Author: snailcycle


June 3rd
Miles today 46
Climbing 999m
Cumulative 394 miles

Dad looked after us really well and we set off rested, fed and clean … it won’t last. The cycling felt much easier for the rest. We stopped off in Gloucester to buy stuff for lunch- a good move as Gayle had plotted us such a quiet rural coarse that we didn’t pass a shop all day.


Leaving Gloucester was on a really nice off road sustrans track- good surface and no traffic but soon we were on quiet country lanes , the first half of the day was fairly flat but the hills appeared in the afternoon.

view back towards Gloucester

view back towards Gloucester

We stopped off at a pub for a cup of tea in Much Marcle- opposite a rather traditional looking garage displaying a huge selection of trophies for historic motor racing.


Lunch was in a field gateway, the banner doubles as a seating mat, enjoying the uninterrupted sun.

We passed an extraordinary looking old church and had to stop- the church was St Mary at Upleadon, the thing that struck us was the half timbered tower – unique , but a late addition in the 15th century , the main part of the church is Norman with some saxon parts as well.

upleadon church

upleadon church

Quilt in the church

Quilt in the church

We wound our way through very quiet lanes in Herefordshire, such lovely countryside, lush green and rolling hills and woods (Gayle’s fantastic planning again using open street map). We passed a couple of vineyards- looking rather incongrous next to green fields with sheep.


Eventually we arrived at Leominster- a fantastic town with a huge number of historic buildings from half timbered onwards. The youth hostel is an old building that has been a workhouse in the past. It is next to the Minster , a beautiful building with well preserved carvings and the original town ducking stool- the last one used in England as punishment- as late as 1809- a woman Jenny Pipes was ducked for using offensive language , however it is recorded that on surfacing she continued to swear just as much- reoffending is not a new problem. Contrary to what I was taught at school it was not just for nagging wives- tradesmen who short changed customers or sold adulterated food were ducked- barbaric but perhaps an effective enforcement of Trading Standards





the ducking stool


We are staying at Leominster YHA as the Spire Cycle club is here for the next week so its good to call and see Tony Adams who is organising the trip

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Rest day

0 miles

0 metres of ascent

348 miles total


We are having a rest day at Gayle’s dad’s in Gloucester – we had planned it on the itinerary but it came at just the right time , our legs felt tired going upstairs this morning. A comfy bed ,  good company AND a washing machine- what else could you want?

We had lunch in a pub on Gloucester Docks- once a hive of commercial activity in the heydays of the canal trade, now developed into a pleasant area with flats in the old warehousesP1090239-1200x1600

Gloucester docks

Gloucester docks


Martin had leant on his phone a few days ago leaving it dead, then yesterday Gayle dropped hers – but luckily it still functions although with an interesting ice on a pond appearance. We had a new phone delivered here- the wonders of internet shopping. Funny how something as retro as cycle travel now requires internet access, somewhere to charge the devices and constantly asking in cafes about their wifi password.  A pub a few nights ago had a sign up – “If you feel unsociable the wifi password is ………”


Metereology instruments in the garden

Tomorrow we set off up through the Marches on the way to Leominster, more hilly than the usual route further east but it allows us to visit friends in Leominster and then Shrewsbury .

We had better not rest too long as it would get harder to start again,  we would also feel we are here under false pretences as so many people have been supportive, including one remarkable colleague of Martin’s  Helen who has been making a donation every 100 miles we complete,  and she didn’t know us at all until a few days before we left when she was at a conference Martin was attending. Thank you Helen,  and clearly good motivational psychology.


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Over the Avon and up the Severn

June 1st 2016

59 miles

climbing 669 metres

Cumulative miles 348

The campsite was damp after rain in the night, we had eaten most of the Granola and we had a long day ahead so we packed up quickly and left planning a second breakfast in Clevedon, 4 miles North

Clevedon was our last sight of the sea until Scotland, the tide was out and we looked across to South Wales. Clevedon is elegant with expensive shops and certainly no cheap cafes, so we shared a bacon ciabetta and delicious coffee at Murrays delicatessan and he told us about his sons cycling LEJoG in 5 days ….. they were not snails.

