Though our hotel in Nantwich was lovely and accommodating, it was in the town centre, and on a Saturday night the noisy revellers meant that ear plugs were needed. Though they block out the outside noise, I personally find them a mixed blessing as I become irritated by the sounds of my own breathing and heartbeat! Mr V also had a disturbed night with a bit of an upset tummy, so we were not exactly well rested when we set off. The day saw us peddling from Nantwich to Manchester, the weather was warm and the going on the whole was relatively flat and we set off early whilst the town was still sleeping. We headed to Winsford and from there took the Weaver Way cycle path, though we found ourselves frustrated once more by the gateways which would be troublesome for any cyclist, but for us meant hard work, however in this instance we discovered that with a little scouting we found the ‘alternate’ route around them that has clearly been worn by those that have peddled before us.
Once on our way though the going was pleasant along side the river Weaver and navigation in Cheshire, passing the Winsford Salt Mine which is the largest rock salt mine in Britain; there is evidently a long history of salt mining in this area. We met a shoal of course fishermen and woman along the narrow tow path necessitating pushing Twolula in order to pass each other. After some exchanges of pleasantries Mr V hopped back on Twolula to cycle on ahead a bit before stopping for me to get on, or so I thought. As he drew farther away I realised that he clearly thought I had stayed on the back whilst pushing the bike and was blithely progressing on unaware that I had been left behind! Fortunately the error of his ways was pointed out by some approaching fishermen who saw me running to catch up.
Reaching Northwich we were challenged with navigating around a shopping centre that was clearly not in existence when the JOG overlay route was plotted. We briefly joined the Cheshire Cycleway and then some B roads before making our way along the Trans Pennine Trail which is along the old Warrington to Broadheath railway line. We do like a trail that follows an old railway line; nice and flat. The going was quite pleasant, however unlike our experience in the Netherlands, we did find that there was a distinct lack of any benches to stop and take a break. Fortunately, despite Mr V’s protestations, we had our small camping seats and so had an extended break for lunch, meeting a couple of handsome chaps with jaunty hats as they passed by.
Though the going has not been to tough in respect to the terrain today, there have been numerous gate type obstacles that are hard work with a heavy bike in the heat, especially when feeling less than 100%. We made our way to our accommodation for the night, and arrived around 3.30pm glad to be able to rest properly. Our Air B&B host assisted us to stow Twolula in his back yard, even providing a cover for her. Lovely though the house was, it was a triumph of style over substance; there was a distinct lack of the much needed comfort of such things as tea. It transpired that the kitchen was due to be remodelled commencing the following week and this was perhaps the reason behind the lack of victuals. I was quite concerned about Mr V’s welfare by this stage as he was finding feeling poorly on top of the physical exertions really quite difficult. His need for restorative tea was most urgent, and I identified the well reviewed Tea Hive that was a short walk away. Sure enough it delivered just what was needed, a large pot of piping hot tea and the best eggs florentine that we have had for a long time. Numerous cups of tea later we were feeling a bit better and meandered back to our accommodation to rest our weary bodies. And rest we did. For a full 12 hours.
Waking in the early hours when the copious amounts of tea made themselves known, we began to experience some angst about what we had taken on. Our confidence in our ability to cover the distances per day prescribed by our guide had been based on our previous years touring in lands with no hills to speak of. As the reality of the challenge had made itself known to us, we felt we have been somewhat naive in our optimism and knew we had to rethink our strategy if we were to survive. We have always found such joy in the freedom of our previous touring experiences, enjoying the cares of the world slipping away with each peddle stroke and the only worries being where to stop for coffee and finding a bed for the night. We had begun to resent our Sustrans guide for being too harsh a taskmaster and so knew that we would need to break free from submissive adherence and take the advice of the wise rabbit we met on day 1.
Feeling a little more refreshed than the previous morning, we were up with the lark and on our way by just after 8.00am. We had booked a small cottage in Clitheroe for the next couple of nights as we desperately needed a day to rest and regroup. The going was swift and flat until we reached the other side of Bury where we had an extremely tough climb up to Helmshore, thankfully the Shoulder of Mutton was at the summit and a couple of cold ones really hit the spot. However, the effort needed to reach that point had been huge.
Our destination of Clitheroe is slightly off the JOG route and we utilised google maps to work the route out. In doing so we managed to avoid a couple of very steep climbs, much to our relief. The pay off though was having to travel along a busy road for a fair way. Though in Holland we had days where we were alongside similar roads, there was always the safety of being on a dedicated cycleway and out of the traffic. It has to be said that some British drivers can be extremely intolerant of cyclists, we have noted that those who give the least leeway and consideration for cyclists tend to drive Audis, BMWs and Range Rovers. I wonder if there is some personality profile correlation for such drivers … perhaps there is an academic study somewhere.
We found our charming little cottage easily and were gladdened to find our host had left a welcome pack for tea and toast and given permission for Twolula to rest in the living room (the enclosed courtyard would be too tricky to negotiate). We had come to the conclusion that if we are to continue we needed to shed a lot of weight especially if we were going to be able to complete this challenge and actually have some enjoyment from the process. We have been corresponding with friends who did this challenge on a tandem 10 years ago, and who were incredulous that we have been carrying camping gear. This was included at Mr V’s insistence that in an emergency we may need it. He has now come to the painfully reached realisation that in an emergency the credit card is so much lighter than a tent and all the camping accoutrements. So tomorrow, our rest and regroup day will entail giving our tired & exhausted bodies a break, and hopefully allowing the swelling that has developed on my Achilles to go down, and Mr V’s back and shoulders to ease. We will be packing up all extraneous kit to be mailed home, and hopefully travelling much lighter will bring back some of the joy that we have found so elusive so far.