Red Sandstone, Coal, Millstone Grit – Manchester to London 2015

Now that we’ve brought in the New Year, preparations are underway for next year’s edition of Manchester to London, Rapha’s one-day, 350km ride in aid of Ambitious about Autism. Emma Osenton, the principle route designer of the inaugural edition, writes here on taking up the challenge.

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January is a funny time. A new year has begun, yet the weather leaves you feeling static. This is the time for me to reflect on the past year and plan new adventures, picking my way through events and rides, the ones I’ll repeat, maybe faster, the ones that left a scar, and the ones best left for another day.

I’m drawn back to exploration, uncovering different layers of the landscape. Manchester to London was one of these routes. Up on my bookshelf sits the dusty copy of C.E. Montague’s The Right Place, one of my main influences for writing the route. This paragraph has always stayed in my mind.

“Red sandstone, coal, millstone grit, mountain lime-stone, millstone grit, coal, red sandstone – the order of their coming tells its own tale. You have crossed such an arch as one might make by pasting three layers of cardboard together, bending them into a semicircle, and then planing the top of this arch off till two of the three coats of cardboard were worn through and the third exposed. An insect passing over such an arch would traverse first the raw edge of the worn top layer, then the raw edge of the second, then an expanse of the now exposed lowest layer, then the raw edge of the second layer again, and finally the raw edge of the top layer again.

The cyclist is the insect; the top layer is coal; the second layer is millstone grit; the third is mountain limestone. The three, laid flat on one another, have been warped up into the Pennine arch, here called the Peak.”


The inaugural ride was such a special day, riding off into the morning mist only for the day to open out into warmth and sunshine. The volunteers from Ambitious about Autism seeing us off with cheery smiles, popping up again at the feed stops. A glorious day.

I was lucky enough to visit Ambitious About Autism’s Treehouse School in the lead up to the event. Many of us have experience working with people with special needs, and I thought of them as I walked around this amazing facility. But Treehouse School is just the start of the journey, and with the help of fundraisers like us, Ambitious about Autism can do more and more, creating opportunities that would otherwise not be available to children with autism. Why not join Rapha and ride Manchester to London for them this September?

Rapha will support you every step of the way, with training rides, advice, fundraising tips, and route recces. Sign up, start riding, and I’ll see you in Manchester.



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