Helston to Lands End – 28 miles
1047 miles covered – none to go!
End to End successfully completed, 5pm, Sunday 23rd August 2015
The plan for the day had been to set off a bit later than normal, cycle along to Penzance and then over the hills to Lands End, then back to Penzance to get the train home – Geoff was at a horse event on Dartmoor all day and not available to help. However, at breakfast Pete noticed there was another First Great Western strike and so we had to move to plan B. This would involve taking our time to cycle the 28 miles to Lands End and then hoping that Geoff could come and pick us up at the end of the day. This turned out to be perfect. My legs had just about had it in terms of being able to get up the bigger hills and we had not often really had the time to explore and enjoy the scenery through which we were cycling. Doing the last day slowly (and in sunshine!) would be a real treat.
Helston is a substantial and really quite pleasant town – well worth a visit en route to Lizard Point – seemed to be lots of independent shops and nice restaurants and pubs. We set off along the A393 towards Penzance. The road was very busy with holiday traffic and did involve starting with a very long – though not too difficult – hill. However, once at the top there were a series of signs to potteries and art galleries and Pete and I enjoyed popping in to take a look. Nick Harrison and his wife produce a range of hand thrown ‘Leach’ ceramics and woven fabric art pieces at Penhale Jakes, Ashton – Pete particularly liked his range of table ware.
Down the hill into Marazion with the first glimpses of the iconic Saint Michael’s Mount, through the narrow streets of beautiful Cornish art and gift shops, and then along the sea front to Jordan’s Café, our favourite seaside café, for a drink and tuna sandwich overlooking the Atlantic Ocean – and a good view of The Lizard in the distance. Here we met Ann and Richard, who had made Cornwall their home for the last 27 years and seemed to love it for the sea and the walking – they too make special trips to Jordan’s for their coffee. Ann and Richard lived on our route between Penzance and Lands End and were able to offer us some advice about the best way to go.
On along the coast road through Penzance where they actually had a train about to leave for London inspite of the strike (tempting – but no), Newlyn with its harbour, and then the very picturesque Mousehole. Normally we rush through here so it was such a treat to stop and pick up a cup of tea, take in the views and chat to a couple of cyclists, down from Sheffield.
Now up the very steep Mousehole hill, Pete cycling, me walking, and along the lanes at the top to Lamorna – via, on a 17% downhill, a tiny barn , called The Old Mill – full of nick nacks, protected by the huge rhubarb (gunnera mannicata?) and by an older woman whose hard of hearing made her seem a bit witch-like to Pete. Here we purchased a couple of shells and a post card, our only souvenirs from the trip.
On past the road sign with which I have a love/hate relationship (Lands End 7 1/4 miles) up the last major hill and then through a series of delightful sandy lanes bounded by hedges full of wild montbretia and fuschia – just gorgeous. We decided, following the earlier advice from Ann and Richard, to follow Cycle Route 3 up to St. Buryan, where we made a last stop to share a Snickers Bar, and to buy some bread and ham to share with Geoff at Lands End.
Then on along the lanes for the last five miles. Just before Sennen we were caught by Pete Gunstone (am giving his full name in case you would like to follow his progress) who was just about to set out on his LEJOG route – planning on camping but with evening pub meals. He asked us what we had enjoyed most and it was easy to answer it had been the people we had met throughout the trip.
We rolled into Lands End, with its breathtaking views of the sea and the Longships Lighthouse and along to the signpost for our photo just as the photographer team who put up the date and mileage were packing away. They were really kind and without our asking, got it all out again for us and took the photos we wanted on my phone with no charge – thank you to them!
Pete took photos of the other Pete by the signpost and we waved him off on his trip. A number of people came up to us and congratulated us. Among them were Colin and Sarah who recognised my Serpie kit. Colin had completed the End to End previously and Sarah (a triathlete) mentioned that she was likely to give it a go next year and so we were able to exchange thoughts about cycle saddles and shorts that might work well for women over a long distance.
Such a lovely evening so Pete and I sat with a cup of tea overlooking the sea, with the Isles of Scilly in the distance, until Geoff joined us for our picnic of rolls and ham (tasted wonderful!). We were all delighted that we had completed safely, on time and in such wonderful weather. And then home to Liskeard, shower, supper and bed.
