Using a network of educators from the 15 National Parks, Lorna received feedback on routes and enquired what engagement opportunities with communities or park visitors would be afforded. In addition, the public, cycling groups, plus staff and volunteers from the National Parks were invited to join Lorna on any stretch – with the caveat that they had to ride at her pace.
On her first day, starting from the Cairngorms National Park at 8am Lorna cycled 125 miles, arriving at her designated sleeping place, a bunkhouse, at 9.30pm. It had been a good day in that she had company for the first 30 miles and had achieved well above what was to be her daily average distance of 101 miles.
She said: ‘I was very excited on day one. It was very windy but the scenery was beautiful. I was on a high and it was a relief to be on my bike at last because the planning and preparation had been stressful and difficult to fit in with my full time job.’
But challenge had already kicked in. The temperature at Aviemore was -1°C. Lorna was cycling against headwinds with gusts of over 40 miles per hour and was blown off her bike on the Dromochter Pass, despite being partially sheltered by Cairngorm National Park ranger Al Smith who was cycling in front.
The hardest challenge of the fortnight came on day two, which involved cycling 149 miles from Loch Lomond National Park to Northumberland National Park. Lorna had linked up with a friend from Glasgow, Ruth Hind, and the pair had set off together for the hilly trip riding directly into South, South Easterly winds with 40 mph gusts. But progress was so difficult the pair parted ways.
Lorna said: ‘It felt horribly sad. It was a slog and the most mentally challenging day. I just knew I had to keep pedalling but it took every effort to turn the pedals. And it wasn’t the prettiest route. I was on an old road next to the motorway. It was exposed and difficult and I had to mentally get into the zone to keep going. I just looked a metre ahead of my wheel and didn’t think of anything.
She failed to reach her planned destination, which was The
Sill Youth Hostel and National Landscape Discovery Centre in Northumberland, before it closed at 11pm and ended up staying in Gretna Green. Lorna had fallen short by 25 miles on day two, which at her cycling speed of just 11 miles per hour due to bad weather conditions, was a cycle ride of 2.5 hours.
She said: ‘It was hugely disappointing. My boyfriend and my mum wanted to talk to me and give me encouragement but I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just couldn’t let my guard down. I needed to be in fight mode and couldn’t allow myself to let my emotions get the better of me and become vulnerable.’
Each day Lorna was drinking six to seven 750 ml bottles of water to keep hydrated and eating vast quantities of calories to provide her with the energy to keep going. Her mainstay of accommodation was provided by YHA Youth Hostel Association and each morning she would eat a full English breakfast, followed by several bowls of cereal, then finished off with two rounds of toast and a croissant.
To keep up her mood as well as energy levels Lorna ate on the go every hour of the journey: a banana, a Cliff bar, a croissant with ham, a hot cross bun, then another peanut-butter-filled Cliff bar before stopping for lunch. Small and satisfying comforts were discovered through hard days and evenings of cycling.
‘I wanted to engage face to face, to communicate and get a buzz from sharing my passion and the excitement I have for the natural world and the benefits to
be had from being outdoors’
ABOVE: Lorna Fisher puts in some last minute training in the Peak District