Monday, 3 December 2007

And finally, fund-raising target exceeded!

Front row L-R: John Jarrom, Josh Knowles, George Hutton, Josh Wicks. Back row with one of the bikes, L-R: Dawn Hawley, Sue Hutton

Tom Chambers

The HLCC JoGLERS exceeded their £1000 fund-raising target for Cancer Research.

Once back from Lands' End, the task began of calling in all the sponsorship money promised.

The lads finished this by half-term at the end of October 2007. Their efforts were further rewarded when the Loughborough Echo sent a photographer for the cheque presentation to the local committee of Cancer Research. We all thank Dawn Hawley, the secretary of the group, for coming out to help us.

We've added in a photo of Tom Chambers, who had to be elsewhere on the day of the cheque presentation. Thanks to Tom, the Just Giving website has been updated. You can still donate online if you would like to support these enterprising young men.

Other news about the boys who were the motivation for the fund-raising focus. Alex Tranmere is back at school after chemotherapy. Tom Walker received a WellChild award from 'Westlife' at a ceremony at Lords' Cricket Ground, after the nursing staff at Leicester Royal Infirmary nominated him for his upbeat attitude during his treatment.

He continues to visit Loughborough Rugby Club every weekend. An inspiration to us all!

Epilogue: Tom Walker slipped away on Friday 15th February 2008. He had been in great pain and was receiving constant dosages of painkillers. He did get to see Wales win comfortably over Scotland at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff the previous Saturday. Wales was 'his' side.

During his short life, he inspired many people with his courage. Let's do more to try to the conquer the type of cancer that took him away from us.

Tom Walker 1989 - 2008

Friday, 3 August 2007

Celebrations after 1,000 miles!

Beer and cake was consumed, parents and friends were phoned and then the boys posed by the famous Lands' End signpost.

They didn't want to cycle back to the farm so we had to press cycle carriers into use. Wicks had to take his bike to pieces to get it into the back of Ruth's car.

We journeyed past Penzance to Marazion to eat at The Clipper Cafe and to walk on the beach. The tide was coming in and had covered the causeway to St Michael's Mount.

Back at Embla Farm, everyone changed into swimsuits and played in the pool before another celebratory barbecue in the evening with champagne.

Finally, everyone walked to the top of the hill for the view of two coasts as dusk was falling.

A great adventure.

Photos show the boys lined up at the signpost, relaxing with their beers/cider, in the pool, cracking open the champagne and enjoying a feast at the barbecue.

Day 17 - Embla to Lands' End

August 1st

The day was gloriously sunny and warm. The sea was still.

Tom's Mum, Ruth, had arrived by breakfast, having driven through the night, with a couple of hours' sleep at a service station.

We all began leisurely. The boys finally got ready, with just another 20 odd miles to go, and dressed in t-shirts and jeans rather than their biking gear. Knowles donned his flip-flops, dismissing a suggestion that he might need his bike shoes, which I think he might have regretted later after he collided with a wall, sustaining some nasty grazes.

But they did take puncture repair kits and spares. Panniers were left behind at the campsite.

They departed by a coast route from Embla, while the supporters converged on Morrisons to buy the requisite celebratory beers and chocolate cake.

We spotted them riding down the hill to Lands' End around 1pm. Fortunately, a tourist coach parked on the Finish line moved out of the way as they came up the final 100 yards.

Well done you guys!

Photos show departure from Embla Farm, coming up the final stretch, crossing the line and the winning champagne shower.

Byword on maps and campsites

George and I decided to go electronic when it came to route navigation. Ordnance Survey recommended Road Angel Adventurer 7 which could be pre-loaded with the OS Landranger 1:50,000 scale Standard series of maps. These contain more information than the standard route maps which come with satnav systems.

It took a bit of getting used to, but George was able to plot his map route on his PC and download the itinerary to the device. En route, we used a laptop to amend routes in the southwest, once we'd realised that the wrong campsite had been identified on the penultimate day!

We bought a bike mount for the weatherproof Road Angel but it fell off and George ended up carrying it in his pocket. The other difficulty was the power supply. Road Angel and TomTom satnavs are powered by USB port. It was impossible to power the Road Angel during the day while the boys were biking, and our cigarette lighter in the car broke, so we couldn't use that for charging either. The satnavs proved to be at their most useful for determining end points.

You can buy USB charger adaptors, but we were reliant on power hookups overnight to charge the satnavs. And thanks to Mr Hopkins at Powderham Castle who charged the Road Angel for the leg to Embla.

