25 July 2013
So this was it, the final day of the tour, after 85 days on the road I had just one more and then I’d be home. It was a weird feeling and whilst I was looking forward to seeing everyone I wasn’t sure I was ready to reintegrate into ‘normal’ life. I’m writing this post over 3 months later and whilst I’m firmly back in a work routine, I definitely miss the simpler life of being on the road, and only having to think about food, miles, and where I’m going to sleep each night. I’m still cycling whenever possible, and have lots of ideas for future tours, I just need to decide on which one to do next and set a date.
It sounded like my tent was surrounded when I woke up to the sound of peacocks, seemingly from just the other side of the canvas. They’re pretty noisy avians and there was at least one wild one living on the campsite. It was still early but I got up anyway and had a shower, followed by a breakfast of ginger nuts as it was all I had left; I reckoned they would see me through to Lowestoft, and I thought I’d better start cutting down on my calorie intake now I wouldn’t be cycling 65 odd miles every day.
It had rained pretty heavily overnight and the sun was still obscured by clouds rolling in off the North Sea. I retreated to my tent as a shower passed over, leaving everything smelling fresh and clean. Unfortunately this meant I had to pack up my tent wet but with any luck I could dry it out in my garden when I got home. It was strange to think this was the last time I’d have to pack my kit into panniers, and my last day on the road. It had been eye-opening as to what you really need to survive, not very much apparently. I still had a couple of emergency ration packs I hadn’t used but they’ll keep; they weren’t due to go off for a few years yet.
After I’d checked my bike over and pumped up my tyres I got on the road at about 09.00, and cycled the few miles to Lowestoft, completing my circuit of the coast of Britain. I stopped on the promenade where I’d been 86 days and 5,420 miles earlier; it seemed like longer and I paused to contemplate the places I’d been and people I’d met, mentally retracing the route I’d taken over the last few months. There were a lot of places I wanted to go back to, and new friends I’d like to see again.
Mostly for posterity I stopped for second breakfast in Lowestoft, at Greggs the bakers, and had a sausage roll and chicken fajita slice, the latter not very breakfast like but pretty tasty. Refuelled I set off on the final stretch back to Norwich, through the Suffolk and Norfolk countryside.
I pedalled up the B1074 from Lowestoft to Somerleyton, a pretty village with lots of identical houses painted red, with thatched roofs. I wonder if the deeds say you have to keep them all in an identical fashion.
St. Olaves came next with its small marina on the edge of the Norfolk Broads, where I joined the A143 to cross the River Yare. I was finally back in Norfolk!
I cycled down familiar country roads I’d travelled down months ago whilst training for Bike around Britain, the clouds disappearing and sunshine blazing down over fields of ripening corn and barley, and lots of potatoes by the looks of it.
I passed through Loddon and Chedgrave, then on to Rockland St. Mary where there’s another Broad’s mooring. I pedalled idly, drawing out the last few miles and enjoying the quiet country roads and gorgeous weather. I’d been really lucky with the weather latterly, and the summer was shaping up to be far better than last year.
Despite riding slowly I arrived in Surlingham and then Bramerton ahead of schedule, coasting down to the river and Wood’s End to the Water’s Edge pub for lunch, just a few miles from Norwich. It’s a fantastic pub having been recently renovated, and with ongoing work to install a large decking area alongside the River Yare, a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. I’d arranged to meet Mum & Dad, as well as Lucy’s parents and her Aunt and Uncle (John and Sena) who were visiting from New Zealand. My friend Nigel also cycled down to join us, and to accompany me on the final few miles back to Norwich.
It was a great welcome from everyone, and lovely having lunch down by the river in the sunshine. I was especially pleased that Sheila (Lucy’s Mum) made it out as she was just out of hospital having had surgery for skin cancer, a pretty serious operation that went very well. It’s great that the operation is done and dusted and a few months on she’s looking brill!
After lunch I cycled the last few miles to Norwich, via Whittlingham Broad, and stopped in at work to say hello. I received another great welcome, but thought everyone looked a little pale and overworked – get out in the sunshine more folks! Bob had brought cake to celebrate my arrival which I felt obliged to consume, after all I still had a few more miles to do. I really should have taken some back out for Nigel who was looking after my bike but I knew he was watching his weight 😉 – it was very good chocolate cake though. I said hello to our Newcastle office via conference video and then set off on the last few miles. Thank you for all your support Virgin Money.
Nigel and I pedalled from work into Norwich, doing a quick circuit of the city before a tactical stop and the X Bells for a gin and tonic to cool down. This was turning into a bit of a pub crawl however it was important to keep hydrated.
Nigel was pretty insistent that he’d had the hardest leg of the tour, and that we must of cycled miles; I appreciate your sacrifice mon ami.
We had to have a second G&T just to ensure we were ready for the half mile stretch to the Fat Cat, one of my favourite pubs in Norwich with the biggest selection of real ales I’ve seen anywhere. Having covered a lot of Britain on this tour I challenge anyone to name a pub that does a wider variety of quality beer.
We arrived safely at the Fat Cat to meet up with more friends and have a few beers to celebrate finishing my tour. It was a great turn out and really good to see everyone – I remember seeing Wayne, Nigel, Nicky, Chris B, Sinead, JB, Mike, Mark, Nigel P, Charlotte, Christopher, Frank, Karen and Slava, then it all goes a bit fuzzy. Dad also joined us and I’m glad to say he was as merry as I was by the end of the evening, a few beers having turned into jugs of beer. Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures but thank you all for coming down, it was a very good evening.
Needless to say the walk home, still with my fully laden bike, was a little tricky, however Dad helped push it up the hill. Mum welcomed us back, and was pretty sure she hadn’t seen Dad so ‘merry’ since his RAF days. I suspected tomorrow morning was going to be interesting.
So, the last leg was 39 miles, and I finally arrived home at about 23.00. There was bunting – pics from the day after.
Some vital statics from the tour:
- Miles covered = 5,451
- Days on the road = 86
- Number of punctures = 3
- Number of new rear wheels = 3
- Number of times I fell off = 3
- Days camping = 78
- Average miles per day = 63.4 (inc rest days, 70 if exclude)
- Max miles in one day = 128
- Carb consumption = Approx 4,000 a day
- Loaded bike weight = maybe 60kg, it was funny watching people try and lift it
- Weight lost = a measly 4 pounds
- Weight gain since getting back = half a stone and rising
Coming soon: I’ll post the routes for all my legs, and plans for another tour.
Thanks to everyone for following this blog, you’re too numerous to mention but I really appreciated the supportive messages, company of the road, company after a hard day’s riding, free food, bed, advice, and conversation. Over £7,300 raised for the Big C to date, and here’s to the girl that inspired my trip – thank you Lu, we all love and miss you but will always remember you.