Day 2: St Ives to Wadebridge

Distance: 53.51 miles
Time: 5 hours 5 minutes
Average speed: 10.3 m.p.h.
Distance from Lands End: 73.51 miles
Distance to John o’Groats: 946.49 miles
Number of cheery waves and supportive toots: 15 (approx)
Number of times Jonathan had to shout ‘OI’ at inconsiderate motorists: 2

St Ives was a pleasant surprise – elegant and well-kept, not at all the tacky sea-side resort we’d been expecting. We stayed at the St Eia Hotel, whose proprietor made a generous donation to the Macmillan fund. A pre-dinner drink in the evening sunshine at the harbour was quaffed hastily as we left to avoid the occupants of a neighbouring table, whose collective aim seemed to be to get steaming drunk in a new world record time, bizarrely with the elderly parents of one of them in tow. The elderly parents were NOT joining in the record attempt, we felt very sorry for them. We ate a good meal at the Ocean Grill before walking back around the harbour and up to the hotel.

After breakfast this morning we set off up the gentle hill out of St Ives, perhaps the only hill deserving of that description today! Unfortunately the wind was blowing in precisely the wrong direction, slowing us down all day. So much for the prevailing south-westerly… We cycled on main roads through Hayle, before turning off onto the coast road towards St Agnes. We soon encountered our first fellow ‘End-to-Enders’, two blokes cycling fully laden with camping equipment and multiple panniers, and looking somewhat less than cheerful, it would have to be said. One was wearing an ‘Ardbeg’ T-shirt, though sadly carrying none.

We encountered the first of several steep ‘down-and-ups’ at Gwithian, which set a pattern for the day. The decision to take the quieter coast road inevitably meant that we encountered a steep valley each time we crossed a river or stream. This meant a lovely glide down to a seaside village, admiring the golden sands on the beach and feeling envious of the people bathing in the sea, then noticing the road on the other side heading back up at a steep gradient. After thirty or so miles we headed up a particularly steep hill near Cubert and, feeling in need of food and refreshment, fortunately happened upon the Smuggler’s Den pub, virtually at the top of the hill. Lunch was declared and enjoyed, with the exception that the chef seemed unable to distinguish between the terms ‘char-grill’ and ‘nuke-in-microwave-until-tough’. Still, the beer was good, and soon we were refuelled and set off towards Newquay.

If St Ives was a pleasant surprise then Newquay was the opposite. The roads were filled with what one could only term ‘clarksons’ – petrol-heads and boy-racers in under-silenced chav-racers. We did our bit by setting off the speed warning screen coming down the hill at just over the 30mph limit, which made us grin! It was a relief to get through the town and turn off on the Padstow road. There then followed a series of steep valleys, sapping what energy we had left as we passed through Watergate Bay and Mawgan Porth. We were fairly tired by this point but knew that once we arrived at Padstow we could join the Camel Trail for six final gloriously flat miles to Wadebridge, our destination for the day.

There were lots of walkers and cyclists on the Camel Trail, and we stopped about halfway along for the last bottle of water, and to enjoy the view down the Camel estuary. We heard “Not far to go then!” in a familiar accent, and had a good chat with a couple from Wakefield who’d read our ultimate destination on our shirts. We arrived in Wadebridge at 4:30 to discover that the Tourist Information Centre shuts at 4 on a Saturday (of course, because there won’t be any tourists on a Saturday…), but fortunately we’d come armed with some addresses of possible places to stay, so we were soon settled into a lovely room at the Swan Hotel.

Definitely a tough day, although we knew that the first few days would be hard – it is likely to remain hilly until we reach the Somerset Levels. Our target tomorrow is Okehampton, a slightly shorter day but with some substantial climbs.

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