Land's End to John O' Groats

Chapter 3: Middle England, Lake District and Northern England

6. Day, Thursday, Bishop's Castle - Wrexham - Chester - Liverpool - Crosby
8.30-19.00, 145 km trp, 16.2 km/h avg., 124.7 km/h max (there must be something wrong), 766 km total

Today we have to pass a less scenic area - and this is said in regard to the final approach, to end at John O' Groats within a moderate time. I am sure one will find picturesque routes in this area too, but you need some more time for this.

I start on the B4385 down to Montgomery with the Welsh name Trefaldwyn. As the sun is not shining and some raindrops are falling I stay to the A383 with a proper tailwind. Next station is  Oswestry, a nice shopping town. From there the four lane road more and more gets the characteristics of a "Autobahn" (freeway). After I have crossed two bridges high above the valleys and a police patrol honks (is this for me?) I wait for the next roundabout to leave the main road.

And - oh wonder - there is a signed bike path to Wrexham. A rest at a heap of a former coal mine before I reach Wrexham. My obligate visit at the tourist office reveals the same results as usual, they do not know a bike route to Liverpool. But there will be a ferryboat crossing the Mersey (now start to remember already...wasn't there a certain melody?). The center of Wrexham is a mere building site, so I continue on a side road towards Chester.

I meet a village named Cuckoo's Nest. And just there - use the brakes - at the right a golden gate and a straight ahead driveway to a castle far in front. Eaton Hall is the name of this estate. Well, a nice place for a rest I think, until I discover a tiny control camera between the rods of the gate. And suddenly the gate opens wide as if an invisible ghost does his work. And then I see a Land Rover approaching from Eaton Hall.

I prefer to put my things into the pockets and to look for another place. But for I am somewhat curious I peer from behind the next tree what will happen. May be a member of the Royal family will pass by?

Nothing happens. A clerk in uniform gets off the car, looks around, closes the gate and rides back with his Rover. And so it is: they thought a terrorist masked as a biker was inspecting their estate for the next blow  (if someone reading this knows more about Eaton Hall let me hear about it - there will be no blow from my side).

As usual we find it in the web. Look for Eaton Hall, Chester and then you find out: Eaton Hall is the palace of the Duke of Westminster .

So I continue to Chester and fail to find a Roman Road which is signed in the map. Chester is a beautiful old fashioned town. As usual I look for the tourist office, ask the usual questions and get the usual answers. I told you before that there was nothing boring at my tour, it's not quite true, the following section up to Birkenhead is extremely boring. Four lane road all the time, sometimes a side path for bikers, better you switch off your mind or count the remaining miles.

Remark: In the German version I have inserted at this boring moment a method to translate miles into km. I think this is not necessary for English speakers...

When the signs of the Birkenhead ferry appear, you nearly have done it. I am just in time, can enter the ferry boat at once and 20 minutes later arrive at Liverpool. (Do you remember the song now: Oh Ferry, cross the Mersey... by Gerry and the Pacemakers?). I intend to stay at Liverpool tonight. But somehow I don't like it here, may be it's too busy again. I ask some people for an accomodation but they don't know anything except the expensive hotels. At last someone gives the advice to go out to Crosby some miles ahead to the north.

OK, this would be on the  way to Scotland, forget Liverpool. On four lane roads again I finally reach Crosby and the first observation is a Chinese restaurant. I then ask a couple for a B&B, but they say they don't know for they are just married. A woman nearby gets interested and tries to remember something, so she gets her notebook from the car and scrolls around in her wallet. She doesn't find what she is looking for so I get the advice to look at the post office for an advertisement.

So many thanks and I ride another half of a mile to the post office. And the woman with the car is there already, scrolling in her wallet again, without success. I get the address of a B&B from the advertisement and the woman is so kind, to show me a part of the way by car. Though I am somewhat amused I must be appreciated about so much helpfulness.

So at least I reach the address, a usual terrace house, and as I ring the bell I fear that no one is at home. But there is one and it is "Liz" as she says. "My name is Martin" I introduce myself, hearing the rock fall from my heart, for it was a long ride today.

