Way of the Roses: Day 6 (and the last!)

Driffield to Bridlington to Filey 38 miles

Some people have cool jobs! Over our final full English breakfast of the trip, we chatted to a young ornithologist who was spending a few days in the area studying specie numbers on a given patch allocated to him. This meant that he had to get out of bed before dawn, drive for half an hour, and spend an hour observing and counting species and varieties of birds. We assumed he was having his second breakfast of the day. At first I thought he had an enviable way of making a living……but then I wasn’t considering the variable weather he would have to endure to complete his studies. Perhaps spending a lifetime in the classroom wasn’t such a bad option after all.

This was a day of crossing, and re-crossing the same railway line…..some 7 times in all, and it wasn’t always straightforward. Two of the crossings were closed to traffic, but allowed access to pedestrians and cyclists. Well, that’s all fine and dandy….but they hadn’t allowed for tandems! I mean, how do you get a tandem through two kissing gates…….? And yes, we had to unload the panniers and part-lift the machine over the barriers. Hey ho…….the trials and tribulations of double bikers.

Happy in the knowledge that the end is nigh.....

Happy in the knowledge that the end is nigh…..

One of the delights en route to Bridlington was stopping at the Manor House of Burton Agnes, where we found one of the most perfect tearoom terraces. It was tempting to linger longer in the pleasant surroundings, but we decided to look around the medieval Manor House, cared for by English Heritage, and free to enter. An unexpected little bonus.

Medieval Manor, Burton Agnes

Medieval Manor, Burton Agnes

And so to Bridlington, where we found that the signs marking the finishing post were exactly the same as the ones across the other side of the country, in Morecambe. We coincided with two chaps who had just finished the same route, and they were beginning to ponder: what next? I dangled the prospect of doing LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats) in front of them, but they thought it sounded a bit too tough. But then they were still feeling the aches and pains of the ride just completed……

The finish, Bridlington

The finish, Bridlington

Then joy of joys, we may have completed the Way of the Roses, but we had saddled ourselves with an extra 12 miles to Filey, having been kindly offered the use of a holiday cottage by a friend and former pupil. It turned out to be a beautifully refurbished (and extended) fisherman’s cottage, with a bait house that perfectly fitted the tandem, and a bedroom view of the sun rising over the sea. As I opened my eyes on the first morning, I was greeted by an autumnal sun rising through the mist over the water.

And as I close this account of the ride, I leave you with that image……20140911_070504_Android

Way of the Roses: Day 5

Dunnington to Driffield 43 miles

One thing you must understand about the National Cycle Network……it seldom takes the shortest route to a given destination.20140909_162546_Android Why? Well, you could say that cycling between any two points should be about the quality of the experience and not about the speed of arrival…….I know some will say that is a moot point, but SUSTRANS (the charity that creates and maintains these routes) seems to have a clear philosophy…..which is borne out by the indirectness of many of their routes.

Today’s was a case in point. A Googlemap cycle route shows that it should be no more than 28 miles, but the SUSTRANS option takes you off-road and on huge dog’s legs, keeping to minor roads. At one point, Driffield was only 8

Route 66

Route 66

miles away (according to a signpost), but 15 miles later, we found ourselves entering the outskirts of the town.

No sooner had we left Dunnington, we found ourselves heading east on Route 66. I think it was no accident that SUSTRANS chose to christen this Route 66: like its more famous sibling it runs east to west (Spurn Head to Manchester), but I am sure it has never been used as an important migratory route in the demographic history of this country. I could be mistaken.

Going through Stamford Bridge made us realise that we have passed a lotStamford Br of battlefields in the last few days. If King Harrold had not had to rush north in 1066 to stamp down a rebellion led by his brother Tostig, who knows what the outcome of the Battle of Hastings would have been. The history of the last 1000 years of this country could have had a very different complexion. And I know many would say ‘for the worse’…….

As we headed further east, we were reminded that climbing was not just a thing of the Pennines….we had the Yorkshire Wolds to climb over. Not as brutally steep as the Pennines, but there were some long arduous climbs. And as we were recovering CIMG9888from our exertions in a garden centre tearoom, our attention was caught by this mural of the Way of the Roses. We liked it so much we enquired about the availability of paper copies……but no, the mural had cost them £400, but it was just that……a painting on a wall.

