Next Batch of Lands End to John O’Groats Challenge Postcards and Run Down Under progress
April 8, 2021
LAND’S END to JOHN O’GROATS VIRTUAL CONQUEROR CHALLENGE
Since the last blog post, the Kickbike rides I have been doing have been steadily adding up in the Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG).
2nd March 2021: Coventry
“You could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve arrived in a new town from the architecture around you, but the Coventry Blitz of November 1940 did for most of the old buildings, including the beautiful 14th century Cathedral.
Like many of the beautiful historic towns you’ve already seen on your travels, the Romans had a hand in the first civilised settlement. Another formed around a Saxon nunnery, although King Canute – the one that tried to turn back the sea – left that in ruins in 1016. However, Lady Godiva (she of the naked horse ride through the town) and her husband built a small town on the ruins, and by the 14th century, it was an important market town, gaining its charter in 1345.
By Tudor times, Coventry was a site of artistic excellence as well, with prestigious theatres. It’s widely thought that the plays Shakespeare saw there during his teens inspired him in his own works. Coventry continued to thrive, becoming a major trading and later manufacturing centre. The first council houses were let to tenants here in 1917, and Coventry’s reputation as an industrial base continued to soar.
The town suffered more damage during the war than any other English town other than London, Hull, or Plymouth, and it was selected for destruction primarily because of its almost untouched mediaeval heart. The new town, however, and especially the new St. Michael’s Cathedral – consecrated in 1962 with a performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem to mark the occasion – show that Coventry is growing and thriving.” (from Postcard Email).
Also on the 2nd March 2021, I reached 40% completion of the total distance for the challenge. At the time I was about 3 weeks ahead of where I had planned to be – something I was very happy about.
Having reached the 40% completed milestone meant I had about 25% of the challenge to go until I cross over the border into Scotland.
4th March 2021: Leicester
“Leicester, heart of the East Midlands.
Unlike some of your previous stops, a thriving Iron Age settlement was waiting for the Romans to arrive in around AD47. In fact, it was the capital of the local Celtic tribe. With the addition of a forum and a bathhouse in the second century, it would appear that Roman comforts were embraced and adopted enthusiastically.
Like all towns that suffered when the Romans packed up and went home, Leicester’s fortunes faded, including invasions from the Saxons, and later, the Vikings. Although still impressive enough to be recorded in the Domesday book as a city, or ‘civitas’, it soon lost its status, not becoming a legal city again until the 20th century.
More recently, Leicester has been in the spotlight for the discovery and reburial of the remains of Richard III, the last English King to die in battle. His grave was lost, but in 2012, a skeleton was discovered on a dig at a Leicester car park which demanded further investigation. With severe battle injuries, and physical features including curvature of the spine, this man in his early thirties could possibly be Richard. DNA analysis from York line descendants proved that this was the warrior King, and he was reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015, in a ceremony including a poem read by actor Benedict Cumberbatch – Richard’s third cousin, sixteen times removed!” (from Postcard Email).
9th March 2021: Nottingham
“Part of the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, the area was under the rule of an Anglo-Saxon chieftain; the unfortunately-named Snot. He did, however, give his name to not just the town, but the county.
Nottingham is rightly famous for its beautiful lace, but is even more well-known as home of Robin Hood, and also the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Part-legend and partly-based in truth, the first mention of him is in the late 14th century poem Piers Plowman by William Langland. Hailed as one of the greatest works of mediaeval literature – alongside the almost contemporary Canterbury Tales – the largely allegorical poem deals with human nature in a surprisingly modern way. With minor uprisings common amongst the nobility in the early mediaeval period, it’s probably safe to suggest that Robin Hood might well have been a composite of many nobles in hiding, with or without a band of followers!
With two universities, modern day Nottingham is a thriving student town. Perhaps fittingly, the town also claims to have England’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which is close to Nottingham Castle. It claims to have been established since 1189, but none of the current building is older than mid-17th century, and neither is there any paperwork to prove the claim. However, it is attached to several caves within Castle Rock, which were originally used as the castle brewhouse and date from its construction in 1068 – this would indicate a hostelry of some kind on the site soon after this date.” (From Postcard Email).
12th March 2021: Sherwood Forest
“Sherwood Forest – the stuff of legend. It’s not often that a place features as strongly in legend as the main characters. In early mediaeval times, Sherwood Forest covered an area as large as a third of modern day central London. Today, the last remnant of that ancient woodland is the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve, and the Sherwood Forest Trust pride themselves on being modern-day Robin Hoods, protecting the Forest for generations to come.
