Yorkshire Dales

The Laminator ate my Routesheet: Beyond the Dales We Know 300 km helper’s ride

21/04/18

 

I’d left myself some things to keep me occupied the evening before the ride (or you could consider that I’d left somethings until the last minute), so it was that I was laminating the route sheets. The first one got stuck inside.  I could have gone back in to work, printed it out again and used the work laminator but the thought of going back there again, especially on a Friday evening, was too much. Fortunately I had (a) a spare paper copy (although half the size so reading it might be challenging) and (b) a bar bag with waterproof map case. When it had cooled down I took the bloody thing apart and retrieved the unusably-crumpled sheet, but I didn’t want to risk the others through it at this point.   So all was well apart from the fact that I’d have extra, unattractive, luggage, and the final stage which would be ridden in the dark would rely on rather small font. I took maps as a back-up anyway but marked on this final stage in case.

Laminator

I rode this last year and this time Dean had asked if I would stamp cards at the Markington checkpoint, so this was ridden as a helper’s ride; effectively a perm in the fortnight before the event. To aid logistics I opted to start and finish at Ilkley, which is the closet point to Leeds. My aim was to get back in time for the last train home (I did NOT want to be tackling the Cow and Calf/Otley Chevin/Pool Bank in the dark with 300 km in my legs to get home). Some planning based on 20 kph riding and realistic but not too generous stops meant that I’d have to leave home at 4 am. I re-wrote the route sheets to make home – Ilkley part of the ride, and re-set the distance to zero at the start of each stage, which I’d found beneficial on LEL.

morning
This is what audacious looks like

I slept badly and was only dozing when the alarm went off at 3.30 am.  My clothes were ready but I still needed to make the final decisions on outer wear, and after feeling the temperature outside opted for winter gloves and shoes.  The last couple of days had been a ‘heatwave’ (for April) but with the clear sky the night had been cold. A first outing for the LEL jersey (an attempt to humble/ridicule myself into continuing when the going gets tough) and I was happy to see that it fits better than it did when I got it before the end of last year. Jumper and short-sleeve high vis/windproof gilet on top and leg warmers I though I’d be fine, with enough bits to take off to be flexible. The forecast was for warm sun with thunder and rain by the evening. So a waterproof and rain gloves went in too.  In fact I took four pairs of gloves with me (this is what happens when you take excessive luggage – more than LEL or BGB) – you fill it up. In the event the only pair I didn’t use were the wet ones.

It was chilly heading down to Ilkley, as it’s mostly downhill so not much opportunity to warm up. Being audax-o’clock I took the A roads which were fairly deserted.  There were a few cars and I did see one other cyclist.  The petrol station control in Ilkley isn’t 24 hours and its external cash machine wasn’t working, so I continued on the town centre for a cash machine and receipt. I was impressed that it read 5.01 am which made me look very organised. I had done a good check on the map of the centre and how to get back on route because getting lost so early on would make me excessively grumpy.

There was already a dull green glow in the east, and soon I didn’t need my head torch to read the routesheet, which was a good job as the batteries were struggling. After some lanes out of Ilkley (featuring suicidal bunnies) the route follows the Wharfe up the valley past Bolton Abbey.  This is a nice overalll climb but not much silly steepness. Despite climbing I was colder now, and there were a few patches of frost on the roadside leaves in the hollows.

Wharfedale Wharfedale

The sun was catching the hills to my left, and eventually it came down to meet the road and I bathed in its warmth. Not exactly; at this hour it was a psychological heating rather than anything else. I could have put my waterproof on for extra warmth but I was nearly warm enough and knew it would improve soon.  The valley was gorgeous, with the dawn light and dewy fields. At the other side of the river I saw the campsite and pub at Craven Arms which we passed recently while Springing into the Dales, and eventually joined that route at Burnsall Bridge.

Then it’s in the general direction of Grassington, then Kettlewell, which aren’t quite visited (Beyond the Dales You Know, see), branching off for Arncliff and Littondale.  The first control is the Queens in Litton, definitely not open at 7 am, so photos taken for proof of passage.

Queens Arms in Littondale Queens Arms in Littondale

This side of the valley was in the shade so I kept going a bit further, to the turnoff at Halton Gill, before I stopped for my breakfast of supermarket sandwich brought with me. The extra luggage was actually quite useful throughout the day as essentially a larder, doing the ride from an alternative start buggered up some of the carefully selected controls as far as food went. This well-prepared audaxer returned home with more food that he took…

Halton Gill

I’d remembered the climb out of here as being a bastard, and it does have some steep sections (featuring an up-hill cattlegrid which is tough, they are much easier to speedily freewheel over), but the steep sections are short and the descent to Stainforth is long. Pen-y-Ghent Gill carves a lovely deep gorge down to the left, as the pass travels between Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent.

Littondale Halton Gill - Stainforth

Then it’s the main road up through Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Ribblehead, again it looked like there was a three peaks event on, with lots of cars and a gazebo in the field in Horton.  I wasn’t expecting the burger van at the Ribblehead junction to be open at my target time of 9 am and was pondering my stop strategy, but it was there so I pulled in. However although it was there, the side open and the radio on, the proprietor was absent; according to a couple having their own brew in the car/van parked next door she had taken her dog for a quick walk before opening (it was about 8.50 am). Although I’d really fancied a coffee I didn’t want to hang around so just had one of my flapjacks and got going. It was beautifully sunny and clear, I’d already stopped to take my jumper off (and remove a fly from my eye, multitasking stops are always good) and I was feeling like I was going well.

