Night-ride - Barnes to Birmingham!

Posted by: Anthony


Friday 3 March, 7.30pm - Saturday 4 March, 7.30am Town Hall Birmingham

Almost five years since my epic Land’s End to John O’Groats concert tour by bike, I am thrilled to announce the recycling of the Olympianist for a new challenge: London to Birmingham over-night. This is a un undertaking that is less grand in timescale, but no less bold in ambition - and perhaps even more daunting.


Olympianist 'Recyling' Tour - Weds May 30th to Tues June 5th

It was with a heavy heart that I left Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on the UK mainland, and set off in the BeethoVan for my 'recycling' tour - the Olympianist's swan song - for this year at least!
Torridon in the western Highlands was our first port of call and the scenery here cannot be compared to anything else in this country, such is its majesty. Torridon community hall lies directly beneath the steepest mountain in Britain and it rises like a spectre from sea level to 3500ft (the mountain not the hall!): Britain's North Face, but here cushioned by the milky glow of Loch Torridon, and befriended by many other Munros (Scottish mountains above 3000ft) within its reaches. A slight glance to my left from the piano and I could see the gullies at the top beckoning me back to my other love - hill walking! 
-Thurs 31st we travelled back to strange and pleasant lands - England - and passing many of the roads where we had cycled on the way up - nostalgia doesn't distinguish between days and years. It took us 10 hours to drive through Scotland and my achievement was becoming ever more apparent! A night off at my parents' house in the Lakes and then a latish start the next day to Shropshire for a concert at Concord College in the middle of nowhere. I have to admit it wasn't easy shrugging off the anti-climax, but as soon as I was on stage in front of an audience the adrenalin started flowing again. 
-Sat June 2nd - my goodness it's June I only just noticed - what happened to the darling buds of May?! Mind you the weather was deserving of February but, wouldn't you know it, the gods smiled on us again for the BeethoVan concert in Much Wenlock, site of the first modern Olympic games (a little-known fact). I heard rumours of Jubilee mania gripping the country and splendid river pageants in a distant city called London. 
-Saturday June 2nd WALES! Sorry we didn't cycle through you, but a big detour to Lampeter in Pembrokeshire, so we hope you feel less galled by it. 
-Sunday June 3rd cycled to Tenby and gales were in order but we weren't paid to be galled by the worst weather of the whole trip - was good to be back on the bike again though. I was temped to cycle to St David's Head, Wales' most westerly point, and then I could have claimed to have been to the extremities of three of the four home nations.
Monday June 4th - home territory and a visit to Henley Park near Windlesham, Surrey, coming full circle to the neck of the woods where I had done much of my winter training with Twickenham Cycling Club. I performed on the BeethoVan in the beautiful grounds of an historic lodge once used by Henry VIII for hunting, and now home to a prince from the Hohenzollern nobility - albeit living amongst others! I was met by an orchestra of hooters and eventually got my photo taken with the Queen.....cardboard cut-out, picture to follow.
We raised over £1000 from the local residents - fabulous - which pushed us ever closer to the £1000 per 1000 miles statistic! Thank you Henley Park!
-Tues June 5th a final, raucous and rib-splittingly funny homecoming bash with cycling buddies at the Hambleton-Greys in Twickenham, home of the best curry in the Western Hemisphere - no kidding. Natasha and Sophia made an Olympianist cake replete with UK map, route, piano, and bike ingeniously carved into the cake - now that's appreciation! I am though having a hard time shedding that glitter they threw over me! 
- Today June 6th - unpacked, tidied up my flat, went to the Supermarket and bought some batteries...WOW
Fear not, the Olympianist will return in 2013 for an even greater quest!

Day 21 Dornoch to John O'Groats....via Duncansby Head

I was determined to go the extra mile - well extra 4 miles to be precise - to reach the very north-eastern tip of Scotland, 2 miles east of John O'Groats - however non of team Olympianist were aware of my intentions so were waiting anxiously by the official LEJOG sign by the sea front in the town centre, fearing a last-minute puncture, mechanical glitch, or even a lunge into a ditch!

Day 20 Nairn to Dornoch

Posted by: Anthony

Penultimate day! Feeling full of anticipation and excitement after the 2nd last day, but also awaiting the inevitable nostalgia for life off the bike - I shall miss our beautiful country lanes.

Day 19 Boat of Garten to Nairn

Posted by: Anthony Hewitt

A respite from the miles today and it felt like a holiday in the utterly glorious weather. We opted for a more leisurely approach (albeit in attitude not necessarily speed!) and plotted an indirect route that took us past spectacular scenery including he Lochindorb.

Day 18 Pitlochry to Boat of Garten

Posted by: Anthony

The Mediterranean-like azure skies remained for the Highlands today - the land of the brave, Picts, Scots and Celts - and of my savage brother, who joins me for the last four days! Seriously, he's a real fighter in the best sense of the word, and with little training he seems to be keeping up with my pace over long stretches.

Day 17 Dundee to Pitlochry

Posted by: Anthony

A 'broken chord' on the drive shaft of the BeethoVan meant my 'roadies' had to divert back to Perth for emergency repairs. The Mercedes Benz garage in Perth (Scotland not Australia) came up trumps and rushed through a major repair in a few hours (ironically sourcing the spare part from Dundee where we had just been). BeethoVan arrived at the venue just in the nick of time to offload the piano for my foyer concert at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre - a cultural gem on the foothills of the Highlands. At first the audience were just a few, sipping pre-theatre drinks and then for a while there were just two who had come especially to hear me - and they benefited from a private concert. The crowds later gathered before the show and in the interval resulting in donations of £250! It's becoming clear that the British are a mighty charitable bunch! The scenery is becoming more and more spectacular and with the arid weather the scent from the pine trees is so strong you could be duped into believing you are in the Rockies!

Going Forth to Tay! It's not every day you cycle over two of Britain's great engineering marvels - the Forth and Tay Bridges, but to Tay we did, from the Forth on the 24th!

Day 15 Kelso to Edinburgh

Posted by: Anthony Hewitt

Week 3! Can't believe I have cycled for two weeks already. Today was a short 41mile ride to Edinburgh - such a beautiful city with the castle and Royal Mile tapering down to the Mound where we had a BeethoVan concert. Had to usurp the bagpipe player and I am not sure who's side the tourists were on, but he was glad of an extended lunch break and time to tune his pipes.

Day 14 Dumfries to Kelso

Posted by: Anthony Hewitt

Another glorious day as I set off for an 80mile ride. Who said it always rains in Scotland?! Today's route took me through some of the remotest territory in the UK, up to the exquisite Eskdalemuir and then a long descent through coniferous forests which afforded me cool shade from the dazzling sunshine.