Friday, August 2, 2013

A Little Warm-up Ride: Lands End to Penzance

Day One: Monday 3 June
Today, we're on the road – To go bike riding, first get a bike – Lands End – Weather - Statistics

Today, we're on the road!

Today we're going to Lands End!” was my first thought on waking in our monastic cell in the YMCA Hostel, Penzance.  I didn't actually yell this out: David was still asleep in his twin bed less that a metre away, so I dozed on and thought about......

...New Zealand beating England at cricket in a match we listened to, amazed, on the drive over yesterday. Did New Zealand really score 359 in 50 overs? Martin Guptill 189? Was it all just a dream?

....and, nearly as good. I heard a young guy outside a Penzance cake shop shouting in a dense accent, asked David to translate, learnt that they were selling two Cornish pasties for the price of one. I didn't hesitate. That was dinner sorted.

.....meeting an inspiring couple on the waterfront last night, offering to take their photo, learning that they were 70, and were leaving in the morning to do LEJOG on a tandem. There's more! He had two artificial hips and a shoulder reconstruction, and she had just recovered from a bad fall, fracturing her pelvis in four places, breaking both wrists.

We'll see you on the way, I'm certain.” they insisted but sadly we never did.

To go bike riding, first get a bike

At 10.30 we drove two miles out to Lands End Cycle Hire at Long Rock, and met Peter Rivett,  formerly an advisor to the Labour Party in Nottingham and for four years now the owner of a bike hire shop. A totally logical progression, of course. The alternative for him was probably to become a Labour MP. Smart choice, Peter.
He was engaging, interesting and helpful and techno-savvy enough to interpret the installation chart for my Cateye Computer  ( it measures distance, speed, calories, etc) which worked perfectly all trip after he set it up.

I fitted a handlebar carry- bag, a front white and a rear red light, clipped on my panniers, raised the seat and resolved to remove, as soon as possible, the bell, the heavy stand and the chain guard currently fitted to the bike: I had no intention of giving these weighty appendages a free ride all the way to John O'Groats!

We bolted the bike carrier onto our car, lashed on the bike and drove to Lands End, via the Minack Theatre, an open air stage perched on the cliffs above a wedge of beach of the cleanest white and at the end of a bay of clear, pale blue water. Minack Theatre – spectacular, dramatic (of course), crowded and, I would recommend, essential visiting.

Lands End

We drove into the Lands End car-park past a rider wearing a yellow t shirt seeking sponsorship for the National Lifeboat Association. She rode up to the Tourist Centre, smiling happily, modestly pumped her arm in celebration: she had taken 38 days from John O' Groats, supported all the way by her husband in their camper van. And today was her birthday!

If I'd started from Lands End and had to tackle the steep hills of Cornwall and Devon at the beginning, I doubt if I'd have finished. The hills of Scotland are tough but not nearly as bad as round here.”


In front of the Lands End Tourist Centre,
 ready to ride!

I left David to walk the cliffs and rode out of the carpark behind two heavily laden LEJOGGERS. I know they were LEJOGGERS because they had a big map of Britain printed on the back of their jackets. They kept to the A road and I soon turned right onto B3315, the quieter, longer, steeper route back to Penzance. I was on the way!

A typical sunken hill road in Cornwall:
steep, hedge bordered, narrow.
I soon understood what everyone meant by 'she be real steep 'raand here'. In the few miles between Lands End and Penzance, the road dives into four vallies then abruptly climbs straight up over the next hill. Who designs these roads? Ah, that's right, they were never actually engineered at all. A couple of thousand years ago, some shaggy local cut out a walking track over the hill to visit his girlfriend, taking, of course, the shortest route, which is often also the steepest. The tracks became horse trails, then wagon trails. The rains poured , washing the mud down the hills and carving the tracks deeper and deeper.

The roads were narrow, steep, bordered by hedges laced with flowers. I can't tell you what lay beyond the hedges as they towered metres high and blocked all views. But the traffic was careful, cars even backing up to let me past if the carriage- way was very narrow.

Near Penzance I stopped and asked a walker:

Excuse me, what's the best road to Mousehole?”

His eyes widened and he muttered.....” wha...?......oi......”

Clearly my accent was a problem. I don't understand why! We New Zealanders speak perfect English without trace of accent and yet.... my speaking to locals was often the cue for them to snigger and shake their heads.

I repeated my question.
Ah, ya'd be meanin' Mowzill.” He pointed to a side road, then walked on chuckling and rolling his eyes.

Mousehole: post-card - gorgeous when the tide is up

I zoomed down a steep road over which tree branches interlaced. I was not just in a gutter, I was in a tunnel. Exciting! Then on to Mouse..., sorry, Mowzill, a little fishing port, as pretty as a film set. Famous writer, Dylan Thomas spent his honeymoon here in 1937, but his wife Caitlin later described the marriage as “raw, red, bleeding meat” so it's little wonder that with such a recommendation, Mowzill has never become famous as a honeymoon mecca.

I meandered through narrow streets lined with stone houses gazed out over Mounts Bay, and was happy with this gentle start, this flexing of muscles. Because however tamely, however undramatically, we were on the way.


Warm, summer weather, few clouds. No wind!

Today's statistics

Distance (kms) Average (kph) Time Maximum Odometer/trip
26.2 15.2 1h 42m 44 26.2

Wildflowers on a churchyard wall in the village of Mousehole.
Mousehole at low tide.

No comments:

Post a Comment