Tuesday, 27 October 2015

A cycle tour right across England's green and pleasant land

It was my friend Chris's idea, but he was good (or daft) enough to invite me along. The Way of the Roses; a 170 mile coast to coast cycle route from Morecambe to Bridlington (in God's own county), camping along the way. This was August, but the trip was proposed for the end of October. In the meantime Chrissie and I an' the hounds were off to Brittany for a month or so (life's hard).

By the time the date arrived, neither myself nor Chris had actually been on a bike for weeks but, never mind. So, with bicycles on the back of the Scooby, we were off to Morecambe.

Chrissie waved us off and a nearby Morrisons provided necessary supplies and a cash machine, as well as these comical birds.

We left the resort around 11am, aiming to cycle some 40 miles. The route along the Lune valley and around the northern edge of the Forest of Bowland made for easy riding. The weather was fine and, grabbing a quick, takeaway coffee from a store in Wray we enjoyed the quiet, undulating roads.

The route takes in Settle, but since there was no convenient campsite we, instead, took backroads up towards Malham Tarn and a planned wild camp. We missed the "hardest climb of the entire route" and substituted our own, equally difficult ascent, both resorting to pushing the heavily laden bikes.

Arriving on the moor near the tarn in darkness, we took water from a stream and pushed on into the gloom to find a pitch for our tiny tents. It was a calm night, the forecast rain arriving as we awoke, forcing us to breakfast in our shelters, before packing quickly in the drizzly murk.

Dropping quickly into Malham we jettisoned rubbish in a handy bin ...

... before heading off to regain the official route at Airton, where I delighted Chris with tales of early Rohan outdoor kit as we passed the Old School House where the fledgling company was based in the 1980s.

It's indicative of the somewhat hilly nature of the rest of the route that day, that I took no photos as we climbed first over the moors to the highest point of the tour (1325' Keld Houses) then rattled down the, three mile long, notorious descent of Greenhow Hill into Pateley Bridge. We lunched at the cafe in the cattle market, opting for the namby-pamby, vegetarian-option quiche as farmers on the next table tucked into Desperate Dan sized portions of cow pie.

A tough, twisting, turning ascent past Brimham rocks eventually led us to the cycle route through the Fountains Abbey estate.

From there we bimbled easily into Ripon; our next overnight stop, another 40 miles into the journey.

On the first day Chris had lost patience with his new, Aldi bike computer (it's fair to say I'm a big fan of Aldi cycling kit) and resolved to replace it as soon as we found a bike shop. With that in mind, Chris led me on a delightful tour of Ripon, searching diligently for the bike shop referred to on our Sustrans map. It was such fun ... And on finding the shop, with a wide selection of computers, Chris decided not to buy one after all. Never mind ... I now have an intimate knowledge of Ripon's shopping district.

We finally arrived at our campsite on the outskirts of the town, now in sunshine. Tents up, coffee was soon on the way in our little haven amongst the caravans of the Caravan Club's Teesdale District Association, who were so welcoming that not one of 'em spoke to us ... clearly correctly having identified us as riff-raff.

Eschewing the delights of the, somewhat grotty, showers, we marched off, filthy, to wine and dine (well, beer and dine actually) in the Unicorn Inn in Ripon. And, suitably fed and watered (beered actually) we enjoyed a quiet night, emerging to a cool but sunny morning.

We planned to cycle 50 miles on the third day; a good distance for me, on a laden touring bike, but it was to be fairly flat. We passed stone megaliths outside Boroughbridge ...

... and tucked into a scrumptious second breakfast (of the full English variety) at the cafe by the lock at Linton on Ouse. Deeelicious!

Leaving the cafe, it wasn't too long before we were scooting along the riverside cycleway into York, surely one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in England, where we struggled to make progress through the shambling hordes of tourists. We did find time though for Chris to enjoy a medievel loo experience in the stone-built splendour of Bootham Gate, for the princely sum of FORTY PENCE! Needless to say, being born and bred in Yorkshire, I held on 'til we reached a Morrisons again ... where I peed for nowt!

We paused for piccies by the magnificent minster ...

... then wended our way through the suburbs, out into open countryside again. Particularly pleasant was a short section of off-roady stuff on the way to Stamford Bridge, where we lingered over coffee and cake in a cafe, contemplating the Norman conquest, battles and the like.

