Cycle the length of Britain with Fern Britton, riding 57 miles a day to raise a target of £57,000 to help end miscarriages in pregnancy.
One in four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage and 1-2% of couples in the UK experience recurrent miscarriages - something the Genesis Trust aims to conduct further research into the cause of.
Fern, who turned 57 this year, said that she wanted to complete an epic challenge, and settled on a plan to “gather together men and women of a similar age or sense of adventure who’d like to cycle the greatest challenge the British Isles can offer” - Lands End to John O’Groats.
Challenge 57 is made up of three multi-day stages held between 1 – 21 May 2015 and participants can choose to cycle the whole way or one of six stages made up of (approximately) 57 miles per day over 2-4 days’ cycling.
Participants must raise a minimum sponsorship of £550 per stage (£760 for the last two stages) or £3550 for the entire tour.
Fern said: “Miscarriage is heart breaking and we all know someone who has suffered. Maybe you have suffered too. Isn’t that a good enough reason to join a crowd of courageous – possibly mad – men and women and do something that can change our world?”
She added: If you’re worrying about your physical fitness and ability to face this challenge, you’re not alone. I’m worried too. I’m 57! But this is my 10th year of cycling for Genesis Research Trust and I can assure you that at every turn you will be supported.
“Ideas on training, doctors on hand on the trip, a rest vehicle to take a breather on when the day gets a bit too much. (By the way, the rest vehicle is not a sign of failure, it’s a sign of good sense. Always take a break when you really need it. That way you won’t get injured or spoil the trip for yourself and others.)”
Fern is no stranger to cycling challenges having taken part in a 310 mile ride in Estonia and Russia, also to raise money for Genesis Research Trust, and a 250-mile charity bike ride across Cuba, The Nile, India and China for Women for Women cycle challenges.
Fern said: “I get a great deal of personal achievement out of these rides and also a great sense of pride when we add up how much we have raised so far.
“For me, it’s not who gets over the finish line first. For me it’s watching the person who has dug deep, got on their bike, trained as much as possible and crosses the line despite not being the youngest or fittest of the group. I know because I was that woman.
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Day 1 – John O’Groats to Brora (1 May 2015) Approx. 63 miles
The famous John O’Groats sign marks the start of our mammoth challenge. After a group photo we leave the north- east tip of Scotland for a day of spectacular cycling through dramatic scenery. We head west to visit Scotland’s most northerly point, Dunnet Head, before riding due south towards the famous Highlands. The roads here are deserted as it is the most sparsely populated region of Northern Europe. We reach the North Sea, via sparkling Loch Watten, and follow the picturesque coastal road south west to Brora. This remote seaside town was the first place in the north of Scotland to have electricity thanks to its world-famous wool industry. Stone in the nearby Clynelish quarry was used in the construction of London Bridge.
Day 2 – Brora to Invergordon (2 May 2015) Approx. 50 miles
Today is an exhilarating ride along the coast with wonderful views out to sea. En-route we tackle some of the hills and glens for which the Highlands are famous. We pass through the village of Bonar Bridge then cycle across atmospheric moorlands on remote roads. Our destination is the port town of Invergordon, surrounded by mountains and gentle rolling farmland. It is a popular spot for large cruise liners, as the deep water port allows disembarkation for visitors to the northern Highlands.
Day 3 – Invergordon to Fort Augustus (3 May 2015) Approx. 57 miles
We head deeper into the wilds of the Highlands for another memorable cycling day. This morning we ride past Dingwall, close to the dramatic waters of Cromarty Firth. From there we make for Inverness which was recently voted the happiest city in Scotland. The highlight of today is bound to be the world-renowned Loch Ness. We cycle its full length – 22.5 miles of rugged shores – with plenty of opportunities to look out for the mythical Loch Ness Monster! We ride past Urquhart Castle which remains an impressive stronghold despite its ruinous state then through the village of Invermoriston. Fort Augustus, on the southern shores of Loch Ness, marks the end of the day.
Day 4 – Fort Augustus to Glencoe (4 May 2015) Approx. 57 miles
A magnificent day of dramatic West Highland scenery. This morning we ride alongside glistening Loch Lochy, whose steep, forested hillsides give a fjord-like feel to the landscape. Loch Lochy forms part of the Caledonian Canal – Britain’s longest inland waterway with a series of man-made canals and lock systems. Next stop is Fort William, which lies on the shores of Loch Linnhe with fantastic views of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. The rest of the afternoon is spent riding along the picturesque banks of Loch Linnhe. The final stretch takes us across Loch Leven to arrive in Glencoe, Scotland’s most famous and atmospheric glen.
