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Round Britain Ride

Part 1 - Friday 18th - Sunday 20th August 2017

Introduction

 

Every year the landmarks for the Round Britain Rally are published at the end of March. There are between 80 and 90 locations, usually at least one in every county of England, Scotlnd and Wales. The list of landmarks details the name of the landmark and the town or village it can be found in. A certain amount of online research is then required to try and identify what the landmarks look like and where exactly they can be found. This can be fruitful for the majority of the landmarks, and completely unhelpful for some. So equipped with your list of landmarks and locations you then have until the end of October to visit as many, or as few as you have the time to get to and photograph your motorbike and rally placard at each one.

Each landmark is assigned a points value, which is basically graduated according to the difficulty/ time needed to visit each one. Entrants to the rally will achieve an award based upon their points score by the en dof the rally, with the ultimate achievement being a '100% All-Rounder' - visiitng all the landmarks and getting the right photographs. Usually getting such an award can take many day trips across several months, often covering around 8,000 miles.

It is one of the requirements of the rally that you do not publish pictures of or otherwise identify to others anything which might give the location of any of the landmarks away. Some of the following will be clearer when I revisit it after October and shall add all the photographs then!

 

The Plan

 

I have taken part in the rally six times before but not for the past couple of years, and had never achieved an all-rounder. Usually I have just picked up landmarks while taking part in other rides or rallies, as I happen to be passing them. Several years ago I decided that one year I would collect the full set, and would try to do this in one trip - something I do not think has been done before.

Using a combination of mapping programs (Garmin Basecamp and My-Route app) I came up with a route to include all 82 landmarks. It came to just over 4,000 miles and looked like it might be possible in 6 days. One of the main restrictions to this being the need to take photographs in daylight, between sunrise at around 6am and sunset at about 8.40pm at this time of year.

Generally I make a point of not advertising long distance rides before I do them (too many people do and then get embarrassed when it does not work out), but I decided it would be a good idea to use the ride to raise some money for a charity. I set up a Justgiving page and chose Macmillan - Macmillan nurses had supported my mum through the last weeks of her life and I thought it would be something most people could relate to and would want to support. Before I left donations had exceeded my target of raising £1000 and I was deeply touched by the number of people who donated and how incredibly generous they had been - it made me all the more determined to complete the ride.

 

Preparations

 

The bike - I had not ridden the GS for a few months and the first thing to do was check it over and get it MOT'd. Jason at Road & Race in Telford did the honours and the bike passed with no advisories. My friend Mark helped me give it a service and managed to reset the ABS so the red lights on the dash stopped flashing for the first time in 18 months (I had just been running it with back tape over the lights so they didn't annoy me!). I fitted the panniers and tankbag and filled them with a pile of tools, spares, a bivi bag and sleeping bag and a few spare clothes and waterproofs. I also found the cooler bottle I used to use for rallies and strapped that to the side of the bike and filled it with lucozade. I spent more time working out which motorcycle suit and helmet to wear. The weather forecast looked changeable at best so I opted for my BMW Streetguard suit and Arai Tour X helmet.

 

What Happened

Day 1

 

I left home at 7am on Friday the 19th of August. It was drizzling with rain as I set the satnav for the first landmark in Shropshire. I run two satnavs, one running the whole trip and the other used for each individual leg - it is much easier to focus on a single leg of 60 miles than think of the thousands of miles and hours ahead. From Shropshire I headed into Wales then crisss crossed the border heading north, picking up another landmark in Cheshire before heading across North Wales to Anglesey. The landmark here was a church at the end of a single track road right at the north of the island. By now the weather was warm with clear skies and I turned south and stopped for lunch in Porthmadog. Ham, eggs and chips at the station cafe became the only meal I was to eat that day. An hour later I was in the middle of the Welsh mountains trying to find a cairn by the side of a reservoir, in the pouring rain. I thought I had located the cairn on the OS map but found I had the wrong one and was ready to give up when the halistones caused me to stop to put my waterproofs on, and I found i had stopped underneath the cairn!

In the event of not being able to find a speciific landmark it is possible to photograph something which shows you have been to the right area, but not being able to find any one of the 82 landmarks would mean the 100% all-rounder was not possible. While I thought it likely I would miss one of the landmarks at some time I was determined to do whatever I could to avoid this eventuality - sometimes this meant spending up to half an hour searching for the right location, and this would eat into my time. Long distance rallies, when you are given the exact co-ordinates for every location, are much easier in this respect.

By early evening I had reached the most westerley point of Wales, photographing a landmark at Porthclais, beyond St David's and only a couple of hundred yards from where we had camped on our Circuit of Wales earlier in the year in May. I then turned east and headed for Swansea, rushing to get to a stone circle near there before it got too dark. It was not only dark but also pouring with rain by the time I arrived there. The stone circle was in a town park and by pushing the bike into the park and turning all the lights on I was able to get what I hoped would be a reasonable photograph.

By now it was after 10 o'clock and I had had enough for the day. I stopped at the next hotel I came across, the Travelodge at the Swansea West services - they had one room left but would not let me have it - policy in case someone tried to book it online. By the time I had managed to get through the booking process on my phone, someone else had booked it....thanks a lot I thought as I trudged back to the bike in the rain. I tried the next Premier inn but they were full - something about a big football match in Swansea the next day, but the receptionist found me a bed in Bridgend, about 20 miles east. I got to bed about midnight. 600 miles and 12 landmarks down and about five hours behind schedule.

