Ok… its only Warrington but Kidderminster to Warrington in day (mere 95mils) oh my.

When Heather and Markus left us at around 40-50miles I had absolutely no idea we’d be cycling for another 4-5hours.

Talk about ramping up some miles. I can’t believe we set off at 10.30 from Kiddy to arrive in a wobbly fashion to Dicky and Sharons place by 9pm.

The restaurants on our routes have pretty good so far. Red Thai curry was on the menu in Warrington. Hats off Dicky. Turns out when you’re training for an Iron Man (which he completed in 11hours 37!) you also like to eat scrummy food.

Also thanks to Millie and Lucie for generally being brilliant and having us stay.

This must be our longest day? It was so long that the Silver Fox (my beloved clapped out peugeot) needed emergency surgery on the road side! When your car brakes down, you know its been a tough day on the bike! No more car tomorrow. Panniers all the way to Scotland now. No more heavy fruit cakes Liz! OK?

Courtesy of Heather and Markus.
Thanks again guys for experiencing all varying weather, scenery and hills!
...and of course for writing this blog for us.

Heather & Markus' weekend 18/19 June 2011

Weekend high-lights
- 212 miles in virgin first class for £6 each more than standard class, 106 (ish) miles with Marmaduke & White Lighting - saddle class priceless.
- The sound of the pounded earth as a herd of horses galloped next to us
- pasties all round at Iron Bridge and hot bolognese smell as we walked into the Mould's family home.
- Our bags being couriered many miles (thx Matt).
- Riding with 2 crazy but dedicated ladies
- 1 stop at St Richards Hospice ( www.justgiving.com/cycle-for-st-richards )
- 0 punctures!!!!

Low-lights
- 30 miles from Telford to Birmingham standing on a packed train acting as toilet monitors due to a partially broken sliding door
- The telford train was preceded by an agonising hunt as station signs dissapeared 3 miles away from Telford station with no time to spare
- 0.3 of a mile on a newly surfaced road that was part gravel & part soft tar.
- having to leave Sam & Liz in the midst of green fields and beautiful farms

A great weeked, thanks Liz & Sam, best of luck and fun for the rest of ur advanture.

Markus & Heather..

Having survived a very noisy night that persisted into the very early hours of the morning, we returned the favour with a bright and early morning of celebrations ourselves.

I practically whoop whooped my way out of the tent so relieved not to be in Bristol as a result of a flash flood over night.

We were provided with a regulation bikers breakfast and were on our way to Upton-on-Severn to meet Heather and Markus who were laden with rations of vital nourishment such as jelly sweets, chocolate and percy pigs. Got to get your nutrients in somewhere.

We weaved along lanes, dodged raindrops and shook the sleepy eyes and before we knew it we’d made it to Worcester where we dropped into St. Richards Hospice for a brew and a chat. It was really special to actually meet the staff would do all the leg work there. Respect to those unsung heros (mostly heroesses!)

Kidderminster (where I have grown up) I recall was much closer to Worcester. It took forever for the achy legs to power us into Kiddy where home made spag. bol. and a glass or red (I mean a cuppa) were waiting. Thanks Matt.

The peaceful nights sleep that was anticipated eluded us and the bikers remained up all night, drinking, burping, fetling and being involved in general over merriment. We were relieved to wake-up (in the broadest sense of the expression) as I really did think we might be swept away with all the rains in a flash flood. No likelihood of that with our biker companions keeping watch all night. After a greasy breakkie we started the day meet Markus and Heather in Upton on Severn.

Dedicated cyclists who got up at 4.30 to catch the train from London, travelled West, to the Welsh borders! Impressive eh! They bought emergency Percy Pigs and all manner of exciting snacks. Like a carrot to a donkey those snacks kept us going all the way to Kiddy. We tried to burden Markus and Heather with our panniers but they were too quick for us, so I had to continue to carry all those rocks I had collected for posting. Yes rocks! I know, don’t say it…

With the luxury of our stay far behind us at Alex and Sooz’s place in Bristol we decided to head for Tewksbury. Our lack of maps, 2pm start and poor knowledge of the Wye Valley led to, well…

Everybody who’s anybody had made a song and dance about seeing the Wye Valley. What they didn’t mention was that you should stay on the A road, not the B road through, and might I add UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN and UP the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean. A minor technicality you might think, its only a letter out. It poured with rain and the steep hills got steeper, the panniers heavier and the distance just kept on increasing it seemed.