After a gentle climb the cars became sparse again and the turnoff for Dentdale appeared. This is a great descent which provides views from above the viaduct and later below, the former would have been a nice picture but it’s not an easy place to stop.

Dent viaduct

I remembered that I’d been particularly miserable here last time and was feeling quite the opposite.  You barely have to pedal for a long time. It was on the approach to Dent that I suddenly remembered it has cobbles, and changed down several gears and braced myself. My bike and wheels are quite chunky, and I wonder how slimmer models manage over this. Dean had helpfully noted that there are toilets and an outside tap here, the latter especially useful as I’d had no options for refills until now.

On through Sedburgh, one of the bigger towns visited, but feeling no need to stop I began the climb up Howgill Lane.  This was less painful than I remembered too, I don’t know if this is because last time was further through the ride, or I was more cheery this time, or just that I’d done it before so I could do it again.  A couple of more speedy riders came passed me along here, I was quite happy to be overtaken and probably still retaining some smugness that I’d got all the way here from Leeds and it was only 10 am.

“Everywhere that air of conspiracy which generates amongst people who have been up since dawn – of superiority almost, derived from the common experience of having seen the night disappear and the morning come” The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré.

The descent alongside the Howgills was even more enjoyable than last time in the crisp sun.  I almost waved at a train speeding south along the west coast main line such was my delight (but apparently I gave up waving at trains when entering adulthood).

Howgill Lane Howgills and the River Lune

I feel sorry for Tebay, I suppose its position is not unlike Moffat in that a motorway has removed much of its passing trade, but Moffat retains the A701 route and has gone upmarket since I was young, but Tebay just looks tired. I was pleased to see some non-lorry traffic at the services, including a hen party. I had a decent length stop here, it was warm now so arm and leg warmers off and sun cream on, and a reapplication of Conotrane while I had suitable facilities.

At Tebay services
Ever glamorous

I’d remembered the first bit of the next section, where the route heads up and through unfenced moorland. There was a particularly magic moment when I crossed a cattle grid and as soon as the noise of it ceased so did the roadside trees and fences and it was suddenly open and quiet. Stopping to take one of many photos along here I was caught by another cyclist who stopped to ask where I was going.  He had heard of Audax and had a suspiciously tatty Carradice.

Nameless moors near Great Asby Scar

Through Great Musgrave, recalled after the Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Musgrave Ritual’; I checked last time and in the story they are in Surrey, never mind.  After Brough came the climb to Middleton-in-Teesdale which I hadn’t remembered until I saw the junction.  It’s lovely, but manages to combine a steep up-up-up climb with an up-down-up descent, so there is not much time to relax.  Middleton soon arrived and I’d already planned a visit to the Co-op, remembering that I would need sustinence for the next control(s) too.  Here was my mistake. I thought I’d learned my lesson on overeating, but it turns out that a Mars Bar ice cream AND a hot cheese and onion pasty (in that order naturally) still counts as too much.  To Staindrop was ok, just feeling a little stuffed. I stopped to take a photo of the church as time evidence, but also noted that although I didn’t know the info control question here I knew its location and took an educated guess that it would be ‘name of fish and chip shop’ [Chip in Dale; it was].  Either way I’m sure my passage through would be suitably evidenced.

St Mary the Virgin, Staindrop

The route was flatter now but I started to feel sick and had a headwind which did nothing for comfort or morale. The nausea was fairly convincing and I pondered my best options to pack – not far to Northallerton and still plenty of time to get a train back to Leeds.  But I really wanted to finish this; remember you are wearing your LEL jersey, keep going and see how it goes.

I felt rather sorry for Dean around here because the roads and signs must be changing almost constantly and keeping the routesheet up to date must have been a nightmare. I got through without any wrong turnings so he must have done a good job. I had also studied the route quite carefully beforehand, because I got lost near the end last time and didn’t want to repeat the exercise. So I had a pretty good idea that I was going in the right general direction all the time.  The A6055 follows the A(M)1, and may be able to become the new B7076 in terms of ubiquitousness and boredom, but it has a damn-site better (new) road surface. I stopped on one of the bridges over the motorway and had my carton of chocolate ‘milk’ (soya) which I know my stomach likes, and a little feeling-sorry-for-myself break. Heading off again I felt a little better and thought I’d make a decision on packing when I got to the road which could lead to Northallerton. I don’t think that I ever actually made a decision, but ended up turning off anyway at Ainderby Steeple for Newby Wiske (they do like their double-barrels around here). Shortly after I met some people at the roadside wrestling with a bike and with a jauntily-parked car; my initial though was ‘accident’ but when I asked if all was ok one of them said they had a problem with the chain, so I stopped to investigate. It was a lad with his bike and his parents or friends who had come out to rescue him in their car. The chain was not only off the big ring but also over the crank and pedal and one of the assistants was trying to puzzle out how it went back on. I managed to sort it and the rider seemed keen to cycle home, so we suggested he do so in a middleing gear and not try changing it to be on the safe side. It didn’t take long and was a sufficient distraction (probably because I had successfully managed to help) that it gave my brain a bit of a kick and so while my stomach didn’t feel right for the rest of the ride my head at least did.