Another issue was restrictions on camping for all male or all female parties. Virtually every campsite at which we stopped would only accept mixed parties, and had reservations about the age of the boys. Which means that if they had tried this venture on their own, they would have had difficulty finding overnight stopovers. Bodmin Camping and Caravan campsite wouldn't accept the party full stop, because there were an inadequate number of adults for the number of minors - irrespective of the purpose of the ride.

Day 16 - Lostwithiel to Embla Farm

31st July

Sunny and warm. Lots of sunscreen applied. The hills appeared to get less steep but a lot of leg power was still needed.

The tent pitches at Powderham Castle near Lostwithiel in Cornwall were at the furthest end from the shower and lavatory block, but the site owners kindly put the Road Angel satnav that the boys were using on charge overnight and told campsite visitors all about their exploit to encourage donations.

And a huge surprise! Len unexpectedly got extended leave, so he and Sue turned round from home in Leicestershire and drove with George's sister Rosie all the way back to Cornwall.

We like to think that the boys' expression of disbelief as we drove past them on their final leg was of joy at seeing us. But having gone all the way from John O' Groats to Taunton, it seemed a real shame not to be there for the finish and watch them bike over the line at Lands' End.

By the time we reached Embla farm on the Lands' End peninsula, the party consisted of the lads, Adele and Harriet, Jennifer and Charlotte and Victoria, and Len and Sue.

We were all extremely grateful to Jackie and Michaela who loaned us the use of a small enclosed field on the farm for the final two nights. And the use of their substantial barbecue. There was a pre-arrival celebration with copious numbers of burgers, sausages, meat grills and cooked chicken from Morrisons in Penzance.

Photos show departure from Powderham Castle, Len and Sue back at Sainsbury's at Taunton to re-establish their credentials, the back of Adele's car which had been crammed full of belongings not wanted actually on the ride, and Adele, Jackie and Jennifer at Embla Farm.

Day 15 - Okehampton to Lostwithiel

The weather was getting steadily better and less breezy, but as soon as they met the road sign for Cornwall, the hills seemed to get steeper and steeper.

Photo shows the lads setting off from Betty Cottles Inn at Okehampton in Devon.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Day 14 - Taunton to Okehampton

29th July

The ground was very damp when we got up, but the rain had passed and the skies cleared quickly.

Sunny weather, not too hot, just right for cycling.

Sadly Len and I had to turn back here, because of other commitments, with Lands' End so close.

Although Somerset remained level, the hills became frequent and steep in Devon. The party camped overnight at the Betty Cottles Inn on the Tavistock Road outside Okehampton.

Photos show the boys pushing Bertha out of the mud, their departure from the Cornish Touring Park in Taunton, and finally Len and Sue Hutton posing with Adele and Harriet Jarrom and Harriet's friend Charlotte, outside Sainsbury's at Taunton - the support handover.

Day 13 - Bristol to Taunton

28th July

Another easy day with less than 40 miles to Taunton, but on a busy Saturday in the summer on the A38.

The M5 was congested so a lot of traffic took the alternative route.

No hills to speak of and a smooth ride into Somerset.

It was different with the camper van. The Alternator V-Belt broke as we were leaving the drive of the Brook Lodge Farm campsite, and we spent the next hour awaiting the Green Flag man in a layby a mile distant where Timothy's Breakfasts served up the best ever eggs and bacon.

Fortunately, Derrick, who had sold me the camper van, was very thorough, and had put a spare belt in the back. Thus the van was fixed rather than having to be towed to Taunton and await repair on the Monday.

The Cornish Touring Park at Taunton is excellent. Both Adele, who was taking over from us as support, and the boys had arrived before us. Rain clouds were gathering as we pitched camp.

Looking for good food in the area? Look no further than the White Hart Inn in Corfe. The food is tremendous. Freshly cooked just for you.

Paul Wicks joined us again and treated us all to dinner. Thank you Paul!

Photos show lads about to depart from Brook Lodge Farm campsite, Bertha being put on a towing vehicle, Bertha being repaired in a layby and all of us pitching camp at Cornish Touring Park in Taunton.

Day 12 - Chipping Sodbury to south of Bristol

27th July

This was an easy day. With less than 30 miles in prospect to the next destination, the lads were more relaxed, and didn't leave until close to 1 pm.

The rain had cleared. Again, it was cloudy but dry.

Taking back roads, we arrived at the Brook Lodge Farm Touring Site opposite a Holiday Inn on the A38 just south of Bristol Airport.

A brook at the edge of the field had overflowed on to the lower levels the previous day, but had returned to normal levels even though it was silt-laden and flowing fast. We were asked not to take the camper van on to the grass, and so were cramped on to what little gravel we could find. Even though the boys were given pitches on supposedly dryer ground, it was distinctly damp.

