August 29, 2016, by David Greenaway
Nottingham Life Cycle 6 – Day 10 Hexham to Auldgirth
At 0800 the mood in the lobby of the Hallbank Guest House where we stayed last night was sombre. It was raining heavily, cold and blowy. We also knew the toughest of today’s climbing was facing us in the first 30 miles.
Out came the wet weather gear and off we went in four groups: Stefano, Steve and John; Andy, Karen and Kate; Marion, Kerry and Nick; and finally Doug, Sara, Susan and me.
It was grim, really grim. Very quickly we were climbing, and it was a brutal mix of short, sharp inclines, and longer pulls. After what seemed like a very long way, we spotted the van at one of the Hadrian’s Wall sites and I stopped to dump my over trousers (which were more or less useless). Since I had not wiped yesterday’s data from my Garmin, I didn’t know how much ground we had covered. Doug told me it was 11 miles. I was dismayed, it seemed so much longer.
Over breakfast Susan said that after that initial climb, you then ‘roll along the top’. That roll was a series of very spiky ups and downs, initially parallel to Hadrian’s Wall north of Haltwhistle, then on a B road through to Hethersgill, where it finally flattened out.
Longtown is only about 5 miles from Gretna, so we were quickly over the border. Having taken the obligatory pics at the ‘Scotland Welcomes You’ sign, we pressed on to a B road that sits below the A75 and offers lovely views over the Solway Firth, with the mountains of Cumbria clearly visible. As we turned north towards Dumfries, we stopped off at the Brow Well, visited by Scotland’s most celebrated poet, Robert Burns, to bathe in its waters shortly before he died in 1796.
We had had some flat riding in dry conditions from Gretna, but from about 15 miles from Dumfries we were back in rolling country for the final pull into Auldgirth where we were staying overnight .
I think everyone found today’s 79 miles tough. I certainly did, there were occasions in the first half of the day when I thought my legs just couldn’t take any more. But you see the others pulling on, and you just have to pull after them. I was relieved to reach our destination.
Our Life Cycle miles today were in honour of five women: Kimberley Manns (nominated by Emma Oldham); Karen David Spencer-Pickup (nominated by Michaela Back); Christine Roberts (nominated by Kate); Marg Johnson (nominated by Lisa Johnson); and Dorothy Gawtry (nominated by Julie Miles). Today is the 21st anniversary of Dorothy’s passing.
You can read more about these inspiring people on the LC6 website. Their strength helps keep front of mind why we are doing this, and the potential difference £1 million can make if we reach our target.
The other thing that keeps driving us on is the spontaneous generosity of people we meet. We eat at cafes and the proprietors give us a donation which has just wiped out their margin; we stop for a drink and people approach us and ask if we are collecting on the road; we eat in lodges and hotels and guests ask what we are doing, and why, then offer a donation. It is genuinely uplifting.
Then there is just the release that comes with a good laugh; a few hours of banter over dinner which pushes to the back of your memory what you have just done, how sore you are, and reminds you of the wonderful humanity of those you are in this bubble with.
Now some team matters.
You would not generally think of cyclists and golfers in the same group. But they do have one thing in common, they like buying stuff. And there is no shortage of high end, top brand cycling kit on display in the LC6 team. But a keener interest seems to be around who has made the best value purchases. There is Nick with his £2 Team GB cycling socks, Susan with her £5 lab glasses, me with my £3.49 cycling mitts (which compare favourably with a top brand pair I paid £20 for in a sale). I must find more.
A number of nice quotes from today.
At our accommodation this evening, there was some guessing about ages, which involved Fiona, who looked after us superbly well. She underestimated Dr John’s age. A little later, when she was presenting tea, she said to John: ‘I will get it for you dearie, now I know your age’.
My Grandson Arlo asked his Grandma this morning where I was, and was told I was cycling. His response was: ‘last time Grandad cycled, he climbed a mountain’. Good lad Arlo.
Stefano reported that he was certain he could hear sheep bleating ‘Steeeeve, Steeeeve’. Stefano, you must drink more water.
At the Garden Centre I was soaked and needed a change of clothing. The Gents was occupied, so I used the Disabled toilet. As I was about to open the door to exit, there was a knock. The lady facing me asked if I was alright. ‘Yes, just needed to change, and needed the space’. ‘Nae bother. I was worried sumday might be in trouble. I was all set tae gie the kiss of life. But you’re too late now’.
Finally, given weather conditions, a rest day was declared in the Megomnium. Competition will resume tomorrow. In the meantime points have been tallied and we will have a full leader board report tomorrow.
We have now cycled 873 miles and are in to the final five and a half days. It hardly seems possible that the LC6 Community Day is next Sunday. We are looking forward to a record number of cyclists and visitors, and as always a great community day out.
Tomorrow we have a long pull of close to 100 miles, and a ferry crossing to Dunoon.
Professor Sir David Greenaway