Club member Hannah Fawcett tells us about the experience:
The Braveheart Bicycle Club is a relatively new cycling club in Liverpool with riders of mixed abilities from beginners to some very experienced riders. We wanted to take on a cycling challenge that would help us build camaraderie, friendships and test our skills – the iconic ride from Lands’ End to John O’Groats from the most south-westerly to the most North-easterly point of Great Britain seemed like a great choice.
Planning the challenge as part of the club meant that we had plenty of people who could share their experience and knowledge on how to prepare and what routes to use. The route we chose kept to quieter roads but meant it was longer and hillier than more traditional routes.
Whilst planning the challenge we also thought about using this event to raise money for charity. The Whitechapel Centre is a local charity which our club members are very much aware of the excellent work they do in Liverpool. Working in social services and in the NHS we have seen the difference the charity can make to the lives some of the most vulnerable people in society. Together we decided that we would start a Just Giving page to raise money.
On to the challenge! It was a tail wind that set us off from Lands’ End after the drive down from Liverpool it took a while for the legs to pedal into the miles ahead. The first day is undulating terrain across Cornwall. With the first stop in Oakhampton the evening meal was very welcome. The next day we then had to negotiate Cheddar Gorge – a dramatic limestone scar through the landscape of Somerset – and then the 90+ miles of climbs that were steeper than anticipated, before crossing the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge and on to our B&B for the night. The third day took us to Ludlow, over the Severn Bridge and up the Welsh boarder through some picturesque scenery.
However the miles were starting to take a toll on the legs and the tiredness was setting in as we finally descended into Ludlow. We knew there were some big days ahead so it was early to bed. The fourth day took us to familiar territory and into Liverpool, via the famous Eureka café. We had been lucky with the weather until then. However a stiff North-easterly wind had developed bringing with it a steady precipitation. After a few hours of enduring this we were thoroughly soaked through and by the time we reached the Eureka café at Two Mills, the first stop after 80 miles of cycling we were tired and cold. The warm welcome in the café helped to warm us up before we got to Ormskirk for the night. The next day we had more members of our club join us that made a big difference to the effort that you put in. The weather did not improve and the persistent wind was weakening the legs, so it was a group effort to get through Penrith, Carlisle and on to Gretna Green. There was a last gallop for the Scotland sign and a feeling of achievement that we were almost half way on the adventure.
It was now into the daunting prospect of Scotland and the hills and mountains ahead of us. The first day in Scotland took us the 120 miles from Greta Green to Greenock. We cycled to the highest village in Scotland and then on to lunch kindly catered for by a cycling friend Callum Gough. We then headed into the rolling hills of Ayrshire, giving us some welcome respite from the wind. Climbing out of one town however we saw cyclist approaching fast down a descent and realised as he came closer it was none other than the previous World Champion Graeme Obree – we all cheered!
That night we faced more challenges as the van we hired was deemed unroadworthy. This was not something we were looking forward to sorting out on a Sunday in the west coast of Scotland! But it would be difficult for us to carry on without. Fortunately our driver negotiated into the night and arranged for a replacement van!
The following day it was on to Inverness for lunch and then on to Invershin. After 8 days on a bike legs and bottoms were sore, but we won’t extend the details of that any further. It was inspiring to know as we cycled that donations were coming in steadily and we had surpassed our target of £875 to over £1000 for The Whitechapel Centre which was fantastic and made all the pedalling seem worthwhile.
Suddenly it was our final day and we woke to sunshine in Invershin. With spirits high and the sun on our backs we set off, enjoying the quiet roads of Sutherland and after a lunch stop in Betty Hill it was then a tail wind finish as we cycled the last 50 miles around the Northern coast of Scotland’s Caithness to John O’ Groats. In total 996 miles cycled and over 50,000 ft of climbing all in 9 days.
There were so many stories to tell from the trip and everyone has their own journey and experiences along the way. Everyone had moments of elation and also feeling quite low, tired and sore. Doing LEJOG and raising money for a fantastic charity was a brilliant journey. You learn about the country we live in, learn about yourself and how you cope under pressure, get fit and meet many fantastic people on the way. Knowing that you are raising money that will go directly towards the most vulnerable people in Liverpool is a great feeling too!
In total Hannah and the Liverpool Braveheart Bicycle Team have raised £1647.48 for The Whitechapel Centre. You can still sponsor them here www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hannahandduff-fawcett
The money raised will go towards our work supporting those who are homeless as well as those who are struggling to manage their accommodation. If you are interested in organising your own challenge, get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0151 207 8664.