When we arrived in Driffield, I was intrigued by the name of our accommodation: Hotel 41. Disappointingly, however, the number simply referred to its door number: 41 Market Square. But you can imagine our further ‘disappointment’ when they informed us our room was being decorated, and would we mind having an upgrade? I do like the dry humour of Yorkshire people.

Way of the Roses: day 4

Boroughbridge to Dunnington 30 miles

Unbelievably, we had the prospect of a whole day without any significant hills! And what’s more, the breeze was in our favour…..surely we hadn’t died in the night and gone to cycling heaven?

Crossing the Ouse

Crossing the Ouse

The pace was brisk, we followed the Ouse in the direction of York, when I remembered there was a café on the site of old railway sidings near Shipton. We found it, sat in the conservatory, and vacantly watched trains speed by along the East Coast line. But this was no ordinary café……..it was also a restaurant and B&B….but the accommodation for both was in old train carriages that had been specially refurbished. I wondered if a night’s stay included the rhythm a sway of a train in motion, and the clickety clack of the rails under-wheel…..now that would have been original.

Accommodation at the Sidings

Accommodation at the Sidings

When we arrived in York, to continue the theme of railways, we spent 3 very enjoyable hours loitering with intent in the National Railway Museum. Not only can you enjoy a meal in a re-creation of a restaurant car, but you can also go for a guided tour of the famous royal carriages, and if your stomach is in order, enjoy a simulated experience of the Mallard breaking the world steam locomotive record of 126 mph. When we read the long list of precautions (heart problems, high blood pressure, pregnancy…….etc) we wondered if anyone actually ever qualified to enter the capsule…….

The real Mallard

The real Mallard

And then a quick zoom into the centre of York to have one of those very irritating “we woz ‘ere” photos taken outside the Minster, and then we battled our way out of the city, joining the homeward surge of commuter traffic, to find our overnight stay outside the village of Dunnington, and later to join our friends David and Marion for an evening meal. Perhaps the best day of the ride so far.

Outside York Minister

Outside York Minister

Way of the Roses: day 3

Pateley Bridge to Boroughbridge 27 miles

Breakfast this morning revealed a group of cyclists who were doing the Way as a supported ride….in other words, they had a sag-wagon carrying their luggage, and a leader arranging café stops and meals in the evening, as well as all the accommodation. We chatted to a lady in the group (riding a small-wheeled Alex Moulton) who was feeling the strain of being over-organised…..which only served to confirm for us that doing these rides independently is the best way. Or in the words of the pessimist: “you make your bed and lie on it”. Well, given that we had just spent 8 hours lying on a super-comfortable bed, it was now time to consume the full English and get back on the road.

Note the smile.....

Note the smile…..

So, were the big climbs now behind us? Well……kind of, but not quite. One more remained, over Brimham Rocks, and I knew it well……I had climbed it only two weeks before on my solo, and I knew it was going to be touch-and-go on the tandem. And sure enough it was….so for one final time (?), we dismounted, but this time safe in the knowledge that the rest of the day would be a ‘breeze’…….after all, there would be several miles of descent to the Ouse valley and, of course, we all know that rivers never flow uphill……..

Brimham Rock formation

Brimham Rock formation

A refreshment stop at Fountains Abbey saw us join a ‘confluence of tandems’, which I craftily inspected while the owners were putting miles back into their legs inside the café. Very nice machines, indeed. Two Santanas and a Thorn…….roughly with a combined value of some £25,000. Yes, we are talking about serious investments here…….not the sort of things you randomly leave outside of cafés without a secure lock. And when the owners emerged to mount their steeds, they all had the air of being life-long thoroughbred tandemists…….there was effortless coordination in their mounting and taking off, and an ease about their style of riding.

Two Santanas and a Thorn

Two Santanas and a Thorn

We couldn’t pass through Ripon without paying a visit to the Cathedral, and had heard beforehand that it was hosting an exhibition of local artists. I have to say that our attention was captivated as much by the art as by the building…..the two together made for a fascinating hour.