Day 5 – Glencoe to Inverary (5 May 2015) Approx. 50 miles
Saddle up for a beautiful section through the rugged Central Highlands. En-route we pass Loch Tulla and the Bridge of Orchy which crosses the River Orchy, known as one of the finest white-water rivers in the UK. We ride close to the famous West Highland Way, Scotland’s premier long distance footpath. Later on in the day the landscape is dominated by the peaks of several Munros including Beinn Dorain and Beinn as Dòthaidh. We arrive in Inverary late afternoon.
Day 6 – Inverary to Glasgow (6 May 2015) Approx. 64 miles
An action-packed morning of cycling along the shores of Loch Fyne, known for its world-famous oyster-beds which we pass en-route. As the day progresses we ride through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park which boasts some of the most stunning scenery in the world, from the breathtaking mountains and glens of the Trossachs to the beauty of Loch Lomond, mainland UK’s largest body of water. As we approach Glasgow the roads become busier and our surroundings more built up. We cross the River Clyde via the Erskine Bridge and stay overnight on the southern edge of the city.
Day 8 – Glasgow to Moffat (8 May 2015) Approx. 57 miles
We set off from Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, which recently hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The first few miles of cycling are through the Greater Glasgow urban area but before long we’re back onto quieter roads. We join the course of the River Clyde which features on our journey over the next two days. As the road bends to the east where the River Clyde and Avon Water fork, we enjoy views back across Strathclyde Loch. Then it’s south over the Southern Uplands past rolling green glens, dense Caledonian pine forests, Roman camps and fortlets. We end the day at the picturesque town of Moffat nestled in between the Lowther Hills and Eskdalemuir Forest.
Day 9 – Moffat to Carlisle (9 May 2015) Approx. 68 miles
An exciting day as we cross the border into England. From Moffat, we continue through the Southern Uplands with its rolling green hills, dense forests and open moorland. Our route passes Lockerbie and Abington before by-passing the picturesque market town of Dumfries, near the mouth of the River Nith. This afternoon we ride through Gretna Green famous for its ‘runaway weddings’ before crossing into England. Reaching the border will be a major milestone having completed over 465 miles of our epic journey! From there we pass historic Hadrian’s Wall en-route to our overnight stop in Carlisle.
Day 10 – Carlisle to Kendal (10 May 2015) Approx. 55 miles
We set off from Carlisle, which due to its location has hosted various historic figures including Emperor Hadrian, William Wallace, Rob Roy, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. It is a challenging ride ahead as we journey through the Eden Valley and the busy market town of Penrith. The hills of the spectacular Lake District are visible in the distance as we approach Shap Fell. It’s a significant climb but our exertion will be rewarded at the top with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. Then it’s a welcome ride downhill towards Kendal, southern gateway to the Lake District National Park and home to the famous Kendal Mint Cake.
Day 11 – Kendal to Blackpool (11 May 2015) Approx. 57 miles
We leave Cumbria and cycle into Lancashire, passing through quaint hamlets and villages en-route. Lancashire has a rich cultural heritage – JRR Tolkien, the Brontes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visted and found inspiration for their novels here. Cycling west we reach the coast via the salt flats of Morecambe Bay. The route is generally flat from here as we follow the Lancaster Canal to the county town of Lancaster which boasts an important maritime history as one of the major ports in England. We cross the River Wye and end the day in Blackpool, one of the UK’s most popular seaside resorts known for its famous illuminations.
Day 12 – Blackpool to Manchester (12 May 2015) Approx. 55 miles
We head from the coast to the city of Manchester, leaving Blackpool we skirt round the southern edges of Preston. Located on the north bank of the River Ribble, Preston was granted city status in 2002, becoming England’s 50th city in the 50th year of the Queen’s reign. One of the highlights of the day will be Cuerden Valley Park, Lancashire’s premier country park with woodlands, meadows and ponds along the valley of the River Lostock. From there our route sweeps through the suburbs of Adlington and Salford before reaching Manchester.
Day 14 – Manchester to Market Drayton (14 May 2015) Approx.64miles
We leave the vibrant city of Manchester past the Old Trafford Football Stadium and through the suburbs of Stretford and Sale. Mid morning we reach Cheshire which boasts some of England’s most scenic countryside and is mainly rural and agricultural. We discover many of its small towns and villages today including Northwich, Moulton, Winsford and Nantwich. The terrain is much flatter than previous days along the Cheshire Plain and the miles pass quickly. Our destination is Market Drayton in north Shropshire close to the Welsh border.