Some time later I sit at the Chinese restaurant and have a fine meal. As the (non chinese) waiter asks if the meal was good I say with enthusiasm "Oh, pretty good!" whereafter the waiter looks something stupid. Meanwhile I know, I could have said "Not so good" as well, but I am no native speaker.

7. Day, Friday, Crosby - Preston - Lancaster - Windermere, Lake District
8.30-19.00, 140 km trp, 16.8 km/h avg., 51.4 km/h max, 906 km total

At breakfast Liz tells me that she has a connection to the internet. So instead of talking much of my family and journeys we look at my HomePage and I send an E-Mail to my own address to give a reply when I am back again. Then I say Farewell and now give the address of this accommodation:

The Blundellsands Bed&Breakfast Service
9 Elton Avenue Blundellsands Liverpool

I got a sketch from Liz how to find out to the scenic country route. But some junctions later I am lost already and so turn west to the sea. There is a nice coast path among the dunes. As usual this path gets more adventurous by the time and I ask a woman with a dog for the continuation. "I don't know, I live here three months yet and have never been there".

But there are some houses a mile away and finally pushing the bike on the sandy track I get there, it is named Hightown. A short distance at the main street, but then there is a fork to the "Touristic Route" around Southport. A biker comes from behind and soon we ride together side by side. His name is Peter and he goes out today for the weather is so fine. As I tell of my tour he is envious and would like to come with me. As we speak of our age it turns out, that I am the youngster. So we pass this beautiful landscape along the coast, the tidal mud surface at the left, marshlands to the right. When I stop for a photo I say "You have not to wait, I don't want to steel your time". "Time is my capital" Peter answers - and then we go on for some time before we have to part. I give the address of this report (of course unwritten at that time) to Peter and hope he will read it some day. "I will think of you" he says and he would have much to do in regard what will follow.

On the A565 I head for Preston. This is no enjoyment but sometimes there is a side track for bikes. At Preston there are big shopping areas. I try in vain to get money from a bank automat. So I go better out of Preston, and at the next village I success at the "Royal Bank of Scotland".

Some time later one can leave the main road and enter the B6430/B5272. Once I see a small castle right ahead, throw my bike against a hedge and look for a photo. But there is a high voltage line in front of it and so the camera gets back to it's pocket. As I come near to the entrance of the castle I feel the front wheel to have a puncture. So I can fix this just at the precious grass of Crookhey Hall. A car comes by, may be with Your Lordness for they have no single glance at me. Nevertheless I call this puncture one of the good kind - in the sunshine in front of Crookhey Hall.

Only the speedometer does not work afterwards. OK, no problem, at the next bench the front wheel is turned to the right side, one is no amateur after all...

Then I come to Lancaster, there are many folks at the streets. Music and dancing, some dancers are masked as Octopusses. Many policemen watch the scene, amused and armed with video cameras. I would like to stay longer, but the famous Lake District is calling. No problem today with the wind from behind. Eventually the Cumbrian Mountains appear at the horizon, they are up to 1000 m high. The gate to the Lake District is the town of Kendal in my case.

But to see a Lake one has to go on to Windermere. Half of the way one can use a small side route, the rest is a busy main road again (A591). For a B&B I ask some time in vain. At a Friday you must find a single room, for everyone hopes to get guests for the family suites. At "The Cottage" I can relax: "Single Room only" is the advertisement. And "My name is Barbara" etc etc.

And because Windermere is not out of the world a Chinese restaurant is available around the corner as well as a petrol station, where I can buy a road map of Scotland. As I later fold off the map in it's full size I hesitate: Scotland is huge!

8. Day, Saturday: Windermere - Kirkstone Pass - Carlisle - Dumfries(Schottland)
8.30-19.00, 135 km trp, 16.0 km/h avg, 61.1 km/h max, 1041 km total

Today I get a splendid breakfast and this is good, for I want to manage the Kirkstone Pass leading straight north. One may compare the Cumbrians with the Alps but everything is somewhat smaller here. So the Kirkstone Pass goes up to 500 m but you have to climb up there as well. Soon the hills are bare of woods and trees and look like covered by a green blanket. The clouds hang down so the top of the hills are invisible. If some beams of the sun break through there may be an interesting light effect.

