Bike Commute

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Lancaster Canal Aqueduct above the Lune.

The summer holiday came to an end, as it all too inevitably does, but for my first two days back, the boys were still at home, and therefore not requiring lifts, so I decided to cycle to and from work.

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The Lune, looking towards Lancaster.

Both mornings were overcast and surprisingly chilly, which probably suited me, as I was cycling to work and didn’t want to arrive all sweaty and red-faced. But both days brightened up, and the afternoons were very pleasant.

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Denny Beck Bridge, or Penny Bridge, Halton. Recycled from the original Greyhound Bridge in Lancaster. (Source)

On the first afternoon, I cycled along the cycle-way, which shadows the Lune, as far as the former railway station at Halton. Well, across the river from Halton. Then crossed Denny Beck Bridge, which was built with parts of the old Greyhound Bridge, a railway bridge which had crossed the Lune in Lancaster. Denny Beck Bridge was built by the railway company as a toll bridge so that passengers could cross the Lune from Halton to get to the station.

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The Lune upstream of Denny Beck Bridge.

From Halton, it was a steep climb up to Four Lane Ends, where I turned on to Kellet Lane. I knew that the higher ground there would give me good views, although it was quite hazy, and I kept putting off taking a photo, on the basis that the view would probably be better ‘just around the corner’ etc, so that I didn’t actually snap a picture until I’d lost most of the height, was through the village of Nether Kellet, and cycling down Back Lane towards Carnforth.

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Coming Downhill out of Nether Kellet on Back Lane.

On the second day I opted for a longer route home, starting by cycling on the cycle-path between Lancaster and Morecambe, then following the prom and the coast road to Hest Bank were I could rejoin my morning route on the canal towpath.

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View from Morecambe Prom.
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Lancaster Canal.
This is the route I used in the mornings.
This is the return route for the first afternoon.
And the slightly longer route from the second day.

In all, a rather splendid way to start and finish the day. I’m looking forward to doing it again some time, but as a replacement for driving it’s not very practical, what with the dark mornings and afternoons in the winter, and especially considering that I spent at least three hours travelling each day. Still, will definitely do it again sometimes when the weather improves.

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Bike Commute

A Cycling Circuit of Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof. Almost.

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Pye Bridge Lane view – in the distance Whitbarrow Scar and behind that the Coniston Fells.

One of the things I enjoyed about doing a bit of cycling last summer, was the fact that it took me to places I might otherwise not have visited. This route took me through the village of Hale on a road I’d never used before. Through the hamlets of Farleton and Dalton, which were both new to me, and along several minor lanes, quiet lanes which were delightful and unexplored territory as far as I was concerned.

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Pye Bridge Lane, looking back to Beetham Fell.
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Scout Hill and Farleton Fell.
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Farleton Fell.
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Crossing the M6 near Chapel Hill.
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August Lakes-bound traffic.Busy!
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Puddlemire Lane. Gated.

Puddlemire Lane was particularly good. After a steep climb from Farleton, on a lane so overgrown by it’s high hedges that I was glad not to meet any cars, the road levelled off and the views opened out.

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Scout Hill.
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Looking back towards the hills of the Lake District.
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Middleton Fells, Great Coum, Ingleborough.
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Puddlemire Lane pano: Scout Hill, Middleton Fells, Great Coum, Ingleborough.
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Hutton Roof Church.

After Hutton Roof village, I joined the Dalton Lane – very familiar since I use it for our frequent rugby-related trips to Kirkby. I stopped at the Park Quarry car-park, to sit at one of the picnic tables there and have a rest and a drink. That may have been the start of my problems, since I rode my bike across the grassy area to the picnic tables.

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View from my puncture stop gateway.

Whether that was the case or not, as I rode through Dalton, on my way to Burton-in-Kendal, I realised that my back tyre was deflating rapidly. I also soon realised that I had no idea how to remove the back-wheel from the unfamiliar gear-set-up and that there was no chance I could fix the puncture. Fortunately, TBH was able to drive out to rescue me.