The final ten miles to Pocklington and out to our campsite for the night were tougher than expected, both of us feeling the strain on tiring knees. The final climb of the day saw me cussing and grumbling such that Chris thought me about to explode, especially when we failed to find the only campsite for miles around. Thankfully I'd noted their phone number, and a quick call resolved the matter and we were soon pitched in a superb spot on the lawn outside the impressive farmhouse. "Call it a fiver ..." the response when I offered payment.

It was a cool evening again and we each lingered in our tents, cooking, snoozing, listening the radio and pondering life, the universe and everything.

Our final day dawned; forty miles left. Setting off uphill my left knee decided it didn't like cycling any more. But I chivvied it along and Chris quietly endured my grumbling as we attacked the, penultimate climb of our journey along a beautiful, dry valley. The top of the hill came quickly though and silly banter took my mind off the knee. By the time I next thought about it, the pain had all but gone.

We stopped for coffee and bacon butties in Hutton Cranswick, then made for Driffield.

The end was now, metaphorically if not literally, in sight. We lunched in the old doorway of the church in Burton Agnes before tackling a short climb and the final nine miles into Bridlington.

After a seemingly endless ride through suburbs, we eventually hit the coast in glorious sunshine. Riding along the promenade we found the sign marking the end (or beginning) of the route and took the inevitable snaps of each other.

And that was that!

We gobbled coffee and cake ... again ... in a handy caff, quietly awaiting the arrival of Chrissie and the Scooby for our ride back home, pausing only for excellent fish'n'chips along the way. Big thanks to Chrissie for taking two days out of her busy retirement schedule to ferry us to the start and back from Brid.

It'd been a great ride, along some really enjoyably quiet roads, through pleasing countryside, showing the best of northern England's autumn loveliness.. Peace, quiet and good company; what more could you ask for.

Thanks Chris. Here's to the next time.


Sunday, 11 October 2015

It's the Autumn Recycle Event at Crowther Towers - be quick!

We're having a clearout here. Like lots of you we've acquired s**tloads of gear over the years often having second thoughts for the vaguest of reasons.

Those who know us will understand that we can be quite anal about taking care of gear, so you can be assured that anything you buy from us will be in good, serviceable "as described" condition and realistically priced; we're not here to fleece anyone.

So, first up a Terra Nova Superlite Voyager tent. A superb, two person, semi geodesic 3-4 season backpacking tent. Chrissie used this on the Pennine Way carrying it on her own to accommodate herself and our dear, departed boxer, Dixie (seen in the pic). It's NOT the current model. It weighs 2kg including pegs and bags. We've sealed the seams and dusted them with talcum powder as prescribed, to avoid any sticky residue so there's a noticeable whiteness to the seams (it's not cocaine). The pegs have been replaced with better than originals. It's in excellent condition with no damage. This tent is VERY stable in bad weather. Current model is around £430. Yours for £150 plus postage.

Next, a Thermarest Neoair All Season Medium Airbed. Hardly used. Here's a link to it on UOG.
They're asking £115.99; you can have this one for £50 plus postage.

You could kit yourself out for camping with this lot cos here's a Carinthia 1000 Down Sleeping Bag. It's about 10 years old but not used much; it's so warm. Here's a link to a similar model they currently make.
Wow! £773! Give us £100 plus postage and it's yours.

Next, a women's MacPac 45litre rucsac. Old but in good condition; hardly used £20 plus postage.

And, a men's MacPac 40litre rucsac. Again oldish but good condition. £20 plus postage.

Finally, we have 2 Thermarest Basecamp large self inflating sleeping mats; the ultimate for car camping luxury. Sorry about the pic: Chrissie says they're too big to inflate in the lounge?? They inflate to 5cm thick for a blissful night's sleep. Good condition. Don't worry; they don't have to rehomed as a pair; being happy to live alone in a caring household. £60 plus new. We'll take £30 each plus postage.

So there ya go. If you want anything, don't hang about it's all quality stuff at bargain prices. To buy, contact me on here, or (much faster) either of us on Twitter at @GeoffCrowther1 or @Chrissiedixie2

What? Tomorrow? Bit short notice ... Lakes backpacking

All I did was send my pal Chris a text to say we were back from France, We're cycling the Way of the Roses in a coupla weeks and I just needed to catch up with 'im.

