The Ballad of Inveraray Gaol

“I never travel without Jim Campbell’s blog. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” – (appropriate apologies to Oscar Wilde)

Inveraray Jail was built in 1819 and was a courthouse and prison which was used from 1820 to 1889. It had a capacity of 12 prisoners who were not allowed to fraternise, the idea that they could reflect upon their crimes in solitary conditions.

Apparently it’s now a very jolly living museum with actors acting out the trials and lives of the prisoners that were incarcerated there…

Shame we don’t have longer to be able to visit!

Tuesday 19th June – Day Eight

We started from Kilmarnock fairly early today, although the day was a bit shorter it was still 80 miles and rain was forecast for the afternoon. It was warm in the Car Park of the Park Hotel (very spiffy hotel next to the footy ground) but I was not fooled, was going to be a chilly day.

We had haggis on toast for breakfast which was great – very lovely!l

As I said I had looked at the temperatures for today (which were decidedly cool) and went for long trousers, undershirt, thermal winter shirt, gilet and full finger gloves…and I was not wrong, it was decidedly chilly once you you’ll out of the shelter of the car park and rode into the wind towards the coast.

Some of the more optimistic brethren were riding shorts and shirts with no under layers – brrrr! Not for me!

Almost immediately we rode through the 600 miles milestone! Some clever artwork was called for…

Joe had been promised ice cream yesterday and had been bitterly disappointed by the fact that the water stop was billed as an ice cream parlour but actually was on the A76 in a lay-by with views across the field of the ice cream place!

The first rest stop today was next to a famous ice cream parlour which hopefully allowed her to scratch that itch!

After a bit of riding we reached the coast at Ardrossan and we turned up the road to Lairgs with the sea to our right and the wind a manageable cross wind – much more preferable to yesterday.

The ride up the coast was great! We had lovely views of Arran to our left, although it was a bit misty you had a real sense the landscape was finally changing to the spectacular.

We regrouped at Lairgs, the ferry terminal was apparently windswept and cold and not a good place to wait! (Mind you Phil the organiser was dressed in t shirt shorts and flip flops, no wonder he was cold! Get some clothes on!)

There were some jolly photo ops at Lairgs…

Phil eventually allowed the first group of ten cyclists to head up to the ferry terminal, we had to cross in groups of about ten, and we all enjoyed the Callimac experience.

Simon Fisher is on our ride and we believe this is just a pseudonym – he’s clearly Phill Tuffnall!

I took the opportunity to have a couple of protein shots…

Then a few pics while we crossed the loch…

Mark Haggerty is too tall!

We rolled off the other side and the change in pace and scenery was fantastic! Quiet roads, beautiful tree lined riding on sheltered roads – all was amazing, suddenly we felt like we were in Scotland!

Sadly we didn’t get to see Dunoon, it’s a well known place for most Glaswegians and has a memorial to the Dunoon Massacre that I would have liked to see (it was unfortunately a three mile detour and we were close to lunch).

The history of Dunoon is dominated by two Clans – Clan Campbell and Clan Lamont. The Earls of Argyll (Campbells) were hereditary keepers of Dunoon Castle paying the exorbitant rent of a single red rose to the sovereign annually.

In 1646 Clan Campbell massacred members of Clan Lamont in the Dunoon massacre.

The Campbells seem to make a habit of massacring people and I’m not sure I approve – we will pass Glencoe in a few days and that is another shameful family incident!  Will have to keep my head down and my identity quiet.

Dunoon used to be a destination of the Clyde steamers which brought Glaswegian holidaymakers to Dunoon – a journey known as going:

“doon the watter”

Billy Connolly once said:

“…there was a competition in a Glasgow newspaper, the first prize was a week in Dunoon, and the second prize was a fortnight in Dunoon.”

The Rev Dr Donald Currie Caskie was a notable Dunoon denizen.  During WWII he helped an estimated 2,000 Allied sailor’s soldiers and airmen escape from Occupied France.  He became known as the Tartan Pimpernel (what a top fellow).

All I know was that the riding was good, the weather clement and everyone relaxed after the previous stressful day.