The control at Newby Wiske was a bit weird because even though I knew it wasn’t the end of MY ride I knew it was the end of THE ride. I stopped for another selfie by the village sign and had half a sandwich, which went down ok.

Newly Wiske

It was flat and not far to Boroughbridge, where I thought the traditional remedy of coke and salt and vinegar crisps might be a good idea. They were, although the Spar receipt was useless not having a location on it. The cash machine just over the bridge earlier would be a better option. I took yet another selfie when I turned off on the distinctive road ‘St Helena’ which I thought would suffice.  Arm warmers, gilet and lights went on here.

Boroughbridge

It it was only 15 km to Markington, where I would be stamping cards next weekend.  I actually had no recollection of this on last years ride, and still didn’t recognise it when I got there. I took another photo, noted the location of the campsite where I plan to stay on Friday night, switched on my headtorch (having put the new batteries in I need at Tebay) and pressed on.

Markington

On leaving I was half an hour ahead of my schedule and had that ‘I’m actually going to do it’ moment. I had two things in mind, completing within time (definitely possible as the minimum speed is low) and getting my train home, which was more debatable but held considerable mental weight. I kept telling myself that validation was the more important thing and that it was hardly the end of the world if I had to get a taxi home from Ilkley, or worse, summon the courage to ride.

I’d forgotten in my time calculations the slowing which happens in the dark; I find descents challenging and never make it to the big ring. I do think my light could go a few degrees upwards which would help. But still, this last bit had some hills and I couldn’t make up any time on the descents. I was also now using my tiny-font routesheet with map back-up, and although the routesheet was ok I did have to stop to read it at each instruction, the road vibrations being too much for clarity. The very straight but horribly-surfaced road by Fewston barracks was at least not too bad at this time of day as it was quiet, and I was able to ride in the middle of the road to avoid the worst of the potholes. The steep hill after this, climbing after the reservoirs, I hadn’t remembered and could have done without. Although Ilkley isn’t a bad start, Newby is better because you get a flat start and a flat finish.

I could see the lights of various towns in the valley below but was getting worried about my slowness and getting back for the train so was distracted and not able to enjoy the views. I blame this on my bike computer; I had been looking at the distance which had been 17.1 km and seemed very slow to get to 17.2, etc; I thought this was me looking at it too often but after a while realised it had changed itself to read average speed rather than distance. So that meant my average speed for this leg was 17 kph….not good for getting back in time. I didn’t let myself look at my watch because there was nothing I could do about it.

Slowly the route asymptotically approached the lit A road to Ilkley and eventually met the bridge over to the control petrol station.  In the interests of knowing where I was and not faffing I decided to return to the town centre for a receipt and the station; risking a look at my watch it was 10:45 pm, so I bombed it along the road (amazed that I still had the energy and legs) and got back to my starting cash machine. Just under 18 hours and I was very happy, although thought that ‘contingency’ should be a future consideration.  The last train to Leeds was everything I dreamed of, full of drunk people, although to be fair they left me along. A large group of under-20s blokes with a few women, they were very noisy.  The toilet, which unfortunately I was next to, was marked ‘out of order’ but several of them were clearly desperate. After attempts to pee out of the train doors at a station or on the platform (foiled because it didn’t stop for long enough) they forced the door open, at which point it was visited by about 10 of them followed by one for vomiting purposes. I can only hope the defect wasn’t the flush.

The forecast thunder kept its distance, it started to rain as the train pulled out of Ilkley and had apparently just stopped when I got back to Leeds.  Couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried.

The final ride ride home was the usually dodging of revellers through the town centre, uncomfortable in backside (mostly) and legs. But Carr Manor Road seemed tame in comparison to some of today’s hills. I got back and had a shower to remove the sun cream-adhered dirt that I didn’t really want in my bed, and had a cup of tea to try and rehydrate, even did a few back stretches, so wasn’t in bed until 2 am. 22.5 hours, and only on checking the following day have I realised I did 200 miles, which is rather satisfying. I’m very glad that I got through the rough patch.  At the time of writing (the next day) I feel like I’ve been through the mill, arm and chest muscles hurt as well as knees and thighs. It’s real step up from 200 km.

Beyond the Dales route

 

333 km (207 miles), 17 hrs 45 mins, 3,725 m climbed

The event
27-29/04/18

The ride itself…cycled up to Markington in the rain, which stopped on arrival.  Tent up and finally in the pub (The Yorkshire Hussar) by 9 pm, in my wet clothes to just about dry off.  Busy and a bit posh but there was a little back room with a chap watching football and another sitting at the bar, so I joined them and we ignored each other for a couple of hours.  Very nice Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker accompanied the reading of John Buchan’s Huntingtower on my phone, as I had disappointingly failed to fit a book in my panniers.

Beer in the Yorkshire Hussar

Next morning after coffee and porridge I was in position at around 7 am for the first rider at 7.20 am.  All in good spirits if a little cold, which it certainly was.  The wisdom of a situation next to the defibrillator was noted.  The final rider came through just after 8 am, all still close together as only 42 km into the ride.  It was good to put names to some now-familiar faces from other events.

