29/08/16 – Bridlington to Pocklington
It was the day that everyone went home from Leeds festival, so the train station was covered in mud and smelled stale. Unfortunately a few folk were on my train to Hull and brought the aroma with them. Second train to Bridlington was ok but full of beach-goers including a small child singing that song from ‘Frozen’.
Arrived in Bridlington 11.30 am and went to the North Sands where the route starts. It was busy, the weather was excellent. Had a quick paddle in the sea; I’d rather dip my feet than my corrodible wheels.
The route left town up a little bit of a hill which would have been ok apart from the cars which mostly couldn’t be bothered to wait until the next passing place. Past a Norman manor house at Burton Agnes followed by the first of many level crossings (counted eight over the course of the day). These were either with lights and a barrier, or just a gate when on roads marked as dead-ends. One had a kissing-gate which was just too small for my loaded, yet conventional, bike. Anything more exotic would have struggled. Signing however was excellent, most unusual for NCN routes; a few of the usual daft ways of crossing main roads but great on the whole.
Through Nafferton (‘posh’ says my notebook) and to Driffield, where I stopped for (my own) food. The route doesn’t go through the town centre so I don’t know what it is like. Apart from the hills out of Bridlington it is fairly flat, with lots of arable farmland, wheat/barley and grass, and some tall reed-like things wth no clear edible part. Leaving Driffield the route crosses the railway line three times in such quick succession that two of them are barely distinguishable on the map. Past Skerne and on to Hutton Cranswick to cross an A road. Just after this was a sign for a garden centre/cafe, and although my plan was to avoid too much cake I was flagging so stopped off to refuel. They had a huge WotR map and I could see that the day’s ascent was about to start.
Just before the hills was probably the route’s flattest section, with lots of drainage channels and a road taking 90° turns, reminiscent of the roads around Glastonbury. Then the climbing started, towards Tibthorpe, but it wasn’t too steep at any point, mostly a long slow drag. After Huggate I thought it was all downhill but there was a little more climbing, then a sudden turning which went downhill through an amazing valley (river long since gone), with little tributary valleys. This was a stark contrast to the flat fields, a little wrinkle in the smooth land.
The route was downhill until a double switch-back where it left the first valley and headed to Millington. I had marked a couple of campsites here from the WotR website but saw no sign of them. I kept going, the route climbing up the other side of the valley which had me off and walking at one point. At the top I met an old chap with a bike sitting on a bench, so I asked if he knew of any campsites. “Campsites…(long pause)…campsites eh?” Proper Yorkshireman. After some further thought he gave me very helpful directions to a caravan site in Pocklington; always wary of places that don’t take tents but I saw a sign with a tent symbol on so became more optimistic. Reception was closed but I rang their bell and a very friendly woman came over, directing me to a nice pitch. Excellent site, mostly caravans; South Lea Caravan Park. Very clean toilet block, flat stone-free ground with short grass, £10. It was next to a busy-ish road so a little noisy.
Roadkill of the day: stoat.
45 miles, average 9.9 mph
30/08/16 – Pocklington to Ripon
Left the campsite about 10 am which is acceptable for early days of a tour! There’d been a heavy dew overnight but it was a sunny morning. All flat to Stamford Bridge, where the route goes off-road on an old railway line path; the station building is still there and seemed to be used as a community centre. After crossing the River Derwent the route runs along the A 466 briefly then turns along a road marked dead end/private estate. Reaching a farm it becomes a bridleway and crosses a few fields; a wide track but bumpy in places, I’m sure it would be muddy if wet.
Road again at Dunnington then the route negotiates its way across a few A roads before passing through Oswaldwick. The village has a stream running between the road and houses so lots of people have a little bridge in front of their houses. Also lots of new building going on, huge houses by the looks of it. More cycle path before crossing York’s inner ring road and arriving at the Minster. Signs all good here, it was of course very busy and I found it difficult to find a bike parking space. Eventually I found a space on a rack on a side street which involved having to climb over an adjacent stead to get out after locking up. Got a tubigrip for my wrist in Boots; I thought I’d struggle with the reduced strength in my hand but rather it seemed to be vibrations in my wrist that were most uncomfortable and this was a great help. An ice-blended coffee and a seat in the shade were much appreciated at this point.
Now noticing the discomfort on returning to the saddle I headed out of the centre on a route that I recognised as I’d stayed on the same street for work last year; which was fortunate as there was no sign, but I remembered the way to the river. A stupid example of a cycle route here included a step and much zig-zagging to get onto the cycle path. Once there however this was traffic-free, quite a few other cyclists and pedestrians. A wide area of grassland (Clifton Ings) reminded me of Oxford. Then the route rejoins the road, under then over the railway to touch an A road near Shipton. Then on to Newton-on-Ouse, another expensive-looking village. I stopped on the green to eat and tried to work out the time by the sundial, which looked like 2.30 pm but the local church chose that moment to ring a single chime.