Lunch (as usual very awesome, tomato soup and munificent spread provided by Ed and Larcen) was great and served in a barn in the Botanical gardens. Forecast was threatening rain but all kept dry and we rolled along the banks of Loch Fyne with stunning views over the water.

Interestingly at one point we were two kilometres from our hotel however this would have involved swimming the Loch! It was a 32km ride around the loch to get there…we chalked this fact on the road to advise the others!

James and I had promised ourselves we would have some oysters when we arrived at Inveraray, so we stopped at Loch Fyne where, with views of the Loch, a half doz n each was the order of the day…

They were awesome!!! Delicious, I know oysters generally only taste of what you pop on them but they were really nice. We were going to have a glass of fizzy wine with them but sadly eating oysters in the restaurant, which was licensed, was a lot more…so a glass of lemonade and oysters in the deli was what happened…it’s two feet from the posh bit!

He is enjoying them honest!

We then finished the last 8 miles into Inveraray, rain was due and we timed it perfectly arriving just as the rain started.

Inveraray means the ‘Mouth of the Aray’ (imaginative!). It’s the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyl who is the head of Clan Campbell. I’d normally be delighted about this but having read up about the Dunoon and Glencoe Massacres I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable with the Campbell Clan history.

The town’s motto is (bizarrely):

 ‘May a herring always hang to thee’.

The castles a bit special, it’s really a big Georgian Mansion House and played host to Queen Victoria and other Royalty.  It looks just like a Scottish castle should with the beautiful circular turrets topped with conical slate roofs. There is a fabulous view of it as you cycle over the bridge before you arrive in town.

The Duke rebuilt the town too, some of which (Inveraray Inn and the Argyll hotel amongst others) was designed by John Adam. The town, to the Campbells credit, became an attractive and prosperous place with accommodation for estate workers, a woollen mill and a pier to export herring.

Loch Fyne means Loch of the Wine (they must have known I was coming) is the longest of the sea lochs and is a sight to be seen in fine weather.  Loch Fyne kippers are big deal so we will look out for them at breakfast…

All in all a great day! Really made up for the horrid day previously…looking forward to the Great Glen and Fort William tomorrow. First climb is a horror though!

A fabulous dip in the pool and jacuzzi in the (rather posh) Loch Fyne Hotel finished the day before dinner. Dinner was very special -smoked mackerel, fish bouillabaisse and cheese! Score!

Mark won the spectacles of awesomeness for taking a dip in the Loch (he wasn’t about so Phil, who also swam, took them in his absence).

The Outil D’Or was taken home by Joe who carefully filled her water bottles then popped them in her rucksack which promptly disappeared off to lunch!


Enjoying the blog?  Please take time out and sponsor us!  Maurice and I are riding in support of Fresh Start – new beginnings, a treatment service for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  My just giving page can be found here and all donations go straight to the charity (my ride is 100% self funded).

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Today’s inspirational quotation…

“Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride
Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothing I would rather do…

…No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me around” – Highway to Hell AC/DC

Today’s quote is dedicated to the A76, a horrible road to cycle and one which put a dampener on everyone’s day yesterday.

Some of the team witnessed a fatal accident as they arrived in Kilmarnock and arrived very shocked, others like me struggled with the wind and the road surface.

Still that was yesterday and today is different we passed 600 miles just after leaving!

Monday 18th June – Day Seven

Today started well with everyone up and looking forward to a ‘flat day’. Weather was cool but fairly bright with a stiff breeze.

Will all headed off to cross the border into Scotland. A lovely lady I met told me it’s traditional to sing Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond as you cross, turns out none of us know more than two lines….

Will Notcutt turned out to wish us well and spent his morning leapfrogging us and providing moral support – I am so lucky to have such lovely friends!

Gretna is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world, who knew it gives Las Vegas a run for its money?

The blacksmiths were able to perform marriage ceremonies under Scottish law and as such became ‘Anvil Priests’.  Richard Rennison apparently performed 5,147 ceremonies.  The Old Blacksmith’s shop built in 1712 has been a visitor attraction since 1887.

We toasted entering Scotland with a wee dram…9am was not early but we are warriors!

Douglas Adams defined Gretna Green as:

“A shade of green which makes you wish you’d painted whatever it was a different colour.”

we pushed on and came across a rather worrying sign!