Outside Ripon Cathedral

Outside Ripon Cathedral

And so to Boroughbridge, close to the scene of the famous battle of 1322 between Edward II and his rebellious barons, and roughly the halfway point of our own ‘battle’ of the Way of the Roses. And the sun was shining……..

Way of the Roses: Day 2

Giggleswick to Pateley Bridge  30 miles

To have only one wet day on the entire ride, but for that day to be the biggest climbing day……..where’s the justice in that? We gingerly set foot outside only to be greeted by the dull, grey promise of what was to accompany us for the rest of the day. On went the rain tops,

Looking back over Settle

Looking back over Settle

and the day’s ride was to take us to the highest point of the entire route, 1300 feet, at Greenhow hill (just outside Pateley Bridge). As promised by the local man at the bar, the climb out of Settle was murderous. No way could we ride it on the tandem. Even young fit riders were walking, pushing their solos. But this was just the start of things to come……

Approaching top of Greenhow Hill

Approaching top of Greenhow Hill

The Pennine hills usually have a nasty sting in their tails. Every time you go around a bend, hoping the climb is about to end, you realise it is only a false summit. On one occasion, we were at our limit, slowly grinding our way to the top of a long drag. Around the bend was a suggestion that we were topping out…..but no, the climb uncomprehendingly continued for as far as the eye could see. We had hit our limit……. Jenny (bless her) had a few moments of tears, but quickly recovered, and we hauled the tandem to the top.

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And when you look for the payback, the welcome descent after the long climbs, it can be disheartening to discover the drop is just too steep for a laden tandem that relies entirely on two V brakes for its stopping power. The drop down into Pateley Bridge approached 20% at times so, guess what? Instead of throwing caution to the wind and hurtling down into the town, we actually had to walk down much of the descent. Adding insult to injury?

However, the saving grace at the end of the day was to check into the Harefield Hall hotel in Pateley Bridge, discover we had a room with panoramic views over the open countryside and, after a challenging wet day, find we could sit by a blazing log fire and let the warmth of the flames soothe away the aches and pains. And the tandem? We simply wheeled it, over beautiful carpets, into the one of the front lounges of the hotel…….spoil the tandem, spoil the customers.

And tomorrow was to be another day……..

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Way of the Roses: 204 miles

The wanderers have returned. In many ways, this has been an epic journey, especially for Jenny. It is 33 years since she has done a multi-day unsupported tandem ride of this length. Why so long? Well, I’m sure there are a few good stories to tell there, but suffice to say ‘life just got in the way’.

The start point in Morecambe

The start point in Morecambe

This was not going to be like one of my own solo treks. It was not going to be a mad dash over the Pennines, ‘busting a gut’ to get to Bridlington in two days, by-passing everything of interest on the way. It was calculated to give both of us a good daily work-out, but with time to have relaxing stops for refreshments, pay the odd visit to passing landmarks, and stay comfortably in a B&B at the end of the day. I wanted Jenny to finish this trip with a sense of achievement, but with a smile on her face……… ;0)

We shared the planning: I sorted out the logistics of the ride itself, the projected stopping points, and how to get to and from the start and finish (always a problem with linear routes, especially with a tandem). Jenny sorted out the accommodation which, given that it coincided with the first week of term, should have been easy……but far from it. September is the time for the silver generation to head off on late summer breaks, so there was much competition for just about everything.Route map.1

Day 1 Morecambe to Giggleswick 37 miles

It was just by chance that we met Gary at the start of the ride. He happened to be one of the volunteer route designers for Sustrans, and he was waiting for a colleague to arrive to confirm a bridge closure on the route. Thanks to him, we set off forewarned of a diversion which could have made a big difference to the projected day’s mileage.

The first ten miles were a delight, following dedicated cycle paths along the River Lune. At the Crook o’Lune, we climbed away from the river and started heading up into Bowland Forest. This was where the serious climbing began, but not before negotiating this odd tunnel that seemed to be designed for a badger run rather than a cycle route

Badger run?

