700x25

Prints and Impressions left by a Bicycle - John Baston

Category: #yorkshireroadcraft

Castle; Refuge; High Place; High–way

A 250km ride in the Yorkshire Dales, inspired by the ‘Transcontinental’ Cycle Race.

The Transcontinental Race, an unsupported solo bike race of around 4,000 km crossing Europe from west to east, grabbed my attention when I first heard of this a couple of years ago.  Since then the race has fired my imagination and the idea of competing in this unique and epic adventure-cum-race has slowly crept under my skin. The solo cycling journeys I documented in my previous posts, ‘Celtic Cadence’ and ‘Two Lighthouses; Two Roses; Two Days’, were in part a quiet test of my fitness and resolve to make an application to participate in the fifth edition of the Transcontinental (hashtag – #TCRNo5), which is to take place in the summer of 2017. These long distance and lightly laden forays on the bike that I made in Scotland and Northern England didn’t dampen my fascination and curiosity about the Transcontinental and only reaffirmed some of the things I love about solo long-distance adventure on a bicycle.  So, when the route for the Transcontinental No. 5 was announced in November 2016, my curiosity as a fascinated spectator was coupled with a sense of excitement about the thought (a dream, perhaps…) of actually taking part in this epic cycle race.  Transcontinental Race Director (and noted ultra-distance cyclist), Mike Hall unveiled the route, during a presentation in Italy on 4 November, as follows:

Start – Geraardsbergen, Belgium (28.07.17)

Checkpoints :

CP1 – Schloss Lichtenstein, Germany

CP2 – Monte Grappa, Italy

CP3 – High Tatras Mountains, Slovakia

CP4 – Transfagarasan Highway, Romania

Finish – Meteora, Greece

When I saw that Transcontinental was also running a competition, requiring a 250km ride and a short accompanying video, to win a place in the 2017 race, I thought …well nothing to lose.  I will have the challenge and pleasure of a long bike ride and the (probably even greater) challenge of trying to make my first video.  So, three things that I like doing (riding my bike; a challenge; & doing something creative) and it probably can’t do my prospects of securing a place in the race any harm.

Tweet by The Transcontinental, promoting their competition to win a place in the 2017 race.

Tweet by The Transcontinental, promoting their competition to win a place in the 2017 race.

Link to above Tweet & video explaining the ‘#171 Competition’ – https://twitter.com/transconrace/status/804368099495514112

From this starting point, of a 250km cycle journey against a backdrop for a potential video, my bike ride was conceived.

I’m very fortunate in living close to the beautiful landscape of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and its always a pleasure to ride the roads and lanes of the Dales at any time of year.  The Yorkshire Dales has a plethora of iconic sights and locations, associated with its physical landscape and the human interaction with that landscape – perhaps I could link some of these places in a way that might echo (albeit on a much smaller scale) the route of the forthcoming Transcontinental Race.

 

Sunday 4 December 2016: ‘Castle; Refuge; High Place; High(rail)way

Summary of the ride from the 'Strava' app.

Summary of the ride from the ‘Strava’ app.

An early start, pedalling north and east from my home in Otley in darkness.  I follow familiar local roads by the light of my bright ‘Exposure’ front lamp and with a creeping greyness of dawn to my right.  The route undulates across the grain of the country, crossing river and stream valleys that drain off the eastern fringes of the Dales uplands.  It’s light by the time I descend into the valley of the River Ure, near Jervaulx Abbey, so I can admire long distance views across the flatter land to the east and to the plateau of the North Yorkshire Moors beyond.

After a short detour to the west, to cross the Ure where it tumbles over the triple flight of Aysgarth Falls, I arrive at my first ‘checkpoint’ at the 14th-century Bolton Castle, set magnificently on the green northerly slope of Wensleydale.  This provides a proxy for the, probably even more striking and spectacular, ‘Fairy tale castle of Wurttemberg’ (Schloss Lichtenstein – Checkpoint No. 1 of #TCNo5), which perches on a rock in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany.

IMG_3390 (3)

My Yorkshire ‘schloss’ is a popular tourist attraction, offering Bird of Prey Displays, Archery Demonstrations and Wild Boar Feeding (!!!) as well as visits to the castle building and its grounds. On a Sunday morning in December, I almost have the whole place to myself as I make a brief stop to take photographs and admire the building and countryside.