Camping stove Bike and control at Markington

After a second breakfast I packed up, failed to warm up, and started off along the route in reverse to Newby Wiske.  It took a long time before I had warmed up enough to take a layer off.

Milestone

Arrived at HQ around 12 pm to an alien invasion, and to find the hosts having the slight problem of no electricity to the building.  They soon fixed it and I went off in search of beer supplies for later.  Then it was a case of waiting for riders returning, ringing cow bells at them and drinking beer.  Dean’s photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30024450@N04/sets/72157666457595807

Tents

100 km or so over the weekend

Spring into the Dales 100 km

08/04/18

I last did this three years ago shortly after moving to Leeds, then 2016 was a year of surgery and no rides, and last year I ended up on the shorter Leap into the Aire after a travel-to-the-start cock-up.  The train from Leeds arrives in Mytholmroyd 6 minutes after the start, so I was always going to be ‘behind’.  I was happy that the ride up out of Hebden Bridge and down to Oxenhope was easier than on the first occasion.  Mist was lifting out of the Worth Valley ahead and the views were great.

Worth Valley from Cock Hill

The rest of the hills, of which the ride is entirely consisted, were hard going.  I got to the checkpoint at Earby around the same time as a few others, but got going again as quickly as I could, pausing only to down a banana.  The first control proper was at Gargrave and again I went into the Dalesman Cafe and wondered why there were so few of us in there, although this time my beans on toast were quite slow coming and rather low on the beans, so I’m not sure I’ll visit again.  By the time I left the controllers were also leaving and there was no sign of anyone else on the ride, so I started to worry that I’d be brining up the rear for the rest of the day.  Once off again I took a right turn prematurely but happily realised very soon and only added an extra km.  Some nice lanes around here.

Tea at the Dalesman Cafe Yorkshire lane

I saw a few other riders but wasn’t sure if they were actually doing this ride or just happened to be going the same way.  I lost a couple of them near Bolton Abbey where we crossed the Wharfe so maybe the latter.

Bike at bridge over the River Wharfe

Blimey that bar bag is fugly.  Arriving at the control in Keighley I was happy to find quite a few others and felt like I was on a calendar event after all.  Rossi’s cafe is great.  The person serving took a bit of convincing that yes I did want a large coffee; it was a small bathtub but I had found the ride hard going and it was just what I needed.  With that and a chocolate-topped flapjack I was ready for the final 20 km back over Cock Hill.  I actually enjoyed this climb both ways, it’s long but doable, in contrast with some of the steeper hills on this ride which in the latter stages had me asking “what the actual fuck?” when I saw the walls of tarmac coming nearer.  I did make it up them all though.  It’s not quite the hilliest ride I’ve done (the Season of Mists is a 2.5 AAA and got me a gold badge), but it is fairly early in the year, and they are just unrelenting.  Thus my top-of-cock selfie is no reflection on Calerdale, which I was quite happy to be welcomed to.

Top of Cock Hill Top of Cock Hill, looking south-ish

Spring into the Dales 2018 route

117 km, average 18 kph (oh dear), riding time 6:29, total time 7:51, 2.25 AAA

Ingleborough again

07/01/18

Off the bike and a fantastic weather forecast, so revisited Ingleborough although this time a linear route from Ribblehead to Horton. It was a Sunday so the trains were few and far between…happily the pub was open, and the waiting room in the station was warm and dry.

Whernside and the Ribblehead viaduct Pen-y-ghent Path up towards Ingleborough Towards Whernside Ingleborough

Top of Ingleborough Top of Ingleborough Top of Ingleborough Top of Ingleborough Top of Ingleborough

Ingleborough Limestone pavement near Horton-in-Ribblesdale Paths in the Yorkshire Dales

Route map

Ingleborough: Hewitt, HuMP, Marilyn, Nuttall; 724 m/2,375 ft

Beyond the Dales we know and the Wigginton 300

29/04/17 and 13/05/17

Chalk and cheese in God’s own country.

“Right, piss off”. And so around 40 riders were dispatched on what is hopefully the inaugural Beyond the Dales We Know 300 km. Some of us had arrived the night before and camped at Mike and family’s farm, which they had generously opened up to us as HQ. The finer details had not gone unnoticed, including the provision of a cockerel alarm clock to make sure we were all ready for the 6 am start.

Waiting for the start of Beyond the dales we know Waiting for the start of Beyond the dales we know

[These two photos have been nicked from Facebook and I can’t remember who took them, sorry. I just like that either I or my tent features].  I had entered a more tame ride (complete with Travelodge before and after) to be my first 300 km; but my plans had been thwarted, as is often the way, by life (in this case in the shape of a brick though my living room window), and so it was that I found myself approaching this ride – which would take us over some 3,500 m of climbing – with some apprehension.

Beyond the dales we know

The route was pure genius, with flat sections at the start and finish and many lumps in between, over some of the best roads this part of the country has to offer. First we headed down to Ilkley, which was the nearest point to home for me, but I hadn’t been on these roads before. Next we turned north, passed Bolton Abbey and into the Dales National Park.

