Trevor had let me know that he couldn't make it. He had felt all right the first two times, but when he had stretched across the table at home for a third piece of Victoria sponge, his hamstring had twinged. So, Dave Pipe had joined Keith and myself in the big black Renault for the drive up the M6. Steve H had stayed overnight at a Grange B&B, and met us in the car park at 9:20 a.m. Dave was polishing off his Full English in the Coffee Pot Cafe "with Bay Views", when we received communication, that Ivan, Tom and Clive had left Chester later than intended and would be arriving after 10:00. It was good to see Clive, as we thought he would be sailing, but the skipper had called it off.
We were soon cruising down the promenade alongside Morecambe Bay, and then breathing heavily as we steeply left sea-level for the first hills and Cartmel. We wended our way through the attractive square, and out alongside the picturesque racecourse. More climbing on sheltered, quiet lanes led us to an exhilarating plunge down from High Gate to Low Wood. We crossed the A590 at Haverthwaite, turning right at Causeway End and up the lovely Rusland Valley. Hard toil through Grizedale Forest led to a splendid vista, before a steep drop and a rare flatish stretch alongside Esthwaite Water took us into the popular village of Hawkshead. A bit of hummocky climbing soon ended at The Outgate Inn, on the dot of 12:15: exactly the time that I had booked for. The food was really good, and the beer seemed to go down well.
Photographs by Ivan Davenport
The afternoon leg was a long one. Cream teas had been booked in Cartmel for about 4:15p.m. The weather was incredibly mild for mid- October, and I had to remove my thin shell top, and drink plenty of water to avoid overheating. We reached the most northerly point of our ride at The Drunken Duck before conquering Hawkshead Hill and heading down towards the eastern shores of Coniston Water, past Brantwood, Ruskin's home, and onto a planned stop in order to walk down a jetty and take everything in for a few minutes. Coniston Water was sun sheened and serene.
Across the lake, Coniston village nestled at the feet of The Old Man with his head high in the blue sky. Ivan persuaded a young photographer to take our photo, but decided it wasn't quite right and made him take it again!
The road became faster and easier down to Lowick Bridge, a section savoured by Bryan Wade three years ago. From Spark Bridge we were soon at Penny Bridge and then crossing the bridge at Greenodd, where the River Leven flows through the sands. We then had a pleasant interlude, partly off tarmac, and then alongside the river to Low Wood, crossing our outward route. Ivan spotted the steam from an engine as we headed towards the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, the route of which we roughly followed, before climbing above Great Haag, and then dropping down into Newby Bridge. We had to carefully overtake a magnificent, large steam vintage road tractor at this point. We took a quiet, narrow climb up Canny Hill to Seatle and eventually reached a welcome direct and fast road into Cartmel.
Despite some of our legs beginning to feel the accumulation of many banks climbed throughout the day, we flew down to Cartmel, like Team Sky on a recovery ride! The incentive of a cream tea, and a comfy chair awaiting certainly worked for me. We arrived to a warm welcome and in good time at The Priory Hotel, with large pots of tea readily replenished. The sting in the tail was the last climb of the day to High Fell Gate, before the descent back to the promenade at Grange, with a gorgeous view across the bay in the special, late afternoon light. I was grateful for the support and convivial company of the guys. We were so lucky to have a peach of a day. Approximately 49 autumn-tinged miles covered.