Leg 4 - Ladywood (Birmingham, West Midlands) to Walton le Dale (Preston)There were mixed feelings on this leg. It had been a good night on Friday and we were sad to be leaving Birmingham and Dave’s hospitality, but we were looking forward to having a night back at base. As previously mentioned, it wasn’t always the norm that riders doing the End to End would have the chance of passing their home town on the route, let alone stay a night at home in the middle. We were going to be mainly following two of England’s historical A roads passing through Whitchurch. We were going to be taking the A41 out of Birmingham and up to Whitchurch and then the A49 into Lancashire and home. The road up to historical Shropshire town was new territory for us, and should at least be interesting, whereas the A49 was well travelled by us and was not going to give any surprises.
|Saying Farewell to Birmingham - Dave and Paul|
|Prepared for the Homeward Leg - Dave and Ash|
|Paul with Our Newly Found Friend the Great Dane - Watch Your Chocolate|
We continued North up the A41 away from the Midland’s built up areas and into Shropshire. Being on main roads we managed to find the County border signs again so continued with our new found tradition of capturing the moment and relaying the evidence back home via the Internet. We didn’t feel a visit to the ELYSIUM Health and fitness club would be necessary, as we were doing more than our fair share of exercise during this ten day cycling stint.
|Oops! Paul Caught Mid Comfort Break at the Border Check-In|
|Paul at the Shropshire Border|
|Ash Arrives at Shropshire - Our Gym is 1000 Miles Long & Outdoors|
As we progressed along the A41 we passed another religious architecture photo opportunity on the outskirts of Tong, so I stopped to take it. We got near to the Collegiate Church of Saint Bartholomew in Tong so graphical evidence was taken despite Paul’s quips. The day was OK, but it was a bit grey, felt cooler than the day before and we seemed to be pushing into a slight headwind. However, we couldn’t complain, as we were still dry and hadn’t yet needed our rain jackets. That’s no mean feat when your venturing over three hundred miles through more than seven English counties in the spring (well any time of year, come to think of it). The next stop was going to be for lunch in Whitchurch and we’d pass out of Shropshire and back into Staffordshire only to return to each county again.
|The Collegiate Church of Saint Bartholomew in Tong|
|The Collegiate Church of Saint Bartholomew - Tong, Shropshire|
|Another Day and Another County - Paul at the Check-In|
|Ash at the Staffordshire County Border - We Passed In and Out Several Times|
|Paul Approaches the Outskirts of Whitchurch|
We were approached by a local, as we’d been before in many of the stops along the way, who was curious (seeing the luggage on our bikes) about where we were travelling to and from. We made him aware that we were doing the End to End and he turned out to be a fellow cyclist who was reasonably knowledgeable on the subject. He informed us that Whitchurch was host to many cyclists making the great journey, particularly in the summer months. It seemed to be that whilst some, like ourselves would deviate slightly from a standard or preferred route, it was most common for people on the journey to pass through, stop or even stay in the town. Either way, it was good to meet people who were genuinely interested in our endeavour and were keen to wish well along our way.
|Saint Alkmunds Church in Whitchurch, Shropshire|
|A Typical Whitchurch Building - The Black Bear Public House|
Back together now, the last stretch was mind numbing. I had psychologically set myself up to arrive back at home by tea-time (about 6 pm), but it was nearly this time and we were still in Warrington. At this point we’d have had roughly thirty more miles to travel and at our normal LEJOG pace, this was going to take about two hours. We passed through the centre of Wigan and I guided Paul through some of the pedestrianised streets, past Mesnes Park and up towards ‘The Cherry Gardens’ (public house). Apparently, he felt he was lost on previous visits to the town and was always under the impression that he was travelling the ’long way round’. Hopefully, with my superior local knowledge (I’m long time Wigan Rugby League fan and used to visit Central Park often) we passed through the town a little bit quicker than he normally would have.
I just wanted to be home now. There were no County border check-ins now, Lancashire was nothing new for us and other than seeing loved ones there, was nothing to get exited about. Stopping would just delay that happening. We got to the outskirts of Euxton and I needed a natural break, whilst only about ten miles from home, it was a bit cooler now and I couldn’t wait. There was realistically another forty minutes of riding from hear. This was very frustrating, as without the luggage, it would be about thirty. We decided that it didn’t make any sense Paul waiting around for me, as we were ultimately heading for different destinations and Paul had three or four miles to cover compared to me (I’d have to make those up the following morning). The end of the A49 seemed to take forever on my own again. I final got to the edge of Bamber Bridge (the village next time mine). This was a very welcome sight and I was very soon back at home.
All in all, this was my least favourite day of the entire journey, but there were some good bits and it was good to be briefly back at home.