Whilst I was sitting in a field gateway, keeping off the road, the local farmer pulled-up, at least, I think that’s who he was. Just for a moment, I wondered whether he was going to to ask me what I was doing sitting in his field, but in fact he offered to stick my bike in his boot and give me a lift to wherever I needed to go. What a nice chap!

It was an excellent route – one I shall have to have another crack at some time. MapMyWalk gives 330m of climbing. Here’s the gradient profile:

The heights are all wrong, too high by some margin, but I think that the relative changes are about right.

I had a go at fixing the flat at home, with the luxury of a full set of tools and access to ‘how to’ videos. It didn’t end well, which is a bit worrying. I’ve had tougher tyres fitted to the bike in an effort to a least reduce the probability of having the same problem again.

A Cycling Circuit of Farleton Fell and Hutton Roof. Almost.

A Birthday Day Out

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In the trees – Little S on the left, A and TJF centre, the Prof on the right.

The first full day of our staycation was TJF’s birthday. Accordingly, Andy had a day of delights meticulously planned. The Herefordshire Hominids, and our kids, all enjoy climbing, swinging, dangling and sliding in tree-top adventure playgrounds. So we had Go-Ape booked in Grizedale forest.

I have neither the physique nor the temperament for such antics. TBH has been known to join in, but on this occasion opted to keep me company. We had loaded our heavy e-bikes onto Andy’s very sturdy bike-carrier and, whilst the others were monkeying about, went for a ride around one of the forest’s bike trails.

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We chose The Hawkshead Moor Trail, which, after some fairly relentless climbing, gave brilliant views of the Coniston Fells…

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And then the Langdale Pikes too…

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Better with or without the Rosebay Willow Herb? I couldn’t decide.

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We’d actually considered hiring e-mountain bikes but they were very pricey. We did meet quite a few people riding them and they were clearly higher-powered then our bikes, seemingly making the ascents virtually effortless.

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Never-the-less, we knocked off the trail in around an hour-and-a-half, not the stated two-and-a-half, so we had some more time to kill prior to our planned rendezvous with our Arboreal Allies. We decided to have a go at the Grizedale Tarn Trail, with the perhaps predictable result that both of our batteries ran out of fizz.

Carrying-on without power was a non-starter as far as I was concerned. We found a path which seemed to be heading in the right direction (i.e. downhill) and walked the bikes across a couple of fields, before having to manhandle them over a gate (quite challenging), leaving a short, steep, stoney descent back to the visitor’s centre. TBH wasn’t keen so I rode both bikes down in turn.

The next element of Andy’s cunning plan was a drive (along some very ‘interesting’ narrow lanes) to Brown Howe car park on the shore of Coniston Water for a swim. I’m not sure to what extent it made us smell any sweeter, which was Andy’s stated intention, but it was a very refreshing dip, with great views of the surrounding fells.

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A is first into the water.

Finally, to round-off a fabulous day, Andy had booked a table at Betulla’s an ‘Italian-inspired’ restaurant in Ulverston. I can’t speak highly enough of the meal we had there. Mine was battered calamari followed by hunter’s chicken which came served with bolognese sauce so tasty that I’ve decided next time we visit I shall just choose the bolognese. Everybody else’s meals looked great too. I gather the cocktails were rather good as well.

I hope that TJF enjoyed her day. I know that I did. With hindsight, it stands out as one of my highlights of the year. I’m considering hiring Andy to plan my Birthdays in future.

Happy New Year Folks!

A Birthday Day Out

Walney Island to Ulverston

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At the ‘start’.

Another section of the Moecambe Bay Cycleway. B deigned to join TBH and I. We caught the train to Barrow, planning to cycle back towards home, possibly as far as Grange – which turned out to be more than a bit optimistic. We were lucky with the train – at Grange we saw other cyclists being turned away, which must have been very frustrating if you had already bought a ticket. The top photo shows TBH and B at the northern terminus of the MBC, on the western coast of Walney Island – so although this is ‘the start’ we had already cycled here from Barrow Station.

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Common Mallow.
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A wind farm out to the west.

