LonLE – London to Land’s End (Lee Lavery).
I attempted this in a slightly different guise last year, however I broke a spoke on my wheels & couldn’t continue (don’t tour on carbon wheels!), I vowed to attempt it again the following year.
This year I managed to convince Becky, Rosy & Lewis to join me (after much beer & cider was consumed at the end of the LDN-PAR-LDN trip in May).
For Becky, Rosy and myself, this is pretty much a long ride home, as we all originate from Cornwall.
DAY 1 – London to Amesbury – 103 miles.
Setting off from Mile End Station at 7.30am (I was late, as per), seeing all the sights London has to offer, knowing that we were leaving this big city behind to ride until the road stops (literally) at the bottom of the UK was inherently satisfying.
The miles ticked over and eventually we found ourselves on some quieter roads, stopping for coffee & cakes in Bramely – Flat Whites haven’t quite reached this part of the world yet, however the cakes more than made up for this, on the recommendation of some fellow cyclists’ we ordered some Belgian Buns, which were amazing & huge.
Today’s ride had the least amount of elevation, we rolled through the countryside stopping for lunch in Andover, enjoying a leisurely lunch, knowing we only had just over 20 miles of the journey left for the day.
The weather had been kind so far, however after our lunch stop, the wind had picked up & the skies were looking ominously grey.
It wast long until the skies opened and we got thoroughly soaked, pushing on into the wind and rain with only about 10 miles to go, we arrived in Amesbury our first overnight stop in damp conditions.
A few beers, and a fantastic Thai restaurant soon made us forget the rain, while we hoped that our kit would be dry for tomorrow.
Day 2 – Amesbury to Exeter – 104 miles.
After devouring a huge breakfast, and leaving a little later than anticipated (mainly because I was always running late!), we continued heading south.
Similar distance lay ahead, but with much more elevation than the previous day, rolling through some beautiful countryside early on in the day, with hardly any traffic, the miles ticked over relatively effortlessly.
We stopped at a service station and stocked up on food for the onward journey, jaffa cakes a particular favourite.
Just before our designated lunch stop at Stoke Sub Hamdon, we enjoy a fantastic climb through Ham Hill country park, and we were rewarded with a beautiful view over the fields of Somerset. The view quickly made us forget about the climb up, we took a few photos and rolled down to hill for lunch at a nearby pub.
With over 50 miles still to go and a fair bit of climbing before we got to Exeter, we left Stoke Sub Hamdon pressing on into the headwind which would be with us for the whole trip.
Soon we started a long climb before pretty much the only ‘flat’ part of the day, followed by a descent into Exeter which we all got rather excited about, our anticipation peaked a bit too early, as the last 5 miles in to Exeter seemed to drag. Perhaps it was the fact we were coming back into civilisation, compared to the quiet country lanes we had been riding for most of the day.
Arriving at one of Exeter Uni’s halls of residence, we dropped our bikes off, got changed and headed to a pizza place to refuel and discuss tomorrows ride, which due to the weather was looking rather bleak to say the least. I think we all spent most of the night constantly checking various weather apps in hope that one of them would offer us something other than, torrential downpour and strong winds.
Day 3 – Exeter to St Austell – 77 miles.
4.45am – My alarm wakes me up, I snooze it, knowing I need the extra 10 minutes.
4.55am – This time, I have no choice but to get up.
We made the decision last night, to try and get ahead of the weather, this meant leaving at 5.30am, nearly an hour before sunrise.
As we left our rooms, we all had an equally unenthusiastic look on our faces, knowing what lay ahead throughout the day. 77 miles, over 7000ft of climbing, much of it steep and punchy Devon and Cornish climbs, and more than likely non-stop rain from 7am.
Climbing out of Exeter in the dark, the rain held off for about 2 hours, we made a quick pitstop for coffee at a Wetherspoons in Oakhampton (it was terrible), I looked on in envy, while many people were tucking into their full English breakfast, we pushed on into the rain and wind, knowing it wasn’t going to get any better.
The Granite way, which runs from Oakhampton to Lydford is a cycle path that follows the route of the old Southern Region rail line came as a welcome relief, relatively flat and sheltered away from the wind. The views are apparently spectacular, not that we could see them, due to the rain and low lying cloud cover.
One particular highlight was crossing Meldon Viaduct, until then, the route had been quite sheltered, as we hit the open expanse of the viaduct, we were all instantly hit with a massive crosswind, that nearly threatened to blow us off our bikes! There was only one thing for it, heads down, in the drops and push through as quickly as possible!