Castle Bolton

Castle Bolton

The view looking south towards West Witton Moor from near Bolton Castle

The view looking south towards West Witton Moor from near Bolton Castle

The second checkpoint of the 2017 Transcontinental Race is to be located at Rifugio Bassano, a mountain refuge hut now serving as a restuarant on Monte Grappa, a 1,775 m mountain in the Venetian Prealps of northern Italy. My equivalent today will be the isolated Tan Hill Inn, the highest inn in the British Isles at 528 m and at the northern extreme of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. From Bolton Castle to Tan Hill is approaching 20 miles of riding; across the moors to the north into Swaledale and, after passing through the village of Reeth, north-west along Arkengarthdale, a pretty valley even if its slopes are pock-marked by signs of a lead mining past. I pass the ‘CB’ (or ‘Charles Bathurst) Inn, which serves as a reminder of the local mining legacy. The lead-mining in Arkengarthdale was dominated by the CB (Charles Bathhurst) Company which was founded in 1656 when a Dr. Bathhurst purchased from the Crown the right to mine in the area. His Company continued until 1911 when the lead-mining industry in Yorkshire collapsed due to the slump in the price of lead.

From the CB Inn, the country becomes more wild in character and a beautiful unfenced road climbs slowly up the valley and over exposed open moorland for about eight miles to Tan Hill.

Beck Crooks Bridge, on the desolate but beautiful road that climbs gently westward from Arkengarthdale to Tan Hill.

Beck Crooks Bridge, on the desolate but beautiful road that climbs gently westward from Arkengarthdale to Tan Hill.

IMG_3390 (4)

Tan Hill Inn, my ‘mountain refuge’, dates from the 17th century, and during the 18th century was used as a hostelry by workers digging coal pits. The building apparently used to be surrounded by miners’ cottages, but now stands in splendid isolation on an exposed crest of moorland. The pub now offers ‘hearty’ pub food and real ales (including a ‘Tan Hill Ewe Juice’, 5% and cask conditioned on the premises), but I forego such temptations as daylight and time are short for winter bike riding. I stop to take photographs and exchange a greeting with a group of walkers, who kindly take a picture for me. Although it’s a bright day I quickly feel the wind-chill at such an elevated and exposed location so, grabbing a pork pie from my top-bar bag to eat on the go, I set off on the delightful sweeping road that descends south from the inn into West Stones Dale and towards the village of Keld.

A short stop beside Tan Hill Inn.

A short stop beside Tan Hill Inn.

Tan Hill Inn lies on the northern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Tan Hill Inn lies on the northern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The descent into West Stones Dale from Tan Hill.

The descent into West Stones Dale from Tan Hill.

The lower reaches of West Stones Dale.

The lower reaches of West Stones Dale.

From Thwaite at the head of Swaledale, I engage a low gear as I begin the two-mile climb to Buttertubs Pass at 526 m. This will be my chosen ‘High Place’, in reference to checkpoint 3 of #TCRNo5 in the High Tatras Mountains of Northern Slovakia.

IMG_3390 (6)

Buttertubs Pass was permanently etched into the annals of road cycling when, in July 2014, it was a Category 3 Climb in Stage One of the ‘Grand Depart’ of the Tour de France. Huge crowds of spectators lined the route, in scenes reminiscent of classic mountain stages of Le Tour in the Alps and Pyrenees, as the peloton tackled the climb from its south side in pursuit of a solo breakaway by the veteran German rider, Jens Voigt.

Buttertubs provided the iconic image of the 2014 Yorkshire Grand Départ of the Tour de France.

Buttertubs provided the iconic image of the 2014 Yorkshire Grand Départ of the Tour de France.

For me today, it’s a more lonely affair as I make a short stop near the top of the pass, before making the quick descent to the town of Hawes in upper Wensleydale.

Looking north-east from Buttertubs Pass.

Looking north-east from Buttertubs Pass.

The view south from Buttertubs Pass.

The view south from Buttertubs Pass.

From Hawes, my route takes me south-west on the steady climb to Widdale Head Moss, which marks the watershed between the River Ure and the River Ribble. The Yorkshire Ure flows east towards the North Sea, while the Ribble drains into Lancashire and west to the Irish Sea. From here the B6255 offers a long gentle descent on good tarmac towards the limestone massif of Ingleborough, the tallest of Yorkshire’s ‘Three Peaks’.