Clevedon pier

Clevedon pier


Clevedon shops

We took Sustrans 26 up to the Avon: small lanes and old railway line. Crossing the Avon was on the M5 bridge which has a cycleway, quite scary with big lorries thundering away and also hard work cycling up the steep slope to the top of the bridge into the headwind.


Bridge over the Avon

We are learning to manage charging the various electronic things as we cycle. We both have dynamos on the front wheels of the bikes but it is not simple: up hills we don’t cycle fast enough to generate enough electricity and if we are charging the satnavs they switch themselves off. Also my phone being elderly the charging cable falls out when the road is bumpy and Martin gets upset as I swerve about trying to reconnect the cable without stopping the bike. We have learnt that certain cables charge better than others, I had never appreciated that before. Today was a good charging day as the hills were gentle and short and we are slowly getting the knack of it all

Avonmouth was industrial but the Sustrans route found a green corridor through.




We passed both Severn bridges and then were into the Severn valley and rural Gloucestershire. Lovely villages and towns: Berkeley with a Norman castle and where Jenner first injected cowpox into unsuspecting locals, also tearooms serving excellent chocolate cake.



Frampton with thatched cottages,a very long green , several village ponds and a very ancient tithe barn.


Eventually we found the Gloucester canal and rode along the towpath into Gloucester where Gayle’s Dad is providing a hospitable welcome for 2 nights as we plan a rest day here tomorrow.

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Somerset Levels

May 31st

44 miles

344m climbing

Cumulative distance  289 miles


The clue is in the name….

Most of today across Somerset was indeed very flat making for quite a relaxed day with only one fairly mild climb up the Mendips at the end


Somerset Levels – instead of fences each field has a drainage ditch- plus resident swan in many

P1090200-1280x960 P1090199-1280x960


We started out along the Bridgewater Canal which was great cycling on touring bikes with slightly wider tyres- a road bike might struggle a bit with the slightly loose rocky surface . Although not as easy as cycling on tarmaced roads the fact that it was completely level more than compensated and we whizzed along nicely, . we were surprised by the number of WW2 pill boxes along the canal- it doesn’t seem to be the most obviously strategic thing to defend , but we see on Google that it was part of the Taunton Stop Line- a defensive line built across the west country to stop Nazi advances from the West. We hadnt noticed but all of the bridges had been fitted with cavities to take demolition charges as well .Something of a poor relation to the Maginot line but they must have been scary days.


WW2 Pill Box alongside the canal


Less sombre were scale depictions of the planets in the Solar system dotted along the path every few miles. . Sustrans commisions public sculpture and claims to be the longest linear art gallery in the world – do Chinese State Railways have any sculptures I wonder.


We met a couple of  friendly cyclists from Wigan doing Lands end to John O’Groats , they  were unencumbered with luggage having recruited some family members to drive and carry their kit. they had planned some really long days but like us had found the hills in Cornwall and Devon challenging and were having to shorten the days a bit.

We had done a quarter of the distance by mid morning and  had a leisurely  coffee at the Bridge Cafe in Bridgewater – excellent. we then left the canal but still had quite a lot of off road along old railways- the surface was slightly rougher but being traffic free makes it very pleasurable.


Unusual signpost in Bridgewater

The longest section was on the Strawberry line – a disused railway used to transport strawberries  grown in Somerset to Bristol .


Tunnel on the Strawberry Line


We had bread and cheese sat on a grassy verge untroubled by any traffic and then carried on to Cheddar- we contemplated taking a detour up  Cheddar Gorge itself which would have added a few miles but thought better of it when we saw the amount of traffic (that’s my story , rather than the 16% gradient)


We carried on and into the Mendips by a rather less steep route, again partly on old Railway lines and then through Axbridge – a small village with some lovely medieval buildings.