Beyond the dales we know

The Tour de Yorkshire was coming along some of these roads later in the day and there were lots of flags and painted bikes hanging out, however for some reason we didn’t receive any applause. The route turned up Littondale, and here was a section I recognised from a walk in the area a couple of years ago. I remembered that I’d always wanted to continue up this way, and here I was. A control at the Queen’s Head pub was a nice place to stop, just tea and crisps for me. I believe I missed a harmonica rendition. A few others were here around the same time; Andy and Rob (Rob doing his first 300 km too) and Steve? who’d started at 1 am from home that day on his way to yet another SR in a month.

After this it got lumpy. The road up from Littendale over Pen-y-Ghent Gill to Stainforth is beautiful. A tough climb, so I was quite happy to stop for a photo half way up.

Beyond the dales we know Beyond the dales we know Beyond the dales we know

Then a gorgeous ride down to meet the ‘main drag’ towards Horton in Ribblesdale. The majority of the roads on this ride were deserted, so it was a bit of a shock to arrive in Horton which was full of cars and people and tents, there being a big three peaks race on over the weekend. I’ve walked them on separate occasions but have never felt the need to exert myself over such a prolonged time, through darkness, cold, rain, in a limited time…oh.

My right knee became painful at this point, and I began what turned out to be a prolonged period of doubting whether I’d finish, and general misery. The route passes close to train stations along the Settle – Carlisle line but after Dent (England’s highest station) bailout option are non-existent. Well maybe you could try hitching a lift at the Tebay truck stop. Such things occupied my mind for quite a long time.

After the bustle of Horton the road quietened down a bit before reaching Ribblehead, again also busy. A burger van was mentioned on the route sheet and provided much motivation at this point; I promised myself a stop here as bribery to continue. The fried egg roll was one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten, in the way that just what you are craving is when you’ve been riding for hours. I saw a train leave the station heading south…the way home…no, keep going.

Now the road down through Dentdale is no doubt one of the ‘rewarding descents’ promised by Dean. Unfortunately I was at my most miserable here, my knee seemed to get better and I was fine for food, looking back I can’t quite explain it but I felt thoroughly unpleasant. I was conscious that if I was going to pack it had to be now, up the steep (of course) hill to Dent station. This is a beautiful place, but that was failing to make an impression. I thought about having to call Dean to tell him I’d quit, and would crawl sheepishly back tomorrow to reclaim my tent. I thought of how I’d feel instant relief now if I could stop, but that I knew I’d regret it later. My LEL dreams would be realised as a volunteer rather than a rider [thanks to Pete who later provided me with a kick up the arse by way of ‘I want to be stamping your card not having you stamp cards!’ I hope to be stamping in 2021]. I thought about that road along the Howgills on the east side of the M6 – when would I ever get the chance to ride it again?

At no point did my mind shift, I never thought ‘get over yourself and get on with it’; I just kept going and kept hating it.

Eventually I got to Sedburgh. On my previous two visits it was absolutely bucketing down so this was a nice change. As I prematurely took an ‘easy to miss’ turning Andy came out of a cafe and said a few of them were having a bite to eat, but I put my polite hat (helmet?) on and said “Thanks but if I stop now I’ll never get going again”.  Really I meant “don’t speak to me I hate you all why I am doing this”?  On finding the right road I followed Howgill Lane which, as the name suggests, is not an easy freewheel. At some point, and I’m not sure where, it stops becoming a green climb and turns into a moorland descent, full of sheep and grass in the middle of the road. About now and despite my best efforts I started to enjoy myself. I’d ridden up to JoG a few years previously and the route had taken me north up the other side of the M6. I’d loved it then, it’s a magical enough passage when driving or in the train, and being there by bike makes it even more ‘earned’. And now I was at the more remote side, dodging sheep.

Beyond the dales we know Beyond the dales we know

On arrival in Tebay truck services I was happy to see a few now-familiar faces. The cafe had recently closed but the shop was still open and the woman on the till was full of enthusiasm about our next roads, being a regular rider of them. This next section, from Tebay to Brough, was one if my favourites. Maybe I’d realised that although I might not ‘finish’ (be back at HQ in time) I wasn’t going to pack (really there aren’t any options) and so I relaxed a bit. I love riding over moors like this; very few (almost zero) cars, just snow poles and the unfenced road.

Beyond the dales we know

I reached Middleton-in-Teesdale still without full confidence and seeing the prospect of ‘hotel’ on a road sign I was again considering the options for stopping. Happily I followed the others in front and visited the Co-op, which offered no such distractions. Dean had asked that we report in at this point to give his crew in Staindrop an idea of their schedule. And the arrival there was wonderful! Cowbells, tea, and flapjacks. At this point with about 50 km to go, I must have realised I’d make it. I also knew there were at least a couple of riders behind me and some not too far in front, so I didn’t feel too out of it.

