Dawn on Sunday and an early start saw the riders and cycles kindly taken back to their finish point of the previous day by John Bruffell and Jan Jackson. Although it had rained during the night and was now overcast, to the west the weather was clearing and looking into the distance traces of clear blue sky could be seen. Obviously, this was never in doubt for all know that the sun always shines on Liverpool.
Whilst the intrepid cyclists continued on their journey, the members of the support team, now re-joined by John and Jan, went about devouring the ‘full English breakfast’ set before them back at Blakey Hall Farm. This was a gargantuan struggle to complete, as the poor cyclists had had to leave before the breakfast was served. There again, the driver and passengers had to keep their energy up to remain alert on the busy road, while the cyclists could just relax and daydream as they pedalled serenely through the countryside admiring the natural beauty of the English landscape. Breakfast finished, all showered, bags aboard, the bill settled, the support team bid a fond farewell to their genial hosts Rachel and Stephen Boothman and drove out to catch up with the riders, somewhere.
At this time, the riders had continued on towards the blue sky and warm sunshine to the west, when as in previous years they had to come to an immediate standstill. This event first happened in 2014 at Skipton with Stu Hyde leading the way and again outside Royal Leamington Spa in 2016 when Geoff Cuthill was at the fore. With memories flooding back the riders had to manage a deep intake of breath and hope they could summon up enough strength to overcome the obstacle right before them. Looming large in their immediate path was the nightmare that had to be overcome, standing poised to strike, legs astride the towpath, a muscular fully expanded chest, this immovable character screaming ‘come on then, bring it on’. There was no doubt about it, this deranged menace was obviously the ‘daddy’ of the locality adverse to strangers and was not about to lightly yield what he saw as his territory to a bunch of transients on wheels. His partner was busy weighing up the situation, deciding if she should ready herself to enter the forthcoming fray but still busied herself gathering in her signets in a protective cuddle.
Eventually using the cycles as a shield, the transients negotiated the flapping wings, constant hissing and after a well-aimed few strikes all safely passed, leaving ‘dad’ with what looked like a self-satisfied grin of victory, having seen off those who had dared to encroach on his territory and disturb his family’s aquatic peace and harmony, in what was now fine sunshine.
Continuing ever onwards with the occasional enigmatic whisper of leather upon willow floating with the breeze as the village locals engaged in their favourite historic pastime. The group soon came hurtling down the famous ‘Wigan Flight’ of 21 locks, passed Wigan Pier, renowned throughout the world thanks to the pen of George Orwell, and through to Crooke village. From here it was a short ride to the Baby Elephant at Gathurst, Shevington, better known to those who can remember the former canal side pub, the Navigation Inn. Waiting in great anticipation to greet the riders was former Liverpool Masonic Hall Manager, and a true pie-eater (Wiganite), John Barnes with his wife Sandra, who had thoughtfully brought along water, Mars Bars and Milky Way’s, (other chocolate bars are also available).
John had taken part in the 2014 ride but was unable to join in this time due to recovering from a knee replacement operation. The two events it must be added are not connected, come to think of it, neither was John’s upper and lower leg for a time. After catching up on old adventures and the latest gossip it was time to bid a fond farewell to John and Sandra as the couple headed off for the excellent Sunday dinner which is served at Bryn Masonic Hall.
Pressing on, under the M6 motorway, passing Wigan Athletic FC and on through to Parbold sees the riders make good progress to their next stop at Burscough. More familiar faces were waiting here to give their support and encouragement in the form of Howard Youdan and his wife Cath with their son Mark, who had spent most of the day playing ‘catch up’ in looking for the riding team. Howard is the official treasurer for the Crafty Companions Cycling Circle for all their charity rides as well as charity steward of Temple Lodge No 1094.
With just 24 miles left to go now the sprits are high as the weather is bright sunshine and warm. ‘Hancock’s Swing Bridge’ sees the riders on the final approach to the famous ‘Canal Turn’ at Aintree Racecourse, on through Litherland, leafy Bootle and then to the Eldonian Village. It is here the riders leave the canal as it passes under Great Howard Street into Stanley Dock, finishing in Canning Dock.
From the Eldonian Village, they ride gracefully along the road to Princes Dock and along the famous Mersey water frontage to finish at 4:20pm in front of ‘The Three Graces’ at the Pier-head. Here they meet the support team to celebrate the completion of yet another successful ride and fund raising event. It is of note that this year nobody managed to take their bike for a swim, or shredded the inner tubes, ‘they must have been taking it too easy’, was the general consensus amongst the onlookers. At this point in time the ride has made £4,463.50p but more is arriving daily with the closing date for donations towards the 2017 ride at the end of June, which will be divided between the ‘R’ Charity of The Royal Liverpool Hospital and The Motor Neurone Society.
Thanks are due to all those who have donated in support of the event and those who worked quietly in the background, and it is with great satisfaction that taking the previous rides taken into account over £25,000 has been raised since 2014, just because a few like-minded individuals got on their bikes and pedalled.