Tonight we are camped on a small site near Clevedon, it’s a popular spot for coarse fishing and good facilities- but noisy from the nearby Motorway. It is raining but we are tucked up in the tent doing our social media duty


Our home for the next few weeks – small but cosy , and the view from the front door changes each day


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Into Somerset

May 30th
56 miles
905m climbing
Cumulative distance 245 miles

We rearranged our route last night when we saw that our detour to a campsite actually added some extra miles and we could shorthen it a bit- Gayle pored over the digital map on her tablet in the pub with a pint of cider and came up with a fantastic route on a quiet series of roads along the ridge- just goes to show that time spent in the pub is rarely wasted. This morning there was a really heavy dew- the tent was soaked and took quite a while to dry before we could leave- the extra weight of a wet tent is considerable. The views of mist down in the valley early in the morning were impressive.

Devon in the mist ....from the campsite this morning

Devon in the mist ….from the campsite this morning

Although we did a bigger distance today there weren’t as many of the steep hills that Devon seems to go in for- although one out of a deeply wooded river valley seemed to make up for it. .. going on for ages and very steep- Devon’s last revenge. We had a late morniing coffee at the only pub we passed for miles- no cafes in these parts- but they excelled and produced bacon butties – somehow after going up hill you can justify it to yourself.


Hi tec sports nutrition- bacon sandwich

We had lunch sat on a bench in Tiverton , a rather faded looking town but with a lot of old elegant buildings and then set off along some off road Sustrans on an old railway folllowed by the towpath of the Great Western Canal- a quiet waterway with wildlife and a good surface on the towpath- and as is the nature of canals gloriously flat.



The last few miles left the canal and wound through some gentle rolling country- very different from the last few days. One dramatic little gorge with steep sandstone walls was a short testing climb near the end.


At last we arrived in Taunton and stocked up on supper at the local Lidl. The last few miles out of Taunton to the campsite were along a canal, past the cricket ground where there was a county match on  – lots of applause emanating from the ground as we passed


Taunton Cricket Ground

Tonights campsite is unique- very comfortable , lots of geese, peacocks and pea hens strutting their stuff in amongst the campers, also some remarkably tame rabbits hopping around.

The owners also collect old farm machinery, the antiquated machines have a certain elegant charm. (I must try this line on Gayle next time she wants to clear out the garage)


One persons junk is another person’s antique


Our companions on the campsite




Tomorrow we head off towards Clevedon on the Bristol Channel.

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Deepest Devon

29th May 2016
32 miles
930 metres of climbing
Total miles 189 miles.

Leaving the campsite was challenging as there was clearly a vintage VW van rally, about 30 of them in various states of repair … brilliant. We just waited until they had gone.


Beautiful cycling today along tiny lanes through Devon, no big towns and most places were tiny, not even running to a shop. Although it is Bank Holiday the lanes were deserted with very little traffic. Just birdsong, cows and everything so green. Later on we climbed up and along a ridge with beautiful views South over Dartmoor.


Lunchtime stop by apple orchards

Lunchtime stop by apple orchards


Looking towards Dartmoor

Looking towards Dartmoor


We use the Sustrans routes a lot when planning where to go, this consists of a network of cycle friendly roads and off road routes which use local cycleways and beautiful rural lanes. They are well sigposted (usually) but the signs are discreet and it always reminds me of following trails as a child in Guides, you have to look out for the clues!


sustrans sign hidden in the hedge

Devon is hilly and we pushed on a couple of hills at the end. Because of the Bank Holiday we stocked up with food which meant that we had extra weight …. Martin had to rescue me by taking the Granola!

pushing uphill

pushing uphill

Camped in a sunny field, wind keeping the midges at bay.

