Land's End to John O'Groats

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Follow Bro Pádraig (Paddy) Belton as he cycles from Land's End to John O'Groats in aid of the Royal London HOSPITAL'S Trauma Unit


You can sponsor Paddy by clicking here


Day 1: Land's End to Plymouth

In every respect, cycling from Land's End to John o'Groats is infinitely better than fretting about cycling from Land's End to John o'Groats.

After cycling the five miles from a delightfully bonkers couchsurfer who somewhat accidentally motorbiked around the world two months after acquiring her first motorcyle (a BMW called Thelma), I made it to the start line at 6 am clutching my tenner for the chap who takes your photograph at a sign saying John o'Groats 874 miles (for those who don't want to take any known road), or (for those preferring to cycle the wrong way) New York 3147. I opted for John o'Groats. The chap turns out to be a bit more lazy than his quarry and doesn't wake up until 10, so I found a lone security guard for the requisite pictorial evidence. I'd thought LeJog (spelt - and done - this way, it can be pronounced with a terrible French accent) would be a veritable motorway of the spandexed and charitable, but I couldn't see a soul in sight.

Fragrant Cornwall sea air and waving walkers all suggested Cornwall people very nice, but did not dissuade me from really wanting to get away from them - and Penwith House Temperence Hotel (lurking menacingly by the start line) as quickly as possible.

Cornish hills slowed but did not destroy me, and I gained Plymouth and Lodge of Fidelity No.230 in time for the festive board - where the Acting WM (a lovely chap called Alan Vangorph) saw the humour in sitting me beside him on top table in my spandex. Replying for the visitors, I noted you have certain ways you imagine your life will go, and the present image had never really suggested itself to my mind as a possible future. (For those quite taken by local differences, there was no fire - I almost typed Tweeting - but a song, after a toast to absent brethren, about meeting together again in the Grand Lodge Above. The Tyler's Toast was taken seated, with the left hand.)

I was sent off with promises to return, and a whip round for the cycle appeal and Trauma Unit. A lovely Plymouth Freemason who tweets as @Freemason_UK found me sumptuous digs for the night, with a lovely friend of his who knew the Cyberknife appeal well, having lost a father to cancer. I've been absolutely bowled over by the kind support of brethren and other friends, without which my lunatic dash through Britain would have remained firmly fixed in the realm of the subjunctive. I am a grateful Cycling Paddy, and promise to keep pedalling on.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Hullo from Cornwall - and the starting line!  (where I'm making a dinner of bananas and protein bars)

On an eleven-day cycle through Britain, it is a mathematical certainty that it will stop raining for some of it.

Persisting with this sunny theme, my spirits were lifted marvellously today before my departure by the surprise appearance of brethren from my mother lodge, Apollo University Lodge No. 357, at my send-off.  (A cunning, anonymous past master even contributed £35.70 to my appeal;  better than £3.57.) There also was a chap there  who will shortly begin working as an A&E doctor in the Royal London.  He mentioned a portable CT scanner was very much needed for patients with head and neck injuries. (Medical parlance refers to the present arrangement as the 'doughnut of death', though please try not to think about that if you find yourself there.)

This send-off (taking place in a Wren-built City church in which I'm a guildsman) concluded with this cycle ride's modest contribution to the Book of Common Prayer, the Rite of Blessing of Bicycles.  After, I sped down the aisle in a flurry of spandex to head out the recessional  - fixing the firm point of precedence that the Bicyclist, when present, precedes the Crucifer.  I only nearly wiped out once.

Thankfully (lest readers worry), I'm cushioned against such falls by my panniers. One is chocker with such mouth-watering temptations as creatine, lucozade powder, protein, and glutamine.  (This is not to mention the plasters, Compeed, chafing cream, Anadin, caffeine, Nurofen, and 'flu tablets with which I serenely contemplate Day Two.)  The other, the dressing up bag, is its more banterous sibling, home to aprons and grand lodge certificates - carefully photographed before they succumb to Cornish, Scottish, or even the less remarkable English rain.

On another Technical Footnote, before leaving I received an 8 am tutorial from a kindly neighbourhood cycle shop owner, on clipping in to clipless pedals; flush with confidence, I skipped the 9 am one, on clipping out.  (Cf, 'cushioning against falling,' above.)

