Seven of us arrived pretty well together, and early, at the kerbside on Accrington Road. A friendly cyclist who had also arrived by car, was soon interrogating us with the zeal of Michael Crick. Although our conversation was polite, I had the feeling that he was a bit of a nutter, and was happy to escape with the others to Tastebuds for a cuppa. I didn't want to eat there, as our lunch stop was going to be early. The staff were expecting us, and very friendly in that warm, unpretentious Lancashire way. I began to wonder if Tom was held up, or wasn't coming, so I gave him a ring. The sleepy voice on the end of the 'phone wasn't Tom's, but his son's. It was established that Tom's car was not on the drive, just as the man himself entered the cafe, still in time to have a coffee.
We started bang on time: Steves Haywood and Tan, Bob, Macca, Keith, Tom, George and myself. We cycled on a side road adjacent to Whalley Abbey before heading north-west, passing over the Ribble just past Mitton Hall – a great venue for a special occasion. We then pressed up a short steep bank, and turned right just before the renowned Three Fishes restaurant. This took us on a back lane past the ancient church at Great Mitton. Can you tell that the Tourist Board paid me for this write-up?! We were soon climbing steadily and easily to Browsholme Hall. At Cow Ark we partly followed the route of the Roman road (York to Ribchester, I guess). At this point I decided to do a quiet and scenic loop crossing the Hodder at Doeford Bridge, before joining a familiar route of mine, which climbs past the wild boar farm, and provides a panoramic view of the Forest of Bowland, before plunging down to Burholme Bridge. A flat cruise alongside the Hodder soon has us at Puddleducks cafe at Dunsop Bridge, This is a reliable favourite stop, and a prudent choice on this ride, as any further sustenance cannot be guaranteed on the long leg to Settle. My hotpot pie and red cabbage was just what I needed to face the challenges ahead. I think Steve H had apple pie and custard for his early lunch- ah never mind, I suppose our type of club is bound to have its share of old eccentrics! Dave Pipe would have had the hotpot, and then the pie and custard!
|Photos by Macca|
I can't make my mind up if knowing the exact nature of a tough challenge ahead is an advantage, or if ignorance is bliss. I knew that the next 25mls or so would be a testing, and hopefully exhilarating ride for all of us. Newton was the next village, followed by a stiff climb by Great Dunnow before whizzing down through attractive Slaidburn. The other side of the river has a notorious mile or so of climbing including a hairpin bend. Steve Tan had managed to knacker his rear gear hanger here in the past, but we managed to shorten the chain, and he got home without his rear derailleur as I recall. We passed Tinkler's Lane, part of the Lancashire Cycleway, and our last chance to make an easy alternative route. However, the weather was fine, and the tour needed to deliver as advertised. We turned left, speeding down to Gisburn Forest and Stocks Reservoir. At the causeway we could see people fishing from a small craft, idyllic on the twinkling waters. Then, this was it! A hard, long, slow slog straight up School Lane, then bending left into some more climbing through the forest. Coat Rakes Bridge heralded a lung- bursting section steeper than one-in-five, followed by a few hundred yards steeper than one -in seven as we strove to stay aboard without stopping. Bob's heart monitor had redlined, so he had wisely dismounted. He wasn't the only one! My triple chainset gave me an advantage over some. Tanny and Tom were flying, but Keith was the revelation, and was well ahead of Stephen and myself, as we concentrated on pacing ourselves to the very top of Crutchenber Fell.
According to Steve Tan's data we climbed 768 feet on this 3mile stretch. Macca took a photograph, as we all got together on the craggy top.
Bob exclaimed that this was the toughest ride he had ever been on, and asked if all “Special” rides were like this one! The short answer was “No”, but I hope that the mighty climb and glorious descent will stay as one of the special memories of riding with our club. I know it wasn't climbing Ventoux by three different routes in a day, but for an old moderate rider it was still a bit of a buzz. So, we did hurtle down past Clapham Common for miles, with a panoramic view of the majestic peaks of the Yorkshire Dales in front. Keith had a bit of unnerving headset play on the way down, but we were soon heading east down Eldroth Road, in lovely scenery towards Giggleswick and Settle. By the time we were crossing the A65 with about a mile and a half to go, we had encountered a few more sharp banks, and a couple of the lads were looking like dead fish. I was a bit concerned, and was starting to think of contingency plans, being particularly mindful of what happened to Dave Pipe. There turned out to be no reason to worry, as The Singing Kettle tea shop at Settle worked its magic, and with plenty of good value food and drink down us, everyone was pretty well rejuvenated on our easier, and far shorter, return journey. Some of us were able to have a fun chat with a mother and daughter in the cafe. They were visiting from Earby, and the mother had Alzheimer's. There were some surreal and poignant moments in the conversation, but I think we all appreciated the encounter. I guess Settle is worth a proper look around in the future.
Returning down Ribblesdale gave us an easy start, bowling along with our destination in site on the horizon: Pendle Hill. We were heading for the end of its south east slope at the River Calder, that flows through Whalley. Our first little hill was at Rathmel, but the topography ahead had nothing for us to fear. At Wigglesworth we headed west for a mile before turning left for Sawley. We stopped to ensure that nobody missed the turn. I then followed Brian Mac on the long stretch to Holden. Brian had got a second wind, and started to open a big gap. I only caught up with him when he had a wobble over the bridge at Forest Becks. We stopped at the junction at Holden. Bob was close behind. We waited, and waited, Evidently Keith had had a problematic puncture. The incident showed that having switched on mobiles and other riders' numbers, as well as efficient bike pumps is really useful, but not half as useful as having Dave Pipe along! Once we were altogether we headed for Worston, via Sawley and Chatburn. We have had cream teas in the past at the pub in Worston, but today we carried on, crossing the A59, and then having an easy cruise along the flat, quiet route of the old road to Whalley. We covered just over 60 miles, and ascended 3,715feet according to Steve Tan. Steve Haywood went to the cafe, but I think the rest of us just set off home. We had no traffic problems, and I appreciated the company and the support for the ride at such short notice. I know people are often desperate to get out of Wales, but it was a long drive, and I hope the Welsh contingent felt that it was worth it. Steve and Tom's support for the peloton was much appreciated, as was Macca's photography. Congratulation to George for The Magpies promotion!