Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Also SATMAP has published my story on their website http://www.satmap.com/news.php?art_id=34
Friday, 12 June 2009
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
I will be making an 'appearance' on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire on Wednesday 10th at 3:30, but if you miss it you can catch it on the BBC i-player for a week at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0039n0b/Mark_Powlett_10_06_2009/
Thursday, 14 May 2009
My ferry was not until 11am so I had the chance to explore the Stromness Museum. Orcadians are very well travelled, one Dr Rae had donated the violin he'd taken to explore the Arctic! Also found the best bakery in Britain and came away with Orkney crab rolls for the long journey to Inverness.
At the Ferry a caravan had got stuck inside the ship with a broke axle. Chated with Malcolm (?) the security guard.
Ferry eventually left 20 mins late, not good for a 30 minute connection in Thurso.
Passing out of Scapa Flow we skirted the 1000 ft cliffs on Hoy and the sandstone stack of the Old Man of Hoy came into view. Enjoyed crab rolls!
On arrival at Scrabster I was first off, I'd set a route on the GPS which was 2.6 miles to get to Thurso Station - 20 mins, was it enough against the headwind? Within a mile the taxis moving the other passengers to the train had gone passed. With a lot of hard pedalling and trusting the GPS I arrived on the platform at the same time as the train.
Dozed and grazed to Inverness passing Carbisdale Castle and Dingwall which I had cycled through. Inverness was basking in late afternoon sunshine so I booked my luggage into Left Luggage and found a bar by the River Ness to chill out in.
Sleeper home is very comfortable with a club car set up like a small cafe serving whisky and cheese. Chatted to Gillian, a geologist who confirmed the rocks I found in Devon were the same as those on Hoy, 900 miles apart.
Don't want to get too philosophical about my little cycle, it has been a pleasure pedalling and a privilage being a conduit for so many people to donate to 2 worthy causes. If you have been one of the 50+ who have enjoyed following my progress then I am delighted, if you have not already donated then I invite you to click on the Just Giving link.
For everyone who has added comments - many thanks, your support was a real morale booster. For everyone who donated thank you so much, you are the real heros.
Off for a quiet couple of weeks.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Rod was walking from Land's End to John o'Groats in stages and Charles was the stand-in Warden at the John o'Groats YH.
Both were up and about at 7.15a.m. when I was ready to set off. My decision to stop at the YH last night and not push on against the wind to Duncansby Head and JOG was a good one, it saved me 6 miles of 'doubling-back' and the wind had abated a bit overnight, but it meant that I had to hit several targets to ensure I was at JOG in time for the 09:00 ferry to the Orkneys.
Missed first target of leaving YH at 07:00. Being in a dorm of 3 snorers (excluding me) I can recommend ear-plugs, only drawback is that I slept through my 6a.m alarm! Very satifying leaving remains of food behind for a JOG-LE bod to utilise, I decided to throw away the remainder of the museli as I was never convinced that my Cape Wrath 'ghost' mouse hadn't been nibbling at it.
Second target was to reach Duncansby Head by 7:45, a 4 mile cycle (Kineton to Whatcote). Despite the head-wind I pedalled up the last hill to the lighthouse pretty much on target and possed for the obligitory 'evidence' photo. Resisted temptation to wake up 3 camper vans parked nearby.
Next target was to get my LE-JOG papers stamped and to sign the End-to-End book. The JOG hotel (historic custodian) had closed but I was reliably informed that the Seaview Hotel was the new custodian. . . They stamped my forms but did not have the 'official' book - Um. Time now 08:10 and I had plenty more jobs to do. Next was to buy Ferry ticket, £18 for a 45 minute crossing on a boat that the Viking would have felt at home in! Anyway, ferry lady made a few calls and we discovered that there are no less than 4 End-to-End books. The 'Official' one was in the Gift Shop, so off I pedalled and eventually left my mark in the 'Official' journal.
