When first I had the irresistably good idea of cycling around the coast of Britain it never occurred to me that such a solitary activity would require the assistance of so many other people. Most of all, thanks are due to my friends Richard and Adele Hargreaves for acting as my ground control whilst I staggered around the outermost reaches of Britain. Their encouragement and moral support tethered me to a secure base, the postcards home to their son Jamie gave me a sense of continuity at times of uncertainty. And they dealt with eight months worth of junk mail redirected from my flat.
Family and friends provided accommodation along the way: Jane Insley and Martin Sheldrick; Paul and Sue Warren; Michael Mann and Nicky Hart (and with special thanks to Baloo for snuffling appreciatively at my sweaty feet, though not for peeing on the armchair); Margaret and Alison Davey; Alison Morrison-Low and all the other Morrison-Lows for champagne-fuelled hilarity north of the border; Kate Campbell and Chas Mackinnon for whisky at midnight on top of the Corrieyairack Pass; Duncan Campbell who solved the mystery about how farmers got haystacks into black plastic bags; Janet and Ann Campbell; Margaret and Brian Cheetham; Eileen and George Rudge. People I met along the way took pity on a stranger and kindly offered accommodation which I did not take up: Martin and Pauline Spink of Bristol, Audrey Craig of Banffshire, Dave from Glasgow.
From cottage to castle, friary to lifeboat station, the wardens of the forty-two youth hostels in which I stayed were unfailingly welcoming (if occasionally a trifle eccentric); no praise is too high for these friends of the weary traveller. I bed and breakfasted in seventy-five different establishments. Whether luxurious or plain, pub, hotel, or private house, they were (with one or two hilarious exceptions) havens of friendliness, warmth, and good food. Much of this accommodation was found for me by the courteous and efficient staff of fifty-two Tourist Information Centres. They also provided immense quantities of useful leaflets, guides, and other information about their areas. I ate, drank, wasted time, and sheltered in countless seaside cafes and restaurants. The best of international cuisine cannot compare with the simple delights of the British fish and chip shop (twenty-seven helpings), the British pub (thirty-nine different beers), or a decent pot of tea.
Mark Weston got me on the road
by generously lending me his touring bike for several months of
training. Mike Hullis of Phoenix Cycles in Battersea calmly and
patiently dealt with the lunatic questions of a forty-eight-year-old
non-cyclist and supplied a bike ideal for the purpose. The members
of the Moulton Bicycle Club have been a constant source of encouragement
and information, especially Hilary Stone, Graham McDermott, Tony
Hadland, and Nigel Sadler.
The Cycle Works in Inverness and Boden's Cycles in Blackpool kept the bike on the road, but a greater cast of medical experts was needed to keep my recalcitrant body in line. My thanks to Dave Betts of Kings Lynn (knees), Messrs Marden & White of Inverness (teeth), the Castle Surgery in Pembroke (throat), Doctors Shatwell and Bann of Dartmouth (chest).
My sister Margaret bore the brunt of the worry over my father's declining health. She and my brother Michael, their spouses Brian and Nicky, their children and grandchildren eased my pain when times were at their worst. We all owe special thanks to the staff of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Blackpool for nursing my father so tenderly and dealing with us so sensitively.
The writing of this tale took more than twice as long as the cycling itself. Early chapters were read by Adele Hargreaves, Gillian Holt, and Michael Mann who spurred me on to greater efforts. The finished manuscript was read by Barbara Buchanan, Bernard Howarth-Loomes, John Liffen, Michael Mann, Jan Metcalfe, and John Ward whose patience and intelligence wrought many improvements. Douglas Rose drew the maps and, finally, Dick Richardson of Country Books turned the manuscript into a finished book.
The words, thoughts, and feelings
are my own but the characters are beyond my control: the fickle
wind and weather; the ever-changing countryside and seas; the
present and past people of Britain and their impact upon the landscape;
the rugged coastal road I followed for so many long miles. All
these I set out to explore, but the most dominant character of
all turned out to be the journey itself. This is the story of