What are the factors that make for a good ride? A good route is essential. Good weather helps, although some of my most memorable days have been battles against nature in the raw. Good company or a frame of mind where a long solitary day leads to peace of mind rather than brooding.
I didn’t know what sort of ride Sunday would bring.
Richard had suggested a trip over the moors to Sedbergh and then to Hawes via Garsdale, followed by the climb over Ribblehead, then down to Ingleton and home via Kirkby Lonsdale.
Sunday morning dawned grey and damp but the forecast suggested that it would become brighter as the morning progressed. I quite expected to find myself starting off on my own, and wasn’t sure that the planned route was something I wanted to do solo.
I was pleased to find Richard and Adrian ready for the off at the bike shop.
The ride out from Kendal to Sedbergh is hard on cold muscles and continues relentlessly as far as the motorway crossing. The promised sunny intervals seemed a remote prospect as we dodged potholes on tarmac which had been freshly laid only a few months before. It’s always strange to ride past the lane end at the Black Horse. I lived for fourteen years in a cottage a mile up the lane from here and every corner and fold of this landscape holds memories and will always feel a bit like home.
As we went through Sedbergh the skies started to lighten and by the time we had ridden past Farfield Mill, the sun was breaking through. Garsdale always seems longer than the map suggests. Around Sedbergh, Garsdale has always had a reputation for bad weather, a neighbour once described it as having ‘six months of winter and six months of bad weather’. This might be overstating things, but it has always seemed a dark closed in place to me. I’m always happy to crest the hill at the Moorcock and start the steady descent towards Wensleydale. Hawes has a workmanlike bustle about it which is in nice balance with its function as a tourist centre. It went up even further in my estimation today when we found a cafe serving coffee and a teacake for £2.50. As a Yorkshireman that was enough to seal the deal!
‘Cafe legs’, a head wind and a long climb are not always the best combination and we all suffered as we headed towards Ribblehead.This is an inspiring part of the world though. As you get higher you become more aware of the surrounding hills. People tend to refer to the flat lands as ‘Yorkshire’s broad acres’, but to me the term makes more sense when applied to the sweeping uplands of the Yorkshire Dales. When the sun shines and the wind scours the skies clean, the views seem immense. It’s not the easiest part of the world to ride a bike though and the constant climbing as the viaduct came into view and then the long ‘descent’ (in reality a series of undulations that trend steadily downwards) towards Ingleton, kept conversation to a minimum.
From Ingleton it was an up and down stretch to Melling and then practically the only flat stretch of the day playing dodge the motorbike along the Lune Valley to Kirkby Lonsdale.
The final hills of the day tested tired legs as and the recuperative power of gels to deliver us back to Kendal after some 70 miles of glorious cycling.
(Watercolour of Ribblehead Viaduct by permission of Colin Williamson)