Badger run?

Astonishingly, we managed to climb a 16% hill, but then thought the better of such lung-busting exertion when more such hills presented themselves. There’s no shame in walking. Many solo riders were doing the same. If you have never ridden a tandem, you need to know there is a law of physics which will limit your success at climbing hills but, conversely, that same law will see you descending at break-neck speeds, hurtling down much faster than the average solo rider and, sometimes, much faster than your brakes will safely permit.

If not on their bikes, cyclists will generally be found skulking in tearooms!

If not on their bikes, cyclists will generally be found skulking in tearooms!

And so to Giggleswick, just outside Settle, to the Craven Arms, where they were able to squeeze our tandem into their shed, and provide us with a comfortable room. Chatting to one of the locals in the bar, we were quietly informed of the challenges of the next day’s route. The climb out of Settle, he told us, is difficult even in a car! But more of that in the next post…….the-craven-arms.jpg Giggleswick

20th century Spain: a history

Julian Casanova Breve HistoriaOne of the great benefits of using an e-Reader is the quick availability of foreign language texts. I remember waiting several weeks for Spanish books to arrive from source, but now I can access them in seconds, and carry several around without adding volume and weight to what I carry, other than the reading device itself.

This over-view of the history of Spain in the 20th century is much more than an ‘everyman’s version’, diluted and simplified to attract a wider readership. It takes us from the rural, agricultural economy in the late 19th century through to Spain’s integration into NATO and the EEC in the late 20th century. Through the upheaval in politics in the 1920s, the devastating period of the civil war 1936-39, the brutal aftermath followed by nearly 40 years of authoritarian government……then it emergesShort Hist Spain Julian Casanova in the late 1970s into the gradual process of democratization, the shedding of the painful memories of repression, and the growth of a country with a new constitution into the country we know today.

The narrative has pace. Many of the less digestible details of politics are made accessible. The reader is taken deftly to the conclusion that Spain is now ready ‘to remember’ its recent past, now that the generations caught up in the struggle have passed away.

Downe House….a few reflections

Some of the most celebrated English naturalists seldom strayed far from their homes to make their astonishing discoveries. On my cycle route to Santiago de Compostela a couple of years ago, I chanced by the home of Gilbert White in Selbourne, Hampshire, and learned that through painstaking observation of the behaviour of swallows in his own village, he concluded that they migrated to other lands during the winter. From that seed of observation sprouted the theory that many species of birds (and animals) followed the same patterns of behaviour.

Charles Darwin, the man celebrated for having the wisdom to unwrap the mysteries of evolution, spent 40 years living in Downe House with his wife and children. Apart from his 5 years travelling the globe with HMS Beagle, the bulk of his study took place in his home, and out on the 18 acres of land purchased with the house.

Downe House

Downe House

He spent 40 years patiently observing and conducting experiments, and the theory of evolution was only one of hundreds of theories that emanated from that small domestic environment. In fact, one of his major studies concerned the huge impact of the humble earthworm on the well-being of the planet. The last book he published before his death contained the results of his life-long study of the worm…….and this from a man who was being celebrated (and vilified) the world over for the ‘earthquake’ he caused amongst the thinking classes.

Darwin had the wisdom to publish and then withdraw to the peace and quiet of his home environment, allowing the intellectuals of his time to ‘clear up the mess’. So it is astonishing to discover that his theory of evolution, in the hands of opposing intellectuals of the time, was used to justify the arguments of opposite camps.

‘Social Darwinists’, on the one hand, argued in favour of the theory of  ‘the survival of the fittest’  being applied directly to human society: allow the weak and the poor to die off, and the strongest and wealthiest will propagate the earth. (The foundation of the Nazi final solution…..?). On the other hand, Karl Marx himself embraced the theory in proposing the class struggle. If the poor and the weak are likely to suffer and die at the hands of the rich and powerful, then they should rise up and fight for survival.

If you visit Downe House in Kent, allow a whole day to take in the length and the breadth of this fascinating house. More than just a home to the Darwin family, it was the laboratory from which new thinking was to change the way we viewed the world.

