Land’s End

As a follow on to the previous post, this morning my mum came into the room brandishing a photo:

Lands End

A group photo of all the people on the coach tour my great grandmother Ida took in 1950.

Here she is in the dark hat on the left with two of her sisters to the right of her:

Lands End detail

The coach is branded “Smiths”. I assume it’s the same Wigan-based Smiths that went on to become Shearings through a series of mergers.

The back of the photo is stamped 7th of June and marked up as being taken by Richards Bros, photographers based in Penzance.

Travelled just over 1,000 miles

When my gran died, I inherited her postcard collection.

Tucked in amongst the postcards, we found a handwritten list of British placenames.

Quite a long list.

The list

The list

It’s the itinerary from a seven-day bus tour my great grandmother Ida took in June 1950. Departing from Northenden at 7am (presumably where she’d been staying with some of her many sisters – we’re not sure if any of them accompanied her on the tour update – we’ve got this photo), she then got a taxi into Manchester, a bus over to Wigan and then boarded a long-distance bus bound for the South West.

Ida

Some of the photos we have of my great grandmother Ida

Her journey took her down the Welsh Marches then into Devon and Cornwall, where she spent most of her week away.

I’ve plotted the places from her list onto a map:

All of the places on the list plotted on a map

All of the places on the list plotted on a map

(Did I mention it was quite a long list?)

1000

1000

The reason this list found its way into my gran’s postcard collection, was that Ida had bought various postcards during her tour to mark the places she’d visited: Tewkesbury Abbey; caves at Cheddar Gorge; the postbox at Land’s End…

Some of the postcards Ida bought as mementos of her trip

Some of the postcards Ida bought as mementos of her trip

I knew as soon as I found the list that one day I would re-trace the journey that Ida documented, but it’s taken 15 years for the right time to come. With the residency I’m currently doing at Wolverhampton being based around a mechanical cabinet as a device for linking observers with someone travelling by bicycle, I needed a suitable journey to undertake to provide the data to animate the cabinet’s workings. A journey that would feed the themes of effort and connection that I’m wanting to explore. That’ll be this one, then!

So I started looking at that sequence of locations in more detail, wondering how it might work out as a cycling route. Not too badly, it turns out. One thing that rapidly became apparent however, was that I’m not going to be able to do the whole trip in one go. Taking just her first day though, Northenden to Bristol, works out at a decent 300 mile cycle tour and about 8 days of pedalling.

Day One of Ida's tour

Day One of Ida’s tour with purple place-markers and my cycle route starting to get filled in between them.

My planned route in blue, and a likely route Ida may have taken in cyan

My planned route in blue, and a likely A-road route Ida may have taken in cyan. Not a bad match for most of the route

I’m planning on taking camping gear with me and overnighting at campsites, so that’s influenced my route a bit, as has trying to avoid too much unpleasantness in urban areas. I’ve also afforded myself leeway to divert a bit for good bridges or other points of interest such as the Dramway – a horse and gravity powered line transporting coal from collieries north of Bristol down to the River Avon. ‘cos, y’know, if I’m going to cycle 300 miles, I’m going to make sure I savour the opportunity to see things that I’d otherwise be oblivious to if I was travelling by car.

Other diversions have also had to be put into operation. I’ve not done an awful lot of cycle touring before, but I’ve already learned that the official National Cycle Network‘s approach to routing isn’t always amenable to a fully-loaded touring bike. These two bits across fields, for example:

National Cycle Route 5

National Cycle Route 5

National Cycle Route 5

National Cycle Route 5

So, with my route largely based on some of the National Cycle Routes, but amended after checking with others’ experiences and scouring the satellite view of it all, I think I’ve pretty much got 8 days of 30-40 miles pinned down. This should be a nice balance between covering ground, being able to stop and explore stuff encountered en route, and having time to sketch and reflect.

I’ve really enjoyed the last week of poring over maps and putting together my cycling route. Hat tip to http://www.gpxeditor.co.uk which has been an invaluable tool. It’s tempting to jump in and start doing the same for the remaining 6 days of Ida’s tour. If nothing else it’s like vicarious cycle touring pleasure whilst the weather’s wet and wintery.

Whereas I think her first day was mostly about getting to the South West, it seems she leapfrogged about a lot more once she was down in Cornwall. That first stage of translating a series of place names into a journey through the in-between places is going to be an interesting one. I suspect the terrain’s going to get a lot lumpier too!

It looks like this section of the trip’s going to happen in early June. So quite an excruciatingly long wait between now and then. I do need to build that mechanical cabinet though, and I also want to experiment with making a few modifications to my tent, so there’s plenty to be done in the meantime! First task, whilst I’m waiting to get back in the workshops: read Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust…

[Edit: me actually cycling this in June is now looking unlikely due to knees] :-(



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