Day 15 – Market Drayton to Stourport-on-Severn (via Shrewsbury) (15 May 2015) Approx. 57 miles
Get set for a scenic day of cycling through the heart of England. Mid-morning we reach the medieval market town of Shrewsbury, birthplace of Charles Darwin. The River Severn forms a loop around the picturesque town centre with its black and white timber-framed houses, quaint narrow streets and over 660 historic listed buildings. Next stop is Ironbridge, a village on the banks for the River Severn which is famous for its beautiful gorge and Iron Bridge, the recognised symbol of the Industrial Revolution. We continue through the pretty town of Bridgnorth and into Wyre Forest National Nature Reserve, one of the largest ancient lowland coppice oak woodlands in England. From there it’s just a few miles further to our overnight stop at Stourport-on-Severn, a Georgian canal town in the heart of the Severn Valley.
Day 16 – Stourport-on-Severn to Stroud (16 May 2015) Approx. 57 miles
A glorious day of cycling through the Cotswolds, the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales. We discover a quintessentially English countryside of gently rolling hills dotted with sheep. Ride along country lanes fringed with crumbling dry stone walls and through the foothills of the Malverns. Marvel at picture-postcard villages of honey-coloured limestone which gives the Cotswolds its distinctive character. There will be time to appreciate our surroundings en-route at well-appointed break-stops. From Worcester, we ride through the picturesque towns of Tewkesbury, Gloucester, Panswick and Quedgely then along traffic-free railway paths and canal towpaths to Stroud. This area of the south Cotswolds has been named by Lonely Planet as one of Europe’s best kept secrets.
Day 17 – Stroud to Weston-super-Mare (17 May 2015) Approx. 50 miles
A beautiful day of cycling along the Severn Estuary. The River Severn is the UK’s longest river at 220 miles. It runs from the Welsh mountains and meanders in and out of the counties of Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire before emptying into the Severn Estuary which forms a physical boundary between England and Wales. Our route runs parallel to this massive estuary past Bristol reaching the town of Clevedon late afternoon. On a clear day there are stunning views from Clevedon across to the Welsh Mountains which have inspired many great writers including Tennyson, Thackeray and Coleridge. The final stretch of cycling is to the Somerset seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare.
Day 18 – Weston-super-Mare to Tiverton (18 May 2015) Approx. 55 miles
The sweeping bay of Weston-super-Mare is a fantastic backdrop to the start of today’s cycle challenge. We saddle up and ride south through the coastal village of Uphill. Then it’s inland past the eastern slopes of the magnificent Mendip Hills, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Mid way through the day we arrive in the market town of Bridgwater on the edge of the Somerset Levels. From there we link up with the canal towpath cycling 14 miles south west to the county town of Taunton. The last part of the day is across the border to Devon and the historic town of Tiverton.
Day 19 – Tiverton to Tavistock (19 May 2015) Approx. 64 miles
From Tiverton in mid Devon it’s a hilly stretch to reach Dartmoor National Park, the largest and wildest area of open country in southern England. It was recently used as a film location for the Spielberg blockbuster, Warhorse due to its stunning light and landscape. We arrive at Okehampton, a centre for green tourism and a gateway for car-free access into Dartmoor National Park, then it’s 15 miles south to Tavistock. We encounter Dartmoor’s wild and dramatic scenery as we tackle some of the most challenging cycling of the entire ride. We end the day in the picturesque town of Tavistock which straddles the fast flowing River Tavy.
Day 20 – Tavistock to Newquay (20 May 2015) Approx. 52 miles
We set off from Tavistock and head straight into Cornwall with the end of the ride drawing ever-closer. We clip the southern edges of Bodmin Moor, a dramatic granite moorland often shrouded in clouds of mist. From there we cycle east along quiet leafy lanes which meander through picturesque villages and spectacular rolling countryside. We overnight in the lively town of Newquay, a watersports paradise thanks to its long golden beaches and excellent surf.
Day 21 – Newquay to Land’s End (21 May 2015) Approx. 57 miles
A momentous day as we reach the end of our epic journey. We set off via Redruth and Camborne where a large part of the land was once an island. Heathland covers the granite outcrops and the area is scattered with remnants of an ancient heritage. At Hayle we reach the coast and enjoy glorious views across St Ives Bay. From there we cycle from the north coast to Mount’s Bay on the English Channel. Here our route clings to the coastline past St Michael’s Mount which rises dramatically out of the sea. Once through Penzance the excitement builds as we cross the finish line at Land’s End amid much fanfare.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.