I’d been a little worried that the route through Barrow might be a bit hard to find, but I needn’t have been concerned, since it was well sign-posted.

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Barrow Docks.

The Pacific Grebe, seen here, is a nuclear fuel carrier, perhaps not so surprising given the proximity of Sellafield power station to Barrow.

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Black Combe and Western Fells across Cavendish Dock.
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Off-road cycling between Roosecote Sands and Cavendish Dock.

It was a gloomy day, but the views were fine and, at this point, the cycling was both off-road and flat and so nice and easy.

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Drinker Moth caterpillar (I think).
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Rampside Leading Light – The Needle.

We’ve often driven past ‘The Needle’ before, usually on our way to Roa Island and/or Piel Island (where they’re currently on the lookout for a new ‘King and Queen’ or, more prosaically, tenants for the local pub – if you’re interested). The Needle is the only surviving leading light of 13 built in the Barrow area in 1875 to guide shipping.

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Looking across Cartmel Sands.
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B was, as ever, ‘starving’ – he is a growing lad after all – and was very pleased to spot this little kiosk. TBH and I had cups of tea, whilst he tucked into half a dozen freshly fried doughnuts.

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Doughnut stop.

Shortly after this stop, we turned inland and followed an undulating route through a series of tiny villages. Once again, I ought to have taken more photos than I did – of the large duck pond in the middle of Leece for example, or of Gleaston Watermill: not to worry, it just means I shall have to go back, perhaps when the sun is shining. I did feel compelled to stop to photograph Gleaston Castle:

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Gleaston Castle.

Built in the 12th Century and possibly never finished, the castle is not open to the public and is in a parlous state apparently.

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The view from Birkrigg Common to the Lake District Fells.

We called in at Conishead Priory, now a Buddhist meditation centre, hoping to buy lunch, but settled for drinks since, bizarrely, TBH couldn’t get anything vegan. Well, B did have some sandwiches, but he is a growing lad after all. MapMyWalk tells me that there were roughly 300m of ascent on this route, which doesn’t seem like that much, but I found it exhausting. When B declared that his knee was playing him up, I was only too pleased to magnanimously concede that we could cut our route short and catch the train home if he insisted.

We haven’t as yet attempted the next section of the MBC, between Ulverston and Grange. On the map, it looks far hillier than any of the parts we have done to date. One for next summer – but perhaps we shall have to build up to it.

Walney Island to Ulverston

Grange-Over-Sands and Back

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TBH on a traffic-free section of the Morecambe Bay Cycleway.

Exactly what it says on the tin – TBH and I ticking off a bit more of the Morecambe Bay Cycleway by pedalling to Grange-Over-Sands and back again.

This is our longest outing in the saddle to date and yet I didn’t take all that many photos. The one above was the first I took, on a section which runs parallel to the busy A590. By that point, we’d already cut a corner across to Milnthorpe, since we had cycled route 700 through Arnside on a previous occasion; cycled the marvellously flat leg between Milnthorpe and Levens Hall, which has fabulous views; stopped at Levens Hall hoping to buy lunch, but, finding it very busy, had to content ourselves with cups of tea; and finally managed to get some lunch at the Gilpin Bridge Inn – standard pub fare but most welcome at that point, as were the couple of pints which accompanied it.

I can see why cyclists are fond of helmet-mounted video cameras: it’s a faff stopping every time you want to take a photo. However, I can’t see myself buying such a camera, or for that matter a helmet to fix it to, any time soon.

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Arnside Knott across the Kent.

I did find time to stop in the vicinity of Ulpha, where I was very struck by the views of Arnside Knott from an angle which we aren’t used to seeing.

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Whitbarrow Scar.
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Most of the route was quite flat, as you might expect skirting around the edge of estuarine mud-flats, but both Levens and Meathop had some significant climbs.

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Arnside Knott again, this time from Grange Prom.
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Grange Prom.

In Grange we found another cafe and indulged in more refreshments. It had been a warm day and I bought both tea and coke and had my water bottle refilled to boot.