A windfall from Darwin's garden.....which evolved into.....

A windfall from Darwin’s garden…..

....this!

….which evolved into this! (with some additions, of course)

St Ives CC at play…..

They came out in their ‘droves’ today………

No doubt it had something to do with everybody being back from their summer holidays, it being the last Sunday of August and the sun happened to be shining……..all little (but important) factors in the process of deciding whether or not to climb on that bike after an early breakfast.20140831_111844_Android

As I normally do, I headed directly out to the café-stop to meet up with the groups, thus neatly avoiding adding the extra 20 miles to St Ives, and then only to find the route actually goes through my own village on the way out……..

Most Sundays there seem to be 2-3 groups, riding at their respective speeds, and the café seldom has more than 20-25 to serve. Today, however, there seemed to be 5 groups, plus a few independents like myself, and the Old Barn garden in Wadenhoe turned into a sea of red……..20140831_111744_Android

I think the staff were somewhat stretched to serve the 40-50 that turned up, when they were only expecting about 20. But……it was all good for business. I am convinced that the regular business that cycling clubs bring to country tearooms keeps them thriving. And long may it last……20140831_112339_Android

A great century ride today!

What’s good about Yorkshire?

God’s own county? Really? I’ve heard Lancastrians say the same about Lancashire. Is this just a hang-over from the Wars of the Roses?

I could wax lyrical about my few days cycling the highways and byways of one of God’s own counties, but I’ll let the images speak for themselves. All photos taken by Edward Shirley.

'Aloft' in the north Yorkshire Moors

‘Aloft’ in the north Yorkshire Moors, at 1200 ft.

The main objective of any ride....tea and cake!

The main objective of any ride….tea and cake!

Inspecting one of two Paul Hewitt bikes

Inspecting one of two Paul Hewitt bikes

The campsite....

The campsite….no shortage of space.

This café occupies the premises of the old Yorkshire Penny Bank. I tried claiming back the 6 old pence I left in my Primary School account!

This café occupies the premises of the old Yorkshire Penny Bank. I tried claiming back the 6 old pence I left in my Primary School account!

Riding through a glen.....

Riding through a glen…..

Note the ominous hill in the distance....

Note the ominous hill in the distance….

The 'bike shed' at the festival....holding some 400 bikes

The ‘bike shed’ at the festival….holding some 400 bikes

 

Recumbere(latin)…..to lie down

Celebrating (with glasses of water!) a two hour recumbent ride together. The things we do!20140827_140502_Android

As we glided along the empty lanes of the fens, past Grunty Fen (among others), the lack of hedgerows gave us frequent views of Ely Cathedral in the distance. When you are in the prone position of a recumbent trike, you normally get to see very little on either side of the road, but you are in a prime seat if the Red Arrows just happen to be flying overhead! Drivers seem to show you a little more respect, but then that’s because you are only one step away from doing wheelies on your mobility scooter. They probably think you are old and venerable…….well, some of that may be true.

You not only get to inspect the undercarriages of passing vehicles, but under your own carriage, you really get to feel the camber of the road, which frequently has you leaning towards the verge. And the avoidance of potholes causes interesting manoeuvres. On two wheels, you can weave in and out of them, but on three wheels, you may avoid them with the front two wheels, but that back wheel may  experience the depth and breadth in all its fullness…..

Fun to ride and sociable, if you get to ride side by side on quiet roads. Will we invest in one?…….Well, watch this space.

 

The man who cycled the world by Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont came to prominence when he set off to break the world record at circumnavigating the world on a bicycle, covering a minimum of 18,000 miles, going in one direction and cycling in both hemispheres (terms and conditions of the Guinness book of records). But it wasn’t just his record attempt that brought him to our attention. He planned the whole venture to be a mainly self-recorded journey, using all the portable modern technology available to him at the time, so that it could be converted into a documentary series for television.

In other words, he had the wisdom and foresight not only to go for the world record (which, in fact, he only held onto for a matter of weeks), but at the same time to almost virtually pioneer a method of self-recording the attempt, to a level of quality that would attract the attention of  the BBC, and thus launch his career as an adventurer, documentary-maker7a6b8-286beaumont and author.