Still had to find the Finish Line, which was amid the Heras fencing around the defunct JOG Hotel. Job done. The 'Official' mileage of 874 was more than 300 less than I had clocked up.
The ferry seemed to be full of English couples of a 'certain age' partaking in the 1 day Orkney mega tour. I did find Simon who had cycled LE-JOG in 8 days with little luggage except a track-pump! Transpired he had 3 punctures within 20 miles of JOG and the track pump was a purchase in Wick.
Arriving at Burwick on South Ronaldsway (as in the Shipping Forecast) I was greeted with a following wind, a cloudless sky, and no hills only gentle inclines. These, together with turquoise sea and white beaches made the 20 miles to Kirkwall chatting to Simon exceedingly easy.
Each time I stopped to read about Churchill's Barriers connecting islands and built in the 1940's by Italian POWs to protect the Home Fleet from U-boat attack (Google Scapa Flow for more info) I met Penny who was at last night's YH. The small Italian Chapel also built by the POW was a very poinient memorial to all the turmoil these islands had seen.
Couldn't resist the Distillery Visitor Centre in Kirkwall and Holly plied me a couple of excellent wee-drams. Stopped for obligatory snap at the harbour in Kirkwall, orkney's capital.
The Orkneys are famous for their ancient monuments, so I had to venture to the Ring of Brodgar. I think it is made of the same Old Red Sandstone that I first encountered in Devon and then in Ross-on-Wye and Carlisle and Dunnet Head.
I couldn't sort out accommodation on Hoy so coasted into Stromness to buy a ferry ticket back to Scotland (Orkney's aren't Scotland- apparently). Little old Nora was waiting for her bus but willingly thrust £5 into my hand when I told her I'd cycled 1,300 miles to raise money for orphans and dispossed people in Africa - The Kindness of Strangers.
Checked into the Stromness Hotel and dozed off in the bath until my sunburned leg slipped under the water- Ouch.
So thats about it, tomorrow I get a ferry and 2 trains homeward, I'll use the time to jot down my thoughts and highlights, in the meantime off for a steak at the Ferry Inn.
Stats for the day 51 miles, 3789 ft,5:34 hours, max speed 31.6 mph, average 10.7mph.
A completely blissful night's sleep with the most spectacular view over the Kyle of Tongue when the alarm went off at 6:30. Not a cloud in the sky when I left Hanna at the YH and started pedalling at 8am, but cold.
I knew that there were plenty of hills on the way to John o'Groats, but after the forth 400 ft climb (1.5 Edgehills) the novelty wore off. The surf at Bettyhill was up and I saw at least 3 wetsuited dudes heading into the water.
All morning the hills were reducing in height whilst the wind was building. The wind was more debillitating than the hills, at least with the hills there was a summit, but the wind was always there. I reckon it knocks a gear of my cycling, possibly two.
Brought a delicious chicken pie in Reay, resisted temptation to visit nuclear plant at Dounreay!
MORE HILLS AND MORE HEADWIND, did get first proper view of the Orkneys.
Thurso's Co-Op provided last chance to stock up before heading further east.
Dunnet Head (Britain's most northerly point) was bathed in afternoon sunshine. Felt exceedingly satisfied to have cycled south to north of Britain. Managed to get a photo taken at Dunnet Head by Eileen and Isobell but decided that JOG was too ambitious today.
MORE HILLS AND MORE HEADWIND-not fun. Stopped at JOG YH tonight sharing dorm with Ron- walking LE-JOG in stages. Got formal certificate to confirm I had achiven LE-JOG from YHA warden.Stats 69.2 miles, climbed 5016 ft, average speed 8.4mph, cycling time 8:14 - long day. Max speed 32.3 mph- WEE.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
With Cape Wrath behind me I turned east, Tongue was the target today. Only 30 miles but after such an early and cold start it was a challenge. Stopped for egg and beanz at a 1950's cafe - not retro, just not been touched since then. Also charged phone as solar charger is broken (hence no live-logging today).