"Off to the Lakes on a lightweight backpack tomorrow. Leaving about 4, after work. Come if you like," ... the unexpected response.

Thought for a minute ... "Go on then."

Chris arrives about 4.15 and we're off, up the M6 bound for Keswick. Dump the car and about 8:30 we're away, down the western edge of Derwent Water. We camp towards the south of the Lake, away from the path, close to the water's edge and near a conveniently placed bench. Soon sat on the bench, preparing a late dinner, we're puttin' the world to rights and staring at a faint green glow in the horizon's dip twixt Skiddaw an' Bencathra; the aurora borealis. Very faint mind, not worthy of a pic. Just like the hint Chrissie an' I got in Northumberland earlier this year.

Up early, our bench serves up a gourmet breakfast of blueberry porridge and coffee. Chris messes about, in a manly, backcountry way, with twigs and his lightweight meths an' whatever titanium cooking device while I watch in admiration, sipping my coffee ... which'd been ready hours ago.

It's a beautiful morning. An unlikely October in the Lakes.

Soon packed up we're off. God knows where. I'm leaving it up to Chris; just tagging along, and he's even more indecisive than me. But it's a fine morning and a diverse range of subjects challenge our combined intellects. Who cares where we're going?

The cafe Chris is threatening me with in Seatoller is shut, so we sit, by the roadside, fueling up on trail mix and biscuits then away up to Styhead Tarn. Lunch along the way is taken by a pool of crystal clear water, prob'ly 20 feet deep; but a dip's for another day.

Reaching the head of pass we decide (sort of) on Angle Tarn as our next target; onward and upward.

Above the tarn we take a longer break. My ankles feel the climbing. We ruminate on where to go from here but I'm tiring so, in deference to the old man of the group, Chris agrees to a descent into Langdale.

Arriving in the head of the valley shortly after 5pm and clocking a perfect wild camp before the first (or last) intake wall, we head for the comforts of the Old Dungeon Ghyll. I've not been here for years an' years but it's not changed ... apart from the prices. We down a coupla pints, contemplate buying dinner but, eventually decide against it and trudge back to our wild camp. The beer's cured my aching ankles ... astounding.

Dark now, we sit, preparing dinner on the footprint Chris brought with his bivvy bag as I mutter about the pointlessness, in my humble but considered opinion, of footprints. We "argue" in a good-natured way, stopping short of fisticuffs, before retiring; Chris to his breathable, nylon coffin, me to the comfort of the Enan, which is welcoming, despite Arctic Vole damage (see Chrissie's blog).

Like the first night, it's eerily calm and dry ... not the slightest hint of a breeze. Unusually for me, I sleep well, the beer, mileage and hills working their magic. But we're still both up early and Chris, amazingly, still allows me to sit on his (pointless) footprint. I munch "expedition breakfast" pretending to be an adventurer and sip filtered coffee while Chris stretches his meagre rations. He's hard is Chris.

Packed up and off around 9am we shoot off down the valley to the gruelling ascent to Stickle Tarn (I'll jump, quickly past the sweat toil and effort I expended, hauling myself and sack up there). We snack at the top and I entertain Chris with the tale of a New Years Day attack on Jack's Rake with a dear friend, many moons ago, following a mad, overnight drive from Yorkshire, itself following a boozy night out! If you strain your eyes with the pics you'll find Chris, in blue, leaping ahead of me like some mountain goat.

From here we turn our sights on a descent to Grasmere via Easdale Tarn. We become "temporarily misplaced" as some inconsiderate swine has gone before us and erased all traces of the path, clearly shown on our maps, from the ground. Undaunted, we plough on.

And we're done. Down in Grasmere we board a bus, for the SEVEN POUNDS AND SEVENTY PENCE ride to Keswick. Am I really so out of touch with prices these days? We wander through Keswick, pausing for cake and coffee, feeling like rufty, tufty adventurers, back to the car, the M6 and home.

Brilliant! Thanks Chris.

Next up, The Way of the Roses, a cycle camping adventure across England, from Morecambe to Bridlington. (Yorkshire WILL win, by the way.)