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Kitzy's Corner - Home from Lancashire

13th April to 18th April 2004
330 miles

I’d managed to persuade my Dad that I need a new touring bike, and that the particular one I needed was a Hewitt Cheviot SE. This accomplished, we drove up to Lancashire to see Paul Hewitt and get me measure up. Once back at home I had several long long weeks to wait for my bike to be built. Richard suggested that instead of having it posted to me I could get the train up and ride home on it. He claims he was joking but it was too late, I thought it was a fantastic idea!

So a few weeks later Richard and I were standing at the train station waiting for the 0645 to take us north, me clutching panniers but with no bike! It took 6 boring hours to get to Leyland, Lancashire. But it was worth it, my bike was beautiful!

We got going at 4pm and began the ride south. After 25 miles we gave up trying to find a campsite and pitched up in a corner of an empty playing field, unpleasantly close to the motorway. The next morning we got away quite early, though we did get some bemused looks from a dog-walker. Carrying on south we passed close to Manchester, through Northwich, and up into the Peak District. At one snack stop we had a game of banana-skin slinging, I think it’s fair to say Richard won. It was a lovely spring day and it felt wonderful to be wending our way through quiet lanes, not having to rush anywhere. This time we managed to find a campsite at the end of the day. I was exhausted!

We’d overestimated the night-time temperature and both slept really badly in our thin sleeping bags. It took one vast vat of porridge to get us moving in the morning. Alton Towers was still closed as we whizzed past it, which was just as well really as it meant the road was nice and quiet. After 18 miles I could feel my feet for the first time since the previous evening! A little further down the road a herd of curious cows kept pace, though admittedly that’s not very hard. By lunchtime we’d got to Tamworth, which was busy, noisy, and not nearly as nice as the fields we’d been riding through all morning. Our aim for tonight was the outskirts of Leamington Spa where Chuffy had offered to put us up for the night, and at 5pm we made it. We actually got lost trying to find his house so I popped in the pub to ask directions, it never fails! Chuffy gave us a huge welcome, and plied us with pasta and beer (thanks again Chuffy!).

It was a late start, though neither of us (or luckily, Chuffy) minded. Loaded down with Chuffy’s banana supply we waved him goodbye and carried on south. Sticking to tiny lanes we rode through Cherington, past the Rollright Stones, and down to Chipping Norton for a food stop. By the time we’d finished eating it was getting on a bit so after another 5 miles we stopped at a campsite. It was a beautiful sunny evening so we sat outside the tent in our sleeping bags to eat dinner and route plan.

The campsite came complete with a menagerie of animals and I was woken up by a cockerel or several. More lane-pootling and we got to Wantage for lunch. From there it was just up and up! Though to make up for it we had a fantastic view north from the top. Then it was down the other side, from the Vale of the Whitehorse to the Valley of the Racehorse. I felt distinctly cheated; the hill was long and swooping, but we had to pedal into the headwind. It’s just not on! Late afternoon and we’d ended up at Marlborough. The only campsite around was a Forestry Commission one in Savernake Forest. In the entrance a large sign declared that you needed to bring your own toilet, but I went in to ask anyway. The warden seemed quite happy for us to stay, especially as there was a public toilet just over the fence anyway! So we stayed there.

It had started raining in the night, and was still going when we woke up. At 8am there was a brief dry spell in which we hastily packed away the tent and got moving before we could change our minds. The rain soon started again….and it stayed raining. It was chilly and miserable but we kept on pedalling, we were nearly home! At 1pm, after 40 miles of continuous rain we got to Richard’s house. I resisted the temptation to stop for lunch and to dry off and rode the last 14 miles home, and jumped straight in the tub.


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