As I said the beauty (ok one of then) of this route is the flat start and finish. I was feeling pretty good, knowing I was on target to actually complete the ride. In the last few km I had a route sheet confusion and ended up on a dark road, somewhere near HQ. Reluctantly (as I don’t like to rely on it) I consulted the map on my phone and figured out how to get to the arrivée. The map is all well and good but the compass function is not to be trusted and as it turns out I was about to head off 180° in the wrong direction. Fortunately the local constabulary passed at this point and stopped to check I was ok. Since there is a police centre at Newby Wiske they were able to point me in the right direction. Eventually I rolled in as lanterne rougue, to the confusion of Rebecca and Co who I’d been ahead of at the last control. I’ve never finished a ride to a round of applause before! As lots of people were staying over there was a certain amount of beer consumption already in hand, and I was lucky enough that a can of Green King had remained intact. After enjoying that and a bit of a chat with the assembled company I retired to my tent and left them to several more hours of revelry.  The next day (Sunday) morning was bright and sunny, and a spontaneous breakfast was cooked up by Mike.  I felt not-too-bad, and rode the few miles back to Northallerton station for the train home to Leeds. The next day was a bank holiday and very fortunate too, by then the ride had caught up with me and I slept through the whole morning.

 

Two weeks later, having recovered both physically and mentally, I found myself in the surreal situation of lying in a village hall on a Friday night before the Wiggy 300 km with three other snorers riders, trying to sleep while bathed in the eternal dawn from an emergency exit light. My accommodation of Thermarest and sleeping bag seemed fairly luxurious compared to Raj next to me (a blanket) and a chap who’d retired to another room and was sleeping on whatever soft material he’d put his bike on in his car. Andy and Rob from Beyond the Dales were also staying over, and a couple in a camper van in the car park. I had my ear plugs but didn’t sleep particularly well, no doubt being conscious that we would be up at 4 am kept my brain active. All good LEL practice I told myself. It’s great being able to stay over before a ride, I don’t have a car so would have to find a B&B otherwise. Someone’s alarm went off but I’d already woken and got up, and was busying myself ejecting a slug which was attempting to take up residence in my panniers.

It was gloomy but dry as we left, and within the first half hour the sun broke free of the horizon, briefly visible as a huge red orb before being partially hidden by clouds. This route was quite unlike Beyond the Dales, being fairly flat in the main but with a final hilly section of 66 km. The routes shared a short section near Boroughbridge but otherwise explored very different landscapes. The first control was in a cafe in Malton, approaching which and passing Morrisons I realised I’d stopped here before…maybe on the one previous ride I’ve done from Wigginton. The cafe was a lot nicer than the supermarket, and I was happy to discover that I really can do 100 km before breakfast, powered only by a strong Brownian motion producer.

Bike and signpost near Hutton Cranswick Food after 100 km at Malton

Raj joined me and we discussed our onward travel plans, he found that his last train home was going to be relatively early and so pushed on as quickly as possible; my last one back to Leeds was after 11 pm which at an average riding speed of 20 kph should have been fine, but if not I’d ‘only’ have to wait 3 hours in York for the next service, which wouldn’t be the end of the world, so I was trying not to feel any time pressure. The next section was due west to Ripon, a place I remember from touring the Way of the Roses because I ended up riding round the centre in circles attempting to follow the NCN signs (a classic, where signs for the route point both left and right with no indication of which is the east and which the west direction).

After the first long stage the route was nicely divided into ~50 km sections which I found ideal. The next control was a cafe in the park which was shared with riders on the Wiggy 100 km. Raj and I left and rode together for the next section, north to Richmond. Here we tackled the climb up to the historic market town; a pilgrimage to Greggs where I explained to the person serving why she’d had a large number of requests for receipts. Here I chatted to another rider (Ossian as I now know) who was also preparing for LEL, this was only his third audax so I think he’s on track! We discovered we’d both registered for a 400 km from Mytholmroyd a fortnight later, a first for us both at that distance. Raj and I set off for Stokesley, the last control and the beginning of the scenic section. We chatted about our riding experience; Raj is from a costal part of India where he said you can do a 600 km without encountering any hills, but that meant a lot of experience of riding into the wind! He’s also worked and ridden in a variety of places including Canada and Singapore, so when I asked what he thought of British drivers he was very impressed with the consideration and respect experienced – which certainly puts things into perspective. On arrival in Stokesley around 5.40 pm we dropped into the control cafe but the proprietor said he could no longer offer us any food, as it was a Saturday evening and he was booked up, having expected us all earlier. He was however happy to sign our cards and fill water bottles, which was excellent and I explained that we were the slower end of the field. Raj set off as soon as he’d had his bottle filled, but I was happy (and needed) to take a longer break. There was a Co-op for sustenance and as it was now turning into quite a nice evening I had a wander around the town centre while eating.

Packhorse Bridge in Stokesley Packhorse Bridge in Stokesley

Now the hills of the North York Moors that so far had been gradually approaching as grey silhouettes became real, with colours and shapes highlighted by the evening sunlight.

North York Moors

I hadn’t been around this area before, which may have been a good thing; I’ve found tackling hills in ignorance is often best! A few km after Stokesley we had a relatively steep drag, before an eye-streaming descent towards Chop Gate. The chap I’d spoken to in Richmond had left Stokesley just before me and mostly he was in sight, we were going about the same speed so it was nice to have company in that distant sort of way; experiencing the same roads but independent in our own little bubbles. It was now a cracking evening and for all looking at the elevation profile this was the section to dread it’s also (imho) the most beautiful and it was certainly my favourite.