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Whitbarrow Scar again.
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River Gilpin.

Having not started very early (no surprise there!) and stopped several times on our outward journey, we were running quite late to get back and cook the kids tea. On our way back then, by contrast, we hardly stopped at all. Somewhere close to Storth my phone ran out of charge and I ran out of steam. Not so TBH who continued to fly along at a good pace. The straight line between Storth and Park Lane on the second map below is entirely fictitious. I suspect the actual total distance was a little over 60km or a little under 40 miles, which is probably just a warm-up for a keen cyclist, but was quite enough for me.

Grange-Over-Sands and Back

June. Well, Most of it.

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Cotton-grass at Foulshaw Moss

The year is almost up and the blog is stuck in June. So….better get a shift on.

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Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

First off, some shots from an evening to Foulshaw Moss when A was dancing.

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An Orb-weaver Spider, possibly a Larinioides cornutus female.
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The limestone hills of home across Morecambe Bay.

Next door neighbour and all-round good-egg BB was interested in our ebikes; I suggested he borrow one and join me for a trip. We cycled to Morecambe. As you can see, the weather was fantastic, but there was a strong wind blowing, unusually, from the South, so that cycling along the Prom was an uphill struggle. The compensation was that on our way back again we felt like we had wings. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of our memorable refreshment stops, at the Hest Bank for a pint on our outward trip and at The Royal in Bolton-le-Sands for a lovely meal and a couple more ales in their sunny beer garden.

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Bike maintenance BB style.
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Choppy waves from the end of the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. Lake District Fells beyond.
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X-Ray and TBH in Clarke’s Lot.

Old friend X-Ray visited to catch up. It was very grey day, but we dragged him out for our usual wander around Jenny Brown’s Point anyway.

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Warton Crag and Clougha Pike beyond.
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Another Foulshaw Moss view.

Another taxi-Dad trip to Foulshaw Moss. Things have moved on since then – A has passed her driving test and doesn’t need any more lifts to Milnthorpe. I shall need a new excuse to visit Foulshaw Moss.

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Sedge Warbler (I think).
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Foxglove.
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Birch Polyp.
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Azure Damselfly.
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Green Lacewing, possibly Chrysopa perla.
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Crane Fly.
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TBH cycling past the visitor centre at Leighton Moss.

Finally, a shorter bike ride with TBH which took us to Holme and back via some very quiet lanes. It almost went horribly wrong when I made the mistake of leaving TBH a little behind (she having chosen not to use an ebike) and she, inexplicably, took a left turn, even though I’d mentioned the fact that we would go through Yealand Redmayne. It all worked okay in the end, after a few puzzling moments and a bit of cycling back and forth looking for each other.

A couple more June bike rides to follow… eventually.

June. Well, Most of it.

Foulshaw Moss by Bike

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Whitbarrow Scar on the left, Eastern Fells on the right.

The day after our Morecambe jaunt. A Saturday. TBH had other things to do, and wanted a rest, but I was hooked and keen to get out again on my bike. The weather was glorious. I decided to take the Morecambe Bay Cycleway in the opposite direction and visit Foulshaw Moss.

The photograph above is taken from a minor lane which runs from close to Dallam Hall almost to Levens Hall. I’ve walked this lane, many years ago, it’s part of the Cumbria Coastal Way. On foot, on a dull day, I found it a bit of a tedious experience, but on a bike it was a revelation – nice and flat, huge open views. Marvellous.

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Whitbarrow Scar and the River Gilpin.

From the village of Levens, the MBC follows minor lanes, and one short section of track, paralleling the busy A590. I’d taken a leaf out of Andy’s book and used satellite images looking for a connection to take me to Foulshaw Moss, which is on the far side of the main road. I found a track which was perfect, directly opposite. In the event, it was clearly somebody’s driveway – I still used, trespassing for a matter of seconds, but I did have the decency to feel guilty about it.

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My trusty steed.

I’d been a bit concerned about getting across the A590, which is a dual carriageway at this point, very lots of very fast moving traffic, but I just had to be patient and eventually I managed to get across without feeling I’d risked life and limb.

