The latest ride saw us head a bit further North and West than we usually do as we headed over to Kirby Lonsdale to ride in Barbondale, criss crossing the River Lune (an appropriately named river for us I felt). The area’s beauty was made famous by John Ruskin (via Ruskin’s view) who described the view (above) into the valley as:
The most beautiful in England and therefore the world
Nothing like a bit of hubris eh but the view was immortalised in a painting by JMW Turner (below) and judging from our brief stop, there were indeed plenty of people stopping to admire it. My thoughts however were lets get into and explore the view rather than simply look at it and once outside the small market town we were quickly into some of the most sparsely populated but beautiful parts of the country.
Very quickly we were riding across boggy bridle ways before coming out onto a small road that starting going seriously steeply uphill. I shifted immediately into the lowest ring possible and set about having a quick mental battle with myself about how and whether I could get up this climb, decided I was going to and then set about grinding out a ridiculously slow metronomic pedal turn. As I was climbing thoughts turned to the riders in the tour and the stunning admiration for how easy they make climbing look. It’s interesting too how your mind works on a climb, mine certainly wanders all over the place – partly I think to act as a distraction to the difficulties that I’m going through. On this occasion my thoughts switched for some reason to the nicknames that riders have or have had – The Cannibal, Pistolero, Spartacus, The Tashkant Terror, Manx Missile, Super Mario, The Pirate, The Engineer and for one of my favourite riders The Shark of Messina. Now the Shark or Vincenzo Nibali goes uphill faster than I can go down and as for his descending one can only dream. As I was plugging away I realising how very very average I am as a rider (slow up hill and down) I was thinking what my nickname would be – easy really in an antithesis homage to Nibali it would have to be The Snail from South Wales ! The reward for all that climbing was a lovely gentle descent along the shoulder of the hill, nothing too steep so you could just float along that brought us out to these views of the valley
Heading across country again we were still on the downward trajectory which made me realise how much climbing we had done. This slope was a very different beast, rocky and wet and way above my technical abilities but I slowly picked and stumbled my way down as best I could while watching PB effortlessly pick his way down. It’s on stretches like this that make me think I need to switch from clipless to flats which might help provide a bit more confidence to the inevitable dabbing down that happens for me. Finally though the Snail from South Wales emerged wet but unscathed.
The route then led us back across the river, I took the bridge while PB hilariously attempted to ford it resulting in him getting seriously wet as he ground to a halt half way across. I would have caught it on camera but was simply too busy laughing but as you can see it was not the easiest crossing point.
A lovely easy section then took us through woodland as we followed the river bubbling away gently as we turned back and began the return leg of the loop. Riding was smooth and easy until we came across a felled tree that required a bit of undignified scrambling
Before we had set out on this new route we had been advised to check the Westmorland racetrack website to make sure that no races were taking place. This seemed a slightly bizarre instruction until we rode out of the woods and onto a racetrack where we took childish delight in pinging ourselves round a few bends. It seemed very surreal to have been riding across this beautiful countryside to then find this racetrack which I think would have been even stranger if it had been in use and even more so if you had not been forewarned and just stumbled out onto it.
We had been riding for a few hours by now and covered a real variety of terrain, something for any rider until we came to a section that should have been lovely single track. However it had clearly not been ridden or cleared for some time so we were left having to face running a gauntlet of nettles and brambles. Plunging into it as best we could it was difficult to know how to ride as you could not see the path and therefore the rocks that were hidden in it so going too fast spelt disaster and anyway this is the Snail we are talking about. Speed also enabled the brambles to get a good rip at you but it seemed to avoid the worst of the stings from the nettles. Too slow helped avoid the rocks and brambles but the nettles took their revenge. I have to say it was a singularly testing and pretty unpleasant experience which left my legs somewhat sore
The final stretch saw us pootling back towards the starting point of Ruskin’s view and I must say that although I might have to disagree with him on his ranking of the view it is an incredibly beautiful area with some fantastic unspoilt countryside and great riding.
After 4 hours riding and our legs stinging like I can’t remember since I was a child I anaesthetised myself the only way I know how.