Apparently it was the site of a nine mile munitions factory in WWI that got its name from the highly explosive mixture that the young girls used to mix up to make cordite for shells.

We rolled on and passed several sign for Dumfries.

Dumfries is known as The Queen of the South! People from Dumfries are known as

“Doonhamers”

Apparently in 2017 Dumfries was named the happiest place in Scotland. Dumfries is a Roman town – probably of some note as apparently digging anywhere turns up Roman artifacts, a problem for any local developer in my experience as this immediately stops the job and a load of work-shy history loving hippies move in for nine months to excavate the site with a teaspoon and toothbrush (actually I would defend to the death the archeologists but it has no comic potential publicly admitting this!)

In Chester I heard that a local construction company employs a special foreman to evaluate any potential roman remains unearthed…he apparently turns up, takes one look, pronounces it not Roman and immediately horses onto the area two tonnes of ready mix concrete!

King Arthur is reputed to have fought a battle here (local historians claim this, ie they made it up!)

In 1659 ten women were accused of diverse acts of witchcraft by Dumfries Kirk Session. The Justiciary Court found them guilty of the several articles of witchcraft and on 13 April between 2 pm and 4 pm they were taken to the Whitesands, strangled at stakes and their bodies burnt to ashes…witch hunting seems popular in the North of England (Lancaster hosted the Pendle witch trials, see note in yesterday’s blog).

Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed in Dumfries for three days, one of the hotels has a Bonnie Prince Charlie room with tartan carpets. Charlie demanded £2000 and 1000 pairs of brogues when he stayed here, rather puts you off hosting royalty really.

A rumour that the Duke of Cumberland was on his way made the young pretender leg it to safer places taking only £1000 and 255 pairs of shoes for his kilted Jacobite rebel army…

John Laurie came from Dumfries- he was Private Fraser in Dads Army

“We’re Doomed!”

The cartoonist who drew Fred Bassett is from Dumfries, other notable people include Bill Drummond of the KLF.

I have lots of other useful factoids about Dumfries but unfortunately our route was A76 for the whole day and it avoided Dumfries altogether! Shocker! Imagine having all that good useful information about a place and then not riding through it!

The A76 is a horrid road, it’s a triple threat – poor surface, lots of lorries and other traffic and the worst kind of agricultural smells along its whole length. We had a miserable ride, I kept asking myself that surely there was a quieter, less smelly and better surfaced route available. It was Warrington to Preston all over again.

We saw a jolly roadside tableau and, after propping our bikes in there, had a realistic representation of us! We are obviously well thin now…

To cap it all we were huffing into a headwind all day! James and I pushed on through to Sanquhar with the minimum of fuss – we were feeling strong!

On the way we had a jolly rest stop with the others and saw Will again….

Sanquhar claims to have the oldest working post office in the world. It was established in 1712. Sadly we didn’t see it! No idea where it was…maybe it’s shut?

We had to stop to let James express his allegiance to the Covenanters…

The Covenanters signed their renunciation of their allegiance to the King in Sanquhar – they opposed the Episcopaliastion of the Church (something to do with it being governed by the Bishops – I think!) which is memorialised in the high street.

I think he thought episcopaliastion was something to do with fishing rights, still he looked happy…

The toll booth in the centre of town is the only surviving one of its type. It was designed by William Adam, a noted Scottish architect.

My rear wheel had been making very worrying noises for the last 24 hours…Uncle Phil, the tour leader, had looked at it and advised me to get it checked on a jig at a bike shop.

I looked up bike shops in Kilmarnock and phoned them to see if a mechanic was available, one was so the horror began. Any interest in photography ended at this moment.

We worked out that if we took 30 mins, no more, no less, we could make it to the bike shop for the mechanic to review and carry out any work necessary before they shut.

The wind had picked up, we rode and rode – after I had pedalled for an hour I was done! The wind was in our face the whole way and I was fading badly. I had led James most days up til now but seriously without home looking after me I would have been found a week from now rocking under a hedge!

James nursed me to Kilmarnock then led me to the bike shop where a lovely mechanic popped my rear wheel onto a jig and did the best he could with it. Unfortunately I think it needs a rebuild, that said, after he had worked his magic, he informed me that it would likely last the remaining distance!

