Whenever we get inspired by elite adventurers or tales of epic expeditions, we get our heads together to think about how we can interpret them into something that we can do as a family. Of course, we accept that we have limitations (skills, age, experience, financial) that might mean we can’t always do some of the adventures we would like to do, but we’ve found that with a bit of creativity and imagination, even the biggest of adventures can be made accessible to a family.
And so when we saw adventurer Sean Conway’s Length of Great Britain Triathlon, it got us thinking. Before not too long, the idea to complete a width of Great Britain Triathlon seemed pretty obvious.
Leg 1 – Paddle the Great Glen Canoe Trail
Prior to this challenge, we’d done very little paddling before, so we had to make sure our approach to what could have been quite a dangerous journey (there was cold water and kids involved) was as safe as possible. Our solution was to paddle the Great Glen Canoe Trail, using the official website as our planning guide, and to paddle it as a tag team.
Kerry and Ella would paddle all of the canal sections – and the smaller loch called Loch Oich – where the waters were calmer and less affected by wind and currents.
Amy and I paddled the longer lochs Lochy and the famous Loch Ness. The wind blowing down these larger lochs can result in some rough water – in fact, Loch Ness is classed as an inland ocean and the waves can be a metre or two in size when it is windy.
Leg 2 – Walk the Hadrian’s Wall Coast to Coast path
OK, so we’d done lots of walking before (in fact we’d already walked the 100 mile long Ayrshire Coastal Path) so we felt pretty confident about this leg. It was just a case of breaking the journey down into manageable chunks and then getting our heads down and plodding on.
Kerry and the girls walked the full distance of 90 miles from Tynemouth to Bowness on Solway in seven days, having had a day off in the middle due to very bad weather.
Leg 3 – The Trans Pennine Trail
Earlier this year, we were staying in Southport for a couple of nights and whilst out for a morning run along the seafront, we noticed a sign and map of the Trans Peninne Trail, a 215-mile cycle route across the country that starts in Southport and ends in Hornsea (or vice versa). We immediately knew that it was something that we wanted to do. As a family we set ourselves a challenge to complete a Width of GB Triathlon. Having already completed the Great Glen Canoe Trail by kayak last year and walked the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail last month, this then became the third leg of journey – the cycling part.
The journey began on Bank Holiday Monday. Just as everyone else was enjoying the sunshine, lying on Southport beach or spending money in the amusements and on fairground rides, Tim and the girls were strapping on their helmets and jumping on the bikes to head south towards Liverpool. It was my turn to be the support driver this time and our motorhome was once again the support vehicle. I hadn’t done much of the driving since getting the motorhome and felt quite excited at the prospect. Sitting behind the wheel of a large vehicle can initially seem intimidating (which was how I felt when we drove out of the Elddis factory back in November last year) but I was looking forward to this.
The first day began with an easy cycle into the north of Liverpool; this allowed us to clock up a few miles towards the big total and warm up the legs for the days to come. I drove to meet the cycling trio in Netherton and we returned to our base for the night at Southport Caravan Club site. This was how we planned to it; each day we’d drive to where we stopped; Tim and the girls would begin cycling and I’d meet them at a designated finishing point for the day. I’d find laybys, RSPB reserves, streets or car parks in supermarkets or pubs that were close to the trail. our stopping / starting points along the trail were Netherton, Thelwall, Portwood (Stockport), Dunford Bridge, Sprotbergh,Selby and Hessle and the mileage covered each day on bike varied from 12 miles (first day) to 35!
Some days were slow going – for me not them – as I sat in traffic jams in Liverpool or manoeuvred the windy roads up and over the Peninnes. The cyclists made good progress, increasing the miles that they covered each day. The stretch over the Peninnes was difficult and very tiring, and this led to a mid-week dip in energy levels but not enough to stop them! They all got a psychological lift after passing the halfway point.
As we progressed across the country we stayed at various caravan sites, according to how far the cyclists could travel in a day. As the legs got stronger and the determination to complete the challenge became more resolute, the miles were quickly ticked off and after 8 days of hard work the third leg of our Width of GB triathlon was complete. The finishing point for this journey was Hornsea on the East coast and I was joined by the grandparents to welcome and congratulate the weary but proud cyclists as they completed the 215 miles across the country.
Trans Pennine Trail