Saturday, 18 June 2011

Day Four: Newent to Market Drayton...

At the start of day four we find ourselves twenty-five miles behind schedule.  We set off with urgency, attempting to make up the deficit, but once again the hills are tougher than expected and our progress is stifled.  The weather shifts from strong sun to stinging rain, then wind and back to sun - it was as if we had witnessed the years’ seasons in one day.

We passed through Dymock then Trumpet and head towards Bromyard. The countryside is pretty and welcoming – it all feels good at the moment and we just sit back and enjoy it. But then we encounter some painful, steep climbs - thigh burning and lung busters – hard work!!

On one snaking descent Paul suffers a puncture, not only another unfortunate delay but also a break to the rhythm that had been established.  When you’re riding long distances, finding and holding a rhythm is important, like the drum-beat of a pop song, it sets the pace and pattern for the day.

Not long after we’re back on the bikes, we pass some workmen resurfacing the road - immediately Gary has a puncture (why are all the punctures in the rear wheel?).  The idea of catching up on our schedule is now diminishing – bad luck I suppose.

Roadside meeting with a 'JOGLER'
We meet the girls at our scheduled 'breakfast stop and while we are enjoying tea and toast we see a group of three riders pass - they are loaded with panniers and one of them has written on it 'JOGLE' John O'Groats to Lands End - Gary dashes out of the caper van and runs towards them shouting - two of the riders glance back and speed up to escape the oncoming madman - the third must have been too tired - he waited and we had a chance to talk to him. They are on an 18 day trip and have suffered horrendous weather in Scotland. On one particularly bad day the hail was so bad, combining with wind so that the barrage was continuous and horizontal, that the three riders dived into a ditch to take cover - 'it was like a scene from the Somme' said the rider. We wished him well and waved him off as he was eager to catch up with his friends.

As the day wore on progress remained frustratingly slow and by now we are also growing weary. We arrive at Bridgnorth and notice the distinct smell of steam trains drifting over from the Severn Valley Railway. Our original intention of pausing here to take in the market town with its historic cave-dwellings, charming Hightown and Lowtown and the famous vernicular railway has to be rescheduled for another day – we simply don’t have time – we have to press on!

By now we are men on a mission; we speed through the town centre with almost careless abandon – it is 5.00pm and so far we have covered only 50 miles. Our next target is Telford, not that far in miles but unfortunately involving a tedious uphill climb, long and irksome with the added irritation of rush-hour traffic which constantly threatens us on its eager journey home.

We skirt around Telford via Shifnel, Donnington Wood and Preston upon the Weald Moors. Paul’s friends Dave and V came over to meet us for a quick visit and after a brief pause we were away again, once again heading north, this time towards Nantwich – now we are on the Cheshire plain and the cycling is easier, roads smoother and terrain much flatter - but then the next problem! – Gary’s GPS system stopped working (flat batteries).  We passed through a small village having to ask for directions to Market Drayton. A couple out walking their dog gave us directions but seemed amazed that we intended to get there before dark.  The man’s parting words were “good luck”

After a long day and as darkness approached we arrived at Market Drayton and  our campsite for the night – there has to be time spent on a shower and eating but then it’s straight to bed. Not even time for a single beer!!!!

This trip is becoming a Temperance Society outing.

Newent to Market Drayton - 91.8 miles
Max Speed: 35.8 miles per hour
Time on bikes: 7hrs 37minutes
Total ascent: 6,146 feet
Calories used: 5024

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