He then refused to charge me! What a guy!

For the record the bike shop is Sprockets in Kilmarnock and their website can be found here… lovely people and a tasty showroom full of nice bicycles – great service guys many thanks!

We rocked on to the hotel, I would have liked to see more of Kilmarnock but I was finished!

Kilmarnock is mostly known as the home of Johnnie Walker Whisky, Johnnie Walker was a Grocer in Ayreshire (presumably before he started presenting Sounds of the Seventies on Radio 2) and started selling his own brand of blended whisky. The bottling plant was moved by its new owners Diageo in 2012 amid howls of protest.

There is a famous museum in the Town called The Dick Institute. That’s all I’m saying about that (*snigger*). The building is listed but sadly our route does not take us past it…

Kilmarnock was immortalised by two of the most important poets in Scotland (The Proclaimers) they titled a song “The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues”, (no I’ve not heard it).

The Sweet, a ’70s Glam Rock Band, were bottled off stage in 1973 in Kilmarnock.  This inspired their song The Ballroom Blitz.

Once ensconced at the hotel I had a hot bath and slowly started to feel better. The phone rang and Derek Hamilton, a highly esteemed and jolly decent Ex-colleague had arrived! Was great to see the man again. What a guy!

The dinner was a bit subdued – others had had accidents and also had witnessed a road accident on route…

Speed rebel won the Outil D’Or, he had ridden into a pigeon which had rather horrifically bounced into Roly’s wheel….right in front of a bus stop full of school children. He’s starting work with the RSPB when he gets back…

James won the spectacles of awesomeness for looking after me…what a guy!



Enjoying the blog?  Please take time out and sponsor us!  Maurice and I are riding in support of Fresh Start – new beginnings, a treatment service for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  My just giving page can be found here and all donations go straight to the charity (my ride is 100% self funded).

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Shut up legs!

“When my legs hurt, I say: “Shut up legs! Do what I tell you to do!” – Jens Voigt

Today’s quote comes from Jens Voigt. He once rode part of the 2010 Tour de France on a child’s bike (he crashed and had to borrow a boys road bike from a spectator to catch up with his team car). He is a living legend and here is a picture of me with him – what a guy!

Shut up legs is appropriate because we have been booting it down the A76, my rear wheel is making some alarming noises and if I get to the bike shop by 3.30 they will true the wheel for me….do NOT want to break a spike in the highlands.

Jens’s autobiography is very entertaining – highly recommended!

Also below is a picture of me and Olympic Gold Medal (team pursuit) winner Owain Doul. Just to shut any critics up who said I’d never wear get an Olympic gold medal around my neck – the picture is there for all to see!

Sunday 17th June – Day Six

We had a great days cycling today, James and I were well rested and really enjoyed the day despite the highest climb of the tour at 1245 feet climbed.

We set off early, We are not pushing the pace because we like to stop, see the things of note on route and take pictures of town and county signs – these really punctuate our journey up the country.

The weather was cool but dry and the winds favourable, it was a joy to ride to Lancaster.

The most famous Lancastrian is of course the Duke of Lancaster, more commonly known as HRH Queen Elizabeth II…when I attend formal livery dinners in the City many of the bods toast the Duke of Lancaster instead of the Queen. Bit pretentious if you ask me but since they are all richer than me I say live and let live!

The Lancaster Assizes used to sentence to death more people than any other town in the country outside London which earned Lancaster the soubriquet ‘The Hanging Town’. A popular hobby in Lancaster was suppressing Catholicism, there is a memorial to the Lancaster Martyrs but sadly our route does not take us past it…

Wikipedia tells me there are a number of notable bands from Lancaster but sadly I have not heard of any of them so won’t waste your time by name checking them…

Lancaster was the location of the Pendle Witch Trials in 1612 when twelve women and men were tried for witchcraft, ten of them being subsequently hung with an eleventh dying in prison. The accused came from two different families that appeared to make their living by posing as witches. The two groups made a series of accusations against each other which went against them at the trial.

John Richardson (comedian) and the bloke who coined the word dinosaur come from Lancaster.

We really wanted to stop for a cup of coffee but unfortunately very little is open at 9.30 on a Sunday morning in Lancaster – we didn’t fancy McDonalds! We gritted our teeth and push on into Cumbria!

