I tried to wake up early to get underway on what I knew would be a long day, but my body was beginning to protest against the treatment I was giving it. This was going to be the most gruelling day in terms of mileage, although it was largely on the flat and without any fixed time deadline. The only requirement was that it would be easier to finish in daylight so that I would be able to see where I was going!
I was situated in a hotel on the Dearne Valley parkway, just outside of Barnsley. My destination was Sheriff Hutton, 10 miles north of York, over 60 miles away. A steady and constant pace would win me through this battle, as well as keeping well hydrated with regular breaks.
As I left the coalfields of South Yorkshire behind, the scenery turned a little more idyllic along the banks of the River Don. Castles, viaducts and other old relics remained in the landscape as picturesque landmarks to break up the journey. I wasn’t the only one attempting this route that day – there was a group of lads also on their way to York. In the first hour we had passed each other several times, and I later learned that the guy with the road bike had suffered three punctures! Needless to say, we weren’t on the road at any of these points!
I had planned lunch for the village of Snaith, which was about half way on the map. I’d made good progress although it was 2pm already, so a later lunch than usual but nevertheless things were going to plan for a change.
I didn’t quite have the same energy after lunch though, and saddle sore was now really kicking in after a long morning. The next 7 miles to Selby were much slower, and far more painful. Fortunately a Halfords appeared along my route and I stopped to get a padded saddle cover, a much needed extra layer of padding at this stage!
By then it was getting on for 5pm, and I still had 16 miles to York. I trundled on, eventually reaching the beginning of the dedicated Cycleway, an old railway running straight into the city. I was alarmed to see signs for Uranus here – eventually it became apparent that there was some sort of scale model of the universe laid along this straight route, and it formed the only entertainment along a very straight and boringly efficient piece of track!
I love visiting York, although this wasn’t really on the agenda today. A quick stop for a picture at the Minster was all I had time for as it was beginning to get dark. 10 miles to go and I needed to be able to read a map and navigate from it to reach Richard Smith, who had kindly offered to put me up for the night. I didn’t quite make it before dark, but I was close! Apart from being horrendously sore by this point, this was the only day which had happened according to my original plan!
Richard and his wife were very accommodating and even had dinner waiting for me on arrival. He seemed humbled that I’d taken the trouble to come all this way. In truth, I was honoured to be their guest.
Part of my motivation for travelling up there was to pay tribute to Derek Watkins. The other part was that I play one of his instruments, and the Army make good use of his fanfare trumpets. I was aware that Richard was behind the design of the legendary 928 Sovereign cornet during his time at Boosey & Hawkes, an instrument I had used before the Smith Watkins version. I had the chance to learn all about this over dinner, as well as hearing about how he formed the company with Derek.
Retiring to a much needed deep sleep, I reflected on what was another triumphant day. However, I was also making contingency plans again. There was no chance of me cycling another 60 miles tomorrow in the state I was feeling, and the opportunity to spend a little more time around the workshop could be too tempting. I would have to wait to see how I felt in the morning after a much needed period of recovery.