Cyclist silhouette North York Moors, Bilsdale

On the next hard climb we caught up with Raj, and although I felt bad passing him I also needed to go at my own pace [edit: on LEL, which he finished and I didn’t, he commented that he’d learned to ride up hills since we first met on this ride].  Eventually arriving in Helmsley I recognised the centre having stayed in the youth hostel here a couple of years ago. A number of VC167 jerseys and their occupiers were taking a break in the town square. This leg was 66km and I thought I might need to take a break at some point, and my Greggs chocolate cookie was waiting in my rack bag if needed, but I pushed on. It got colder but I was just warm enough and reluctant to stop. As with every ride I found the last bit hard and felt like I was slowing, I don’t know if that’s real but it always drags. Beardy chap and two VC167 riders caught me up in the last 10 km and I managed to hang on to the back as they pushed fast for the Arrivée. I know I could never have put in that effort if I’d been riding alone. The two VCs (Denise and Les?) even put in a sprint finish. I was happy to be back, ahead of my guesstimate schedule of 10.30 pm, at about 9.15 pm, plenty of time to enjoy the copious tea and several species of cake on offer.

I thought I’d have plenty of time to get a train home but when I got to the centre of York (now full of Saturday night merrymakers) both road and pedestrian signs were useless; for a place with such famous rail heritage it would be nice if the train station was a bit easier to find. In the end I had to consult both a kebab seller and the map on my phone, and got to the station in time for the last couple of trains. The passengers consisted of a lot of drunk people; and me, dead to the world.  Some very loud blokes got on half way home, I could hear them between bouts of sleep and was vaguely aware that they were being pests but it was only when we arrived in Leeds that I realised they had entertained themselves by removing my bike from the storage space and bouncing up and down on it. I ended up with a lift home from the train driver (who cycles with a Wakefield club, what a star), and straightened my bike up the next week.

 

Two very different 300 km rides exploring Dales, Moors, Wolds and Hills. Yorkshire has a bit of everything (plus coast, to be experienced in my next ride…). I found the second ride more ‘achievable’ than the first (never say easy, it’s an audax); it was certainly flatter but I think a lot of this is psychological – I’d done a 300 km before so I could do one again. The first time, it was a new distance with all the uncertainty that goes with it. The second, perhaps I let myself relax and enjoy it a bit more as there was less pressure. Many thanks to Dean and Co for truly making an ‘event’ and not just a bike ride for my first 300 km, for me it really felt like an achievement and the atmosphere was wonderful. And to Keith and Ann – who provided constant tea and cake despite sporting a sling from a recent off – for a splendid tour over some lovely wrinkles and then through the Vale of York, before a sunny evening through the Moors.

 

Beyond the Dales: 300 km, 18 hrs 20

Wigginton: 300 km, 16 hrs 30

 

Yorkshire 300 routes

 

 

Great Knoutberry and Blea Moor

16/08/16

Another walk from Dent to Ribblehead, this time on the eastern side of the train line.

Dentdale

Following the road up from Dent station I joined the Pennine Bridleway as it follows the contours of Great Knoutberry.  Leaving the track I followed a fence up towards the trig point, from which all three peaks can be seen – visibility was good if a little hazy.  Curlew were disturbed on the way up, although I don’t think it was only me as there was a large bird hovering above.  As well as the trig point at the top there is a also a nice wind shelter; a section of wall with stones protruding as benches on either side.

Great Knoutberry Hill trig point The Three Peaks from Great Knoutberry Hill

Navigation was so easy as to verge on boring but I still almost followed the wrong fence down from the summit.  The correct fence is also the Cumbria/Yorkshire border.  Eventually I met the track at Aysgarth Moss which was a cross roads of bridleways; the west-east track being an old drovers road between dales.  I took the north-south route around Wold Fell which is a restricted byway, although given the more stringent restrictions on the surrounding routes I’m not sure how you could make the most of it.  This is a fine track and I would like to revisit it on a mountain bike.  There were lots of wheatears which were curious but seemed to find rabbits’ burrows a useful shelter when I got too close.

Bridleway Bridleway

The track meets a road for a few hundred metres before continuing around Blea Moor.  I stopped for lunch at the first gate and was visited by a curious weasel – it looked at me as if I was sitting in its way.  After a couple of laps of what is presumably a well-trodden route, followed by discrete surveillance from a patch of reeds the weasel disappeared.  Very quick and difficult to photograph but a lovely moment.

Weasel

Although following bridleways was easy it had become a little dull so I decided to change my plan and head up to the summit of Blea Moor.  This involved more fence-following and lots of bog-dodging.  A vehicle had been driven over here recently – probably to repair the fence judging by the old rusted sections and new posts and wire – which made tracks to follow.  At the most difficult section I thought I was going to have to use the fence as a bridge but instead found a reasonably clear crossing.  I saw a couple of traps and wondered if they were for the weasel…perhaps it had been threatening the grouse population.  I only saw a couple of grouse, maybe after the 12th most of them have gone.

Trap found on hillside Trig point on Blea Moor

A fence junction was near the trig point of Blea Moor – there are air shafts near but out of sight, over the railway tunnel.  The best way down seemed to be to follow yet another fence – one now fully in Yorkshire.  A bit of bog-dodging was required, and eventually I met the path which follows the railway.  This was the first time I had seen other walkers since I left Dent station.