Ingleborough, the highest of Yorkshire's 'Three Peaks at 724 m, silhouetted against a weak winter sun.

Ingleborough, the highest of Yorkshire’s ‘Three Peaks at 724 m, silhouetted against a weak winter sun.

IMG_3390

Between Ingleborough and the peak of Whernside to the north, is the low-lying expanse of Batty Moss (‘Moss’ being a Northern English/Yorkshire dialect term of old norse origin, meaning bog or marsh) where the Settle-Carlisle railway line crosses the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct. In its barren and almost tree-less setting, this giant, 400 metre long and 24-arched stone structure seems monolithic in proportions.

Approaching Ribblehead Viaduct.

Approaching Ribblehead Viaduct.

Ribblehead Viaduct is 400 m in length, and 32 m above the valley floor at its highest point.  It is made up of twenty-four arches of 14 m span, with foundations 7.6 m deep.

Ribblehead Viaduct is 400 m in length, and 32 m above the valley floor at its highest point. It is made up of twenty-four arches of 14 m span, with foundations 7.6 m deep.

In common with the Transfăgărășan Highway in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania (Checkpoint 4 of #TCRNo5), Ribblehead Viaduct and the Settle-Carlisle Railway is a civil engineering project, built to traverse wild and inhospitable terrain, which was completed at considerable human cost and loss of life. During construction of the viaduct, between 1870 and 1874, around one thousand navvies worked on the structure, establishing shanty towns on the moors for themselves and their families. There were smallpox epidemics and deaths from industrial accidents. Around one hundred navvies were killed during the building of the viaduct and 200 burials of men, women, and children were made in the graveyard at nearby Chapel-le-Dale.

Ribble Head (Batty Moss) Viaduct.

Ribble Head (Batty Moss) Viaduct.

After a short stop for photography and to admire the structure of the viaduct from close quarters, I set off on the homeward leg of my journey. I strike up a conversation with a fellow cyclist, heading back to his home in Lancashire after a day’s riding in the Dales. We ride a little way together as we pedal south west into the glare of the sinking sun.

The view back towards Ribblehead Viaduct.

The view back towards Ribblehead Viaduct.

I still have more than 50 miles (around 80km) to go, to reach home and complete my 250km ride, and with sunset and darkness approaching I press on. I traverse around the limestone uplands of Ingleborough to the west and then head north east, passing Pen-y-Ghent, the third of the ‘Three Peaks’ on its south flank in the gathering dusk. It’s dark enough to need lights by the time I reach Halton Gill at the head of Littondale, and I’m starting to feel the chill of the December night. From here onwards my planned route follows familiar roads along Wharfedale back towards my home in Otley, but in order to maintain a good tempo and to restore body temperature I elect to alter my course to take more major roads that will be quicker and easier to negotiate in the dark.

It’s been a beautiful and satisfying day’s riding that has also fulfilled the requirement of a 250km ride for the Transcontinental Race competition. The idea of a ride that in some way mirrors and represents in miniature the #TCRNo5 and its checkpoints has been interesting in its execution; serving to focus the mind on an ambition and motivation to ride that unique race as well as to gather ideas and material to make a video around the experience. With daylight expired and the makings of my video (and this blog account) ‘in the can’, the last part of the ride is just about putting my head down, to maintain an efficient cadence on the pedals and sufficient speed to get safely home in the darkness and falling temperature.

Now to try to make a video………..

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
STOP PRESS 28 December 2016 – well I made my video and acquired a little bit of experience in the making and simple editing of films, in the process. I’m pleased that my video is included in a shortlist, which can be voted for at http://www.transcontinental.cc/171
The other good bit of news is that ‘The Transcontinental’ and ‘PEdAL ED (who are the main sponsors of the race) have, in a rather nice gesture, decided that all the #171 competition entrants will be offered a place in the finalised list of race contestants. So, provided my preparation and planning for #TCRNo5 proceed without mishap, I hope to be lining up at the start of the race at Muur Van Geraardsbergen on 28 July 2017.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
UPDATE 05 January 2017 – Although my video did not win the cap#171 competition, I was very pleased to receive an honourable mention from The Transcontinental / PEdAL ED, when the competition result was announced! See Facebook post at https://t.co/KNsBqzM6wb

Tweet re #171

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
I look forward to documenting my road to the start of #TCRN05 through my blog writing and art, over the coming months.

