This Thursday’s ride was unusual for two reasons, firstly it was on a Tuesday, and secondly, we decided to change plan and have an away day to the Forest of Bowland; that often overlooked area of hills to the east of Lancaster.
We (John W & M, and Ivan) met at Ivan’s house, for an 8.15 depart but we became delayed due to concern over the minimal clearance of the towing bracket on the Discovery, and the view that it wasn’t safe. So due to Ivan’s low and sagging back-end we swapped to two cars; John W’s and my mine.
We arrived a little later than planned at the lovely Lancashire village (after it was annexed from the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1974) of Dunsop Bridge, famed (apparently) for being the dead centre of the UK. So we set off in the bright sunshine and after completing and arduous 50 metres we stopped for coffee/egg baps at the Puddleducks tea room, and chatted to other cyclists there who had cycled significantly further than we had. Finally on our way westwards, after 4 miles we were confronted by the short but sharp climb (16%) up to the Trough of Bowland. It became apparent why Bradley Wiggins used this area for his 2012 Tour de France training.
Descending through a lovely wooded valley we took a left to pass through another idyllic village, Abbeystead, before the start of the next climb, a steady easy gradient to Jubilee Tower, and like the Trough, at about 300m height. In hot bright sunshine we took a breather, sat on the grass and took in the fantastic views across the Irish Sea. With views of Blackpool Tower and Lancaster and across Morecambe Bay to Barrow and on to the spread of the southern Lake District.
|Taking in the view across Morecambe Bay from Jubilee Tower|
Recovered, Ivan and John W raced off on the fast descent, John and I wisely left them to it, catching up later after their 70km/hour and more top speed. The ride then took a more leisurely but no less scenic route to Caton by the A683. Taking a quick left and right took us across the picturesque River Lune, where several families were enjoying picnics on a beach there. Heading NE we re-crossed the Lune at Hornby and headed up the B6480, not before a cheeky 20% gradient was put in our way, made steeper by Ivan giving live Garmin gradient readings. The heat was beginning to be felt by all. With John M running out of water, we sped off to our lunch stop, which prevented me from pointing out Hornby Castle, as painted by John Constable.
Fortunately there was a copy of said painting within the 17thcentury Bridge Inn at Tatham Bridge. We sat down just in time for last food orders, ham. egg and chips was the main choice. The Hawkshead beer from Staveley was delicious. Most of us ordered one drink, Ivan sat down with two pints. He claimed it was a mistake by the barmaid. Others who know him better can decide! The pub proved very friendly and leaving was delayed when two locals had a lively discussion on whether B Wiggins was from the East End or Belgium. Turns out it was Belgium. That wasn’t the only fact we learnt here, Ribblehead Viaduct signal station is the only one in the country without mains water!
The consensus was we needed to do an extra few miles on the original plan, so I headed us out of the Forest of Bowland into the Yorkshire Dales, initially to Ingleton. I knew it would only add a few extra miles, but I thought it unnecessary to mention the additional 260m climb. On arriving at Clapham, we stopped by the beck that runs through the centre of the village to enjoy ice creams. While sat on the river bank a lady was photographing the bridge next to us. Ivan kindly offered to take a picture of her and the bridge, suggesting she should get in the river for better picture composition. She replied that she would do but would get into her bikini. Not believing she had such an item with her, or on her, she disappeared to rapidly return holding a dark blue, floral patterned lower half. Nobody can say cycling is boring!
|All calm in Clapham before the Bikini incident|
Not quite knowing the direction this was going, the conversation unfortunately took a wrong turn to what cyclists may or may not wear under their shorts. The lady, sensibly, made a fast exit. After that bizarre moment, we thankfully got back to the safety of our bikes to head for Slaidburn, 12 miles away. The next section was always going to be the hardest. After a short distance from Clapham, we had a 4.5 mile near constant climb to Bowland Knotts at 422m height. Although the climb only averages a 5% gradient, it’s a long old, constant slog. However, the views from the top were well worth it.
|John Mills arriving at Bowland Knotts|
|At Bowland Knott|
Another fast decent to Stacks reservoir saw John W and Ivan race off, John M and I following behind. After a short climb on the B6478, we then had a fast decent into Slaidburn where we just managed to get to the tea shop before closing (why do they always close at tea time??). Getting there first, John W ordered apple pie with ice cream, Ivan rhubarb and custard pie with ice cream On seeing that John W’s pie was significantly bigger than Ivan’s, John and I naturally chose the apple pie.
A final few miles brought us back to Dunsop Bridge. The cycling in the Forest of Bowland is an absolute treat and highly recommended. Superb scenery and picture post-card villages, with very quiet roads. A great ride with great banter throughout. In total we cycled 56.5 miles with about 5200ft (1600m) ascent
Photos by Nick H