two things improved: we reached about 1230′ above sea level, which meant that there would be a lot more downhill than up; and the unrideable “repairs” had stopped so we made much better progress. The first four miles of forest road had taken us over 2 hours to complete whereas the next 8 took us about the same amount of time so it was approaching 6 p.m. by the time we emerged onto a metalled, but very pot-holed road which led down the hill to the motorway junction and, beyond it, to Moffat. This was achieved without incident and we arrived at the B & B around 6.30, showered and went out to choose from several very promising looking pubs. The first we tried had no ale, just keg rubbish, so we tried another, The Star. This did a very good pint of a local brew named Criffel and a very succulent, and excellent value, sirloin steak. We also learned that it has earned a mention in the Guinness Book of Records on account of its dimensions: 20′ wide and 162′ long.

April 6, 2012

Dalry to Thornhill

Filed under: Cycling — admin @ 11:23 pm

This morning dawned bright and frosty. The view from our bedroom window showed that all the frost had gone from the southeast-facing hills to our right whereas the grass in the valley bottom, where the sun’s rays struck it at a much more acute angle, was still white.

Filled with porridge (this was The Porridge House, after all) and cooked breakfast, we headed north, for the first few miles following the same route that we did five years ago when our destination was John o’ Groats. We climbed gently and after about three miles headed north-east along a minor road (having said that, the major thoroughfare which is the B7000 only seemed to have about one vehicle every ten minutes on it). The sun was so warm that we both shed layers and it was only after I got back on my bike that I noticed that the shadows were still frosty. I can’t remember a day in which the shade and sun temperatures were so markedly different.

We climbed gently and I marvelled at how Jan’s technique had come on in leaps and bounds in three days. On Monday, she was struggling to keep the bike upright at less than 4 mph and that resulted in her running out of steam long before reaching the tops of hills. Now she was twiddling gently in low gears, keeping a straight course, and expending far less energy as a result. She was amazed when I pointed out that we had cycled at least 200′ higher today than we did yesterday. The differences were that all the gradients were gentle and all the surfaces were metalled. Our average speed was only about 5 mph at this stage, but who cares? We were able to bask in the sunshine, scenery, silence and solitude, all of them balm for the soul.

We eventually began the descent to Moniave and the next 5 miles took us about 20 minutes. It was lunch time and we locked the bikes and adjourned to the rather scruffy pub. We had soup, sandwiches and tea and, even though we were the only customers, were obliged to suffer the enormous plasma screen churning out Murdoch and golf.

After lunch we stayed on the A road, rather than the more direct route which involved chevrons and around 3.30 we arrived at the Gillbank guest house. We took our bikes round the back and stored them in the cellar and then spent the rest of the afternoon in our room where we have an enormous four-poster bed. I think there might be photographs later.

Now, ablutions and laundry.

April 5, 2012

Newton Stewart to St. John’s Town of Dalry

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:53 pm

Posted on 5 April 2012

My wife must love me very much.

It was a bright, cold day in April and the Garmin told us it was 9.52 or thereabouts. We headed north towards snow-covered peaks. We were full of an excellent breakfast from the Flowerbank Guest House as we were heading up the Cree valley. The scenery was stunning and our progress was slow. However, we only had 34 miles to do today so there was no particular hurry.

After a few miles we came across some RSPB notices about the nature reserve we were travelling through, and amongst the information about the various species which one might see if one was lucky was information about how Dumfries and Galloway boasts Britain’s highest population of mainland otters. There was a sign to “The Otter Pool” and as one of my unfulfilled ambitions is to see a real live wild otter (I achieved the otter roadkill milestone last year on the Isle of Mull) we sat for half an hour or so beside the Otter Pool and all we saw was a brace of pochard being chased away by a pair of carrion crows.

We carried on and around midday we had completed about 11 miles and we found ourselves at the Glentrool visitors’ centre where we had an early lunch consisting of toasties. Mine contained cheese and ham. We did well to arrive when we did because when we left the place was heaving with people many of whom were queueing up for lunch.

A couple of miles after leaving the visitors’ centre we ran out of road. I knew this was going to happen and had warned Jan of the fact, but I don’t think that either of us was prepared for what Sustrans thinks is a cycle route. It was too rocky to be ridden and also too steep. We walked for the first couple of hundred circuitous yards and then I tried riding. I could manage but it was not easy to keep going on account of the vagaries of gradient and surface quality. Jan made an heroic effort to ride, but given her shortage of solo practice and inherent suspicion of anything remotely dangerous, we were going to have problems as we had about eight miles of quite vicious offroad to do before being reacquainted with tarmacadam firma. Words were exchanged and they were not conducive to matrimonial harmony.

Rig of the Jarkness

As luck would have it, after a mile or so of mostly completely unrideable cycle route, we crossed a stream adjacent to which was a Forestry Commission van, and the road improved. We managed to ride a bit, but the gradient was still a problem. A couple of times I rode my bike to the top of a climb and walked back down towards Jan, rode her bike to the top of the climb while she walked, and so slow progress was made. When we came across a slope that neither of us could cycle up, I gripped my bike by the stem with my right hand, placed my left hand on Jan’s saddle, leaned forward and pushed the bikes. I felt like a number 8 at the back of a scrum preparing for the longest pushover try in the history of rugby union.

Eventually we reached the summit of our ascent, about 900′ up and not far from the Rig of the Jarkness. From that point at least we had the slope in our favour most of the time and Jan started riding extremely well. We kept up a steady 6 or 7 mph for most of the rest of the offroad bit and at about 5 p.m. we finally reached a metalled surface once again. We circumnavigated the south side of the Clatteringshaws Loch and we were within shot of the Porridge House, our abode for the night. We arrived there at about 7.20 and by 7.50 we were in the Clachan Arms and I was ordering the venison casserole out of which they had run when we were last here some 5 years ago. It was well worth the wait.

As I opined at the start of this post, my wife must love me very much. I dragged her, kicking and screaming, out of her comfort zone and made her cycle some horrendously difficult terrain on a diet of chocolate chip biscuits and jelly babies and here we are at bed-time and all is forgiven.

I am a very lucky chap.

The night before we set off on this trip I had been singing in The Messiah. When I took this photograph, all I had bouncing around in my head was “And the Glory, the Glory of the Lord…”. It’s a shame I don’t believe a word of it.

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