Travellers’ tales: Return to Land’s End

 A man is standing next to the Land's End sign, which points to the Scilly Isles and John o' Groats. It also says Saltdean and the date May 21st. He is wearing shorts and a club cycling jersey. He is leaning on the sign. He has a loaded touring bike.
John was better prepared for his long-distance ride along England’s south coast the second time around
In his youth, Cycling UK member John Holmes traversed the south coast of England. Fifty years later he did it again. Find out what had changed in those five decades

In 1973 I set off from home near Brighton to cycle-camp down to Land’s End with my friend Brian Wattling. Last year we met up again, and it seemed like a good time for me to repeat the journey on the 50th anniversary of the ride.

In 1973 we knew nothing about cycle camping or the geography of southern England, but we had a book listing camp sites, a small map and a plan: head west. I now have an old Dawes Galaxy, plenty of maps and enough money to catch the train back from Penzance rather than cycle home.

The plan for 2023: head west again… but not along the main roads like we did in 1973. I needed no GPX files, mileage, speed or time measurements on this journey either.

I took a smartphone with me, which I occasionally used to phone people in the evening. No phone box required now. Loaded up, my bike weighed about 50kg.

In a scan of an old photo, two men are standing next to the Land's End sign, which points to Brighton and the Scilly Isles. It also has the date 16 August 1973. They are both wearing sweaters and trousers.
In 1973, John and his riding companion also rode home again

So what has changed in 50 years? Villages used to have useful shops and facilities but now some are devoid of community life. Only house names hint at their past: the old post office, the old pub, the old police house, and so on.

Towns like Fowey in Cornwall are now full of drinking, eating and arty establishments. But if you want to buy a banana, there’s one small convenience store left in town. I did get to speak to one local with a Cornish accent in the countryside miles away from Fowey. On the upside, camp sites generally have better facilities.

I got home at midnight after a ride from Brighton station. Will I do the ride again? Perhaps in another 50 years! It’s hard work riding/walking the Isle of Wight and the coasts of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

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