We looked at tomorrow’s route and realised that it is 57 miles with over 1200 metres of climbing! it is because we have needed to do a detour to get to this campsite and in Devonian style this means several steep hills, we are busy replanning to avoid some of the twisting and turning and up and down, Martin is grappling with transferring the new routes from the tablet to the cycle satnav.

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King Arthur’s realm

King Arthur’s realm

28th May 2016

Miles today 29
Climbing 697 m
Miles so far 157

Martin in the tent last night

Martin in the tent last night

A shorter day cycling today as we took the opportunity to cycle down to Tintagel and be tourists for the morning visiting the castle. We were really impressed, beautiful position and views over the dramatic coastline with mist blowing in and out between the blue sea and sky. It is beautifully preserved as a historic, wild place without the king Arthur theme park approach that dominates the village itself, most of the shops have some Arthurian theme. The one exception was a modern statue of an Arthur like figure on top, cast as rather ghostly as if to ask ” is he real or not?”





From Tintagel

From Tintagel

Cycling back up from the coast without luggage (we left the bags at the campsite) was a pleasure – reminding us how much extra work it is carrying them on the hills, on the flat it is not too bad.

We then set off along Sustrans route 3 heading towards Devon, rather windy but sunny and beautiful quiet flowery lanes and rewarded by more views over Bodmin Moor. We succumbed to ice creams in the intriguingly named Week St Mary.

Quiet lanes

Quiet lanes

We are staying at a large camping and caravanning park, very different from last night when there were only 2 tents. We suddenly realised that it is bank holiday weekend, really busy, lots of children having fun, warm showers, somewhere to recharge the electronic gizmos. We have fitted dynamos on the bikes which keeps them topped up through the day but all this social media is juice hungry. Wifi rubbish though so not sure we’ll get this posted tonight.

Thunder and a bit of rain tonight but forecast nice tomorrow.

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Eden project to Slaughterbridge


27th May 2016

30.5 miles , 755 metres climbing, total so far 127 miles

Everything was sodden this morning and the midges were out en force so we packed up the sleeping bags and clothes and went off to the Eden Project leaving the tent to dry out as the sun came out later.

Local people had been somewhat equivocal about the Eden project but we thought the biomes, especially the rainforest one were impressive in scale and execution, clearly a massive undertaking and even out of school/holidays it was really busy.

Eden project
We then set off on the Sustrans 3 which took/us to Bodmin where we had a late lunch in the sun and on to join the Camel Trail- an idylic disused railway along the Camel river ‘
,Victorian railway engineers were geniuses , creating level routes through the undulating landscape, a welcome respits after the last couple of days.

We then had a steep climb up onto Bodmin moor in the late afternoon sun, fantastic views

Coffee in Bodmin

Coffee in Bodmin

Camel Trail

Camel Trail

Bodmin Moor

Bodmin Moor

We had arranged to camp at Slaughterbridge at the Arthurian Centre when we had emailed we had such a warm message baCck from the owner Joe supporting our venture , we arrived to find that he and Sam had arranged a barbeque for us and invited friends round to support MSF- really moving

We had a further surprise- around this part of Cornwall there are a lot of Arthurian themed fish and chip shops , pubs and dog grooming parlours however on Joe and Sams farm they have the site of the Celtic / Saxon Battle of Camlann ,the last battle of the true historical Arthur figure ( giving the name to the hamlet of Slaughterbridge),  Tennyson visited the site and went on to write his poem and create the Victorian romantic myth. THERE is also an intriguing stone pillar inscribed in Latin with Arthurs name and Ogham script, it was recorded in medieval texts but then lost for several hundred years until it was found having been used as a footbridge over a small stream. It is now looked after by English Heritage but still lies on the bank of the stream on their land.