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Whitbarrow Scar from Foulshaw Moss.

Since I usually visit in the evenings, I wasn’t quite prepared for how busy the reserve would be. The car park was full. (Admittedly, it is quite a small car park.) I chatted to a Wildlife Trust volunteer who told me it had been even busier earlier in the week.

Most visitors seemed intent on viewing the very distant Osprey nest though, so I could still enjoy a quiet stroll around the boardwalks.

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Greenfinch and Red Poll.

With the sun shining, I was able to see some of the insect life I usually miss in the evenings.

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Four-spotted Chaser.
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Green Hairstreak.
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Large Red Damselfly.
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A blue damselfly – I can’t identify which.
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Two more Large Red Damselflies.
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After perhaps an hour at Foulshaw I set off for home. I’d been considering a different route back, which initially followed the same route to Levens village.

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View across the Lyth Valley from the outskirts of Levens.

From Levens a lane climbs steeply across the slopes of Sizergh Fell. I then travelled back to Milnthorpe on very minor lanes through Sedgwick and then a series of small hamlets which I’ve never visited before: Crosscrake, Stainton and Viver.

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This return route was much more undulating than the outward one had been, which was all well and good until the bike’s battery ran out of juice. The last three or four miles was a good reminder that riding a heavy ebike at the end of a longish day is very hard-work without assistance.

Almost 30 miles, with a little over 400m of ascent. (According to MapMyWalk which has a setting for cycling, despite the name).

The bike/walk combination is definitely something to explore further in the future, I think.

Foulshaw Moss by Bike

Pedalling the Perimeter – Morecambe and Back

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On the canal towpath.

One thing I neglected to say in my last couple of posts, mainly because I forgot, was that our friends Whit week visit was actually a Whit weekend visit. TBH and I seem to have spent the remainder of Whitsun cycling. And the sun shone!

Another thing I neglected to mention is the fact that most of the impetuous, initially at least, in our adoption of cycling came from TBH. In the past, she’s done a lot of cycling and has been wanting to get back to it for a while. In particular, some of our neighbours cycled the Two Roses Way a few years ago, and TBH suggested that we might do the same as our family holiday this summer. (Spoiler alert: we didn’t. Maybe another year). The Two Roses Way is a coast to coast route from Morecambe to Bridlington. I tentatively agreed to the idea, but was a bit concerned about the climbing involved as the route crosses the Pennines. I suggested that we might try the Morecambe Bay Cycleway as a taster, to see how we got on, since it’s shorter, less hilly and all of it on our doorstep. In the circumstances this summer, we decided to adopt a piecemeal approach, avoiding overnight stays and using public transport where necessary.

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Morecambe Promenade.

The route from Silverdale to Morecambe is, aside from the usual ups and downs at our end, very flat since it uses the Lancaster Canal towpath and then, from Hest Bank, the promenade through Morecambe.

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Lunch Stop.

Before the pandemic TBH regularly joined the Park Run on Morecambe Prom, with friends from the village. This cafe was their favourite venue for their post run drink/lunch stop. Since TBH knew that she could get a vegan panini, it seemed like a good place to go again.

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We bumped into someone we know from the village, who told us that they’d passed us on our way out of Silverdale and expressed surprise that we had got as far as we had as quickly as we had. In truth, the entire route, around 26.5 miles, took over 4 hours, so we were hardly setting any speed records.

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The Lake District Fells from Morecambe. Arnside Knott on the right.
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Warton Crag from Crag Bank Lane.
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Bridge over the River Keer.
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TBH showing off – she can ride across. It took me half a dozen attempts to do it without colliding in some way with the sides.
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Barrow Scout Fields – nearly home.

The route is mostly traffic free, has great views of the lakeland hills in several places, and, somewhat to my surprise, I really enjoyed myself and was keen to get out again.

