WE MUST HAVE BEEN BONKERS
MEET THE TEAM :
Andy “Midnight” Riding..Barry “The Pink Room” O’Shea..John “The Beast” Lynch..
Alex “Scout” McNee…Terry “Windjammer” Micheal..
Below middle..Mick “Stoker” Duncan…
It’s hard to believe it now but this fantastic event took place starting from 22 / september / 1996
A small group of dedicated and well trained individuals, all bus drivers from the 1st group garage in Halifax West Yorkshire took on the task of riding from John O’Groats to Lands End, a distance of approximately 1000 miles in aid of the Overgate Hospice in Elland West Yorkshire with the aim of reaching a target of £10.000.00 overall, and we managed to achieve £5000.00 net handover to the Hospice after completing the run in eight days instead of the eleven days which were anticipated, so we really kicked it’s backside.
We trained very hard for three months every Sunday and on our days off, before the event in the heart of the steep and unforgiving Pennine hills, and if you can survive the pain on the uphill climbs, then you can survive anywhere, and, as it happens we did .
Great sense of achievement for all the lads here, we made a great team and it certainly tested us in every way possible, the end result was for the Hospice in question, Overgate in Elland, where the staff do an incredible job of looking after us in our final days, every day, the staff and volunteers provide a comforting presence to individuals and families facing life-threatening illnesses, grief and loss.
The Hospice remains committed to providing care that treats the person, not the disease, and emphasizes the quality of life, not the duration, I have seen and lost friends and family who have been cared for in Overgate, and the same story repeats itself all over the world, we are here for just a short time, and this was just a moment in that time, that we put something back, we would all do it again tomorrow if we were asked.
The very idea was born one Sunday while out riding in the Yorkshire and Lancashire hills,and then slowly put together in our canteen here in the bus station Halifax, we decided to put the plan to management, and they happily agreed, it was now up to us to org anise this monumental event which was to take place in the up coming late summer holidays of 1996.
Day one depart John “O” Groats to Inverness.
It was decided that we would complete the journey starting in John O” Groats, (pictured to the left) in a relay system, two riders at a time to complete 35 miles or more in a shift, and with six of us this would equate to approximately 105 miles per day, at least, that was the plan anyway.
The first day was spent collecting our sponsored car and van with all the bikes and gear that we needed, everybody was picked up and then we set off for John O” Groats, it was a long uneventful journey, and we were all cream crackered when we arrived at our digs, sleep came very quickly that night, with the last thought of the long ride that lay before us.
Morning came with an early call..05:00, a light breakfast, into our riding gear and off to the starting point for an 06:00 departure, for the time of year it was incredibly mild and fine, the sea view was just beautiful and the Highland air was pure, after soaking all that in, it was time to do the business, we all wished each other good luck, and off we set, with myself “Scout” McNee, and Andy “Midnight” Riding taking the first leg of the run, which took in the coast road to Wick and Latheron on the A99, then the baton would be handed to John “The Beast” Lynch..Barry “The Pink Room” O’Shea and the views were as breathtaking as the pedaling believe me, Latheron is where the A9 joins us to take us further south past Scotlands beautiful Lochs and Bens with strange sounding Gaelic names, and crossing the Dornoch Firth into the town of Morangie where the famous Glenmorangie distillery is situated, and I might add, I am partial to a drop of that stuff meself, but, we have no time to consume the water of life, we must concentrate on the job in hand…push on over the Cromaty Firth and the last part of the 1st days peddle to Inverness. which was taken up by Terry the”Windjammer” and Micheal..Mick the”Stoker”Duncan.
So, the 1st day completed and 120 miles under our belts, we retire to our Hotel, where we shower and relax for a couple of hours before going out for a well earned drink and something to eat in Inverness, we couldn’t stay out too late, nor could we consume large amounts of alcohol, because we were on for an early start the next morning. never the less, the banter was good, and we had a great laugh.
Day Two: Depart Inverness 06:00 the foot bridge over the Inver.
Now we were to join the A82 on towards Drumnadrochit, Morriston and Fort Augustus, following the fabulous parallel with the great Loch Ness, always on the lookout for Nessie, and the weather was still holding fine for us, what a treat this was, the Loch and adjacent view of the mountains was crystal clear, we even saw a couple of Golden Eagles on the way, that was a rare sight, once in my lifetime at least.
On we go through Spean Bridge, Fort William, where we rested to watch some Panpipers performing for the local shoppers on the High Street, and very relaxing it was too, quick cup a tea and off wee go again towards Onich where the A82 leaves the Lochside and goes inland towards Glencoe and all it’s fantastic History, by this time we were well out into the Ranoch Moor, and it was pretty desolate in places, you wouldn’t like to get stuck out there in a snowstorm, the end of day two and still on the A82, brought us past Loch Tulla to the Bridge of Orchy way out in the middle of nowhere, we had sent a recci party on ahead to make sure the accommodation for the night was secure, so all was well, this place was set up for campers and the like, so it was nice and cheap and very clean, the food was good and the banter even better, a good nights sleep was had by all.