Through Linton where there is an RAF base, the planes looked old to my ignorant eye, not the fast jets I associate with military use. The route then crosses Aldwark bridge which has a toll, although bicycles are free. It did seem rather rickety. Happily my crossing coincided with that of a vintage camper van which suited the scene, the driver chatted to the toll keeper and it sounded like an annual gathering was just dispersing.
Shortly after I was passed by some cyclists I had seen having a break by the bridge; a tandem complete with small dog in a rear basket and a friend drafting them. Approaching Boroughbridge I saw a farm selling eggs and apples (Discovery), bags of six apples were £1 but I had no need of so many so I took one and left 20 p. An early first apple of the year. On the way out of Boroughbridge are some impressive standing stones, two in a field and one by the road with some information.
Then the route goes under the M1 (I made a note that junction 48 is the nearest for next time I’m driving and bored) before entering Ripon. I stopped at the cathedral before looking closely at the map, and realised the campsite marked would involve a little back-tracking. It was not very well signed and required an unpleasant crossing of a dual carriageway roundabout. Lockside Caravan Park is a small site, near the race course the commentary from which was still going at 7.30 pm. Fairly basic but decent condition, £6 plus 50p for a shower.
52 miles, average 9.9 mph
31/08/16 – Ripon to Grassington
Another 10 am start, there was a brief shower just before I packed up, and it was sunshine and showers all day. I was lucky and avoided most of the rain, only needing the waterproof for one downhill section to keep warm. I returned to Ripon Cathedral after passing it yesterday to get back on the route. After going around the central streets I came to a junction with WotR signs pointing both left and right, with no indication which was the east and which the west route. I followed the ones pointing in the direction I was headed based on the town names…which was wrong as I ended up back at the Cathedral. Back to the sign and I took the other option.
On to Studley Roger and in through the grand entrance to the National Trust Water Gardens/Fountains Abbey estate. Up following a ‘no cars’ lane, past a little church and out onto another road. No real sight of the Abbey but I have visited before. Then passed a car park which I recognised from that visit before continuing along lumpy roads – I was finding the hills here hard work, like Cornwall where they are steep up and down all the time. Quite a headwind all day too.
I had a brief stop at Brimham Rocks for dried fruit, definitely in need of sugar by this point, then fortunately mostly downhill through Glasshouses and into Pateley Bridge. I covered the laundry drying on my rear rack as the clouds looked dark, and visited a nice tea shop on the downhill section of the main street. Crazy location for a town, such a steep valley. On leaving I was confronted by a very steep B road out of town which I had to walk up. It was marked as 16 % and it just seemed to go on and on. There were road signs at the top and bottom warning of slow cyclists but it was still hairy going, lots of bends so hard to stay visible to traffic (which would have been much different if I had be riding). Somewhere around Greenhow it levelled out a bit, clearly high up with great views of Nidderdale north and south.
Of course the wind was stronger on top. I stopped at Stumps Cross Caverns, just for an ice cream but I’d like to come and visit the caves sometime. I hadn’t covered many miles so far so back on the bike into a strong headwind and a bit of rain, though at least mainly down hill to Appletreewick. Then through Craven Arms (‘Gateway to the Ales’ – very tempted to stop here especially as there was a nice looking campsite) and I recognised a pub from an audax which went in the opposite direction along this section. On through Burnsall which looked like a nice place.
Shortly afterwards I decided to leave the route and continue on the B6160 to Grassington, thinking there was more hope of finding a campsite around the town. I did starting looking at bus shelters on the way… A steep climb with a bit of walking up to the town centre and I spotted a hillwalking shop so went in and asked about campsites. The guy in the shop said there was one near Threshfield which was the closest and gave helpful directions. Still tired so I stopped for a can of coke and white bread sandwich from the local spar (sugar required, not my usual cuisine at all), plenty of nice cafes/pubs for the less messy/fragrant visitor.
I found the campsite (near Skirethorns), I do wish they were signposted from further away though. It was a very small place at the back of a farm, basic but functional, £6. There were two other tents there when I arrived, one small with a couple plus little dog having a BBQ, and the other a large tent with a couple who were playing Rick Astley and taking loudly. Later they watched Emmerdale and Corrie and had a row. I pondered the consequences of cutting the cable to their satellite dish.
34 miles, average 7.5 mph
01/09/16 – Grassington to High Bentham
It felt like September this morning, I could see my breath and had to put my jumper on. I got up a bit earlier and left around 9 am, hoping that my clattering woke the TV watchers. A sunny/cloudy day, the wind was not too strong but again blowing in an unhelpful direction. I left Threshfield and took the B road to Cracoe to rejoin the WotR route, which then goes to Aireton via Hetton and Winterburn, which was lumpy but no walking required. The next section over Scosthrop Moor involved more up, although it was a long slow climb so also all ridable with good views from the top.
There was a steep decent into Settle, where I stopped at Ye Olde Naked Man cafe, chosen on the basis of the name but recommended for quality also. Their benches outside seem to double as a bus stop which explained the sudden appearance of a number of folk of advanced years while I was inside ordering.
