Cycling in England - Lands End to John O 'Groats: Stroud to Buttermere

Our accommodation in Stroud
Stroud to Buttermere, 3 days. While taking a long time in the saddle, the 130-kilometre journey between Stroud and Telford, took me through rolling hills and a number of interesting small towns. An immediate uphill ride soon led me to the spa town of Cheltenham. Also known for its festivals, among them science, food, music and literature, it hosts the National Hunt steeplechase event in March each year. Though hardly enamoured by horse racing in general, let alone events with 22 fences over more than 3 miles, Cheltenham would have been another lovely place we could have spent time in, had we had the opportunity.
Parked bike in Cheltenham
The town of Tewkesbury marked the end of the Cotswolds and, at least for the next 40 kilometres, any hills whatsoever, until I reached Worcester. A fairly large city of around 100,000 inhabitants, Worcester is flanked by the River Severn, presumably the longest river (approx. 354 kilometres) in the United Kingdom.

Heading due north from the city, along the A443, my route led me towards the tiny riverside town of Bewdley and beyond it, the lush Wyre Forest. Like the morning, the day’s ride ended with a climb or two (and the following descent), all the way to our accommodation in Telford. 
Road works in Cheltenha

Not 10 kilometres to the south of Telford was the village of Ironbridge. Something of a tourist attraction, its Iron Bridge which crosses the River Severn after being built in 1779, is known for being the first major bridge in the world to be made of cast iron.   

Ironbridge, over the River Severn
Our accommodation in Telford, the Lord Nelson Hotel

Telford to Chorley. Despite the occasional hill, the 80-plus kilometres to the town of Northwich, seemed relatively easy compared with what lay ahead. So far, I’d spent most of the morning cycling through peaceful small villages and rich rolling farmlands towards Cheshire’s Delamere Forest. 

Less than 20 kilometres later, I began skirting the edge of the town of Warrington, in Britain's industrialised north. Stretching across most of the country from Liverpool in the west to beyond Sheffield in the east, the urban sprawl provides few direct opportunities to the north bound cyclist.   

Not in the heart of Warrington for very long, but long enough to feel unsafe, the late-afternoon traffic was as frenetic as I’d seen on my 5 days of riding so far. The number of cars and the multiple signs along the road, each displaying the high number of road deaths in recent years, was an uncomfortable reminder of just how much a life is in the hands of not only yourself, but other motorists. 

Roz, at a cafe along the route

While meandering and in all likelihood not in the right direction, a bike-path along a narrow waterway seemed a much safer option. The 34 kilometres to our overnight accommodation in Chorley, proved a much longer ride, but with the Lakes District less than a day away, it wouldn't be long before the less travelled roads would feel much more to my liking.
Our stopover in Chorley
Somewhere between Lancaster and Kendal is the half-way point of the Lands End to John O’Groats ride. But not only is half the journey behind you, so are most of the busy roads that, at least temporarily, squeeze the pleasure out of riding. 

The A591 from Windermere to Ambleside takes you to the most difficult climbs in the Lakes District. Wrynose Pass soars 278 metres in less than 3 kilometres, while Hardknott Pass, just a few kilometres up the road, climbs 298 metres in just 2.25 kilometres. Should you be an avid cyclist, you don’t need to be a mathematician to realise that these passes are far tougher than their short-climb counterparts in Belgium.  

Other books by Mark Krieger:

Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round, on Amazon

High Spain Drifter, on Amazon

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