THANK YOU to our supporters: these trips are just not possible without a huge amount of support. In particular, Pete and I are indebted to Geoff for letting us go and for looking after the animals at home, to Anthony for support in Scotland, to Susie and Charlie for our Portishead stop, to Christopher for daily encouragement, to a whole range of cycle shops who prepared and fixed our bikes so that we could continue with the trip all at very little cost, and to the wonderful fellow JOGLERS and interested supporters we met throughout our journey. Thank you to Cornwall CTC for training me up and for encouragement en route, and to Serpentine Running Club for their non-itchy kit and for renewing my membership so cheaply. We would also like to thank the bloggers whose route we copied – we loved it – slightly longer than most but definitely flatter and past so many iconic landmarks. Finally, I would like to thank the hundreds of thousands of motorists on whom we were dependant to be considerate. We know that passing cyclists on a busy road requires patience and skill – so thank you very much indeed. To the five motorists who could not wait and had to do a lot of loud revving and wheel spinning as they went past – we apologise for the inconvenience we caused you – you might like to give cycling a try yourselves – it is a great antidote to anger management.
OUR MOST USEFUL KIT: (please note my actual kit list is set out in my entry for 27 July 2015 – Ann’s End to End Kit List) cycle mirrors (please don’t try this without one on every bicycle in your group), Michelin pro4 endurance tyres, KT tape (have this with you rather than cycling on for another 30 miles to find some), smart phone with good battery and waterproof case (for help with route, internet hot spot, access to appropriate bike shops, etc.), MU plug (packs flat) and long cable (for where plug sockets are not placed conveniently), waterproof luggage (my Arkel bag was wonderful), SIS hydro tablets (for electrolyte drinks – work like magic and much better than squash with salt added), Torq or Mule Bar gels (for Ann to help with hills and distance), rain legs (but the rain legs needed a longer crotch to be fully protective), Gore Xenon AS rain jacket with Costelli Nano Flex Arm Warmers (great in the rain), Gore Xenon Chamois, buff to stop rain trickling in at neck, Gore Xenon SSJ S (very lightweight jersey for hot days). SH-12 cleats (blue) and cleat covers (Pete). I had opted to wear just one pair of shoes with toe clips rather than cleats and my old faithful Sketchers stood up beautifully to all weathers and came back looking just the same as they had done for the last six months. The Garmin (backed up by paper maps – we had taken apart a road atlas 3miles to one inch).
What did not work so well: our gloves and over boots were not properly waterproof and, wherever you are, trying to dry out shoes over night is very difficult. My woman’s Featherlite jacket (great for warmth and packing up very small) was waterproof until it went into the wash in York and afterwards let in the rain so that on a couple of days I felt so cold and wet I thought I could not go on – I am now investing in a properly waterproof lightweight jacket and I would think it is worth making space for this in your summer luggage. There were several days where we had wished we had brought our tiny little pack-away (5 cms) ruck sac – where we needed to buy food for the evening just before a B and B this would have enabled us to carry these extras for the last few miles.
NUTRITION – what worked for us: We both drank the SIS hydro drinks ( tablet in a container of water x two daily) These were great electrolyte drinks and we were never thirsty and never experienced cramp or any ill effects. Pete is a strong cyclist and our trip was not very taxing for him so in terms of food: He went with his full English breakfast at our B and B; a hot chocolate and a shared cake at our first stop; a tuna sandwich and a cold drink at our second; a cold drink at our tea time stop; and then we alternately ate a supper of meat and veg or salad – or a Pot Noodle when we were too tired. For me, my cycling had to be supported with gels ( Mule Bar or Torq – 100 calories each). So I ate the same as Pete, except my breakfast was a poached egg and toast and at night I was much less hungry, really only needing a main course (whereas Pete usually wanted two).
And, finally, our KEY TIPS: Plan to set off early every day to allow time for things to go wrong – and don’t be too disappointed when they do go wrong – you can’t plan for everything – we were significantly held up by a puncture and by my derailleur needing replacing; remember to eat and drink well before you get hungry and thirsty – you are not just trying to maintain energy for the day in question but for a whole series of hard cycling days; save your phone battery (tempting though it is to use your phone at every stop) – there were a couple of days w here we reached our last ten miles without any battery on either of our phones and therefore had no way of finding our way to our B and B, etc. or for calling a bike shop for help; assess every road you join very carefully – your biggest risk on these trips is being killed in an RTA; make sure your seat is high enough so that it does not put too much strain on your knees; and, finally, if you are not a naturally strong cyclist and have the time to do this, perhaps build in some shorter days at the start of your trip so you are less likely to be injured.
And that is about that! Pete and I agree this was a wonderful and worth while adventure and we would recommend it to anyone. If you are planning something similar – enjoy!