Historically, the location was a royal hunting forest, and used for the enjoyment not only of English monarchs, but visiting nobles as well. Much of the space was actually open land, but the forest was a valuable source of timber both for shipbuilding and construction on land – both St. Paul’s and Lincoln cathedrals made use of Sherwood oak.
And what of Robin Hood? Sadly, a construct of popular folklore – created as an ally and supporter of Richard the Lionheart, Robin is variously a yeoman, a noble, and a true outlaw; early ballad ‘Robin Hood and the Monk’ (1450) makes him out to be a cheat and a casual murderer – a far more bloodthirsty figure, and no ally of any King. The only thing recognisable from later representations is that the Sheriff is still his sworn enemy!” (From Postcard Email).
15th March 2021: Sheffield
“You were probably expecting a grey and industrial city, but 61% of Sheffield is green space. Known as the ‘largest village in England’, like Rome – or so the locals will tell you – Sheffield is built on seven hills. Home to two universities, the city is undergoing a very strong revival after a period of economic decline, caused by steelworks closures in the 1980s.
Sheffield also has a strong association with football, laying claim to the world’s first football club, Sheffield F.C., in 1857. The city now has two professional teams, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday – the Blades and the Owls respectively. In 1989, Wednesday’s ground, Hillsborough, was the site of tragedy, when 96 Liverpool supporters were killed in a stampede and crush during a match. Sheffield is something of an artistic powerhouse, with the largest theatre complex outside London. Musically, it rivals Manchester and Liverpool for talent, spawning The Human League, Heaven 17, ABC, and Pulp, and the city regularly hosts big name bands at the Sheffield Arena. Community and commercial radio are thriving, and the area also boasts two newspapers, one of which has been in circulation since the end of the 19th century.
Sheffield also provided the backdrop for two moments of 20th century zeitgeist – blown to smithereens in the Cold War classic ‘Threads’, the city appeared to have recovered fully 13 years later when six unemployed men removed their clothes but regained their dignity in ‘The Full Monty’.” (From Postcard Email)
16th March 2021: Peak District National Park
“Britain’s first national park, the Peak District is not only easily accessible by road and rail, it’s one of the few outdoor walking and trail spaces that also has easy access in certain areas for less physically-able walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility vehicles. Those who’d like to cover the trails by bike won’t be disappointed either, and there are even options available for wheelchair users.
Adventurous climbers won’t be disappointed by what are some of the finest and most challenging sites in the world. Former mining sites combine with caves to make the Peak District a potholer’s paradise.
If you fancy a little sedate sightseeing instead, go and see the magnificent Hardwick Hall. Built for the formidable Bess of Hardwick, this extraordinary Tudor figure was not just a woman that married increasingly well – four times – but along with her husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, she was both jailer and protector of Mary Queen of Scots for 15 years.
If Bess married well herself, she arranged even better matches for her children – she arranged for one of her daughters to marry into the Lennox family, who had a claim to the throne through Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. Although Bess’ immediate manoeuvring upwards failed, she did get a descendant on the throne eventually through the Dukes of Portland – Queen Elizabeth II.” (From Postcard Email)
On the 17th March, I reached the halfway point of the challenge.
As can be seen from the graphic above, the distance covered is 50% but the time taken is 36% of the time I have set to complete the challenge. That works out that I am about 4 or 5 weeks ahead of schedule. The expected completion date for the challenge is set to 29th July 2021, so if I continue at the pace I am I should finish the challenge at or before 29th June 2021.
24th March 2021: Bradford
“Bradford – heartland of the Industrial Revolution, and famous for wool and textile product and export for centuries.Bradford was a hive of industry in the 19th century, and plentiful employment encouraged widespread immigration, particularly from Ireland, and also a significant German Jewish population. They became not only vital to the textile export industry of the city, but featured large in its civic life, helping to establish the Chamber of Commerce in 1851, and also, in the cases of Charles Semon and Jacob Moser, becoming Mayor and Lord Mayor of Bradford respectively. Unfortunately, all this industrial success came at a price – at the height of this surge in prosperity, the average lifespan of a Bradford textile worker was just 18 years.