Two Lighthouses;Two Roses;Two Days

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.

The 'Way of the Roses' is a 170 mile cycle route across Lancashire and Yorkshire on the National Cycling Network between Morecambe and Bridlington.

The ‘Way of the Roses’ is a 170 mile cycle route across Lancashire and Yorkshire on the National Cycling Network between Morecambe and Bridlington.

Wednesday 19 October – ‘To the Lighthouse’ – East

FullSizeRender - Copy

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.

Tweet to thank the guys at 'Your Bike Shed'

Tweet to thank the guys at ‘Your Bike Shed’

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.

Gently climbing up a dry valley in the chalk uplands of the Yorkshire Wolds.

Gently climbing up a dry valley in the chalk uplands of the Yorkshire Wolds.

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.

On the Wolds near Burton Agnes.

On the Wolds near Burton Agnes.

Agricultural work means mud on the road ...and on the chalk the mud is particularly sticky and claggy.

Agricultural work means mud on the road …and on the chalk the mud is particularly sticky and claggy.

Nice elevated riding with views on the run in to Bridlington.

Nice elevated riding with views on the run in to 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.

Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head Lighthouse was first lit on 1 December 1806.  It is now a grade II listed building.

Flamborough Head Lighthouse was first lit on 1 December 1806. It is now a grade II listed building.

FullSizeRender - Copy (6)

FullSizeRender - Copy (5)

FullSizeRender - Copy (4)

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 missed the photo opportunity at Garrowby Hill, but as some consolation I have since found this painting of the road and view by Yorkshire artist, David Hockney.

I missed the photo opportunity at Garrowby Hill, but as some consolation I have since found this painting of the road and view by Yorkshire artist, David Hockney.

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

FullSizeRender - Copy (11)

Stocked up ready for the ride: Tunnock's Tea cakes; Jenny's biscuits; Jelly Babies...

Stocked up ready for the ride: Tunnock’s Tea cakes; Jenny’s biscuits; Jelly Babies…

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.

Road junction beside Rye Loaf Hill, Yorkshire Dales.

Road junction beside Rye Loaf Hill, Yorkshire Dales.

Looking south

Looking south

The road to Settle; heading north-west.

The road to Settle; heading north-west.

Pendle Hill, in the distance.

Pendle Hill, in the distance.

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.

County divide, near High Bentham.  A person from Yorkshire might (well, probably would!) be inclined to say the signage here was fitting and appropriate; "bigger and better" ;-)

County divide, near High Bentham. A person from Yorkshire might (well, probably would!) be inclined to say the signage here was fitting and appropriate; “bigger and better” ;-)

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.

Near the beginning of the seven miles of tarmac cycle track, which follows the course of a disused railway through Lancaster to Morecambe.

Near the beginning of the seven miles of tarmac cycle track, which follows the course of a disused railway through Lancaster to Morecambe.

The seven-miles of tarmac cycle path from Crook O'Lune to Morecambe.

The seven-miles of tarmac cycle path from Crook O’Lune to Morecambe.

Lune Millennium Bridge, Lancaster.

Lune Millennium Bridge, Lancaster.

At the coast, a little uncertainty about which lighthouse should mark the westerly-most point of my riding:

Morecambe.  The station and lighthouse are on a stone jetty, the former station being a terminus of the North Western Railway.   Dating from the 1850s, this is now a listed building, but the lighthouse is no longer active.

Morecambe. The station and lighthouse are on a stone jetty, the former station being a terminus of the North Western Railway. Dating from the 1850s, this is now a listed building, but the lighthouse is no longer active.

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!

Heysham South Pier Light (1904)

Heysham South Pier Light (1904)

I settle on the long-disused Near Naze Lighthouse, for a stop to admire the view across Morecambe Bay and take some photographs.

Near Naze Lighthouse Tower (1904), with The Lake District in the far distance across Morecambe Bay.

Near Naze Lighthouse Tower (1904), with The Lake District in the far distance across Morecambe Bay.

At Near Naze Lighthouse tower, Heysham.

At Near Naze Lighthouse tower, Heysham.

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.

Climbing into the Forest of Bowland: looking west and back towards the Irish Sea, from near the Jubilee Tower.

Climbing into the Forest of Bowland: looking west and back towards the Irish Sea, from near the Jubilee Tower.

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.

© 2017 700×25

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