Each year my brother, friend Brian and I like to ride a fairly major cycle tour. This year it was The Way of the Roses; 170 (official) miles from Morecambe in Lancashire to Bridlington in Yorkshire thorough the Yorkshire Dales, York and over the Yorkshire Wolds. A perfect year to complete it with Richard 111 being so much in the news. So, last Tuesday 28th April, saw me waiting on a cold windy station platform in Grimsby waiting for the 8:34 to Manchester Piccadilly. Brian joined me 10 minutes later at Haborough. Out journey went well with changes at Manchester and Lancaster and we met up with Peter in an incredibly windswept Morecambe. Fortunately the wind was from the west and after a very brief photo-shoot courtesy of Linda we headed off with the wind pushing us along.All along the route the Sustrans signposting was second to none and the first 10 miles through Morecambe and Lancaster to the Crook of Lune sped by on an off road cycle route, the course of an old railway line. From the Crook of Lune the route took to minor roads into the edge of the Dales towards Settle. Our route took us slightly off piste to the Youth Hostel at Ingleton. Although the forecast was for showers, we managed to stay dry and the North Westerly winds provided clear visibility and dramatic skies; it was very cold, however. We found the Youth Hostel excellent; apparently it is now independent, having been sold off by the YHA. Beer, wine and food were very good and reasonably priced.
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Over night it had rained heavily in Ingleton, but this had fallen as snow on the high tops of Ingleborough and Pennygent. When we opened the curtains the weather looked uncertain to say the least and after an excellent breakfast we donned full waterproofs and overshoes before heading off for Burnsall, our next over night stop. Our route was to take us through the Dales via Clapham and Settle, where the toughest climb of the tour awaited us. On our journey through the Dales we were serenaded by curlew and lapwing. The call of the curlew is a far-carrying, rising fluty, melancholy 'cour-lee' whistle, while the song, which we were hearing , it being the breeding season, begins with drawling notes, merging into a distinctive rhythmic, rippling trill. It is the most beautiful sound and sends a shiver down the spine, perhaps my favourite bird song. Our other avian companions, though, the lapwing runs a close second. All through the Dales we thrilled to their wheeling, tumbling display flights accompanied by their strident onomatopoeic peewit calls.
As we rode from Clapham to Settle we reveled in the views of snow-capped Ingleborough and Pennygent before dropping down to Stainforth and indulging in a slight detour to Stainforth Bridge and Force adjacent to Knight Stainforth Farm camping and caravan site, a spot Peter and I had camped when we were boys and had very fond memories of. We had both only been back once since, Peter in his teens and me when Heather and are took our children there when they were the same age as myself and Peter when we first went. It was still just as we remembered. Unfortunately at this juncture we received the only drenching of the trip. Despite the constant poor forecast, we managed to doge the showers apart from this one, rain which turned to sleet and then snow. By the time we reached Settle we were frozen and welcomed the warm cafe stop.
Our next day began with the second big climb of the route from Appletreewick up to The Coldstone Cut just above Pateley Bridge. Longer than Settle at 6 km but not so gruntingly steep it still tested the mettle. Then followed a fierce descent into Pateley Bridge (care was needed here as there have been several bad accidents) and another welcome tea shop. Next came the final major climb of the trip up to Brimham Rocks where we heard our first cuckoo of the year. 4 km, but I managed to stay in the saddle; two heavy panniers have a lot to answer for, making climbs that much more difficult. From here the flat lands lay before us and we enjoyed a brisk ride down to Fountains Abbey, through Studley Royal and into Ripon with its magnificent cathedral. Finally we plugged along flat roads for the final few miles to the Crown, an old coaching in on the Great North Road which at one time had stabling for 100 horses; three bikes were no problem. Again we enjoyed excellent accommodation, food and drink thanks to Brian's spot on organisation.
Before starting our riding for the day we paid a quick visit to the Devil's Arrows, three prehistoric monoliths set in a field next to the A1. Made of millstone grit these huge stones were transported from near Knaresborough. At 22ft 6 inches the tallest of the stones is the tallest menhir in the United Kingdome after the Rudstone Monolith in the Yorkshire Wolds. Todays journey took us across the flat lands of the Vale of York with a coffee stop at Benningborough Hall. We were pleased and suprised at how clear the route was signposted through the city, taking us right past the Minster. In the afternoon we called for tea and cake at an excellent tea shop at Stamford Bridge before heading on to Pocklington and the Feathers where we were to meet our support team for the first time. As with Boroughbridge and other towns we had ridden through, we enjoyed this market town on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds. Again accommodation, food and drink were very good.
The main feature of today's ride was the nagging, very strong, easterly wind. Who would have anticipated that we would be blown off the sea front at Morecambe with westerly winds and then receive the same treatment at Bridlington. One other major incident was the crash!! Not long after leaving Pocklington and, whilst riding through a delightful Wolds Valley, Brian decided to stop suddenly to partake of a spot of bird-watching. Following closely on his wheels, I was checking the map on my Garmin. When I looked up Brian filled the road and I ploughed straight over him buckling his rear wheel and denting my pride. Fortunately we managed to get the wheel straightened a few miles down the road at the excellent bike shop in Driffield. Other than a late lunch stop at Burton Agnes, that was it bar the shouting and we rolled onto the the sea front at Bridlington half an hour ahead of schedule. The only remaining thing was a celebratory meal of Yorkshire fish and chips at the Naked Fish near the harbour, before heading home.
A job well done. Next year The Coast and Castles Tour, Newcastle - Edinburgh???