 

Day 2

 

I left Bridgend shortly after 6am and spent the next hours weaving through the counties of Monmouthshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Somerset, visiting some very out of the way places and travelling down some definitley less travelled roads. Each time I put the next destination into the satnav I seemed to be getting closer to home instead of further away. The weather was very changeable; bright sunshine for half an hour then pouring wth rain the next, so I was changing in and out of waterproofs and the visor on the Arai from dark to clear - I reflected I should have worn a helmet with an integral sun visor. One of the great things about the RBR is that it takes you to remote places you would probably not ever see otherwise - I mean why would you visit a 13th century tithe barn to photograph a stone bench dedicated to the Women's Land Army? Well I did, and it was one of the most peaceful places I have sat for a long time. Not that I had long for sitting before I had to be on my way again. I rode across a very windy Devon to pick up two landmarks in Cornwall, one in Launceston, the other near St Mawgan, a few miles from where I was born and spent the first years of my life. Then it was back up the A30 and across a very wet Dartmoor to visit a small village in Devon and on to Dorset. These were the longest legs, at over 100 miles, which I had followed so far. I was glad to be getting more miles under my belt, but I was still slipping further behind my schedule. A lot of the route involved gong through towns and even on the bike the traffic slows you down - this was especially true going through Bristol.

Again, it was getting dark by the time I reached the Dorset landmark, a memorial in a cemetery bu it was only as I turned into the lane leading to the cemetery that I realised my headlight was not working. The HID bulb was coming on but going straight off so I reckoned either the bulb or the ballast was failiing. I got a picture of thelandmark inth cemetery, which was fortunately not too gloomy and then debated what to do. I remembered that I had passed a sign for Wimborne a few miles back and that my friend Trevor lives near there. I rang him and found that his house was only 10 minutes away and I was offered a bed for the night. His wife Chris also cooked me a pizza, which I realised was the first food I had eaten all day apart from some biscuits before I left the hotel that morning. Nearly 1300 miles and 25 landmarks visited, and I had given up worrying about my schedule - by now I should have visited another 6 landmarks and be in Essex.

 

Day 3

 

First thing in the morning I checked the headligh which was still not working so I stripped down the front of the bike, in the hope of being able to swap the ballasts over for the dipped and main beam so headlight would work - it didn't, nor did the main beam now. I decided to just adjust the driving lights so they would work as a dipped beam, after all I wasn't intending to ride that much at night.

My first stop was in the middle of the New Forest - twice deer ran across my path, the second one so close I had to brake heavily - little did I know the third time I would not be so lucky...

From Hampshire I headed north to Wiltshire then east through Berkshire and West Sussex. The landmark here was a cafe right on the coast near Eastbourne. It was a beautiful day and  the traffic heading to the coast was very heavy - I spent a long time filtering on the motorway and trunk roads which was tiring in the heat. I rode along the Beachy Head road past the lighthouse. There were hundreds of people sat looking out to sea - I wondered what they were waiting for when a Spitfire flew right over my head. I stopped and watched the airshow for quarter of an hour before moving on.

I crossed Kent via back roads after escaping from the M2 which was closed (cue long traffic jams and much filtering again) before crossing, nd being blown sideways on, the Sheppey crossing on to the Isle of Sheppey. The landmark was at the far end of the island where I happened to meet a couple on a Yamaha FJR1300 who had just taken their RBR photograph. We had a brief chat before departing - there are around 250 people taking part in the rally so the chances of meeting anyone at one of the 82 landmarks must be fairly remote.

I worked my way back across Kent and around London over the Dartford Crossing (yet more filtering for many miles) and into Essex and through Suffolk to Great Yarmouth. This housed the first of two landmarks in Norfolk and I reckoned I might just make the second one on the other side of the county before it got dark.

I just made it to Sandringham as it got dark and started raining. After being questioned as to what I was doing by some official looking characters in a big black Range Rover (I guess it is part of the queen's estate), I took my photograph and quickly left. Coming round a bend on a single track road I was somewhat surprised to suddenly see  group of Muntjac deer filling the road - rathr than take out Bambi (my daughter woul never forgive me) I put the bike down and it slid across the grass verge and into the woods while i rolled down the road which the deer had thoughtfully vacated. The Range Rover pulled up behind me as I lay there and the two guys in it helped me pull the bike out of the woods and insisted on taking me to the local hospital.

I checked out fine, no concussion, just a sore foot, knee and shoulder and got back to the bike around 11pm. Riding off, the bike felt strange but I thought it was just me until I came to the first roundabout and the bike felt like it was going sideways. I pulled into the next services and found the rear wheel covered in gearbox oil - the final drive seal was leaking which mean the bike was not rideable. I phoned the AA and got picked up at 1am and was home just ater 3am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far had covered just under 2000 miles and visted 37 landmarks. The bike needed the lights repairing (one set of drivinglights hd also stopped working after the accident), the handlebars stratightening as they were also decidedly bent, and the final drive seal, nd possibly bearing, replacing too. I knew it would take a few days to get the parts so carrying on with the ride immediately was not on (I could have taken the Scrambler or K1 but to be honest felt fairly beaten up too and neither are exactly the most comfortable bike to ride any distance).

 

So the plan has changed - I shall complete the ride next week, and am encouraged by the fact that donations now stand at over £1500 for Macmillan. Future instalments to follow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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