I suppose we should have taken warning from the fact that Roger couldn’t make it and we’d not done it before without him…..
So we went ahead anyway, starting with a drive across to Walney Island.
Day One :
Arrived through the streets of that wilderness know to the locals as Barrow – what a place. Then out of the other side of Barrow and down Walney Island to begin at the beach of Sandy Gap. The weather had been truly awful on the drive over, and it was still wet and unseasonably cold as the intrepid two set off in full wet-weather gear. Sadly Mike’s weird yellow riggers gloves again were absent, but they both showed off their latex rubber bootees, which look weird enough to make up for it.
Sandy Gap to Lindal-In-Furness
Raining, cloudy and only 13C. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it very quickly went downhill from there, as not 200 m down the road, Mike’s bike decided it had already seen enough abuse, and cast him to the ground in a heap. Lucky he landed on his face, so there wasn’t anything to spoil. It was actually a rather nasty fall –leaving him with a bloody cheek and chin, a bruised hand and skinned knee. What a start ! We just hoped that the bruising on his hand was not going to be problematic later.
Lindall-In-Furness turned out to be rather nice little place – not at all like the rest of the area.
You can always tell the nice places, as any residents stare at me loitering in my suspicious way. I’m pretty sure none of them noticed what my T-Shirt said “L’Infer est les autres” (Hell is other people – JP Satre) Maybe as devout Brexiteers they were appalled to see the French language touted so openly….
Lindal-In-Furness to Haverthwaite to Grange-Over-Sands
So, we already have our second SNAFU – a little early perhaps, but hardly unexpected given their appalling history of getting lost. The first stop agreed post-crash was meant to be Lindal-In-Furness, but they called to say they had got lost. Now this wasn’t just off-piste a bit, it was proper lost, like in excess of 10 miles off the route. If I was Mike I’d have blamed it on my injuries. Anyway, it necessitated me driving to pick them up and set them back on the route. This was a little serendipitous, as the drive along Barrow Sea Road was very pleasant, with many nice sea-view properties. Most unexpectedly a huge BUDIST TEMPLE hove into view. And here I was thinking the locals only worshipped at the church of beer, pies and casual racism. So, the next planned meeting was set for Grange-Over-Sands.
Grange-Over-Sands to Oxenholm
Grange-Over-Sands is quite a nice holiday spot, at least it has a toilet and an ESPLANADE. The weather was still very variable, alternatively hot sun and cold dark cloud and wind. No further dramas ensued, and they met me as planned on the Esplanade. The it was off to Oxenholm for the next meet.
Oxenholm to Castle Green Hotel
Unfortunately, the ride to Oxenholm included in the later section a couple of very steep climbs. Mike abandoned a few miles away, I think partly as a result of his crash earlier. Steve soldiered on, but also called it a day at the bottom of a steep section. The pub we’d chosen to meet at – The Station Inn – was on top of a high hill, well away from the train station at the bottom. The car park was completely full and the pub itself was a bit of a dump, so I’ve no idea why it was so popular.
By now it was getting late anyway, and so this meant that I scooped them both up and we headed off to the Castle Green Hotel outside of Kendal.
Pretty nice generic hotel – a lot bigger than I expected, but comfortable and with good facilities. Unfortunately, the gastric problem (thanks to Al Bake Gosforth !) I’d been nursing since the start meant that I just wasn’t up to dinner and abandoned them for an early night.
Steve and Mike reported that the dinner the previous evening was a decent 7 out of 10. The wine and beers taken on board did a lot to salve the tired and/or damaged limbs.
A well provided breakfast (just toast and tea for me) was taken before driving the riders to Beck Foot to begin todays trials.
Beckfoot to Orton
The weather was getting worse all the time, but heavy rain just held off. Due to missed turns and being distracted with stomach issues, I ended up on ridiculously narrow roads to drop them at Beck Foot. My only route back to civilisation (of a sort) was across a narrow bridge marked a 6ft 6in, but with a hidden stone sticking out at the perfect height to scrap a car door – which it did. As if I wasn’t feeling ill enough. Sorry again Mike.
No more mishaps and Orton turned out to be a rather nice place. Another of these seemingly very well off villages with lots of good properties and big flash cars. Where do these people make their money ? – they can’t all be drug dealers or financial advisors. Unfortunately the weather was still cold and quite windy.
Orton to Kirkby Stephen
Again no more aggro, and we met for sarnies in the Co-Op at Kirkby Stephen. Steve’s sports drink was saving my life, the glucose really helping me feel only awful rather than deathly.
We’d originally planned for them to cycle on into Oxenthwaite, before getting a ride up to Tan Hill, but the weather was rubbish, so they decided we’d drive up to Tan Hill from here.
Tan Hill to Bowes Castle
The Tan Hill Inn is the highest altitude pub in England. It was really bleak up on top of the moors here. Unaccountably the place was chock full, with loads of motor bikers and mobile home drivers everywhere. Windy, dark, wet – how could this possibly be August ? Why, because this is England of course. Why wasn’t I in Majorca for god’s sake!
Anyway after much grousing and wet-weather prep, the riders set off for their long decent down into Bowes Castle.
Bowes Castle was a bit of a damp-squib castle-wise, just a pile of stones really. While waiting for them near a kids play ground – never a very comfortable experience, I noticed that our hotel for the night was actually just across the road from me in Bowes, and not actually in Barnard Castle as it promotes itself. It looked OK anyway.
Bowes to Barnard Castle to Bishop Aukland
No more getting lost, car damage or bike falling offs to report. The weather was still not great, but they were lucky not to be actually getting a soaking. We met up on the edge of Bishop Aukland and drove back to Bows and the Ancient Unicorn Hotel.
Make mine a Domestos please
The hotel was quaint and was the result of converted stables. It had comfortable rooms and a very nice looking bar and restaurant. However they clearly were a bit lax in the “let’s not poison the customers” area. Steve’s pint of bitter turned out to be more Domestos than beer and almost choked him. Obviously the landlady was a fan of the POTUS and was just giving him an anti-COVID dosing.
I actually managed to have a light dinner and some wine – again I think thanks to Steve’s energy drinks.
Bishop Aukland to Brancepeth
After breakfast, I drove them across to the far side of Bishop Aukland and they set off for a meeting in Brancepeth, followig an old railway line. Brancepeth itself was again very nice and well-to-do, with a golf course and big houses. I don’t think anything went amiss, but I know it took them a lot longer to get to me than we’d figured. Perhaps they had something to be ashamed of, if so they kept it to themselves.
Brancepeth to High Pittington
The riders arrived into the car park of the Blacksmith’s Arms looking cold and knackered, and around an hour later than expected. The previous section having been tough on the limbs.
The original plan had been to carry on to Sunderland, but we couldn’t face the delights that Sunderland city centre has to offer, so we had a celebratory pint outside the pub and called it a day there. Like The Curate’s Egg, it had been good in parts, but reduced squad numbers, illness, accidents and car wrecks left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth – oh no that was just Steve’s pint.
Anyway IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER NEXT TIME.