Virtual Lands End to John O’Groats .... Week 4
Sunday 19 April. Frodsham-Worden Park38 miles Total 412 miles
Leaving Lady Heyes campsite starts with a downhill, and then meanders across to Billinge. This name comes from the Old English ‘billa’ meaning ridge, or bill of sword, and ‘ing’ meaning place, or people of a place. When Jim and I rode end-to-end, I remember feeling particularly exhausted as we reached the top of the ridge.
The ride to Eccleston demonstrates that England can be a green and pleasant land – fertile soil with plenty of rain. Eccleston means church town – the Celtic word ‘eglés’ (or French Eglise) meaning a church with the Old English word ‘tun’ meaning farmstead or settlement. The village was mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086, and St Mary’s Church can be dated to the 14th century.
One of the notable residents of Eccleston is Bradley Wiggins, and the Post Office celebrated his 2012 Olympic win, by painting gold the post box outside the local Post Office.
Tuesday 21 April. Worden Park-Morecombe Bay 32 miles. Total 444 miles
I remember riding through Preston – it had spectacularly inadequate cycle route signage – and it was a cold, windy day. We stopped at a transport café for lunch, and the owner was astonished when I added about 7 spoonsful of sugar to Jim’s tea. I explained this was because Jim needed the energy to pedal a bike with 4 panniers and the tent, whereas I only had two panniers. Reinvigorated, we pedalled on to Garstang, an old market town where we saw the wonderful, old-fashioned street market. Garstang’s name is in part derived from stang, Old Norse for boundary post and the town cross is meant to be positioned on this ancient site.
Jim and I followed the A6 for a large part of the way up to Lancaster. Some parts have a bike lane, which is good to ride, and other parts have a surprisingly low amount of traffic. Jim thinks the M6 takes most of the lorries off this road. I noticed a rare postbox outside a post office on the A6 in a Victorian area south of Lancaster. An Edward VIII postbox is unusual because he only reigned from 20 January-11 December 1936. There are only 65 known postboxes remaining in England, as many of them were removed or had the cypher changed after his abdication.
Morecombe Bay is the largest estuary in the UK of intertidal mudflats and sand, and is a significant area of wildlife conservation. The local bird observatory supports the tourism industry. The bay is the main UK habitat of the high brown fritillary butterfly, one of the most endangered UK species. Morecombe Bay has significant industries of cockle picking, and natural gas extraction, which up until recently provided 15% of UK gas consumption.
Thursday 23 April. Morecombe Bay- Penrith 48 miles. Total 492 miles
Today’s actual ride was my longest for many years. A friend, who has been making scrubs for the NHS, had run out of fabric. I contacted family and neighbours, who immediately provided old sheets and duvet covers, and pedalled over to Newport to deliver them.
The virtual LEJOG route heads north out of Morecombe along Bare seafront, and up to Beetham, a lovely stone village in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is a bird sanctuary on the way, the Leighton Moss reed beds where they have a resident population of bitterns, another endangered species.
From Bare seafront the route is slowly climbing until it approaches Kendal. Then the hills are constant, and the gradient is anywhere between 9-22%. We learned to check the map carefully, so as not to lose altitude by taking a wrong turn.
The next ‘hill’ was the infamous Shap on the way to Penrith. The A6 runs straight over this hill (peaking at 1350 feet altitude), and I had been anxious about how much traffic would be on it. Jim was right however, in that the A6 was virtually devoid of traffic as the M6 is a preferable route for long distance traffic, and local drivers would avoid the Penrith bottleneck at all costs. The road over Shap is clear and open, with great visibility – but is exposed and windy. Having crested the apex, where there was a memorial stone, it was a free run down to Shap, and we touched 32mph on the bikes.
Shap’s main form of employment appears to be quarrying. The local quarries provide limestone, blue granite, and unusually the famous pink granite.
From Shap the route heads north to Penrith. Notable Penrith residents include Samuel Plimsoll and John Loudon Macadam. Plimsoll (1824-1898) was an English politician who campaigned against the overloading of ships and was responsible for the introduction of the Plimsoll line. This is a line on a ship’s hull that indicates the maximum safe draught, to prevent overloading and instability at sea. Macadam (1756-1836) was the Scottish roadbuilder who invented tarmac for use in roadbuilding, hence the term macadamised roads.
Fourth week of virtual LEJOG completed. Rider strength is building, enabling longer distances to be achieved. Almost 500 miles completed!