Good food at the Stag and Hounds Inn in Churchill with two-for-one meal deals just down the road.

Photos show Josh Knowles with his Grandma and Grandad, the departure from Chipping Sodbury, and all the boys with the Knowles family.

Day 11 - Leominster to Chipping Sodbury

26th July

It rained overnight. The forecast had been for rain, and I hoped that it had been and gone. But I was wrong. The weather set in around 9 am and the rain became heavier and persistent.

Hopes that it might pass were in vain, as John struggled with mending a puncture beneath the shelter outside the Youth Hostel. The Hostel had once been part of the old Priory buildings, and original stonework is still visible in one wall. In the nineteenth century, it had been a workhouse.

The boys set off in heavy rain for Gloucester, which had suffered serious flooding less than a week previously.

Len and I drove forward, enjoying a very substantial and high quality lunch at The Beauchamp Arms at Dymock, a community owned pub. Ominously, a road here was already closed.

Once we arrived in Gloucester and missed the first turn to Stroud over the Severn, we turned back only to find that the police had closed the road in the interval. Not even the A417 from Ledbury was open. We urged the boys to press on through the rising floods on the road from Leominster.

The Tesco loos and cafe were closed in Gloucester because of the lack of water. A pumping station had been flooded.

But they got through eventually, and found the road to Stroud joining the A46 south to Chipping Sodbury northeast of Bristol. This was not an easy road. Lots of climbs and steep sections. At least it stopped raining in the early part of the afternoon.

Len and I went before to meet Josh Knowles' Dad, Mark, at Chipping Sod. Forewarned, he built up a huge log fire in front of which the lads could warm themselves and dry their clothes and shoes.

A huge barbecue appeared which was totally consumed. Thank goodness for parents!

Photos show John mending a puncture, departure from Leominster, flood on road to Gloucester, The Beauchamp Arms, and a water bowser in Gloucester.

Day 10 - Prees to Leominster

25th July

Although not particularly sunny, the day was bright and dry. Tom had to remain behind with Len and me, while we went in search of a new bike.

There wasn't a suitable bike in the shop at Whitchurch, but the proprietor recommended Stan Jones Cycles in Shrewsbury.

We were also unsuccessful in getting the washing done. There was no laundry on the Prees campsite, and the launderette in Whitchurch closes on Wednesdays.

George, John, Josh and Josh set off while we were away, so I have no group photo of them for this day, but Len and Tom posed at the gate before our departure.

Tom picked out a bike but we had to wait for his Dad to arrive from Cheltenham with the cash to pay for it. Little did we realise how difficult the roads were, after the torrential rain of a few days previously.

While we were waiting, Tom discovered the art gallery and museum across the road from the coffee house accommodated in William Rowley's magnificent Elizabethan timbered house. Rowley had also added a very substantial brick house next to the timber dwelling. Len and I went over there too. The displays could do with a bit of revival. I was looking for the Geology of Shropshire which I remembered from my first ever Physical Geography field trip based at Church Stretton, but the descriptions were too brief and not local.

On the other hand, I was very impressed with the remains retrieved from the Roman town of Viroconium at Wroxeter, just five miles east of Shrewsbury and have resolved to go there when I can. Viroconium was the fourth largest Roman city in Britain and was probably established as a military base on a route leading to Wales.

We didn't set off from Shrewsbury until almost five pm and discovered that the rest of the party had arrived at Leominster Youth Hostel before we had. This was a good hostel with the usual cooking facilities, a laundry, which saw heavy use night and morning and a free wireless network for the Internet. Everybody gathered round my laptop that evening to check their email.

Photos show Tom and Len at the gate to the Green Lane Farm campsite, Tom choosing a bike at Stan Jones Cycles in Shrewsbury and the swollen waters of the River Severn flowing beneath the Welsh Bridge.

Day 9 - Preston to Prees

24th July

It was a sunny day mostly. An undulating ride, with no really sharp hills. The route took the boys out of Preston via Wigan and Warrington, into Shropshire close to the Welsh border at Whitchurch and on to the Green Lane Farm campsite.

There'd been more rain here in the previous week and it was squelchy underfoot in places. There was a new toilet block with large showers. A Grandma and Grandad had brought some of their grandchildren for a few days's camping, and they seemed to be the only others on the site. The kids were excited at the prospect of some company.

There was a play area, football net and basketball hoop.

The lads turned up at 7pm. The cross bar on Tom's bike had sheared shortly before their arrival, making the bike unrideable.