The last section up to the summit of the pass is in dense fog. Up above there is the old traditional Kirkstone Pass Inn. The outer lanterns are lightet today as it looks like in the night. With the downhill we soon leave the clouds behind and you see a green (as usual) valley ahead. Down there is the Lake Ullswater and the common touristic institutions. Today it's too early and the visitors still sleep. I turn to the north at the A5091 and leave the Lake District already. Finally I find myself at a tiny road along the northern foothills of the Cumbrians. Here you are alone with the landscape, the gorse (Ulex europaeus) and the sheep.

At a cattlegrid I change the film and from now on we hope to success again.

Unknown Flower

But there is a last foggy photo to show you. At a small creek I saw a curious flower with yellow blossoms covered by red spots. I could not find out it's name.(Yes, I did: Mimulus luteus, Monkeyflower, own result summer 2000).

After the wonderful section "alone with the sheep" we have some more traffic towards Carlisle, but most of the way is downhill. It starts drizzling. At a small village near Carlisle I put the bike under the arch of a gate and enter a grocer's shop. There they ask me if I want a booklet to collect the discount stamps. I resign. Outside again someone asks "Are you local?". I resign again. As I stand there with the raincoat and the naked legs beneath I wonder why they think I would be a usual human beeing...

I continue under my old Gore Tex Jacket and think to be warm and dry there. This is true for a while. "Out of Carlisle" it's the first and the last time that I end in Nowhereland. There is a Nature Reservate, and a car driver coming up says "You better swim from here". But then I detect a sign with a poem, and so I  now proudly present it's text to the rest of the world:

Poem for the boatsman Will

Ere Metal Brig or Rail were thowt on.
Here Honest Will the Boatman rowt on.
Gentle and simple he did guide
to either Scotch or English side.
Wi' them on horseback he did ride
An' boat the footman.
An' none did ever dread the tide
wi' Will the Boatman.
Now tho' Will's work is done an' o'er
An' Will himself lies quiet,
yet lives his SPIRIT here - step in an' try it.
Ne'er Time nor Tide can half so pure supply it.

Apparently they like to leave out certain consonants in this language... And can you hear, that the Scottish frontier is near? I hope so.

But I have another nice adventure for I meet two nice bike girls at Nowhereland. They are going a Coast-to-Coast (C2C) route. Meanwhile I am able to be proud of my tour until now. We have a nice chat and part with "Nice to meet you".

Border to Scotland
I should have taken the girls with me for I now arrive at the legendary marriage paradise Gretna Green. May be it is still working. We cross a bridge and enter Scotland!

But now we will have the story of a rainy section. At first I enjoy to sit dry under my jacket, but must soon enter a bus cabin to get on a warm pullover. In the bus cabin you hear how the wind rattles in the trees and the downfall of the rain at the roof above. The wind comes from the south, this is the left side for me. Why I don't stop at the town Arran for a B&B - I don't know.

I go on and on, monotonously avoiding to splash into the growing lakes at the road. While I now write about this, there are few lines only, in reality the struggle lasts about two hours before I reach the town Dumfries. Difficulties to find the town's center, but someone declares "Down the river". Now I realize that I am completely soaked and freezed and the teeth clatter. And there - down the river - a single sign is to be seen "B&B". I will not leave this place, I decide while I pull the bike through a narrow gate. There are some stairs and an open housedoor.

An elder couple comes out of the kitchen, two tiny dogs (Yorkshires) run barking around and now - guess, what the gentleman says to me: "You should have a coffee after all!" Did you ever hear something more excellent. But first I must unload and while I shivering climb up the stairs say "I am certainly somewhat out of shape now". I change the clothes and soon are in shape again for the promised coffee - and this is hot.

Remark: I got wet from below, while my bike trousers sucked the rain and transported it to the pullover. Or something like that.

For my pullover is wet this time I put my pyjama (tartan checkered) under the track suit and go out for a meal. Guess what I am looking for, and after I have found it I sit under the speakers and they play "It's a rainy night in Georgia.."

Chapter 4: Southern Scotland
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