My bicycle, I'm reliably informed by its previous owner, is named Herman.  Ever the pragmatist, I've been pondering deed-polling him to William - conqueror of Britain, you see - but William I only really conquered England (whereas my cycle ride secretly harbours more northerly territorial ambitions).  And though there always remain the coregnants William and Mary, I'm not wholly sure a stately, constitutional transfer of power is entirely the sport analogy I'm after.  I might continue with Herman for the moment.

I then pedalled my way to Paddington, to train to Cornwall.  Everyone, after all, said I should train before my cycle ride.

I'm really very excited to begin - kind brethren from across the country have been writing to offer me visits to their lodges and guest rooms.  And I do look forward to meeting them.  After all, anyone who would open their doors to a lunatic mad cyclist must be good fun.  Bring on the morrow, and Land's End to Plymouth!



Hullo everyone - and I'm very grateful to Freemasonry Today for following me as I cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats, stopping to visit a lodge along the way every night.  (my itinerary is below!)  I'm taken utterly back by the kindness of brethren who've offered me guest rooms, invitation to their lodges, and - in the case of the IPM of Dumfries Kilwinning - Hungarian goulash....

I'm cycling to raise funds for the Metropolitan Masonic Charity's appeal for the Royal London Hospital's Trauma Unit.  (I've a page for my fundraising here.)  The funds will go to purchase a portable CT scanner, so the most critically injured patients won't need to be transported down the lift to the hospital's CT scan - it can come to them.

I'm also cycling in memory of my mother - I'm arriving in John O'Groats six years after she died.  

Finally, I'm cycling to explore masonry across Great Britain, just as I've recently gone into the chair in my own lodge, the Lodge of Assistance - which readers are very welcome to come visit!  I started writing to lodges from Cornwall to Caithness just before my installation in April, and on my birthday in May I joined the local gym and began embarrassing myself in spin classes.  

In June, the spandex arrived, and it took me two hours to get up the courage to go outside in it.  I waited for nightfall.

The last few weekends, I've cycled from Oxford to London, and from London to Brighton.  Clearly, I'm an example of the dangers of watching too much of the Olympics, and getting notions.

I'll be tweeting as I pedal (and dodge lorries), on @CyclingPaddy, and writing a diary of my lunatic misadventures here on this blog.

And I'm still pondering whether or not to grow a pair of Bradley Wiggins sideburns, between now and Scotland.

Little Cycle Ride - Itinerary

1st October
Begin at Land's End.
Cycle 76.5 miles, 9.25 hours.
End in Harmony Lodge No 156, Davie Masonic Hall, North Hill, Clifton Place, Plymouth, PL4 8HU.

2nd October
Cycle 118.5 miles, 13 hours.
End in Beaufort Lodge, No 103, Freemason's Hall, 31 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5NH.

3nd October
Cycle 90 miles, 8.5 hours.
End in Birmingham, at Athol Lodge, No 74,  Severn Street Masonic Hall, 60 Severn Street,  Birmingham B1 1QG.

4th October
Cycle 73.5 miles, 7.75 hours.
End in Britannia Mark Mason Lodge No 53, Sheffield, Tapton Hall, Shore Lane, Sheffield S10 3BU.

5th October
Cycle 66.25 miles, 6.75 hours.
End in De Grey and Ripon Lodge No 837, Ripon Masonic Hall, Water Skellgate, Ripon HG4 1BH

6th October
Cycle 60.25 miles, 6 hours.
End at Kepier Lodge 8308 who meet at Hetton-le Hole Masonic Centre,  Station Road, Hetton-le-Hole DH5 9HQ.

7th October
Cycle 82 miles, 8.5 hours
Being a Sunday, have Sunday Dinner with Immediate Past Master of Lodge Dumfries Kilwinning No 53.

8th October
Cycle 74.75 miles, 8.25 hours
End at Glasgow Star Lodge No 219, 101 Clifford Street, Glasgow, G51 1DP.

9th October
Cycle 103.25 miles, 11.5 hours
End at - to be confirmed - The Lodge of Fort William, No 43, 23 High Street, Fort William PH33 6DH.

10th October
Cycle 67.25 miles, 7.75 hours
End at St Andrew’s Chapter No 115, 5 Gordon Terrace, Inverness IV2 3HD.

11th October (Last day)
Cycle 118.75 miles, 12.5 hours
End at John O'Groat Lodge No 1333, Masonic Hall Waitside, Castletown, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 8SL.
(14 miles from John O’Groats, where I will cycle afterwards to complete my journey.)

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