Day 6 – Wednesday 24/07. An alternative perspective from Rachel Slattery. 100.72 miles.
Despite a lack of sleep due to the barrage of thunderous detonations and the periodic electric discharges, which scared both Tess (in the campervan) and Darren’s dog (in his bed) we all started the day looking surprisingly fresh – Jane looking the freshest of us all. We bid farewell to Darren and Alison who had been fantastic hosts leaving Coppull in a blur.
Richard was on a mission, he had spent the previous evening memorising the route from Darren’s house to Liverpool and we made good time. The roads were definitely busier than my morning commute, so with Richard’s memory and Jane’s ‘post-its’ I had little to do but try and pick up Jane’s system for warning me of upcoming man hole covers, drains and pot holes. This consisted of a lot of wrist action and exaggerated pointing which was very difficult to keep on top of as there were so many hazardous faults. Jane had become so proficient at this she continued to gesticulate to other road users when at the back of the peloton. Later in the day Richard informed us that if you go past 3 manhole covers in a row you have to shout ‘toast’ for no other reason than his daughter said so.
Having reached the sign for Liverpool the post-its and directions ran out, we knew we were heading for the ferry but quite how we would get there was a different matter. Having first perfected our gesticulations for broken glass and speed humps – or as Jane quite loudly exclaimed ‘boobies’, Richard haphazardly navigated us through the centre of Liverpool. On reflection we should have perhaps followed the signs for waterfront which would have probably saved Jane a few extra grey hairs.
Eventually the Liver Birds came into sight and Jane could breathe again. Making it just in time for the commuter ferry which ran before 10 and looking forward to the free coffee we were promised at the other side we had 5 minutes to take some quick pictures of The Beatles.
We did not factor the very friendly Liverpudlian bloke who was very keen to point out the acorns in John’s hand and the L8 under Ringo’s shoe which he insisted I took a picture of having to position myself upside down to do so. As a result, we missed the commute ferry and ended up paying 3 times as much for the tourist ferry which took us to the same place. On the plus side we did get to see the Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse (at the time of it’s construction in 1901 claimed to be the worlds largest building); the Victoria Tower (a grade 2 listed Gothic revival clock tower famous for its 6 sides), where they used to store gunpowder on the other side of the river for safety purposes and learn that The Beatles performed aboard the Iris during river cruises in the 1960’s.
Upon alighting from the ferry in Birkenhead we discovered that signposts had not been reinstalled following World War 2 and therefore the post-it method of navigation failed us. We resorted to phone technology with Jane leading us quite competently to Neston. From here we were able to locate the Sustran’s Route 56 signposting us to Connah’s Quay which proved to be a lovely surfaced track leading us across the Dee Marshes on tarmac and board-walks with some speed humps providing us with the opportunity for a few bunny hops.
We were not worried as we approached the MoD at Sealand upon hearing gun fire as we knew Richard’s rucksack would provide ample cover from stray bullets.
Jane knew we had to cross a metal bridge to get round to Flint and sighting what we later discovered to be the Queensferry Crossing could not work out why we were going away from it. Slightly disappointed by the rail bridge we eventually crossed, we joined the A548.
At this point Jane could sense Tess who was waiting for us in Prestatyn with Matt and was in need of a parent fix, so it was heads-down and full speed ahead. As we neared, and thinking that Tess and Matt might be cycling/running out to meet us, attempted to join the signposted cycle route. This proved to be a disaster as the track was very overgrown causing multiple nettle stings and thistle scratches to be then met by a couple of frisky bullocks. We decided to re-join the A548. It was on this section we had our only near miss of the day when a black Fiesta driver decided to make a left turn right in front of Richard, who was not.
A welcome break ensued where Matt waited on us with tea and sandwiches and Jane spent some parent time on the beach doing cartwheels, round offs and butterfly catching. Richard, Matt and I admired the striking population of seaside tourists comprising of a lot of white legs, kids who drink far too much Fanta and elderly men with their tops off. Matt had very cleverly parked the camper in a prime location where the sand had covered over the double yellow lines, he was in no danger of being moved on.
The surreal leg from Prestatyn to Abergele took us through a world of half-naked, flip flopped clad communities housed in holiday camps. Particular points to note in this section; we saw 5 police cars (not having seen any prior or indeed post this section), you get heckled by the local youth and the road kill is different, not a rabbit, badger or hedgehog in sight, the place was littered with the carcasses of dead seagulls.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE IF ANYONE CAN CYCLE WITH JANE ON THIS RETURN LEG ON FRIDAY SHE IS CURRENTLY RIDING IT SOLO AND I FEAR FOR HER REVERSE SYSTEM OF ‘POST ITS’ TAKING A WRONG LEFT TURN IN THIS AREA WILL UNDOUBTEDLY MEAN THAT SHE WILL NOT GET TO CLIMB SCAFELL.
At Abergele we noticed a sign to Llanrwst which would cut the corner not taking us towards Conwy as the ‘post its’ dictated. Having ridden an entirely flat route until this point we ventured into more agreeable territory with a 3 mile uphill to start and then an undulating road through Llanfair and the Elwy Valley. This route also provided us with more opportunity to add to our individual tally in the Araf game. You play this by shouting out Araf when you see it written on the road, you can only shout out the Araf’s on your side of the road and not those in the opposite direction. At the end of the day Richard reckoned he had about 8, I had lost count but think that Jane won as she was particularly enthusiastic, despite continually reminding us she was not wearing her proper glasses. Snowdon was in view as Jane led us down into Llanrwst and then along the final stretch to the campsite.
Our final point of note was the large collection of marquees erected below the campsite, these were to house The National Eisteddfod of Wales a travelling annual festival embracing all that is new and youthful in Welsh culture. Attracting around 150, 000 people, this weekend is set to get busy. Not being an ideal base to get a good nights sleep on your Pedal to the Peaks challenge it is just as well that Jane will not be camping here again.
On arrival, Tess led us through a detailed and extended yoga cool down, performed her gymnastics routines and allowed us to mark her out of ten on her cartwheels, round-offs and handstands. We then filled ourselves up with delicious spaghetti (thank you Matt) and left Jane looking as fresh as she did at the start of the day.