It didn’t take long for us to reach Kendall, we were making great time and the countryside looked gorgeous, not particularly clear sky’s but dry and very lovely to look at.

Kendal

Kendal is famous for mint cake and snuff, two staples of all right thinking LeJoGers. Kendal’s nick name is

‘Auld Grey Town’

after the local grey limestone used to build the town.

Early travellers to Kendal complained of eight miles of

“nothing but a confused mixture of Rockes and Boggs”

…I was hoping that the roads would have improved a bit since then however there was some rough bits of road riding. My wheels developed an annoying tick every revolution and I’m not sure what is wrong. I really don’t want to break a spoke – would be very inconvenient, especially when we are enjoying ourselves so much.

Kendal mint cake was discovered accidentally by Joseph Wiper during his search for a clear glacier mint. It’s been used by notable explorers Earnest Shackleton, Edmund Hillary and Maurice McQuitty.

John Cunliffe comes from Kendal, I need not explain who he is as all the world knows the name of the creator of Postman Pat. Some dude called Wainwright who liked walking also lived here.

The pace notes only had one climb on it and it’s one of the biggest of the ride up Shap Fell. It was billed as 9 miles long, 2 false summits and was 9% at its steepest.

The climb went went really well, long but steady. James looked strong and we had favourable tail winds. It helped that the views were stunning! This is a beautiful country and a joy to ride through

Shap is famous for its pink granite (used at St Paul’s Cathedral) and its shockingly long road climb up to the top of Shap Fell before leading us to its three pubs and one fish and chip shop.

Shap’s biggest claim to fame however was that it featured in Withnail and I:

“We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now!”

Uncle Montys cottage is located near Wet Sleddale reservoir. Sadly our route does not take us past it…

We stopped at Shap bowling club where we had some awesome chilli cooked by the top fellows from Discover Adventure – those guys take great care of us!

The weather turned a bit damp but not excessively so and the run into Penrith was all downhill – free miles!

Penrith is lovely – very pretty town with a prosperous looking high street. It looks a nice place to live.

One of the most notable things about Penrith that I discovered was the fact that an 18ft fibreglass statue of King Kong once stood in the Skirsgill Market. It’s too bad it’s gone – I would definitely change our route to see that…

Charlie Hunnam, the British actor who starred in the Sons of Anarchy TV programme (Jackson Teller) was born in Penrith.  He says it is just about the absolute worst place you could hope to live. He’s wrong, I once lived in Swindon.

We had three milestones today – after Shap Fell we had climbed more than the height of Everest – pretty cool! We also passed through the half way point as we left Penrith – 483 miles! We saw a chalked line noting this on the road, put there by some nice chaps no doubt!

Who could have done such a thing?

Carlisle was established by the Romans of course, it was established to serve the forts of Hadrian’s Wall. Carlisle’s nickname is ‘The Great Border City’, they were not very imaginative in those days.

Carlisle was cursed by the Archbishop of Glasgow in 1525.  The curse runs to 1,069 words, beginning:

“I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without”

He was a bit upset that Carlisle was home to the border Reivers who enriched themselves at the expense of their enemies (i.e. everyone else including the Bishop of Glasgow).  Its carved on a 14-tonne stone in town.

Shortly after it was installed Carlisle suffered terrible flooding, foot and mouth disease and a drought of goals for Carlisle FC. There was discussion on removing it because it was felt it was bringing bad luck.

According to Wikipedia the only notable band to emerge from Carlisle was ’70s rock outfit Spooky Tooth (nope I’ve never heard of them either!).

Further on we passed our third milestone – 500 miles! Not the best end of town to be chalking a milestone but we did not hang about!

We arrived at the hotel just in tone to miss the rain – a perfect day all round! The Premier inn has an empty swim pool to stash the bikes….Roly and Speed Rebel took joy in cycling round the inside of the pool and were promptly told off by our tour leader for not wearing a helmet!

All in all a great day!


Enjoying the blog?  Please take time out and sponsor us!  Maurice and I are riding in support of Fresh Start – new beginnings, a treatment service for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  My just giving page can be found here and all donations go straight to the charity (my ride is 100% self funded).

