Northern England & Scotland
The Route, at a Glance...
Manchester, Lake District, Carlisle, Oban, Fort William, Loch Ness,
Inverness, Edinburgh, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Whitby, Leeds, Manchester
July/August, 2006 - Approximately 2000 Kms
I surmised that a tour in the United Kingdom would strike my fancy sooner or later as I was born in Leeds, England and lived in the country for 24 years. I emigrated to Canada in 1974 leaving behind family and many friends. Although I had returned to the UK for periodic visits, I had never cycled there since living there as a youngster.
Scotland I had only visited a couple of times before and then either by car or train, so the idea of bicycle touring Northern England and Scotland seemed very appealing and finally came to fruition this year...
I took along all of my camping gear and my "Break-Apart" touring bike. My flight would be long, but that's to be expected when travelling from the West Coast of Canada to Britain. Fortunately, I only had one stop at Toronto in Ontario where I switched flights and hoped that my bike and gear did too! They did, and all arrived safely in Manchester, England together with a very jet-lagged owner - I hate flying, but it's a necessary evil!
I'd pre-booked an inexpensive (relatively, for UK prices) hotel in Altrincham, which is quite close to Manchester Airport, and as I planned a loop tour to the same area for my return flight, the owners would store my bike case for the five-plus weeks that I would be riding - for free too - bonus!
After getting settled in, I spent a few hours assembling my bike and loading my gear/panniers etc., and then went for a wander into the town of Altrincham for supplies and stove alcohol (Meths) - I was immediately waylaid by a pub with some excellent Theakstons beer on tap! After sufficiently refreshing myself, shopping was much less of a task! I got everything that I wanted and had a nice meal before heading back to the hotel for a well deserved sleep. I was very tired after the flight and the weather in the UK was exceptionally hot, which was unusual and I found it very draining on my jet-lagged body. Nevertheless, no air conditioning in my hotel room made for a restless night.
What follows are my email messages home to family and friends...
Day 1 (riding) - Altrincham to Clitheroe
Actually, I'm just outside Clitheroe at Edisform Farm, where they have a caravan and tenting field - 5 pounds for the night, not bad. The campground that I had intended to stay at in Longridge wanted 25 pounds for a site - no picnic tables or anything else, except showers - but come on, that's over C$50! "No thanks," I said. I really explained that I didn't want shares in the place, just a site for the night, but they didn't see the humour in that statement. It was getting late too, as I had a late start waiting for the Monday morning rush-hour to subside. So I was lucky finding this place, with a farm shop and pub next door. That's where I am now, enjoying a pint of John Smith's at an outside table writing this report.
Life's tough eh? But today was another scorcher - 30 degrees yesterday and today and even a hotter forecast for tomorrow - 35 predicted for Southern England! Unusual weather for here - lots of people with bad sunburns, they're just not used to this much sun. Mind you, it took its toll on me too - lots of drinks and ice creams today, and I'm still downing fluids ;-)
I can't get over that 25 pound fee! What amazes me is that some people were actually camped there paying that extortionate price.
I had lots of fun today, map reading and wending my way on many minor roads trying to avoid the "big town" traffic. I did pretty good until I ended up in downtown Bolton, but with all the bike lanes here now, it was very easy riding through that town and any other congested areas that Basil directed me into - I'll keep him off the beer tomorrow, his mind tends to wander when he's passing this many pubs all the time!
So a long hot day with great scenery, it never ceases to amaze me that just a few kilometres out of the towns there is so much countryside still unspoiled - let's hope it stays that way. After some Canal side riding, I rode through a section of the West Pennine Moors that was really special and provided some good rubber-necking vistas. I'm even getting used to riding on the left again, I guess 24 years of living here and then riding in NZ recently prepped me though.
Tomorrow will definitely be more countryside riding on the way to the Lake District. If it's hot again, I don't plan to ride too far though, I'm still jet-lagged something awful - we'll see!
Adam K. & (what day/time is it?) Basil.
