The idea for this ride over two days was sparked by a few factors:
– a fascination with lighthouses (aroused during a journey by tandem along the length of the French Atlantic Coast – see earlier post ‘La Vélodyssée’).
– The ‘Way of the Roses’, a Sustrans cycle route of 170 miles, which crosses the north of England from coast to coast.
– The beauty and brutality of Yorkshire’s roads; and what it takes to learn the skills of riding them (and so some thoughts on #yorkshireroadcraft ).
– …part discovering and part re-acquainting myself with some lesser known roads in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
– the joys of exploration and challenging myself physically and mentally on the bike.
– the name I have given to each of the day’s riding, ‘To the Lighthouse’ (East & West, respectively), is a nod to the 1927 novel of the same name, by Virginia Woolf, which takes its place amongst the rich associations lighthouses have in art, literature and folklore.
Wednesday 19 October – ‘To the Lighthouse’ – East
Away early in the dark, along familiar roads towards York as the dawn breaks. Rear puncture with a bang as I approach York – tyre badly cut. I improvise a temporary repair and nurse the tyre along into York, where I find a replacement at ‘Your Bike Shed’ cycle café & repair workshop.
I join the ‘Way of the Roses’ route just beyond York and encounter a short off-road section, slithering along a muddy path across farmland. The way is predominantly along quiet and pleasant minor roads, across the Vale of York and then gently climbing onto the Yorkshire Wolds to the east of Pocklington.
Straight roads, running due east, off the Wolds and onto flat but twisting lanes (with several railway level-crossings) in the vicinity of Driffield. Then a climb onto an easterly spur of the Wolds hills for a delightful run in to the seaside town of Bridlington.
From Bridlington a dog-leg, of about five miles each way, across a broad headland brings me to Flamborough Head Lighthouse, where I linger for a few minutes to take some photographs and admire a wide view across the North Sea.
Mindful of the distance I need to travel and the limited hours of daylight, after briefly taking in as much of the atmosphere of the place I can, I retrace my tracks back to Bridlington. After losing some time at York with my damaged tyre, I elect not to make any café stops today; instead replenishing food and liquid at shops and garages. The route home is similarly efficient, following the B1253 road that takes a fairly straight (and straightforward) course back west across the Wolds. Rather than interrupt the rhythm of riding and use up time and daylight, I resist the temptation to photograph the open, rolling landscape. The most dramatic section of the road is where it plummets off the chalk uplands and onto the flat plain of the Vale of York at Garrowby Hill. The sudden change in the character of the land creates a startling perspective onto the patchwork of green fields below and as I gather speed on the descent I immediately regret not stopping to take a photograph of the view.
I ride on through York and into the dusk and darkness before reaching my home in Otley. I have covered 171 miles, with just under 8,000 feet of ascent, at an average speed of 15mph.
Thursday 20 October – ‘To the Lighthouse’ – West
I set off later and in daylight today, riding north-west up Wharfedale to join the ‘Way of the Roses’ at the village of Burnsall. From here the route follows a delightful sequence of minor roads heading in a westerly direction to the Dales market town of Settle. Before it drops steeply into the town, the road climbs to pass beneath Rye Loaf Hill at around 1,000 feet elevation and with some great views.
After a steep descent and a short cobbled section of road leading into Settle, the route leaves the town in a northerly direction heading up Ribblesdale. After three or four miles and a steady climb, the way turns through a gap in the hills to the west. A lovely shimmying descent in the sunshine between dry stone walls, and I rejoice the simple pleasure of riding a bike on Yorkshire’s roads. My thoughts linger on how the skills to ride these roads are acquired; there are no short-cuts, only time, experience and miles spent in the saddle.
After crossing the A65, the ‘Way of the Roses’ tracks in a westerly direction, at the foot of the Forest of Bowland uplands to the south. Here I cross over the border from the county of the white rose, Yorkshire, to that of the red, Lancashire.
The route meanders down the River Lune Valley, making use of some pleasant lanes on uplands to the north of the river, before joining a seven-mile tarmac section of cycle-way that follows the course of old railways through Lancaster and to reach the Irish Sea coast at Morecambe.
At the coast, a little uncertainty about which lighthouse should mark the westerly-most point of my riding:
With my mind set on visiting an operating lighthouse, I pedal a few miles down the coast to try to visit to the Heysham South Pier lighthouse. I can’t seem to be able to get very close; small matter of a ferry terminal and a power station blocking my path!
I settle on the long-disused Near Naze Lighthouse, for a stop to admire the view across Morecambe Bay and take some photographs.
Although I’ve plotted an alternative and scenic route home today, again the priority is covering the distance and making the best use of the remaining hours of daylight. Quite tough climbing initially, leaving Lancaster to the south-east through Quernmore, and then a beautiful gentle ascent to the Trough of Bowland (a pass in the Lancashire ‘Forest of Bowland’ hills, at 967 feet above sea level) in the evening light. The road runs beside the stream of Marshaw Wyre, where yellow and ochre-tinged beech and oak stand on an emerald carpet of moss.
I ride on through the dusk, a loss of concentration meaning I make an extra hill-climb over Waddington Fell (1148 feet) before more familiar roads take me eastwards towards home in the darkness. On the second day of my ride across the North of England I have covered 140 miles, with 11,500 feet of ascent, at an average speed of 13mph.
Footnote: Yorkshire Road Craft #yorkshireroadcraft
The road cyclist at any level, tackling the highways and byeways of Yorkshire, becomes a student of this craft. Yorkshire’s roads bring with them a variety of landscapes, road surfaces and climatic conditions that will test, challenge and inspire road cyclists. #yorkshireroadcraft means: the care and maintenance of body and machine, the physical and technical skills of riding Yorkshire roads in Yorkshire conditions and the self and group reliance necessary to keep the pedals turning. To achieve absolute mastery of the craft is unattainable, and any arrogant assumption of such a state will only invite its comeuppance.