I am always very tentative when I pick up books that are first accounts of such ventures. Many are poorly written, offer a journal-like description of the journey (eg. we did this, then we did that…..) and frequently give the reader far too much detail of the mile-by-mile experience, bicycle specifications, kit lists, food eaten etc…….. These details may be important to the author, but the general reader quickly tires of the predictable formulaic style of writing.

Beaumont’s book, however, doesn’t fall into that trap. He tells us a lot about the “touchy-feely” aspects of the journey (the saddle sores, the knee problems, the headwinds…..but also many of the joys) but, more importantly, he relishes sharing the details of the people he met along the way, the cultural and linguistic challenges he encountered, the potential threats to his life both from people and the insect world (eg. tarantulas in Australia)…..and much more. His narrative could make much more of some of the tense moments of his journey, but he neatly avoids the danger of over-egging his experiences, where the reader may begin to suspect unnecessary embellishment for effect.

This is a very worthy travel volume from an adventure traveller who pushed himself to extraordinary limits to achieve his goal…..that of cycling around the world unsupported, in the hope of breaking the world record.

The trusty stoker….

When I have my trusty stoker on the back seat, cycling becomes the alternative activity to lots of other interesting things. We stop to check things out, like the town museum in Oundle, which is only open a couple of days a week, is manned by volunteers who are (over) eager to enlighten you on some of the finer details of life in the town, but are so brimful of enthusiasm, you can’t help but be drawn in.

Oundle museum

Oundle museum

But a fascinating place it is, complete with magistrates cell, with a ‘model’ prisoner who speaks to you when you open the hatch.

Passing through the village of Barnwell, if you linger long enough you will discover it is, in fact, two villages…….St.Andrew and All Saints. And both have their separate churches, although the one in All Saints was largely demolished in the 19th century, leaving only the chancel standing.

Barnwell All Saints Church

Barnwell All Saints Church

And a 37 mile tandem ride would not be complete without the compulsory café stop. But can you spot the difference between the two photos below (allowing for a slight alteration in direction)? 20140822_125252_Android

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Cruising back to base…. 48 miles

As I stirred this morning, after an unusually cold night for August, I poked my nose out of the tent to take a good look at the campsite I had landed in the night before. It had been after sunset when I arrived, and I had pitched my tent in the failing light. I looked around…..there were a handful of caravans, only a couple apparently occupied (one by the site guardian), my bike tied to the fence, and my empty supper plate lying in the grass…..

I started to strike camp when I heard a voice in the distance: “D’yuh wanna cup o’ tea or coffee?”. It was the site guardian, and he obviously thought I was a case that needed pity……I mean, who in their right minds would sleep in what is no more than a flimsy bivvy with poles?20140820_081332_Android

As I finished packing my tent, I heard another voice in the distance: “Are you going far?”. I looked up and saw a couple coming towards me, occupants of what looked like an American trailer caravan (you know the sort….big and pretentious) towed by a conspicuously un-British pick-up truck that needed a dual lane carriageway all to itself.
They had lived in Florida for 20 years, had now had enough of the unrelenting heat and the expensive medical care, but had lost a lot of money trying to sell their 13 houses because of the economic downturn. But for the crisis, they could have been millionaires……they said.

“Can we get you a cup of tea and some biscuits?” they asked. I listened to their story of woe trying to unhook themselves for the American way of life, but I really wanted to tell them they should unhook themselves from the American lifestyle by selling their trailer and truck. But I tactfully let that opportunity slip.

Having covered half of today’s journey yesterday, I felt relaxed, cruised my way through tiny Northamptonshire villages until I felt the need for breakfast. I stopped in Kingscliffe to ask a scruffy-looking farmer, climbing into an equally scruffy-looking truck, if there was a café in the village. “I could murder a bacon sandwich”, I said. “You need to go back the way you’ve come and go along the A47 where there’s a great trucker’s stop……or maybe you don’t like A roads?”. “That’s right”, I said with a wink “I don’t want to meet people like you driving trucks like this…..”. I somehow knew I could get away with being cheeky because he laughed and told me he said lots of similar things about cyclists.

