August 24, 2012, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 2 Blog: Day 0 – Nottingham to Durness

Starting an ‘end to end’ from Cape Wrath is a lot less straightforward than starting at John O’Groats. You can’t just drive there. So task number one, get to Durness to stay overnight, before crossing the Kyle of Durness to The Parph and on to Cape Wrath.

Over the last week everyone has been involved in final preparations of some form. I did the obvious thing on Sunday with Karen, Chris J, Mike, Penelope and Sebastian from the Support Team and had a final ride of 93 miles. It was a really good stretch. Actually my longest since the penultimate day of our John O’Groats to Land’s End trip last year. It also offered an opportunity to revisit one of our JoGLE cafes – The Old Bakery in Atherstone.

Not everyone’s final preparations took the form of a ride however.

Kate lost most of her cycling gear from an unlocked trailer whilst returning from holiday in Cornwall. So she had to spend a lot of time buying everything from helmets to shoes. (She has not written her losses off, so if anyone spots a pair of gel pants stuck to the tyre of a truck or lodged in a hedgerow, Kate is keen to hear from them).

Chris R had a less comfortable experience: the driver of a white van ignored a give way sign close to Kings Meadow Campus and pulled out in front of him. Fortunately he was uninjured. But his new bike needed a new front wheel. Having confronted Chris to blame him for the accident, the driver got back in his van and drove on.

After we despatched our bikes and kit with the Simon and Ian from support team, eleven of the riders were collected from the Trent Building to head to Birmingham Airport for a flight to Inverness. There was quite a gathering to see us off, particularly from the Widening Participation Team who were there in force to see Penelope on her way.

At Inverness we were met by Neville who had flown in direct from Malaysia, and Paul and Barry with the minibus. The drive from Inverness to Durness is a long one, 150 miles and on winding single carriageway and single lane roads. However if offers a series of stunning landscapes. Our route took us due north over the Cromarty Firth to Bonar Bridge, then North West through Larig. The stretch from Loch More to Durness is especially breath-taking.

We stopped at the Overskill Hotel on Loch Shin for our evening meal. Although a really scenic setting, it was plagued with midges. I know this part of the world is famed for these wee beasties, but it was quite incredible. We doused ourselves in various ointments and sprays, but as you can see Penelope found the most elegant and effective means of protection.

There were just a couple of small dramas today. Chris J’s phone crashed before we even got on the plane. With a white out screen and no access to his records, it’s a goner. He’s at a bit of a loss to understand why it happened. I think it’s pretty obvious; the chip has just melted after years of unrelenting hot air.

That will be inconvenient, but not as costly as Steve’s misfortune. He was so anxious about protecting his nether regions that he carried his special cream as hand luggage. It showed up on the scanner and was confiscated at Birmingham Airport. Steve protested at length, but the security official was unimpressed by pleas to think about his chafed bottom. So Steve is collecting dock leaves for his day 1 ride.

Our accommodation in Durness is the Lazy Crofter Bunk House. Eight person cabins and bunk beds are something of a novelty for all, but it is comfortable and spacious with a dramatic setting overlooking the Pentland Firth. Simon and Ian’s accommodation is even less luxurious; they are camping overnight at Cape Wrath with our bikes which means only we have to cycle The Parph once.

So, tomorrow we face three challenges. First, we have to get across to Cape Wrath and have now been told the first ferry will not cross the Kyle until 0930; second we have to get back again and cycle down to Inchnadamph; third, we have to find somewhere in the area with Sky so I can watch Bolton V Forest. I think it will be two out of three.

It seems amazing that a full year has passed since we arrived at Land’s End and even more amazing that it is nine months since I first floated the idea of cycling the other end to end. But here we are, pre-positioned for our start tomorrow and at the moment, the weather forecast looks very promising.

Professor David Greenaway


Posted in Life Cycle 2