In 2019, a friend knowing that I’m a regular cyclist asked me if I’d like to join a group planning to ride the iconic UK “end to end”. Pre-pandemic I was riding regularly and pretty fit and I readily agreed. When covid struck the 2020 trip was postponed to 2021 and then to 2022. I’ve just completed it.
I need to thank former RSA Chair, Mark Tewdwr Jones for giving me additional days of leave to accommodate the length of this trip and I really want to thank my colleagues in the RSA staff team who agreed to cover for me during an absence in a busy time in the RSA office. Thank you all!
This ride is normally done from Land’s End to John O Groats to take advantage of the prevailing winds and is known as LeJog. The ride that I did was in the opposite direction, affectionately known as Jogle. In a normal year the prevailing winds change direction in May and flow from the North to the South. 2022 was not a normal year sadly. This was one of the most gruelling adventures I’ve ever taken part in. We were 11 riders, 10 men and me in week one. By the end of the trip we were down to eight riders and for several days we were only seven. The wind was a major factor in this, we had steady headwinds of 20+ miles per hour gusting well over 30 mph for the first few days in Scotland and the roads were very exposed. On the day that we crossed the Cairngorms the heaven’s opened and we were drenched within minutes of leaving. Half way through Daniela called to check up on progress suggesting that I’d be as fit as flea and as brown as a berry when I finished. In fact, I only wore shorts on the last two days and only the ends of my fingers (short finger gloves) are brown. But … I had the most wonderful time. In adversity there are always uplifting moments even if that’s just finishing for the day. The banter in the evenings over dinner was uniformly good and the group gelled well. I discovered several days in that one of the men from the Cardiff based club that we rode with was cousin to someone that I was at school with and so I’ve been able to reconnect with an almost forgotten school friend, that was a real coincidence.
Being out on the bike for up to eight hours a day gives plenty of time for thinking and reflection, I made several small decisions and resolutions during this time. It also gives time to look around, to travel slowly and observe. It was pleasing to see the shifting landscapes as we travelled South, moving from the open, cold hills of Scotland down to the beautiful lake district and further south into rolling hills and then the levels before hitting the sharp hills and narrow lanes of Devon and Cornwall .. a real sting in the tail. We noticed the growth in wind farms in Scotland, the increase in solar farms in the midlands and then a reversion to wind farms in the far South West. There is room for far more renewable energy installations was our collective observation as the miles slowly passed. We noticed the change in architecture, reflecting different weather and working practices, and sadly we noticed the areas of wealth and deprivation in stark contrast to each other.
We rode between 65 and 85 miles a day travelling more than 1000 miles overall and climbing more than 42,500 feet which is higher than Everest (29,000 ft above sea level). It certainly felt like a hilly ride! I’m so pleased to have had the privilege of doing this ride, of taking time out of my normal life to challenge myself both physically and mentally and on days when I was really struggling the thought of Ukrainian refugees walking for miles to safety from war zones was never far away. It’s easy to forget the lives of others when you are having fun.
So, it was a strong challenge, I’m quietly pleased to have completed it. I’m grateful to my cycling friends who let me “take a wheel” and shelter from the wind behind them. I have asked my staff never to let me sign up to a 15-day trip with no rest days ever again and I sincerely hope that I can rely on them to do that for me! 😊
I came back to a team all busy with the preparations for the Economic Geography Conference in Dublin next week and for our own return to face to face events in September with the Central and East European Conference. If you work in cohesion policy check out the meeting that we are co-organising with DG Regio and the Croatian government in November and watch for the announcement of our next Annual Conference in June 2023 in Slovenia … it will be SO good to see everyone again.
Thanks for reading this and have good weekends,