There is also a medieval farm that is being excavated by archaeologists. They have arranged access to this in a low key symparthetic way with a path through the meadows and over the stream where there are otters . Although they have been appoached by people wanting to develop a Disney like experience they have resisted and the whole feeling was in keeping with the surrounding landscape- a very heartening experience after visiting Lands End

Arthurs Stone

Arthurs Stone

We are camped in a small field behind the farm- proper camping with warm showers but no karaoke- perfect

BBQ with Joe and Sam

BBQ with Joe and Sam

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To the Eden Project

26th May 2016

35 miles, 1030 metres of ascent, total miles so far 97

The Lanyon Park campsite provided baths, I have never before soaked in bath when camping! they were also welcoming and generous contributing to the cause.

It was all downhill to Redruth, a nice second breakfast at the Organic Coffee House there. It was only 26 miles to St Austell so we decided to aim for lunch there. It didn’t quite go as planned, as several short segments of the route turned out to be very rough bridleway, too much to negotiate with the bags so we had some detours extending by a few miles.

Beautiful cycling on little Cornish lanes with hedgerows full of flowers but it was hilly! like cycling waves of land with steep ups and downs. We only pushed once but we certainly lived up to our name going at a snail’s pace. I go particularly slowly uphill, down to 3-4 miles an hour and it is not possible to go fast down hill either on these windy steep gravelly roads, we made an average of 8 miles an hour and were actually very hungry by the time we got to St Austell!

Rustic viaduct tucked up a small quiet valleys

Rustic viaduct tucked up a small quiet valley


Just an ordinary roadside verge, full of flowers

We met up with Jackie Pendleton in St Austell , a colleague of Martins from working in NHS management in PCTs and the CCG, someone I have always really enjoyed working with but who escaped from landlocked Derbyshire to live next to the sea – I can see why after the last few days .

Quiet lanes, idyllic cycling

Quiet lanes, idyllic cycling


Camped at YHA Eden Project , it is raining tonight but they provide a large warm marquee which makes for a friendly communal space so we are sitting there drinking tea and eating apricots. We will visit the Biomes tomorrow morning before setting off up the Camel trail to camp near Tintagel.

People are being most generous with sponsorship just over £1000, thankyou to all for your generosity.

EDEN project space for campers away from the midges

EDEN project space for campers away from the midges

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First day cycling, first mishap

Miles Today 48, Miles in total 62, Climbing today 1006 metres

Well we’re off, good night at the very comfortable Youth Hostel in Penzance,  the warden warned us to be up early as a large school party was in and if we appeared after 7.30 ” could be mayhem”. We dutifully arrived early but in fact the children were very civilised, respect though to teachers dealing with  school trips!

We cycled to Lands End with the wind behind us (not what we want as then it will be a headwind for the rest of the time). We were rather appalled at Land’s End as to what commercial enterprise can do to Britain’s natural beauty…. tacky amusements in a gorgeous place.

We declined the fee for the “official” photo in front of the famous sign and instead had our picture taken by a friendly passing tourist- and our banner generated interest and some donations.



Lands End- how not to enhance wild coastal scenery


Quiet Cornish lanes

Then we set off back to Penzance with a stiff headwind but little traffic.

View at lunch over to St Michael's Mount. Gull eyeing up our sandwiches

View at lunch over to St Michael’s Mount. Gull eyeing up our sandwiches

Lunch and then on to Hayle , Camborne and our intended (booked ) campsite- but calamity, the lady said that the toilet wasn’t working so they couldn’t accomodate any camping on the farm. Our pleas of weary legs were to no avail- so we were glad of a  mobile signal and searched for another site, luckily not too much further but inevitably up another hill (Cornwall may have no big mountains but we can confirm other’s comments that it has some very steep hills)

Anyway all is well, the campsite we arrived, Lanyon’s Holiday Park was much nicer and the charming proprietor Jamie was interested in our project and when he found out the causes we were raising for donated us free camping-  a really generous  gift, we have put the fee into justgiving.

Because our small stove only burns for a short time we have to limit what we can cook- but tonight’s fresh pasta with sauce tasted great after 48 miles.


Lanyon Campsite

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