Josie’s Progress (or lack of it) So Far
DEPARTURE DATE: April 25 2001
MILES CYCLED: 1692
NUMBER OF PUNCTURES: 1
NUMBER OF BANANAS EATEN: 402
NUMBER OF TIMES PEOPLE SAY ‘YOU NEED AN ENGINE ON THAT!’; Too Many
When I was 12 I cycled a 5 speed way-too-big-for-me bike from Portsmouth to Land’s End. It took me 7 days. Now, a couple of decades older, I have once again ridden from Portsmouth to Land’s End, but this time on board a fit-me-like-a-glove-frame with 27 gears. It’s taken me 57 days. I put this elongation of time not solely down to old age, creaking bones and dicky knees (more of that dickiness later) but to the curvaceously long-winded and winding and severly undulating coastline of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
The route I navigated to Land’s End when I was 12 amounted to 360 miles. This time, by weaving around coastal headlands and harbours and creeks and estuaries and offshore islands, I’ve managed to clock up 1590 miles. At this plodding rate, I’ll be lucky if I complete my round the British Isles coastal jaunt by 2003. Oh well, why travel somewhere directly when you can go circuitously?
Saying that, I did relent and take the more direct route across the River Tamar (Cremyll ferry route) because the rain-shrouded mist had dropped so low it had blotted out all signs of the estuary. Also, apart from the sea and the boats and the friendly corner shop where I bought a bunch of half-price bananas, I didn’t like Plymouth – after weeks of thatched villages and hamlets it was a big, scary, car-clogged, architecturally uninspiring, wide-road city. The comparative wilds of Rame Head were calling so up and down and round I went.
I caught sight of small cabins and chalets clinging like limpets to the cliffside over Whitsand Bay as I raced with the wind towards Portwrinkle. From there it was down to the sea-facing village of Downderry with its sea-flavoured house names like Stormcrest and Sea-Fever.
A hard earned descent down into Looe was ruined by a Mercedes that dangerously overtook and then braked on every corner preventing my spinning wheels from swooping and falling. Another deserved recipient for a rotten-tomato-machine-gun job, I thought.
Storms and more unseasonable gales threw themselves at me all the way to St Austell. But the sun momentarily popped out further down the roller coaster coast in Mevagissey (home of the Shark’s Fin Hotel and Shark Angling Centre).
Then, after becoming friends with Angie and Ginger, the proprietors of Trelowarren Campsite (he was a collector of old-style milk bottles and showed me a newsletter entitled Milk Bottle News) it was onward and upward past the infamous ship-wrecking Manacles and over the ghostly satellite-dished Goonhilly Downs till I hit upon a rarity – a long straight hillless road all the way to Lizard Point – the southernmost part of mainland Britain. Only 3 more ‘points’ (and a few thousand islands and Ireland) to go.
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photograph of Josie with Paul Butterworth
This photo shows Josie with Paul Butterworth earlier this summer – see “Unicam Pedals” story below