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Saturday 16th June – Day Five

Legs were very tired this morning after the distance and the Shropshire hills yesterday. James H was looking very grim this morning before we set off, however once we started he cheered up a bit.

It was drizzling as we set off and after an hour I was cursing not leaving my overshoes and full finger gloves inaccessible on the van. James called a stop and, with the rain seeping into my shoes and my fingers chilling in the cool rain, watched him struggle into his shoes and carefully slip on his warm gloves.

The rain was not that cold, by the time we got to Whitchurch it had stopped and the day warmed up!

Whitchurch is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Shropshire. Last time James and I were here it was a very wet cycling experience. There’s over 100 listed buildings in Whitchurch – another lovely town on our route.

Whitchurch is home to Powell’s Pork Pie Shop which won the Great British Pork Pie Bronze Award.  Definitely a place to look out for…sadly our route did not take us past it…

Henry Hotspur Percy is buried in Whitchurch…after he lost the battle of Shrewsbury they dug him up and chopped him into four…Also from Whitchurch is Joseph Bromfield (died 1824) a notable English plasterer (loads of money!)

It was a shame that our route took us up the A49, the main road showed none of the Cheshire lanes and villages I knew and loved as a child.

Day what you like about the A49 though, it was quick, we ate up the miles and passed through Tarporley quickly.

Tarporley is home to the oldest surviving hunt club in England, notable residents include Steve and Alex Davies – Hi Steve and Alex!  Sadly our timetable did not allow us to call in on Steve and Alex and blag a cup of tea.

Steve and Alex live near Peckforton Castle, most famous for having an owl that attacked the best man at a wedding held there (the owl was employed to fly the rings to the groom!)

We rolled on to Weaverham. Weaverham is notable as home of one of the other comprehensives in Cheshire I used to play rugby against as a callow schoolboy…a right rough and dodgy bunch they were too who regularly spanked us 64-0 with my position as wing or flanker (depending on how many men we were short that week) probably contributing to our defeat.  I seem to remember finding half a pair of scissors embedded in the Weaverham school field.  Bit hardcore in Weaverham…

We made good time into Warrington, not far from James H’s home in Lymm. We got an opportunity to stop and meet a friend of James’s called Tim and admired the Manchester Ship Canal – really cool. It’s an impressive waterway!

I always used to consider Warrington as a rather run down area close to the Mersey when I was growing up nearby.  It was however redeemed by the incredible sophistication of having the only roller skating rink in Cheshire.

That said Warrington was a fulcrum in the English Civil War – who knew! Ollie Cromwell used to crash at the Cottage restaurant on Church Street when his warts were playing up. The dents in the parish church walls are the result of Cannon damage and not, as is true in other places nearby, by the vandalism of local scallies.

We did not manage to see the church but there was a unique statue of Ollie which we admired.

Warrington was a big deal in WWII as it had the largest USAF base outside of the United States.  Humphrey Bogart and Bob Hope used to visit Warrington all the time…Frankly if you’ve ever seen the Golden Gates of Warrington Town Hall you can see why those guys flew all the way from Hollywood to see them. Sadly, our route does not take us past them…

What? You think I’d ride all the way to Warrington and not see the town hall gates? No way Jose!

That’s me gasping in amazement, they are a sight to see!

It’s this sort of exciting history that obviously made Warrington the location of choice of Ingvar Kamprad for the first IKEA to open in the UK.  It’s plainly a crime they were overlooked for the City of Culture in 2021.

We also went and viewed the memorial to the two little boys killed by the IRA when they bombed Warrington, very well done and very touching.

Notable residents of Warrington included John Harrison (inventor of the marine chronometer that established Longitude), George Formby (who is buried in Warrington cemetery), Burt Kwok (Cato in the Pink Panther) was born in Warrington, Martin Roberts (from Homes under the Hammer) and James Hurrell (reluctant LeJoG cyclist).

We stopped at Newton Le Willows for lunch, another triumph by the team! James’s parents, his wife Fay and his two boys along with my Mum turned up to cheer us on! Great to see them all! We drank wine…

Bidding them all farewell we pressed on. The weather had improved so James H carefully stowed his booties and full finger gloves before moving on.