Pedalling the Perimeter – Morecambe and Back

Pedalling the Perimeter – A Trial Run

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So, I think I mentioned that my Mum and Dad very kindly donated their ebikes to us. We were keen to give them a go. Well, I was, I couldn’t persuade TBH of the merits at this point, so she was on Little S’s bike (she prefers it to her own bike, I think it has much lower gears), Little S was on an old bike of B’s and B was on his own bike. A is not keen on cycling and wouldn’t be persuaded to join us.

First stop, as you can see, was Arnside Prom for a pasty lunch. Actually, this was our second trip out – we’d already cycled halfway to Arnside, the day before, when I realised that the cracked pedals on my borrowed bike weren’t going to last the course. We had to return home. Fortunately, B had some spare pedals and, better yet, he fitted them for me.

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I’d been looking at the National Cycle Network and discovered that routes 700 and 90 come almost past our door, whilst 6 connects with those two to make a little loop around the Arnside and Silverdale AONB. Route 700 is the Morecambe Bay cycleway (of which more to come), 90 is a North Lancashire Loop and 6 seems to be London to the Lakes, presumably shadowing the A6?

From Arnside, we took the B road towards Milnthorpe but turned off through the grounds of Dallam Hall on a very minor little lane which took us to Beetham…

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In Beetham.
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Beetham Post Office.
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Beetham Church.

From Beetham a steep climb took us to Slackhead, followed by a long downhill, another climb over Thrang Brow and a steeper descent to Yealand Storrs.

Recognising that we were close to home, Little S deserted us at this point. Apparently, all of the up and down was a bit much for him. I have to say, had I not had the advantage of an ebike, I think I would have felt much the same way: there are a lot of ups and downs on this route, none of them very big, but in 17 miles we managed a little over 400 meters of ascent, according to MapMyWalk anyway.

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In Yealand Redmayne. A rare flatish bit.
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In Yealand Conyers, near the top of another long climb. I presume the steps were for mounting a horse?
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The small Quaker church in Yealand Conyers.
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Richard Hubberthorne fought in the Civil War, was a member of a Westmoreland religious group, the Seekers, and converted, if that’s the right term, to Quakerism after George Fox preached in the area. He wrote about his faith, and died in Newgate Prison.

More details here.

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A very successful first trip and one of many. In fact, I did much more cycling this summer than walking, so more posts of this kind to follow.

It would be pretty easy to put together a similar route, on footpaths, which would not only tour the AONB, but also take in all of the little limestone hills of the area, a walk I’ve often contemplated, but never got around to. One for the future.

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Pedalling the Perimeter – A Trial Run

Derring Do of the DBs

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I rashly agreed to rendezvous with the boys on one of their bike outings, to take some photos. No surprises that, shortly after this trip, we had to replace the back wheel on B’s bike, which was buckled beyond repair.

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Salad Burnett.

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Wild strawberry.

We were drawn to a bit of a commotion overhead. A buzzard and another bird of prey were apparently being harried by a group of jackdaws.

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Actually, it soon became clear that the jackdaws weren’t at all interested in the buzzard, but were all in pursuit of the other raptor…a peregrine!

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I’ve seen peregrines before, but whilst I’ve been aware that they nest locally, I’ve never actually seen one close to home.

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Solomon’s seal.

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Stitchwort.

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Herb robert.


Racking my brains for a song for this post, it occurred to me that ‘The Vision of Peregrine Worsthorne’ by McCarthy, from their brilliant debut album ‘I am a Wallet’, would be at least superficially appropriate. But then I remembered ‘Governing Takes Brains’, by the same band, the arrogant lyrics of which seem entirely apposite at the moment…

From there it seemed like an obvious step to ‘Follow the Leader’ by Eric B and Rakim. I can well remember the first time I heard this, in Eastern Bloc records in Manchester, sifting through their extensive collection of imported American hardcore punk and being stunned by the sheer menace of this sound.

Whilst I was searching for that track, I fortuitously stumbled upon ‘Follow the Leader’ by George the Poet, Maverick Sabre and Jorja Smith.

“That’s the kind of music we listen to,” the DBs tell me.

What’s more Little S has been studying George the Poet for his English classes:

 

Derring Do of the DBs