Want to meet inspirational people who are pushing their personal boundaries to the limit? Then I heartily recommend a trip to John o’ Groats or Land’s End, which are commonly regarded as the furthest points on mainland Britain which can be travelled on public roads.
Neither is a destination renowned for its scenic splendour, both being eclipsed by wilder and more ruggedly beautiful compass points nearby – Dunnet Point being the most northerly bit of Britain, while Lizard Point is the southern extremity in Cornwall.
But it is here that almost every cyclist you meet has a fascinating story to tell, many personifying the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, while all demonstrate that we are capable of much more than we realise.
I’ve yet to encounter another distance walker but have really enjoyed the camaraderie of cyclists everywhere; meeting them head-on as for safety reasons I generally walk on the ‘wrong’ side of the road facing oncoming traffic.
Dunnet Head is a place of spectacular cliffs, soaring seabirds and wild seas, and it was here that I photographed charismatic young Russian Natasha Krasnikova, without then knowing her story. A few hours later we met by chance in a hostel and she invited me to share her celebratory wine and cheese feast, having hitch-hiked the length of Britain on the greatest adventure of her young life. She was justly proud and exuberant and bursting to share her joy and sense of accomplishment. Life really does begin at the end of your comfort zone.
Her objective is to pedal the entire 7,240km (4,500-mile) coastline of Britain, having already accomplished a third of that. “I love cycling and wanted to see the coast,” she explained. You go Girl!
Some days earlier Anna had visited the Findhorn Foundation community and ecovillage, and wrote on her blog: “The whole place was brilliant and no hippies in sight! It makes you wonder why everybody doesn’t live like this. It’s comfortable, community-focused and green. I wish there were more places like this.”
Both Anna and Natasha spoke glowingly of a young artist called Frank who’d sketched and painted his way north. Why didn’t he cycle, Anna demanded? “Because I don't know how to ride a bike,” he admitted honestly, although he of all people now knows what he is capable of. Perhaps the greatest legacy of his adventure is the art he has lovingly created and posted home at regular intervals.
Bravo to all these brave souls!