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Wednesfield, West Midlands - Much Wenlock, Shropshire - Wells, Somerset - Shapwick, Dorset - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - Stratford, London - Walkington, Yorkshire - Edinburgh - Wednesfield, West Midlands
Mileage: 1164 miles
Time: 22 hours 55 minutes
I had started thinking about a ride to commemorate the Olympics coming to London in 2012 last year - originally I had worked on using this as a theme for this year's charity ride but was surprised at how few landmarks I could find which had a connection to the Olympics or past Olympians. When I looked at the ten or so I had found it seemed to work better to make one route of visiting them and I ended up cutting them down to eight locations which happened to make a circular ride of 1000 miles - hence the Olympic 1000 Ride. To make it topical I decided it can only be completed in 2012.
So, having created the ride I guess I had to actually ride it sometime. At the beginning of May Lenard Jubb completed the ride on his BMW R100RT, covering 1151 miles in 22 hours and 10 minutes, quite an achievement given that there are long stretches of the route you cannot complete on motorways, there are a number of small towns you have to get into and out of, and to cap it all you have to go through two capital cities, both London and Edinburgh. But this also showed it was possible outside the confines of Autoroute's predictions! I should note though that this was Lenard's third attempt at the ride, having been stopped by bad weather and then a puncture earlier in the year.
I had another reason for doing the ride as well which was to complete a decent ride on the GS. I hadn't really ridden the bike since it had broken down on the October Outing and as well as replacing the final drive seal and bearing, I had also had to replace the gear lever and mounting - I needed to test it out before deciding whether we could attempt the Brit Butt Rally again at the end of May.
I also decided it would be fun to complete the ride with someone else - Pete West and I had spoken about completing a ride together sometime and I couldn't think of anyone I would rather do this ride with, and had the experience in spades of completing similar rides. In the event Pete really saw me through what was a difficult ride. The date we set for the ride was the 18th of April, by chance exactly 100 days before the start of the London Olympics, which seemed like a good omen.
We decided to start and finish from the landmark in Wednesfield since this is only a few miles from my house. Pete came over the night before and we set out a bit later than we intended, getting the first photograph at 6.18am. The fencing to the development on part of the former school playing fields celebrates local sporting heroine Tessa Sanderson CBE. Tessa attended the local school. She won an Olympic Gold and three Commonwealth Gold Medals in the javelin. She was the first British athlete to take part in six consecutive Olympics. The weather was not great, a steady drizzle which kept up for the first few hours. From there we headed around Wolverhampton and towards what has been described as the birth of the modern Olympics, the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire. Here we had to photograph a memorial to Dr William Penny Brookes, who campaigned for the revival of the ancient Greek games. It is located on the edge of Linden Fields where the annual Much Wenlock games, which started in 1850, are still held, it was still very early so we had no problem riding 100 yards down the track to be able to stop next to the memorial. The only problem I then had was that getting back on the GS I found it had rather sunk in the mud - luckily I had Pete along to help push me upright, and off we went again, heading towards the motorway and blue skies.
We made up some time on the main roads, riding south on the M5, then picking up the M4 and then M32 into Bristol. We left Bristol on the A37 and stopped for fuel and to clean the front of the bikes a few miles further on. I had left the auxiliary tank off the bike so my range was limited to just over 200 miles, but since this was still more than Pete's Triumph Rocket III would manage, I thought we might as well stop and refuel at the same time.
Our third landmark was in the centre of the sleepy Somerset town on Wells, where Mary Rand's achievement in gaining the Gold medal and breaking the ladies' world long jump record at the Tokyo Games in 1964 is commemorated by a memorial set into the pavement in the Market Place. After taking our photographs we set off across country to our fourth landmark, in the neighbouring county of Dorset. We found this in the very small village of Shapwick, where the play area in the middle of the village is on the Charles Bennett Village Green, A plaque here commemorates the first Briton to win an Olympic Gold medal in field and track events, in the 1500 metres at the Paris Olympics of 1900. Charles Bennett was born in Shapwick and it was nice to see his community remembering him after all these years.
From Shapwick we got onto the A31 and then the M3 just north of Southanpton, heading towards London. Passing Winchester my satnav reminded me that there was a landmark from the Sculpture Trail I was riding past, but we were behind time now and even a 10 minute detour could end up being critical by the end so we pressed on. At Basingstoke we cut north to pick up the M4 and then the M404 to our next destination at Marlow.
The landmark here was the only one we could not ride up to. We parked at he Leisure Centre and waked around it into Higginson Park to find the statue of Sir Steve Redgrave, winner of five consecutive rowing medals in the Olympic Games - 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996 & 2000 - which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 10 May 2002 during the year of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations. We both duplicated his stance to have our photographs taken then bade our farewell and got back out of town.
The next leg was the one I was least looking forward to riding, since it involved going into the centre of London, but was most interested in seeing the landmark at the end of it. At Stratford Park the Olympic stadium is taking shape and next to it is being constructed a huge sculpture by Anish Kapoor. As 'Orbit' was also a landmark on the Sculpture Trail we would also be killing two birds with one stone. We rode into London on the M40 and then spent a good 40 minutes fighting through the heavy traffic in the middle of what had become a very warm day. Eventually we caught sight of the Olympic Stadium, and next to it what looked like a large helter skelter but was actually our piece of public art. We tried to find a good view of the sculpture and turned down a road which led into the construction site. There was a security box on the entrance but it was unmanned so we followed a wagon in and stopped a couple of hundred yards in to take a few photographs of the bikes in front of Orbit. We had just finished when a security guard ran over and demanded to know what we were doing - we explained we had just stopped to have a look - he told us 1. we weren't supposed to be there because it was a secure area (!) and 2. we would not be allowed to take photographs without the written permission of the Olympic Committee - we assured him we had no intention of taking any photographs and got out of there straight away, out of London and with some relief onto the M1 heading north.
It was nearly 200 miles to our seventh stop, at Walkington in Yorkshire. Most of the way was on motorways so we made good time despite stoppinf for fuel and food on the way. It was around 7pm that we arrived in the small village and next to the duck pond found a shelter and next to it a second set of paving slabs showing the distance leapt by a long jump Olympian. This time the memorial was to Sue Hearnshaw who won a Bronze medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, jumping 6.80 metres - it certainly looked a long way to us as we paced it out.
It started raining as we headed further north towards Scotland, getting heavier as it got darker and colder. We passed the Angel of the North, another landmark on the Sculpture Trail, but no time or inclination to stop now, and continued on to Edinburgh, arriving there around 11.30pm. We did stop to photograph another sculpture here since it was so close to our destination, and grabbed the Giraffes sculpture in Picardy Place before stopping outside the Eric Liddell Centre. This converted church is the home of several projects which give caring services for people in need. The centre commemorates Eric Liddell, gold and bronze medal winner in the 1924 Olympics, who demonstrated true Olympic and Christian values in his everyday life, and was made famous in the film Chariots of Fire.
I could tell I was getting tired now - somehow I got on completely the wrong road coming out of the Scottish capital and we ended up having to go across country and through some fords to pick up the right road south. By the time we got to England and onto the M6 I felt I had to stop and we pulled into Tebay Services and had an hour's sleep sat in the deserted restaurant. We set off again with some urgency in the driving rain which did not stop all night, since we were determined to get back within the 24 hours, and arrived back at our starting point in Wednesfield as the next day was dawning, 22 hours and 55 minutes since leaving - although at the time I was sure it was 23 hours and 55 minutes later, making the success all the more fulfilling!