The headwind, climbing, rain and an early start was starting to take its toll. Over the course of the day I ate pretty much non-stop, 7 stroopwaffles and at least 5 Choco Rice Krispy bars to keep myself going.
Aiming to take a scenic route, once we hit Cornwall (although there was a distinct lack of a sprint sign), avoiding main roads, a lot of the route was on single track Cornish lanes, covered in mud and grass, barely wide enough for a car to pass through. Descending on these lanes in the dry is often hazardous at best. With the combination of non-stop rain and our bikes laden with panniers and saddlebags, descending became increasingly sketchy, constantly pulling hard on the brakes, this soon became as tiresome as the climbing.
50 miles in, and we hit the long climb up into Minions, the wind and rain had not relented, we stopped at a cafe (that was unsurprisingly empty), Lewis enjoyed a Cornish Cream Tea (jam first, then cream) and Becky refused to sit down, for fear of not being able to stand back up again.
Back out into the wind and rain (have you got the message that it didn’t stop raining), knowing we only had 27 miles until warmth, a cup of tea, and a shower, we pushed on, after a few sketchy descents and short, punchy climbs we were soon on the outskirts of Bodmin. We started to hit some familiar roads, knowing how close we were, I started pushing harder on the pedals, knowing all the climbing was behind us.
Rolling into my hometown of St Austell and to my parent’s house, a big wave of relief hit. We arrived at about 1pm, we were warmly greeted by my Mum and Dad, a quick rinse of the bikes to get some of the dirt off, kettle on, quick shower and lunch followed.
One of the benefits of leaving at 5.30am is, more time to spend in the pub!
Day 4 – St Austell to Land’s End – 56 miles (+8 miles back to Penzance)
After being well looked after by my parents, lycra all washed and cleaned, breakfast scoffed, we set off for the final leg of our journey.
Heavy legs, apart from Rosy who seemed to be riding into form! We ticked off the miles, quickly making it to Truro. Soon we were riding in some typical Cornish ‘mizzle’, a combination of mist and incredibly fine rain, nearly invisible to the naked eye.
The weather seemed to change with every every corner we turned, eventually the mizzle cleared and we were treated to some great views of the Cornish landscape.
A bit more climbing, and soon we began descending into Marizion, we could see St Michael’s Mount in the distance, we decided to stop for a quick break (I couldn’t resist a steak pasty) and a few photos.
Soon we were rolling again, heading into Rosy’s hometown of Penzance, Lewis took the sprint sign without any contest from hometown hero Rosy.
Rosy soon took to the front of our small peloton, in a similar fashion to a rider at Le Tour passing through their hometown, being cheered on by the vast crowds who came out to support us, or so we imagined.
We still had 8 miles to ride to Land’s End, Lewis wanted to the ride the beautiful but hilly coastal route, I quickly vetoed that idea as my knees had been causing me trouble all day (perhaps from pushing the pedals a bit too hard yesterday!). Climbing out of Penzance on the quite busy A30 wasn’t my favourite part of the journey, but that was soon forgotten once we were on the rolling final few miles to Land’s End.
We had been discussing the final Land’s End sprint throughout the trip (that’s what really matters right?), however, as we approached I’m not sure any of us had the energy for that kind of thing, we finished the journey crossing the line Team Sky style at Le Tour, the only thing missing was the Champagne – however we didn’t have to wait long!
Rosy’s family were there to congratulate us on the end of our journey, complete with Prosecco and a homemade sign! – it’s £10 to get your picture taken at the ‘official’ sign!
After toasting our ride, lots of pictures, and a couple glasses of Prosecco, sat at the end of the UK, or the start depending on how you look at it, looking out to sea, I think we were all incredibly proud and relieved to have finished. My mind started to drift to my next adventure, ride the Cornish Coast, LEJOG, or somewhere further afield…
However we still had the small matter of 8 miles back to Penzance, Rosy’s parents kindly offered to take our bags and panniers in the car, so we could ‘enjoy’ the ride back a bit more. For 4 days, we had been riding into a headwind, as we turned back to Penzance, we knew this would be a strong tailwind and started tapping out a brisk pace, unencumbered by our luggage and knowing that we would soon be back at the pub, enjoying some fine Cornish ale!
Total Miles – 349.5
Total Elevation – 22,544ft
Punctures – 0!