Having had a delightful detour around the back of a Welsh housing estate in Chepstow we’d been keen to get a wriggle on, had my poor knees known that actually from Bristol via Chepstow and Coleford to Tewksbury was in fact 65miles or so they’d have given up the goat at the word go.

Following the horrors and the dismal views of the: Why would you go Valley being firmly behind us, gentle undulating Gloucestershire took hold and we pulled into Lower Lode’s 15th Century ‘river-side inn and seasonal campsite’ a few minutes before 9pm.

Oh the relief. I was so over come I fell off Marmaduke and wobbled into the pub in time to be told that the kitchen had just closed. Brilliant. You try telling a hungary Kiwi that the ‘kitchen has just closed’, so I murmured it in passing on the way to the pitch, by the river, with the ducks, suggesting that a third camping meal of risotto was just what we needed for tomorrow.

The barman wanted us to pay a quid a pop for the shower so the stealth of a desperate Kiwi came into play as one of the residents had seen the sight of us, offered his hotel shower, ‘no strings attached’ said Steven from Wolverhampton or should I say Wulveramptun who turned out to be a drunken menace. Did he mention he was 50? He was fifty. I think in the course of the evening we discovered this fact over fifty times!

We rounded off our self-inflicted epic day with a pint of cider at the bar from barman Sam who gave us a blow by blow account of a flash flood in 2006 at Lower Lode when heavy rains had struck in Wales over a couple of days resulting in the river rising by 10ft in 6hours. Many a rip tide at play, not to be messed with for recreational swimming. The ducks and river-side seasonal terminology were becoming apparant and I had visions of us being swept back down stream on the Severn boar to Bristol during the night. A further pint of cider was a comfort before heading out into the torrential rain. OH my.

Having stated a few of the cycle route hazards we were bemused to see as we entered Wales the following day Welsh Granny peering over the steering wheel of her clapped out citroen DRIVING not only up the cycle path on the side of a busy dual carriage but traveling on the far side of the road as a contra flow to the oncoming plethora of cars…I ask yer.

It was surreal to be clicking along at about 20 with for the sake of argument we’ll call her Granny Blodwedd moving at a similar speed on the opposite side of the road in the same direction as us. It were as if we were racing, first she’d pip us, then we’d pip her.

Then in a killer Granny move that can only be explained by years of excellent driving experience she swerved down the kerb using an effortless handbrake turn, onto the dual carriage and hit 30mph. No doubt the foot to the floor was difficult to feel through those velcro’d clarks shoes, especially with ones perm obscuring the already hazy view. Totally crazed.

Incidentally Blodwedd means ‘wild spirit’ but if she keeps that tactic up she’ll be a Granny Gonna.

After leaving the gorge we cruised over the mendips in the pouring rain, pleased to be approaching Bristol. However reaching our friend’s Suze and Al’s place was a greater challenge than anticipated as the suggested bike path winded to an eventual abrupt halt on the outskirts of the city. Another frustrating experience of UK bike paths.

Lets elaborate on essential bike path requirements

1. Superb signage i.e. signs pointing in the wrong direction, signs leading off into waterways.

2. Stickers masquerading as bike signs wrapped around lamp posts.

3. Top quality surfaces, including mud filled pot holes, scree, mounds of rock, grass centered tracks, elaborate tree root systems which all make for a smooth and enjoyable ride on a suspension free bike.

4. Giving way to pedestrians on a cycle path.

5. Giving way to Welsh grannies driving on the cycle path.

6. Giving way to 10 year old petrol heads on their 500cc motorbikes.

The most essential quality of a UK cycle path is a smooth entrance onto a blind bend of a dual carriageway, perfect at peak hour on a rainy Thursday.