The final countdown

Posted by on 1, Nov 2023 in 2023 - Cathedrals, Europe, Tilly the Tandem, UK, Western Europe

The final countdown
The famed Southwell leaves..
Autumn on its way….
The Stump..
Not much else in the fens !!!
Bury St. Edmunds
Wymondham Market Cross
And finally…our arrival at Norwich Cathedral
Ready for this ..????????????????????…
And that’s a wrap…..

Awaking to fog is always disheartening in the tent as you just can’t dry it before putting it away, but it looked quite beautiful lying low across the fields around us.

We managed to get away early and head into Southwell to visit the minster, which is also a Cathedral and a Parish church.  Most Cathedrals aren’t parish churches, presumably keeping the plebs out of the Cathedral. You may think I’m joking, but in the Catholic days the monks didn’t want worshipers in the cathedral, they wanted Pilgrims as they brought the money!

We arrived as the sun came out and a service was in full swing, so we sat on a bench outside for while until the service had finished then managed to get a guided tour from one of the welcomers and meet the clergy and have a photo op with the Dean!  Another surprisingly beautiful Cathedral.

We’d left the hills and thankfully the cycle barriers behind and had a very pleasant and easy cycle to Lincoln, getting our first glimpse of the Cathedral sitting majestically on the horizon 27km away! The view was impressive today, but what must the Pligrims have thought hundred of years ago?

We always manage to sneak about on back roads and tracks and thought for once we’d been beaten when we came across a closed railway crossing gate. But it turned out to be one of the few crossings left in the country with a crossing keeper housed in his portacabin just to let us cyclist through and after waking him from his slumber by ringing the bell we were over the line. We picked up the old railway line into Lincoln and arrived at our Premier Inn for the night through the lovely small very touristy city streets.

We were very glad that evening that our hotel was at the bottom of the hill, as the next day it required multiple stops just to push to the top!  But the Cathedral was amazing.  One of the most impressive cathedral grounds and old buildings we’ve seen.  You could easily picture stepping back into a Dickens novel and it being unchanged.

We were allowed to bring Tilly in again and had a wander around before rolling (literally) out of Lincoln and on to the cycle path to Boston. We had a choice of routes here, but decided the flat route would be a better bet than the hilly one. What a shock eh?

Boston was a real surprise. I worked there numerous times years ago and thought it was at the end of the world and run down, but the town centre is nice with a huge square, shops and the Boston Stump, one of the largest Parish churches and towers in the UK.  Certainly more impressive than most of the Scottish Cathedrals! (sorry Scotland)

The following day, our flat route came up against the English equivalent of the Dutch Mountains with a strong head wind all day on our way to Peterborough. I think we’d rather have cycled the hills again as there is very little shelter in the fens and with the wind against you, no respite.

But it was actually a very nice route. Winding roads through tiny villages and hamlets and a nice cycle track too at times , though the gravel surface added to the effort considerably.

We had a day off in Peterborough at the Airbnb we had stayed at when we did the LEJOG. An amazing place and still looked brand spanking new. Unlike Peterborough which looks very very poor and run down on the outskirts but does have quite a nice centre with another lovely Cathedral and an excellent cycle route system which is very Dutch like.

There isn’t a pleasant direct route on from Peterborough and we had to vear off into the country to avoid big roads and back into the hills….ok ‘mole’ hills by comparison with what we’ve done.  We ended up getting stuck in the mud on one section of ‘National Cycle Route’ and had to scrape mud off the wheels every few meters to allow us to push the bike. It was clay and just stuck to Tilly making it impossible to push which is always fun! But our accomodation for the night again was fab, which always helps after a hard slog of a day ..

We were now feeling we are nearly home with signs for Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds and followed some lovely routes towards Ely, this time desperately trying to out run the rain that we could see on the vast flat black skies behind us.

We hurlted along – ok, for most of our fellow fleet footed cyclists this would be more like a crawl, but to us it was pedal like crazy time! – and got to Ely and tucked Tilly in the Cathedral porch before the rain arrived, had a lovely tour around the Cathedral, came out, turned the wrong way, got drenched in the torrential rain that suddenly arrived in seconds and then had to retrace our steps….. finding our accommodation was directly opposite the cathedral and we could have go there completely dry! Ooops….But thankfully it was another fab airbnb in another nice little town. I know it’s a city but it is so small!

‘Welcome to Suffolk’ signs greeted us the next morning and there we were.. back in the county we started in.  God’s own county and simply one of the most beautiful anywhere, with the best football team in East Anglia too…. Haven’t been able to say that for a few decades and that’ll annoy the neighbours (Norfolkites!)

Bury St Edmunds again welcomed Tilly into the Cathedral in another Parish church conversion to Cathedral. It’s a small affair with a new Spire but once was the Parish church for the Cathedral (plebs only) with a simply enormous Cathedral next door to it – the 4th largest in Europe. The picture of it gave you an impression of the size and the poor current Cathedral was tiny by comparison. The old Cathedral gardens are all that’s left of this once magnificent place.

We were now on the final countdown and headed on toward Norwich on another sunny but cold day. We definitely looked a bit weird sitting on a bench in Attleborough having our rolls for lunch, but this is Norfolk, so weird is normal…

We didn’t know how long it would take us to get to Norwich from Bury so had arranged with the Cathedral to complete our cycle Pilgrimage the next day at 10.00. So our final Premier Inn was about 500m away from the Cathedral and after our last Porridge Pot of the tour for breakfast arrived at the Cathedral to be greeted by the Eastern Daily Press Photographer and to the watching crowds, had to do various poses for her embarrassing!

The Cathedral welcomers at the doors included the Cycling Champion and Clergy, who arranged for us to park Tilly securely inside the Cathedral Sacristy with the communion wine!

We had a fab guided tour with a proper guide for once who then proceeded to embarrass us infront of the other people on the tour by detailing our adventure for them, but she was an excellent guide and we thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

And then it was done and dusted. We’d cycled 4761 km, around 52 Cathedrals on 105 days in just over 4 1/2 months.

We headed to the station, put Tilly on the train the cycled back to Taffy before heading onto Ipswich docks for a celebratory drink with family and it suddenly seemed like a dream.

Since then we’ve spent 2 weeks doing absolutely nothing. We’ve hardly been able to move off the sofa, and one day ventured to Felixstowe for a walk along the promenade and had to sit down half way like a couple of pensioners as we were so knackered!

Neither of us can actually believe we cycled this anymore and can’t even face cycling into Ipswich at the moment. But our medals rolled up in the post as proof we did actually do it… And it appears, we are the first people in the world to do this trip in one go on a tandem bicycle .. Guinness book of records here we come!


  1. Guinness Book of Records ?!!! Certainly a bit of one-upmanship and bragging rights there! But seriously, many congratulations again. And so glad you included Scotland on the tour!

    • ???? Glad we included Scotland too, a couple of very welcome relaxing days with you guys, thanks!

  2. An outstanding trip, have loved reading about it and would love to think we could do it – lottery win needed- while still capable! So nice to meet up with you during the adventure and lots of congratulations ????????????

    • Thanks Jane and John, it was great to meet up with you on our trip and helped make this one of our favourite tours so far. Get that lottery ticket bought!!

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