A great place to stay
DayThree: Depart Bridge of Orchy 06:00 to Crawford.
Still on the A82 off we trot towards Crainlarich and Ardlui where we pick up the beautiful ride along Loch Lomond which holds precious memories for me personally, as I spent a lot of my childhood on the Bonny Bonny banks with my cousin Moira when the annual Glasgow fair took place once a year.
Tarbet ,Alexandria, and Dumbarton where my Dad was born, down the Western Road into Glasgow, calling into the 1st groups Glasgow depot to take on fuel and supplies for the back up vehicle, and then through the mean streets of Glasgow city centre to pick up the old A74 south to England.
Down through Hamilton, Larkhall and lesmahagow with the M74 to our left and running parallel, we eventually arrive at our well deserved watering hole and bed for the night, Crawford arms Hotel, which was one of my old haunts,so I knew it would be O.K.
By this time we were all getting very tired, as I had set the pace a little too high, so it was time to reflect and slow up a little, start again the next day.
Day Four: Depart Crawford 06:00 And the weather is still with us…on to Kendal
It’s 05:00 and we are all up, showered and at the breakfast table, for a hearty truckers breakfast, give ourselves a little time to come round, and then were ready for the off, and so it’s time to mount up and move out, if you will pardon my cowboy expression.
This part of the old A74 runs adjacent to the A74M, and has been declassified to a B road, so it made the riding a much more pleasant experience, as all the traffic was on the Main A74M we had theold road to ourselves, and quite a lot of it had been turned into a cycle path, which was nice, we made good mileage this day and were still in Bonny Scotland, so we still had the lovely Scottish views to take in on the way, along through Lockerbie and onto Gretna Green, the iconic place for young lovers to elope, if you are into romanticism, and I think most of us are if we are honest.
The Blacksmiths shop at Gretna Green.
Anyway onwards we venture to the Border town of Carlisle and all it’s history, but we have no time to stop, we have a job to do, even though we are enjoying ourselves, it still is hard work and there are many miles left to cover,
This is now where we pick up the Old A6 Which still runs parallel with the M6 motorway, and we still have the road pretty much to ourselves, we run into some pretty bleak countryside around here as we approach the infamous Shap, “The Stepping Stone to the Lakes” I have fond memories of this road when I was a lad, when I first started my driving career in 1965, and the great old cafe “The Jungle” where we stopped on route to Scotland to rest and refresh.
Robsons of Carlisle a familiar sight at the Jungle..Shap
After tackling the 9 mile decent from the top of Shap, we arrive in the town of Kendal, “The Gateway to the Lakes”and our bed for the night, the Dun Horse Hotel where we had a most delightful curry and a couple of beers a chat with some of the locals, and then off to bed for an early night…nite nite, mind the bugs don’t bite, and some of the locals, come to think of it….see you in the morning.
Day Five..Kendal to Tarpoley Cheshire.
O.K. it’s 06:00 we are fed and watered and ready for the off again, we are having to take it a little easier today, due to injuries sustained yesterday, we were all trying to out do each other in the timings, and some of us are paying the price today with knee problems, the hills of The Lakes can be quite punishing on the joints, nevertheless, once we get going again, everything settles in again, and the pain becomes an irrelevance, cracking on down the A6 through Carnforth , Lancaster, Garstang, and into Preston, then we find the A49 to take us through Leyland , Wigan, and Warrington, where we cross the Manchester Ship Canal, now we are in the county of Cheshire and in pleasant countryside and the ride is much more relaxed with a lot less traffic, almost at the end of the days ride, we come into the town of Tarpoley, where the A49 meets the A51 to Chester in the west and Crewe to the east, our digs have been secured for the night at the Forresters Arms ,a lovely little pub right on the side of the A49, how very convenient, a well deserved drink, a nice hearty meal, then another early night for me and the boys.
The Forresters Arms at Tarpoley
Day Six..Tarpoley to Gloucester.
Up and at it again at 05:00, fed and watered, stretching done and off at 06:00 down the A49 towards Shrewsbury via Whitchurch, again riding some of the countries lovely surroundings, and no sign of rain yet, weren’t we lucky. we made a good fast pace round the Shrewsbury ring road,and out into the open countryside once again passing through Church Stretton, Craven Arms, and yes there is a pub there called the Craven Arms, I wonder if they named the town after it, onwards to Ludlow, a beautiful olde worlde market town, well worth a visit some time, but not this time, we still got work to do, pedaling like crazy now, we are all pumped up and on form, nothing can stop now, as we whiz through Leominster, Hereford and Ross- on- Wye, then we pick up the A40 on to the last leg of the days magic journey to Gloucester, we had all had a good day but thinking about it , we did overstretch ourselves, everything was gone, no more energy left, so all there is left now is to sleep i n our lovely Hotel for the night, and that is exactly what we did…nite nite all.…Still no sign of the back up van !