Trig point on Blea Moor Towards Pen-y-ghent from Blea Moor Ribblehead viaduct

I saw the 3.42 pm train come and go, so was happy that I had a couple of hours before the next one to spend in the Station Inn.  A better back garden is hard to imagine.

Ribblehead viaduct from the pub map of route

9.7 miles, 1,657 ft climbed
Great Knoutberry Hill, 672 m; Marilyn, Hump, Hewitt, Nuttall,
Bleh Moor, 535 m; Hump, Dewey

Tan Hill Inn

31/03/16

An excellent day to cycle up Arkengarthdale from Reeth to the Tan Hill Inn, then back down through Swaledale.
The two valleys are very different in character; Arkengarthdale is barren, with a view to the north of the distant A66. Today it was full of the noise of curlew and lapwing.

Arkengarthdale Ducks Bridge over the Arkle Beck A friend knitted me these helmet ear-warmers road over Arkengarthdale Moor West Stonesdale

Swaledale is more sheltered and filled with the classic walled fields.

Fields in Swaledale Fields in Swaledale Curlews Return beer Fields in Swaledale

28 miles. 2,500 ft climbed

Whernside

23/01/16

Whernside from Dent station, finishing at Ribblehead, staring with a walk along the road beside the little River Dee and the Settle – Carlisle train line.

River Dee, next to the railway line near Dent North entrance to Bleamoor Tunnel Railway line near Dent Head Viaduct

There is a very straight path directly over the Bleamoor tunnel, with several air shafts along the way.

Path towards Blea Moor Air shaft above Bleamoor Tunnel Ingleborough from Blea Moor

Then up to the top of Whernside through a few snow patches.

Whernside Path on Whernside Snow on the path on Whernside Snow on the path on Whernside Looking towards Dentdale from Whernside

 

Cloud on the top came and went.  We could see Ingleborough with a permanent toupeé.  The wall marks the boundary between Cumbria and North Yorkshire, the trig point is on the Cumbrian side.

Summit of Whernside Summit of Whernside Towards Ingleborough and Ribblehead Viaduct from Whernside Dentdale from Whernside Snow on Whernside Trig point on Whernside Walkers at Trig point on Whernside

After a steep but thankfully not icy descent we walked under the Ribblehead Viaduct just as the light faded and the rain started.

Looking towards Ribblehead Viaduct Whernside ridge, looking south Whernside ridge, looking south Whernside ridge, looking south Sheep and the Ribblehead Viaduct

 

whern160123_route-elev Whernside route

10.5 miles

Whernside, 763 m; Marilyn, HuMP, Hewitt, Nuttall, County Top (North Yorkshire)

Nidderdale

17/10/15

From Middlesmoor to Scar House Reservoir.

Nidderdale, Gouthwaite Reservoir From possibly a Grouse Butt in Nidderdale Scar House Reservoir

From Dam at Scar House Reservoir Dam at Scar House Reservoir Dam at Scar House Reservoir Scar House Reservoir

 

Off the track through head-high bracken and lumpy heather to Great Haw, stopping off at this ‘Sportsmans’ Rest (Disused)’.  The boundary stone also marks the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (Nidderdale being without).

Abandoned Sportsmans' Rest Abandoned Sportsmans' Rest Abandoned Sportsmans' Rest Moss on Great Haw Boundary stone on Great Haw

 

Return to Middlesmoor via the Nidderdale Way.  The smoke was a bonfire although there was quite a bit of heather burning elsewhere.

Nidderdale Scar Head Dam, Nidderdale Scar Head Dam, Nidderdale Nidderdale

Buzzard, kite, lots of grouse.  Barn owl before dark and hundreds of gulls on Gouthwaite Reservoir on the drive home.

Nidderdale walk route map

Spring into the Dales 100 km

12/04/15

Survived the climb out of Hebden Bridge with lots of others, descended into Oxenhope alone.  At around 10 miles there was a fast, clear descent along a reservoir after which I heard a strange noise – rear mud guard had broken under the saddle bag and was resting on the tyre.  The duck tape fix held until a couple of miles before the finish.

Spring into the Dales, mudguard

First checkpoint was a guy in his car stamping cards, boot full of bananas and cereal bars.  It was pissing down by this point.  Next control in Gargrave, two chaps in a bus shelter opposite the Dalesman cafe, which I then went in to warm/dry/eat.

Spring into the Dales, Dalesman Cafe

A couple of info controls, gel and jelly beans required at the second before I fell over.  Hard work climbing out of Keighley, and then the climb from Oxenhope was brutal, but ridable; a very long time in the little cog.  Mutual photo taking with another audaxer at the top.  Not sure where his mate had got to, who had been carrying a selfie stick around all day.

Spring into the Dales, top of Oxenhope hill

All downhill after this, cold hands permanently on the brakes.  Felt a bit sick toward the end, there was a good spread on at the arrivée which I probably failed to appreciate, but the chocolate soy milk that I had with me went down well.  A thoroughly soggy ride, the worst bit being trying to get wet gloves back on and being cold when starting again after a stop.  And a new mud guard will be required.

Spring into the Dales route

115 km, 2.25 AA, 8 hours 39 minutes