Smoo caves are on an inlet just outside Durness, rather impressive. As I climbed back to the road my old friend Gareth drove past in his Google Street View car. I'll have to see if I can find myself.
Couldn't resist paddling at Traigh Allt Chailgeag beach, had if all to myself. It was FREEZING!
Loch Eriboll is a 6 mile inlet which has to be cycled twice, on the road almost every vehicle was a camper van or motorbike - much easier to get up the hills. I am sure there are better places for lunch, just can't think of any.
It set me up for the 700ft climb, the last one over 500 ft and a gentle freewheel down and across the causeway into Tongue. Hannah the warden's home made cakes were wonderful. The hostel was also hosting a party of George Watsons College in Edinburgh (Chris Hoy's old school). A better advert for young people would be hard to find, they cook, wash up, enjoy themselves, and ply strangers with wine.
Long day tomorrow and as I have a room to myself I will sleep well.Stats 52.5 miles 5,741 feet climbed, max speed 27.5 mph.Overall to date 1192 miles 94998 feet
Monday, 11 May 2009
As I left it is was looking very doubtful if I would get to Cape Wrath, with my broken chain, no ferrys running and the RAF bombing the road to Cape Wrath.
So I eventually reached the Kyle of Durness after 5pm, as I cycled down a long-descent I could clearly make out a boat crossing towards my bank, I frantically pedalled out to the jetty and found John (the Ferryman) just finishing his last trip. In a shouted conversation over the noise of his out-board motor it was clear that bombing would start by 11am, so if I wanted to get to Cape Wrath I'd have to go now.
En route across John plied me with a very palatable red wine, if you excuse the salty taste on the glass. It also transpired that halfway to the lighthouse was a bothy- a basic building to shelter in.
I took my chances, and the last drop of wine and agreed to meet John back at the jetty by 11am Monday. All I had to do was find and survive the 'haunted' bothy for one night.
The road was steep (two arrows on the map) and in a terrible state of repair, I barely made 5 mph up the long unrelenting climbs, with only the Red Deer keeping me company. The bothy turn-off lead to a steep and un-cyclable descent to an idylic sheltered beach. The Bothy was an old crofting hut but water-tight and had two camp-beds -some candles and a fire place.
My first job was to scour the beach for driftwood - very Robinson Crusoe- I even hummed the theme tune! Fire lit I decided that with failing light and no saucepans that cooking pasta was too ambitious so set about eating anything I'd brought with me,Chicken chunks, bacon I pre-cooked, peppers, choclate bars, last bit of John's wine which I'd decanted into waterbottle.
Suitable fortified I donned as many clothes layers as possible (at least 4 on all parts, including neoprene over-shoes and a duvet from my towel, and settled down to sleep.
By 12:30 the fire was out, pulled head-scaff into balaclava, 3am my water bottle fell over, was it the ghost? No, I turned on my headtorch to see a large mouse on my pannier(!). 4:30am and it was too cold to sleep, it was also getting light. Gave up notion of sleeping and packed up. Breakfasted on dry museli, energy drink and chocolate.
Track was too steep and rough to push laden bike up so I portaged panniers seperately.
The 4 miles to Cape Wrath crossed open moorland with small herds ot deer running free. By 6:10 I was at the lighthouse and with the last juice in my phone I got the picture of me at Britain's most remote extremity.
The two hours to retrace my steps was not long enough to meet John bringing the sentries over, so I had a 90 minute wait.-Cleaned bike, repacked panniers and watched as numerous Typhoon jets unleashed live bombs on Grunyard Island - loud blasts followed by clouds of smoke. All this and it wasn't even 9am!Rest of Monday on seperate blog.
Leaving Carbisdale Castle I negotiated the footbridge and headed off past the very uninspirins Falls of Shin to cycle some 10 miles along Loch Shin. I think it had been dammed so it was more of a reservoir, but eqaully stunning in the sunshine. For a while I cycled with another End to Ender, Tim who had shared a dorm with me the night before.