Day Seven Gloucester to Taunton.
Wow ! it’s amazing what a good nights sleep can do, we are all top of the morning to-day and that’s for sure, all apart from Andy ” Midnight” Riding who sustained a knee injury the other day, and ha gradually got worse, and therefore put him out of the ride, but he still played his part, the running shift mechanic, by looking after the bikes , mending punctures and keeping them clean etc., and then the cheeky beggar only went and charged us a quid each for doing it, but it all went into the collection pot for the Hospice only trouble is, the weather has turned against us this morning, it’s damp wet and downright blumming miserable.
Gloucester high Street, which is now pedestrianised.
So upwards and onwards, as they say…once out of Gloucester we find the A38 for Bristol running with the M5 to our left and the River Avon to our right, we go through a little town called Thornbury and under the M4 down through Filton and into the Metropolis of Bristol City Centre, fortunately for me, I know Bristol quite well, so no problems getting through there, apart from a minor scuffle with the local gypsies.
Now cycling directly at the side of the muddy banks of the river, we are treated to a magnificent view of the Bristol suspension Bridge, built by that most famous of railway engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a hero of mine from my schooldays, and literally just around the corner we pass another of his great inventions the re-vamped SS Great Britain, which is now a tourist attraction, click the link for more information. SS Great Britain in Bristol
Well that’s enough sightseeing for now, we must crack on, getting back on the A38, we pedal out of town and on into the Mendip Hills and Devon, through Highbridge, Bridgewater and final resting place for the day… Taunton.
Day Eight, Taunton to Lands End..The Final Straw .
The A38 becomes an declassified road from here on into Tiverton and Exeter on the mouth of the river Exe, and this is where the route starts to get a little more difficult as we take up the A30 and skirt across the infamous Dartmoor Forest past Oakhamton and Launceston, we are now in Cornwall, land of smugglers, rum, and cornish pasties, ahead of us lay the Bodmin Moor and we are now on a fast dual carriageway and the traffic is flying past, but there are laybys a plenty to take refuge in from time to time, and the weather is abysmal right now with heavy driving rain, making the pedaling very strenuous, plenty of energy being used up to day i can tell you, it’s the wettest part of the ride yet, but we are a hardy bunch and we battle on regardless..Oh! what hero’s we are, even though I say so myself.
Alas we reach Bodmin, and the end is now insight, this was to be the day so onto Redruth via Fiddlers Green, and then Cambourne, Hayle, Penzance the end of the dual Carriageway and onto the winding and quite hilly terrain of the old A30 again to Lands End and when we saw the sea the feeling was quite emotional, we all felt it, and realised what we had achieved, nothing could be better at that particular time, eight days to remember for the rest of our lives.
What a week that was, lots of great memories, and the money we raised along the way for our charity, “Overgate” it’s a nice feeling to have been part of it.
Time now to thanks all our sponsors who gave generously, the vehicles:
To: Neil Walsh of T.J.Walsh, our only competition in town at that time, who supplied the back up van.
To: Star Garage in Copley for supplying the back up car.
To: Personnel Assurance, Milton Keynes who gave a whopping £2000.oo cash.
To: Cycle Gear Halifax, suppliers of spares and service, cheers Bob and Steve.
To: Shona in Aberdeen (1st Bus) Also 1st Bus head Moir Lockhead O.B.E. £500.00 and all the diesel.
To: Gill Perry & family, also Colin Whit taker & family for our free first nights accommodation in John “O” Groats.
To: Ted Baker at marks and Sparks ( London) £500.00 CashThanks Ted.
To: Fina P.L.C.( Epsom Surry)Cheers again Fina.
To: Barratts Builders Merchants, (Sowerby Bridge) West Yorkshire…£100.00 Many Thanks.
And finally to all the lads and lasses that gave their hard earned cash to this most worthy of causes.
We the team were only the facade, the blood sweat and gears, but without you and your donations, none of it would have been possible, we thank you on behalf of Overgate Hospice in Elland West Yorkshire, for donating your fivers, your tenners, your small change, and just to let you know, the operation, as we like to call it, was a global one, with monies coming in from as far a field as Australia and New Zealand, as well as all parts of the Great British Isles.
ABOVE : Halifax Courier photo of handover to Hospice with the team.
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