So I resigned myself to going the extra 8 miles to Oundle for my breakfast bap, and lingered in the familiar environment of a café well known to our Sunday club riders. As I got closer to home, I felt prompted to re-visit a local site that rose to prominence during the 1980s and the CND movement.20140820_140949_Android
This Peace Garden is all that is left of a Peace Chapel, which had been erected twice and dismantled twice by the MOD, which reminds us not to take our current peace for granted.

20140820_140926_AndroidReviewing the stats for the week, it would appear that I’ve covered some 702 miles in eight days. So, the question I am often asked “What’s next?”.

Well the next expedition will be with my dear wife, astride the tandem, doing the Coast-to-Coast route called the Way of the Roses, which starts in Morecambe in the west and finishes in Bridlington in the east. Crossing the Pennines, we are guaranteed some hills……some big hills! The only thing I will ask of the weather-gods will be: let the current north westerlies continue blowing………and hard………..please!

Homeward bound 124 miles

When you get the wind in your sails, anything can happen. For the first leg of my ride back home, the wind was in my favour. The speed to effort ratio was ridiculous.
I also had the company of John

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whom I met at the festival, and who had nothing better to do than join me for the first 40 miles of my journey. He was great company at the beginning of what turned out to be a long day in the saddle.
Why a long day? Very good question. My intention had been to stay again at a campsite in Lincoln, but Lincoln just sailed by as I forged my way south.

The pace was fast and I was engaged. When you find that ‘sweet spot’ on the saddle, and your pedals are tapping out a rhythm, you simply keep going. And I did…..
As the sun was setting at about 8.30pm, I chanced by a simple campsite, rang the contact number, and the farmer came out with a plate of cooked burgers and sausages (from his own farm), chips, and a couple of beers.:…and charged me only £10 in total for everything. Unbelievable!
My journey today has taken me from York to Stamford in one leg of 124 miles (198kms)….and it felt good all the way.

‘Recovery’ day….58 miles

An invitation to dine with friends in York, coupled with my eagerness to visit a couple of places en route, led to what is euphemistically known in the world of cycling as a ‘recovery’ day. No, this is not a full day off the bike, but simply a shorter day, with fewer climbs.
I set off  this morning with a ‘social’ group (gentler pace and more conversation) and broke off after some 30 miles to spend more time at Byland Abbey

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…making use of my English Heritage membership (and I was even allowed in without my card) to discover the extraordinary past of this Cistercian Abbey

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These places developed into grand palatial properties in medieval times, financed largely by the bequests of wealthy local families concerned about the salvation of their own souls.
Then on to Ampleforth Abbey and College

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a Catholic Benedictine community with a private secondary school, set prominently in the Yorkshire countryside, with fine views over a valley. I particularly wanted to pay a visit because a great uncle of mine had been head groundsman early last century.

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If what I was looking at was a legacy of his time there, he would have been proud. The grounds swept down the hillside and into the valley, revealing cricket fields and sports pitches that enjoyed prime locations.
And like my own school in Durham, they had a high wall that served as a court for playing racket-ball. I’ve never seen these anywhere else.

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So tomorrow sees the end of the festival. Tents will be packed, bikes will be dismantled for transportation, and goodbyes will be said. Most will drive home, but a small number will climb back on their now loaded bikes to begin the journey home. And that includes me…….heading south for two days….which, I’m told by many, will be a downhill journey all the way…..
Oh would that it were true!

The White Horse at Kilburn 81 miles

“Why don’t we add an extra loop to the route, to take us past the White Horse, and up and over Sutton Bank?”, said Alex. No-one asked for further details or questioned the decision.

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We all knew about the brutal 25% incline of Sutton Bank, but we were going to descend that….right? Of course we were but……and here’s the clincher…..to descend the infamous Sutton Bank (closed to caravans, it’s so dangerous) you have to get to the top. And how? Via the climb past the White Horse, silly…..