We were too late for the food at the Raven Inn, where the kitchen had just shut at 8.30 pm, but Peppers, the Indian restaurant next door proved a thoroughly good substitute.

Photos show the departure from Preston, a large Wendy house at the Prees campsite and John relaxing on a swinging chair at the campsite.

Day 8 - Kendal to Preston

23rd July

Kendal Youth Hostel serves a good breakfast as part of the price of the overnight stay, and we were able to cook a good meal in the evening.

Kendal was the first place since John O' Groats where I was successful in getting a photo off to the local press via the Internet. Full marks to Kendal Library, housed in the red stone Carnegie Library at the end of the high street.

The one way system is difficult, and Kendal mint cake is not on offer as much as I thought it would be. We bought bars for everybody when we finally found a shop.

Weather continued cloudy, but dry, and cheered up by the afternoon. From Kendal, the lads joined the A6 once more and travelled south through Carnforth and Lancaster to Preston.

They avoided the infrequent heavy showers, one of which caught Len and me while we were waiting for John Kay, a colleague from Oman, at Levens House, just south of Kendal. We went inside and had a good lunch in The Buttery.

The Royal Umpire Caravan Park at Croston gave them a warm welcome and a free pitch, as they were riding for charity.

It was a bit wet under the tents and the washing didn't get dry by morning. The good news was that there was a 2 for one meal deal at the restaurant over the road, and the restaurant at the hotel next to the campsite, had free wi-fi in its public rooms. So Len and I had a very nice and reasonably priced steak each there while checking our email.

Photos show departure from Kendal Youth Hostel on Highgate, the Carnegie Library and the boys' arrival at Royal Umpire Caravan Park southwest of Preston.

Day 7 - Lockerbie to Kendal

22nd July

Starting bright and becoming sunny and warm. The campsite at Hoddom Castle, on the shores of Annan Water, is large and well-established. There's a restaurant and a bar and a games room.

Our pitches couldn't have been further from the toilet block and showers!

Mary Queen of Scots was a friend of the castle owner in the sixteenth century, according to the free history booklet which you can get at the shop.

The route continued gentle and undulating over the border to England (hooray!) and beyond Carlisle and Penrith. The village of Shap lies at the foot of a steep climb to the edge of the Lake District.

The ascent to Shap Summit took the boys no longer than half an hour. They accepted the reward of doughnuts with alacrity, arriving at Kendal Youth Hostel within the next hour.

Photos show the boys ready to set off outside Hoddom Castle, a landscape looking east from Shap, the ascent to the summit and the boys enjoying their doughnuts with Len and Paul Wicks, who caught up with us there.

Day 6 - New Lanark to Lockerbie

21st July

Clear if overcast. This was a lovely day for cycling. The rain stayed away, the roads were gently undulating at the most, and there was a good cycle path for most of the route.

New Lanark Youth Hostel occupies part of the Mill complex in the New Lanark World Heritage Site, sponsored by Unesco. Started by David Dale and Richard Armitage in the late eighteenth century, Robert Owen, who married Dale's daughter, and was an esteemed mill manager by the age of 20, cast his shape on the site in the early nineteenth century.

He treated his workers fairly and established a school for the children, in which no harsh punishment was allowed. He believed that to treat children kindly was to foster the better parts of their character.

Notably, New Lanark is the home of the foundation of the Cooperative Movement. Many mill owners used to provide shops for their workers, but usually over charged. Owen ensured that prices were fair.

You can see the various mills, the Clydesdale Falls just upstream, the weir, the water mill, the school and Robert Owen's house.

The boys had to walk their bikes uphill. The hills descending to the Clyde were very steep.

The photos show the boys outside the row of houses in which Robert Owen lived, with the school behind them, a mill, the Clydesdale Falls, and a stop in the village of Abington where they had their lunch.

Day 5 - Inverarnan to New Lanark

20th July

Grey start, but the rain kept away as the route took us all past Loch Lomond. Len and I met up with Paul and Mamie Glachan at The Tarbet Hotel for coffee.

This proved to be the hardest day of the journey. The lads had to negotiate Glasgow on their way south.

We'd found a map of the cycle route running alongside the north bank of the River Clyde on a website sponsored by Glasgow City Council, but first of all, nobody could find the access point, then the route was disrupted by unclear diversions, and then both Tom and Josh Wicks suffered punctures.

Once they did get clear and on to the A72(?), the road was hilly and windy. They didn't get to New Lanark Youth Hostel until after 10pm, but we had a meal waiting for them, and at least they didn't have to set up their tents.