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22nd September 2003
Daisy's Diary: The Landmark Challenge 2002 - Part II
The second part of a round-Britain adventure, in which Graham the brave rider and Daisy the Triumph Speed Twin nearly go suddenly a-swimming oh in the West Country...
(Not read the first episode yet? Better check it out so you understand the plot...)
We were ready to go Landmarking again, brimming with confidence as we'd knocked off a couple of local map references since our first foray in Norfolk. We had eight Landmarks under our belt.
So it was down to Devon, Cornwall and thereabouts next. This time my 11 year old daughter, Chloe, was riding pillion. We had three days to complete this bit, as it was a school holiday on the Monday for teacher training. Just as well: from Ramsgate it's about 220 miles to the first reference, and then we then had a 400 mile round trip, followed by 220 miles home! That's seven Landmarks and 840 miles in total which, on a sprung hub, I suspected was going to HURT!
Off we went, loaded up (including daughter with rucksack), on a fine morning of... drizzle and grey stuff. We were soaked after an hour and had to stop. I was having real trouble with the mist - couldn't see a thing after two minutes riding! Constant wiping of the shades was required but, worse than that, my beard was dribbling a persistent little funnel of water straight down my neck...
We couldn't ever stop for long though, as time was against us all the way. We got past the dread M25 (from Ramsgate to anywhere there's just no way of avoiding the damn thing), and with relief peeled off onto the A3 - much more suitable for Daisy. We stopped for a bum rest, ciggie and general wringing out at regular intervals -- ten minutes only mind -- and were off again towards our first overnight stop, a relative living in Bournemouth. Here we had a nice bath before a meal and a few jars. We were ready for anything again by morning.
An early start (06:30) saw us heading west in weather which was OK for about 20 miles, and then set in like the day before - a miserable misty drizzle all the way. We reached our first Landmark and got the picture, but needed to press on quickly towards Cornwall. We made surprisingly good time and the weather eased off a tad. Fantastic countryside the further we went, sticking to A and B-roads all the way. We reached Torquay by 10am and Daisy was going beautifully - she likes wet stuff and stays relatively cool!
Our next landmark was further down on the coast. The roads, which seemed to cut across country, were small and twisty. Now we ran into problems - the grey sky descended and enveloped us in a thick, wet, miserable blanket. We were soaked again within minutes and it truly was a depressing experience - we still had a lot of miles to cover that day, and all our gear was soaked through, as were we! We pulled up at some godforsaken crossroads, in the middle of nowhere, confirmed that we were lost (again) and tried to shelter under some trees. I looked at Chloe, bedraggled, wet and miserable, and realised that this was hopeless.
'Want to go home?' I asked, feeling justified in my cowardice that it's for the good of a young 'un.
'Don't be silly Dad !' she replied; 'we've only just started! And we haven't camped yet!' With that she demanded a look at the map and I felt strangely belittled. There really was no going back now.
We found a bit on the map which might have represented where we were, and struck out south (south-ish. Here's a tip for would-be landmarkers - ALWAYS carry a compass!), hoping that we were right. An hour later we got onto a coastal stretch which actually appeared on my map and finally pulled up at the next Landmark, a military memorial complete with Sherman tank. I can't begin to describe the relief that (a) we'd found it, and (b) there was a pub opposite!
It's indescribable what a good pub lunch and a drop of local ale can do for the inner spirit. We dried most of our stuff by the roaring log fire (I can't imagine what the staff thought) and we were once again ready for anything.
That feeling lasted for about 15 minutes. The grey stuff has descended once again, this time to the point where visibility was almost nowt. The wet stuff was depressingly, clingingly, well… wet, and it was getting cold to boot. We pressed on, round twisty, bendy roads and soon I was riding on autopilot, huddled in that pose familiar to all open-faced-helmet-no-fairing-and-it's-winter riders until - YIKES!
The road stopped -- round a blind bend -- at a river! We nearly went swimming!
It was a ferry crossing. The little open, roll-on-get-wet-whilst-crossing-roll-off type, which was, as I said, hidden round a bend - downhill - in the mist! Turned out there's signs and stuff, but I didn't see 'em. What the little chap selling the tickets must have thought I just can't imagine, as Daisy plus two screaming riders catapulted from the mist and then kangaroo'd, wobbled and finally slid to a halt about six inches from the edge.
