July 19th - 31st, England / Wales

July 19th

Distance: 8km Total: 8km
From: Skelmersdale, Lancashire To: St Helens

We didn't really have the best possible start, Ju and her Dad John got stuck in multiple jams and took 7 hours to drive from Bristol to Skelmersdale, arriving at 5pm by which time we had expected to be at the venue of our leaving party. When we were finally ready to leave it did stop raining for long enough for some photos to be taken, but then started again as we left and rained on us all the way to the party.

Us leaving the premises of Porpoise Viscometers Ltd, Peel House in Skelmersdale. From left to right: Rosie, Me (Mark), Juliette, Bill, Jim and John.

Mike and Jenni were the ultimate party hosts as ever, we had a rock band called 'Thumbs Up', and loads of our friends from the morris and our works turned out to boogie. Thanks to everyone who came for a brilliant send off and to whoever had the inspired idea of giving us personalised T shirts - a present that we can take with us and simply replaces an existing non-special T shirt and so weighs nothing and takes up no space.

July 20th

Distance: 50km Total: 58km
From: St Helens, Lancashire To: Ellesmere Port

The day got off to a leisurely start with a long breakfast of bacon butties and bubbly provided by the ever-wonderful Mike and Jenni. About lunchtime we finally wobbled off down the track. We stopped by Rob of Whiston Cycles to bid him farewell and thank him for all the bits he has supplied us with over the years we lived in Whiston. We also paused to wave farewell to Widnes Sixth Form College were Juliette was a Biology teacher. Then we were down into Widnes and over the Widnes-Runcorn bridge.

Remarkable we didn't get badly lost in Runcorn, nor mown down on the expressway. We even found our way through the Runcorn works and into Tom's house in Ellesmere Port. Here we were plied with very welcome tea, food and beer!

July 21st

Distance: 50km Total: 108km
From: Ellesmere Port To: Three Pidgeons Inn, Graig-fechan, nr Ruthin

Super day today, not too hot but sunny most of the day. Unfortunately Ju's knee became sore so we had a good excuse not to go too far. The campsite we headed for proved to have closed nine years ago (our map is a little old!) but they told us about another not far away so here we are.

July 22nd

Distance: 24km Total: 132km
From: Three Pidgeons Inn To: Llangollen, North Wales

Ju's knee was still sore so we had quite an easy day. We wanted to avoid hills but unfortunately we were in Wales so we had to take the least hilly way which was over the Horseshoe pass. As the photo below shows it wasn't really the lowest point around:

The descent was great, I managed 71km/h !

Just before Llangollen we joined a canal towpath and followed it for about a kilometre to a tea shop and horse drawn canal boat place. Here we found a sign to a campsite which we duly followed to where we are now. Tomorrow we plan to follow the canal on to Whitchurch.

July 23rd

Distance: 61km Total: 193km
From: Langollen To: Whitchurch

We started out down the Shropshire Union canal from Langollen and crossed the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The walkway was only a couple of feet wide so when we met a pushchair coming the other way we had to wheel our bikes along the very edge!

We followed the canal as far as Chirk by which time we were getting fed up with the bumpy surface. From Chirk there was a strong tailwind which blew us westwards along part of Sustrans route 31 to Whitchurch avoiding the trunk A roads.

In Whitchurch we found a chippy called 'Chesters Chip Shop' which much to our delight had a restaurant area were we could sit down out of the rain and tuck into fish, chips and peas with big mugs of tea. Best of all they let us put our bikes down the side passage and locked them in there.

July 24th - 29th July

Sadly my Grandfather died on the 19th so we had to go back home to attend his funeral. We parted with John who pedalled on to Bristol by himself (covering the distance in two days!) and left our bikes with a friend in Whitchurch. He had a good and long (nearly 92 years) life and his funeral was not really a sad affair, more a celebration of his life. People I hadn't seen for a long time turned up and we had a very good 'wake' after the funeral catching up on what everyone was up to. Star event was my 96 year old great Aunt playing music she had composed herself on the piano. Sadly she is too blind to read music now but instead she just makes it up as she goes along and it sounds great!

Then we had a couple of days helping out with this and that and organising a few things for our trip that had been overlooked, before catching the bus back to Whitchurch to continue...

July 30th

Distance: 55km Total: 248km
From: Whitchurch To: Pulverbatch, The Long Mynd

Left Whitchurch this morning showered and after a solid night's sleep in a real bed thanks to our friends there. Ju's knee was initially fine and we sped to Shrewsbury. There we dropped in on friend for a cup of tea which became two cups of tea and much chatting. Unfortunately the expected opening of the heavens failed to happen so we had to leave eventually and headed south towards the Long Mynd. Once it had begun to rain and the next campsite was a long way ahead and the hills were getting steeper, Ju's knee started to hurt and we needed to camp. First Ju suggested a rather open field near a couple of houses, which I didn't fancy much. Then we found a quite weedy and unkempt looking field with a high hedge and decided that it would be the perfect place to camp.

In the morning we were cooking our breakfast when we say several sheep appear in the field followed by the farmer. He herded the sheep into the next field and then came over to talk to us. However far from being angry with us and throwing us off his land he said that it was exactly what he would do and would we like to come to the farmhouse for a cup of tea? We gave the tea a miss but had a chat and then it was time to brave the rain.

July 31st

Distance: 60km Total: 308km
From: Pulverbatch To: Wappley Hill Fort

Weather wasn't actually too bad, cool and cloudy but it didn't really rain much. We stopped in Bucknell to play Queen's Delight (Morris joke) and shortly after met a party of touring cyclists. They asked the usual "Where are you going?" and had the best answer yet in: "Australia eh? We're off to China, it's right at this junction..."

We got here late afternoon and sat down at the picnic table and started brewing. Various people have stopped by for a chat and most of them seem to be either cyclists or people who once travelled by horse and cart the length of Britain.

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