Then I went into the tourist information centre to see if I could find a campsite that I could get to at 4 – 5 pm, probably near Gressingham. It was staffed by classic National Trust-style old lady volunteers, who were lovely but despite their best efforts devoid of knowledge. This took quite some time while one of them (who lived in Bentham) wracked her brains, and was also interrupted by another visitor looking for their wi-fi, at which point the other read out/showed him the instructions that she had which clearly could have been written in arabic for all they made any sense to her. He managed anyway. When eventually ready to leave I found I couldn’t get my bar bag to clip in to the holder, and after much faffing realised that the angle of the holder must have changed slightly so that the gear and brake cables were now in the way. There was another chap with luggage (not quite as much) fixing a puncture, he seemed only to have one tyre lever so I lent him another.
Having stopped for way too long I wondered where to aim for for the night, and planned to see how things were going when I got near Bentham where I was reasonably confident of a campsite. The route leaves Settle and heads up Ribblesdale, on presumably the more undulating side than the B road and railway line follow.
Then it heads west to Austwick before meeting the A65 where a short section of cycle path has been reclaimed from a field. Then up to Clapham, yet another nice village. It was tempting to stay on the B6480 straight to Bentham but felt like cheating to take the easier option. There was an underpass under the A road shared with a stream, and then the roads leads to Clapham Station.
There was a steep section after this which required a bit of walking, up to a crossroads at Neasden which offered nice views towards Ingleborough then along the south side of the Bentham valley.
By now I’d decided that aiming for Morecambe was over-optimistic and liable to end in my arriving late so thought High Bentham a good bet for finding a campsite. Initially I couldn’t see any sign of the site which was marked on the map, but I stopped in the village which had a sort of tourist information place which was a tiny room at the front entrance to the town hall. Although closed you could still get in and I found a list of local campsites; two annoyingly back towards Clapham but they at least confirmed that they accepted tents whereas several others appeared to be caravans only. Happily the first, Curlew Camping, was open. It’s a small holding, with chickens and a few sheep, run by a slightly odd but very nice chap wearing a grubby ‘caving rescue’ t-shirt (and a couple of caving dry suits hanging up by the stable). One toilet and shower in a small room attached to the side of the house, covered in notices and posters, very characterful. £6 or £7 with car. Views south towards the Forest of Bowland; north Ingleborough and Whernside would be visible from slightly higher.
A hen came to see me as soon as I’d arrived, she’s obviously learned that campers = food and I gave her a bit of oatcake, although she would peck anything that had potential (clothes pegs, hands, etc) and was quite happy to stand on my bare foot to get closer. One other camper, also a cyclist who was driving up north but having a few stop offs on the way.
31 miles, average 8.3 mph
02/09/16 – High Bentham to Morecambe
It was quite a wild night with wind and rain, and I wished I had put the extra guy ropes on but there was no water ingress and happily the rain had stopped by morning. I left about 8.30 am and followed the B road back through High Bentham and on to Low Bentham and Wennington to Wray where I rejoined the WotR route. Wennington was the first place in Lancashire but sadly there was no welcoming sign to photograph. The route signage was not quite as good once over the border and I was glad to have the map on a small stretch of A road through Hornby. Then over the River Lune to Gressingham. Lumpy (no walking required) roads over the north side of the Lune valley until eventually down hill (for good this time) through Halton Park, where there was no grand house visible but the grounds were ‘kept’ with short grass and mature trees. I had a stop at Crook of Lune, a sharp bend in the river, where there was a little cafe (Woodies) where I had a coffee in a proper mug and tiffin from yesterday’s cafe in Settle – always stay one snack ahead!
From here the route followed the Lune to Lancaster and was traffic free all the way to Morecambe, so easy going. It’s old railway line, a very good shared route (apart from when a group of MAMILs came the other way like they owned it). I stopped to check out an aqueduct where the Lancaster Canal crosses the river.
You don’t see much of Lancaster although I’m sure it would be easy to stop off and explore the city. Crossing the river in Lancaster the signs were confusing and I ended up on a three-lane A road rather than the intended shared-use bridge. Back on track to Morecambe and the traffic free route continues with frequent signed turn-offs to bits of town – great if you live here I imagine. More confusing signs on reaching the end of the path around the train station, so I just followed the road signs for the promenade and found the official end (start) of the WotR route. I had a paddle in the sea then a cruise up and down the promenade which is nice and wide, shared pedestrian/cycle/horse and cart use.
The town seemed a bit of a dump, a main feature being a large tower sponsored by Polo. I couldn’t even find a Weatherspoons for a celebratory pint and wi-fi so went to the train station. The direct trains to Leeds are few but there was one due half an hour later so I headed home. Finishing had been a bit of an anticlimax, probably because this was such an easy final day, and I had taken a day longer than I’d hoped. The trip was a bit of a last minute decision, if I’d had more time I’d have planned my campsites better and probably completed it in four days. Of course it has been done within 24 hours…although with less luggage.
23 miles, average 9.4 mph