I managed to get my heart going again. Eventually.
Over we went (for £1), and pressed on west. Past Plymouth we turn north towards the next Landmark, the Hurler's stone circle on the Bodmin Moor. We almost immediately got lost and this is a truly desolate experience, with the mist and the rising moorlands making us feel very, very, insignificant and lonely. Eventually, I have no idea how, we found our spot, got the piccie and with no small relief headed back towards civilization and down to the Lizard. We were way behind schedule now and I started to feel worried about getting Chloe back to school , but there was nothing else to do but press on. At last, the weather began to lift and our spirits rose with it. We found a nice little petrol station and café to fill up, then had cream tea and crumpets.
Underway again, we passed through St Austell and headed for Truro, where we met the longest traffic jam I have ever seen in my entire life. Oh, the bliss of being on two wheels! It still took us nearly an hour to cover the 15 or so miles to Truro (bloody caravans - and it wasn't even summer), but finally we got through it and onto the last stretch to the Lizard. We reached the last Landmark of the day, Goonhilly Earth Station, as darkness began to close in. We were therefore delighted to find a campsite close by. I got the tent up while the Chloe did the honours with the scran and tea. Stuffed with chili we found the on-site bar for a jar and fruit juice, where I worried about the seemingly enormous distance we had to cover next day. We headed off to bed early as we would have to get up at sparrowfart if we were to have any hope...
Dawn. Bright dawn. Sun! The relief was enormous. We broke camp at 05:45 after failing to have breakfast or tea due to an expiring gas bottle. I promised Chloe a Little Chef job and we hit the road with spirits high.
We only had two Landmarks to get on this final day of the foray, but we would need to cover over 400 miles if we were to see our own beds that night - impossible. I don't mean the distance in itself, before you all cry; 'easy!' It's more that I defy ANYONE, after two days in the saddle already, to go more than an hour in any one stretch on Daisy without surgery!
But the weather had changed dramatically, and the miles trundled past infinitely faster than they had the day before. Up the north coast of Cornwall, into north Devon, we arrived at the first hit of the day in the charming little town of Lynton, where our first Landmark was located.
Whilst trying to work out the clue, I was accosted by a rotund gentleman who asked what I was doing. I realised I was outside the town hall, parked in a spot which I hadn't noticed was: 'Reserved for the Mayor'. The gentleman accosting me turned out to be the Mayor himself but, far from being upset, he enthused about Daisy. On discovering that I was doing the Landmark, and charitably at that, he forbade me to move whilst he hustled into his town hall. Out he came five minutes later, waving a fiver - from the town funds - for my charitable cause!
What a nice man.
We duly said our goodbyes, got the clue worked out and the piccie in the can, and pressed on across Exmoor heading east towards the final Landmark of this foray, King John's hunting lodge near Cheddar. It's truly a marvelous ride, so it is, across wonderful country in ideal weather. I felt as if we'd earned this, and it got better and better. We really enjoyed the unfenced roads that cross the National Park and I started to feel a little sad that this couldn't last, and we'd be heading home before long.
We arriving at Cheddar at around 2:30, having somehow missed the hunting lodge, so stopped for a while in order to enjoy a pint of cider (Coke for Chloe) before doubling back to get our picture.
That was the lot, then. The last Landmark of this foray was safely in the can (and here's another tip for would-be Landmarkers: ALWAYS have two cameras. It's a long way to come back if something goes wrong!). We headed back through Cheddar and up through the Gorge itself - an experience I have never before sampled on a bike- bloody marvelous!
And so, inevitably, we turned towards home. There's not much else to tell - the weather held out, Daisy was faultless (bless 'er), we got home very late, but not so late as to be in trouble with 'Er Indoors. Admittedly we both had trouble walking, but Chloe had a marvelous time and wanted to know straight away what was next. Chris demanded that it was his turn next.
So, the Landmark campaign? Well that's 15 down altogether now, and... er… quite a few still to go. Watch this space...
Fancy The Landmark Challenge?
The Triumph Owners' MCC will be delighted to fill you in on all the details.
Graham Ham's books are available from Amazon in 'Kindle' and 'Proper' format. Click here to read more....
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