Lands End to John O’Groats 1997 Part 7

Thus, as previously mentioned, we left Chester, but not before a visit to The Bike Factory to replace waterlogged kit and to stock up on thermal clothing. Predictably, it was still raining.

Day seven was, as the cliché goes, a day of two halves. Spirits buoyed by having purchased new, dry kit, we reached Lostock Junction, just south of Bolton, having made good time. However, the next instruction on our reserve routesheet said something along the lines of: …proceed to top o’ the moor… and thus began the arduous second half of our ride as the we climbed up high above Bolton before descending to Blackburn and then doing battle with the Trough of Bowland in all its stark beauty. We climbed 3000 feet in those final 35 miles, with the tiny villages of Bashall Eaves, Cow Ark, Dunsop Bridge and Slaidburn, our destination, separated by a series of giant hills.

Day eight was unusual in that we departed from Slaidburn in dry weather. The rain had been replaced by an uncommonly strong headwind which determined our rate of progress. We covered the moorland crossing of twelve miles to High Bentham in 3 hours, averaging just 4 miles per hour. It was an enjoyably horrendous experience. I seem to recall cresting Tatham Fell and having to search for an even lower gear in order to pedal downhill into the wind.

The conditions deteriorated to point of being unsafe as we were blown all over the road. With just 40 miles ridden that day, the decision was made to seek sanctuary in a B&B at the foot of fearsome Shap Hill, and hope that the solar system would sort itself out overnight.

By morning, the wind had abated, but was replaced by its partner in crime, namely torrential rain. Martin was troubled badly by his knee, and as Ray and I ascended mighty Shap Hill, he became a tiny red dot in the distance. The two of us took refuge in a telephone kiosk at the summit and waited for the inevitable. Martin joined us and announced that he would ride to Penrith and take the train back to London.

It was a sad state of affairs, but we were barely past halfway and Martin figured that his continuation was not worth the risk of further damage to his knee.

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