There was a gentle head-wind and that together with a slow climb tempted me to stop for an 'unnecessary but enjoyable' coffee and chocolate crunchy thing. I chatted to Jan and Helen about my trip so far and plans to get to Cape Wrath.
For Jan the penny dropped and she got the local paper to check the start date for a big 'live firing' excercise. Despite me checking the Cape Wrath Range web site which said it was open to the public in May the paper said it would close for 2 weeks tomorrow. AGHH!
Being a resourceful chap I had the number of the Range Warden who confirmed that from 11am Monday the RAF Typhoons would be dropping real bombs on Garve Island, not a good place to cycle past! The Warden said if I cycled fast I'd propably get between the sentries but he couldn't guarntee that.
This was not good news, I didn't really want to miss out Cape Wrath so called John the Ferryman to hear that his first ferry would not be until 11am, significantly reducing my odds of reaching Cape Wrath (ferry is ONLY way to get to 11 mile road to lighthouse.
I'l cycled 25 miles, it was 37 to the ferry and 12 o'clock. If I cycled like crazy I might get to cycle one way and get the minibus back- worth a go. So off I pedalled, past Loch Shin and Loch Merkland and over a saddle down to Loch More. Just as I was marvelling at the beauty and remoteness my pedals went spinning as my chain broke and came to rest on the tarmac behind me.
What a good job l'd brought a spare link and chain tool with me,.all I needed to do was read the instructions. 45 minute, and a lot of greasy fingers the new link clicked into place and I could restart my increasingly hopeless race to the last Ferry.The far north-west coast of Scotland was truely breath - taking, but keep your mouth closed to avoid swallowing a fly or a bee!
A s I descended to the Kyle of Durness I could make out a small boat. Would I make the ferry, could I cycle both ways to Cape Wrath, would I get bombed by the RAF.. I'll tell you later today:.Stats 70.9 miles, climbed 4,980 ft
Sunday, 10 May 2009
Saturday, 9 May 2009
With a compartively easy distance today (38 miles) I completely unpacked my panniers, posing for a photo outside the hostel.
Left Inverness behind and crossed the Morray Firth on the Kessok bridge onto The Black Isle - not sure why 'black'. The sun shone and I was making good, but not spectacular progress. I decided to avoid the A9 for as long as possible so joined National Cycle Path 1 as it ran on a purpose built cyclepath, adding 6 miles to my day's target.
I resisted visiting the Black Island Brewery - I had been before. As I free-wheeled across the island by back axle was making grinding noises again. Nothing for it but to divert to Dingwall where the shop stripped it and re-greased it, seemed to do the trick. This added another 7 miles to the day
National Cycle Path 1 meandered along minor roads and into Sutherland, followed by a 750ft climb: (2.5 .Edgehills) at which point the sky grew dark and I donned waterproofs again. The views to Skibou Castle and Dornoch were impressive.
Had another 2 mile divertion via Bonner Bridge to get milk and museli. Eventually approached the Youth Hostel into a headwind after carrying bike and panniers up the 3 flights of steps to get onto the footbridge that was recently (2000) added to a spectaclular railway bridge - I do wonder how people crossed here for the previous 100 years.
Carbisdale Castle YH was owned by a founder of the Scottish YH Association and he left it to be a YH. It is a real Scottish stately home complete with marble statues, paintings, dodgy plumbing and bedrooms up 8 flights of stairs and through several passages - but the view made it all worthwhile.
It was full of active Scottish types who had been out bagging Munros (keep up these are the 238 hills more than 3,000 feet). A good crowd but with so large a place it was not as laid back as smaller hostels, lots of huddles around maps discussing the ascents for tomorrow.
Stats for the day, distance a respectable 54.8 miles, climbed 4,491 ft in 5:30 hours with a top speed of 28.4 mph and average of 9.7 mph (slowest and shortest full day).