Day 2 - Clitheroe to Crookland
Why only 65 Klicks you may ask? Well the weather just seems to be getting hotter still, and I had some serious hills from first thing this morning riding over the moors/fells in the Forest of Bowland. I don't know why they call it a forest, because it was completely devoid of anything larger than clumps of grass and thistles. So no shade whatsoever and it was a scorcher. The granny gear was in constant use and even then I could have cut off my right arm for a motor - very slow going on some posted 16% grades!
Very quiet road though - I kept thinking to myself that if I passed out from heat exhaustion or rode over the edge (one lane road for the most part), I would be sheep fodder. Hundreds of them suckers on the moors, more than I saw in NZ. Quite the bloody pests too, when I eventually got some downhill runs I had a hell of a time avoiding them - lying in the middle of the road and running in front of the bike - lamb curry was looking good!
I stopped for lunch in High Bentham and it was an inferno there too - people just wandering around trying to catch whatever shade they could under awnings etc. The grocery store was busy, it was air-conditioned so lots of looky-loos - including me trying to get some cold air on me while I decided whole milk or skim - it was a long decision! I left there with big plans, but the heat was relentless and I had enough when I got to some road works at Kirkby Lonsdale. I was waiting in a queue there on a hill in full sun, for pavers to escort us through - eventually! I quit that idea after almost passing out with the heat reflected back from the roadway and went to the village for some more cold popsicles and drinks - I'm spending a fortune on cold stuff by the way! Anyway, I asked about camping and found out that there was nothing around until this place 10 Kms away. So, I found a way out of the village avoiding the paving crew and pedalled here.
Nice place, shady campsite, showers - and a bar, ahhh! I didn't sleep well again last night either, so tiredness, jet lag, heat - what the hell - I don't need excuses, I'm on holiday! Tomorrow's a new day.
Saw my first British bunny (for this trip) - live too!
Saw my first dead bunny too though.
Saw the absolutely flattest mouse ever.
Saw a whole lifetime's worth of sheep shit.
So you see all was not lost! And I actually passed through a section of the North Yorkshire Moors. I never realised that Yorkshire stretched this far west - in fact, High Bentham is in Yorkshire. Well, if it's still this hot tomorrow, I won't be going far again - too hard trying to keep hydrated and too much to see. Even with the hardships today, I saw some lovely small villages that are being kept up really well - picture postcard stuff!
Adam K. & (shave this damn fur off me) Basil.
Day 3 - Crooklands to Keswick
Another scorcher made 68 Kms enough for the day. Mind you, I didn't rush as I had many interesting and scenic villages/towns to visit and rack up some miles exploring. First stop was Kendal, then Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere and so on. Lots of bakeries in these places and I sampled quite a few of the wares. I also drank gallons of liquids today and I must admit that I needed them as the last two days left me quite dehydrated. It's easy to get like that when riding, because the breeze cools you off somewhat and you can fool yourself into thinking that you have drunk enough.
Anyway, I paid more attention to my body today and felt a little better, even though it's plenty hot work all the same. The newspapers today are quoting temps of 102 down south, with roads melting and all kinds of health problems for some people - so you can see why taking it easy is important for me. I was talking with a fellow at the campsite here, he asked me how far I had ridden (as he was eyeballing all the crap strapped to my bike) - I told him that I had ridden a little over 40 miles (everything here is still in miles not kilometres) - he said that he hadn't even driven that far today!
But what nice scenic villages and views today - it was really nice to poke around without worrying too much about destinations - I really have to do more of that. I've got a really nice campsite today, overlooking Derwent Water - cheapest yet too - at 5 pounds quite a bargain here in the Lake District. The whole of the Lake District is a tourist Mecca, so the only problem with all the quaint towns are the hordes of (other) tourists that I tend to meet, but one can definitely see why they're drawn here away from other even more crowded spaces.
With a bit of luck, I should be just into Scotland tomorrow - we'll see how tired the weather makes me again!
Adam K. & (better brush off that kilt) Basil.