Day 7 - Utkinton to Clitheroe

Old friends (above) send me off at Tirley Garth (view of this beautiful house below)

Today's route took me through the most built-up area I shall experience on this entire ride. I was again very fortunate with the weather - some light rain for a while but nothing heavy. And a brisk southerly wind, perfect for driving me north.

It was a joy to see a number of old friends at Tirley Garth over breakfast and they gave me a warm send off at 9am. It was overcast and drizzly. My route took me soon onto the CTC route, which I stayed with for the rest of the day: Acton Bridge - Lymm - Leigh - around Bolton - Blackburn - Clitheroe. The early part was reasonably rural.

Just north of the M56 I stopped in the sheltered old gatehouse of a church to spread some sandwiches. A black beetle looked quite interested in the ham, but when I offered him some breadcrumbs he turned away in disgust. As I re-emerged onto the road, two long-distance cyclists rode up and we compared notes. They had left Lands End on the same day as I had, and were aiming for John O'Groats on the same day as me! Their route had been rather different from mine but we had been in Monmouth and Shrewsbury on the same days. They were much less heavily laden than I, and when we parted they pounded on - though we passed eachother a couple of times before they finally vanished into the distance.

At Lymm I passed a bike shop and bought a new inner tube, as the one which burst in Devon was full of patches and deserving of being thrown out. Much of the route was now through small towns and housing estates in this broad band of inhabitance between Manchester and Liverpool. But there were also some rural areas, and at one such point I passed over a toll bridge (bikes were free, which saved me the princely sum of 12p) over the Manchester Ship Canal.

When I reached Leigh I was feeling rather tired and hungry (I think the weather was depressing me, because the riding was easy). I spied a pie shop and entered. "I need a pie to carry me on to John O'Groats!" I told the proprietor. "Oh," he said, "who are you doing that for?" "For African Aids orphans," I told him. I asked what pie he recommended and accepted his suggestion of a juicy steak pie. "How much do I owe you?" I asked. "Nothing," he said, "that's my contribution. And would you like a drink?" I was touched by this act of generosity and support from a complete stranger.

After Leigh the road started to climb steadily, continuing after skirting Bolton, high up into the hills. I was surprised to find myself entering the wildest country I had yet experienced on this journey, and reaching 360m (1200ft). Wonderful moor land. Then a descent into Blackburn where I had a bit of difficulty finding the best (most hill-less) route out to the north east.

On the A59 I missed a turning north-east, and so found myself arriving in Clitheroe, a little bit out of my planned route, but no disaster. On the outskirts of the town I passed a farmhouse B&B and decided to call it a day, as I was not sure of finding B&Bs on the lonelier roads further north. I had done 66 miles, leaving slightly less for tomorrow. Total ascent for the day only 3240 ft (average 49ft/mile).