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Five of our group of six went for it, and we all made it to the top. When a climb averages 25%, sections are likely to top 30%, especially around the switchbacks….and they almost brought us to a standstill. With my lowest gear, I was at my limit, but one of the group was having to push an even higher gear than me…..and he made it to the top ahead of all of us. Well, he had to, because had he lost momentum, he would have fallen off his bike. Pushing higher gears gives you the incentive to push on hard to the summit.

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On our approach, this was the distant view of the White Horse, and then we stumbled on this roadside cross

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marking the spot during the plague where food was dropped for the local plague village, in exchange for money that had been disinfected in a small trough nearby.
Then passing Byland Abbey

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reminded me that this area had been awash with wealthy monasteries before the Reformation, and there are now ruins aplenty being cared for by the conservation societies.
And if you see a Bentley parked outside a pub,

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you might expect to see a personalised registration plate…..but what if this owner really wants to say “no” to his baby? Interesting….

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…and into the Dales 80 miles

One day into the Wolds, another up onto the Moors, and today into the Dales….Yorkshire has everything. But you need determination and a strong pair of legs to tackle the hills….but the views from the tops make riding ‘into the red zone’ worthwhile.

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Our little group of three was joined by Andrew & Martina, the latter cutting her teeth in this kind of cycling, but full of guts and determination.

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Andrew, her husband, is an old hand at turning cranks, but on this 18% climb, was being totally outgunned by his wife.
When we most needed a cafe, one presented itself at the church tearoom in the tiny hamlet of Fewston.

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Built with a lottery grant, on the site of the old churchyard, they had to exhume over 100 graves for re- burial elsewhere.

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A perfect stop-off for cyclists, and used regularly by local clubs.
When we got to Pateley Bridge, we stumbled in on their 1940s weekend, right at the moment when a Spitfire was doing a fly-past. The sound of those engines visibly bathed the older folks in waves of nostalgia.

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And if you think Yorkshire  by now has allowed the recent Tour de France to be consigned to the history archives, think again

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…you have to remember that these parts have a remarkable history in the cycling world…..

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characterized by Beryl Burton’s dominance for over 25 years as national champion, and 7 years as world champion. She’s never received the national recognition she so greatly deserved…..so we honoured her today by riding along the Sustrans cycleway that bears her name.

The Howardian Hills 86 miles

For some reason, the general interest in doing an A route (over 80 miles) had dwindled this morning, and only three stalwarts turned out at 8.30am for the major ‘hike’ into the Howardian Hills and up onto the Yorkshire Moors.

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The unique selling point of this route was…..well, I’m sure you’ve guessed. In short, you had to relish the prospect of several major climbs, many over 15%, up to a maximum elevation of 1200 feet.

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Through the honeypot attraction of Helmsley, then up and up to the wild heather-covered moorland, with bilberries annoyingly not quite ripe,

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…up to the head of Sleightholme Dale, marked by the tiny hamlet of Cockayne. The views over the dale were dramatic, the ultimate reward for the toil and the grinding of gears.

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My companions, Alex and Edward, were able to spin their pedals up the climbs, with their triples and widely spaced gears.

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The gears on my double front, however, were more suited to the rolling landscapes of the midlands, which meant I had to capitalise on momentum and attack the hills to get to the top. This ultimately has a wearing effect on the legs, guaranteeing the last climbs of the day were going to be particularly demanding. And they were….but I still had the satisfaction of having climbed everything.
The ‘hillocks’ of home seemed strangely insignificant when I gazed over the vast expanse of the Moors from 1200 feet.

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There And Back Again

Notes from a recreational cyclist

Dovetales

My comments on anything I feel the urge to comment on. Also contains match previews and programme articles I have written for Chesterfield FC - the mighty Spireites. In June 2013 I cycled from Land's End to John o'Groats (LEJOG) so around that time most of my posts were on that subject. The links to the LEJOG pages are below.

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The Innocent Bikestander

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My Biking Memoirs

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my Paleo Voyage

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like an alley cat . . .

down the byways of my mind

The Author Who Supports

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The Pedalling Pensioner..

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Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

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THE SPORTSWOOL DIARIES

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Musings of an Actuary near Hollywood

Rob's world

about anything, everything and nothing

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