Unfortunately, a period of de-industrialisation throughout the 20th century has led to Bradford suffering periods of deprivation, although recent regeneration projects have done much to return Bradford to former glories. Don’t forget to visit the City Hall when you’re there – it’s not unusual to have statues of former monarchs in a town, but Bradford includes Oliver Cromwell in their number!” (From Postcard Email)
29th March 2021: Yorkshire Dales National Park
“Yorkshire Dales National Park, the more rugged relation to the other end of the county.
Each valley – or Dale – is different from the next, and there’s no shortage of activities to draw in lovers of the British countryside. If you fancy finding sturdy shoes and waterproofs, the Ingleton Waterfall Trail is worth the effort, although it’s not for the faint-hearted or those unsteady on their feet. If you feel you need fortifying beforehand, there’s a good cafe at the start, and frequently an ice cream van en route!
The Ribblehead Viaduct is a must-see. Construction began in 1870, and construction workers put up shanty towns near the site to house their families. In the five years it took to build, there were smallpox epidemics and myriad industrial accidents which took a considerable toll on the workforce in every sense – around 100 navvies were killed during construction, and there are around 200 graves from this period in the nearby cemetery at Chapel-le-Dale. Now, it carries six passenger trains a day from Leeds to Carlisle.” (From Postcard Email)
RUN DOWN UNDER VIRTUAL WALK / RUN CHALLENGE
While all the above was being ‘visited’ virtually, I also continued my virtual walking journey northwards on the new South Wales north coast. Along the way, I ‘passed through’ the following places.
17th March 2021: Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour is a city on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia, 540 km north of Sydney, and 390 km south of Brisbane. It is one of the largest urban centres on the North Coast, with an estimated population of more then 70,000 people.
Coffs Harbour’s economy was once mostly based on banana growing, now blueberries is becoming the main agricultural producer. Tourism and fishing are also major industries. The wider region is known as the Bananacoast. Coffs Harbour is near various national parks, including a marine national park.
The surrounding region is dominated by coastal resorts and apartments with hinterland hills and mountains covered by extensive forests, banana plantations, and other farms. This is very obvious when travelling by train through the region as the journey is mostly in forest for a significant distance both north and south of Coffs Harbour. It is the only place in New South Wales where the Great Dividing Range meets the Pacific Ocean.
The Gumbaynggirr people are the traditional custodians of the area, who have occupied the land for thousands of years, forming one of the largest coastal Aboriginal nations in New South Wales.
By the early 1900s, the Coffs Harbour area had become an important timber production ara. Before the opening of the North Coast railway line, the only way to transport large heavy items of low value, like timber, was by coastal ship. Sawmillers on the North Coast were dependent on jetties either in rivers or off beaches for exporting their timber. As a result timber tramways were constructed to connect the timber-getting areas, the sawmills and jetties built out into the ocean at Coffs Harbour.
Coffs Harbour derives it’s name to John Korff, who named the area Korff’s Harbour when he was forced to take shelter in the area from a storm. The the surveyor for the crown accidentally changed the name when he reserved land in the area during 1861. (Some information derived from Wikipedia)
5th April 2021: Yamba
“With a stylish village charm, pristine beaches, national parks and award winning restaurants, Yamba is a unique holiday or lifestyle experience for any member of the family. Explore the myriad of waterways, stroll the uncrowded beaches, go swimming, fishing or surfing…… but most of all discover Yamba’s friendly hospitality all year round. … Yamba…”the best town in Australia” as voted by Australian Traveller Magazine 2009.
Yamba is situated at the mouth of the Clarence River in Northern NSW, the biggest river on the east coast of Australia. Yamba has a relaxed lifestyle with access to all services and is within easy reach of Ballina, Lismore and Grafton. Yamba….. only 3 hour’s drive from Brisbane, and a 1-hour flight from Sydney.
Yamba has 11 beaches where you can always find one with the perfect weather conditions for surfing, swimming, snorkelling, kite surfing or rock pooling. Being surrounded by Yuraygir National Park allows for plenty of opportunity to get back to nature and discover the beauty of our coastal heaths. Keep your eye out for our unique coastal emu’s, spot whales from the Shelley Beach walk or paddle the meanderings of the mighty Clarence river system. Fishing or boating is well catered for, as well as something for history buffs and photographers, art lovers, lawn bowlers and golfers. Whatever you’re into, do it in Yamba…” (From Rundownunder Email).