Fergie had joined us at lunch and it was great to have most of the old team together. Fergie is a very strong rider – I was concerned as we had four hard days under our belt. The boy did good tho, Sheparded us northward like a trouper.

Before long we made Wigan, the A48 was a very dispiriting ride, very busy and horrible to ride. The road surface was dreadful too.

Wigan is home to Wigan Pier…made famous in George Orwell’s book ‘On the road to Wigan Pier’ and by a running joke that regularly formed part of George Formby Senior’s act.  It was actually a coal loading stage on the Leeds Liverpool canal.  Sadly our route does not take us past it…

Ha! No way am I going to Wigan and not seeing the Pier! I recall it had been extensively refurbished in the 1980s so was excited to see the vibrant waterside destination that was created. It was however tragic, bankrupt, shuttered and weeds growing out of the cobbles. All for sale – I could see the opportunity….

There are 216 listed buildings in Wigan – you don’t immediately think of it as being an attractive or particularly historic place – so was interesting to see what it was like as we passed through great development potential!)

Wigan is of course the home of the famous Northern Soul all-nighters which originated in the ballroom of Wigan Casino between 1973 and 1981.  Other notable bands from Wigan include the Verve and Kajagoogoo.  I guess they had to originate from somewhere however I always associated Limahl from somewhere less hard…

On a less cerebral note Wigan is the home of the annual World Pie Eating Championship…thank goodness for that, I was thinking it was going to buck the northern stereotype for a moment!  Mind you a vegetarian option was added in 2006, obviously a sop to all those softy southerners wanting to have a go…

Shortly after the heavens opened! James was swearing repeatedly and colourfully! No booties! No gloves! The rain hammered down, we got drenched!

The riding was horrible, cars drenched us repeatedly, we were miserable. The water stop 10 miles from the finish was at a bike shop which took the prize for being unhelpful! One lady was advised she had brought the wrong group set as a bit of advice (not helpful considering she was in possession of it and needed adjustment!)

Finally we arrived in Preston. Preston surprisingly dates back to Roman times; its name derives from the old English of Priest’s Settlement.  It really came into its own during the Industrial revolution and Richard Arkwright who invented the spinning Jenny was born here.  When it was assessed for taxes as part of the Doomsday book in 1218-19 it was the wealthiest town in the whole country (fancy that).

Preston is exactly halfway between Glasgow and London so was it very popular to have battles here (Battle of Preston in the English Civil War and the Battle of Preston as part of the Jacobite uprising).

Preston was the first place outside London to be lit by gas, the Preston Gas Company was established in 1815 by, amongst others, a Catholic priest called Rev. Joseph “Daddy” Dunn of the Society of Jesus.  Not sure I’d be happy to hang out with a Catholic Priest who wanted to be called Daddy, but those were different times…

One of the many notable landmarks is the Grade II listed Preston bus station built in the popular 1970’s brutalist style (designed by BDP, engineers were the legendary Ove ARUP and Partners)…sadly our route does not take us past it.

Yeah right! Like I’m going to ride all the way to Preston and not admire the brutalist masterpiece that is the bus garage? No way Jose! It’s currently being refurbished and will be well spiffy once complete. Highlight of my day!

Nick Park, animator of Wallace and Gromit was born in Preston, they’re going to bung a statue up of Wallace and Gromit as soon as they’ve raised the £100,000 it will cost.

Finally dry in the hotel we realised we had missed the 400 mile celebration…better late than necessary I guess!

Later that night the glasses of awesomeness went to Brian and Mike for getting a full light Police escort through Warrington (they charmed a very nice female constable!)

Outil D’Or went to Sean for trying to get into his room with the key from the Lion Hotel in Shrewsbury!


Enjoying the blog?  Please take time out and sponsor us!  Maurice and I are riding in support of Fresh Start – new beginnings, a treatment service for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  My just giving page can be found here and all donations go straight to the charity (my ride is 100% self funded).

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The best quote about cycling. Ever.

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring” – Desmond Tutu

The mans a flipping genius!

James and I forgot to mark 400 miles at the water stop but to be fair, we were soaked to the skin and were quite cold! So we did it in the bar instead!

Warm shoes and cold beer!