RSF - The Off Road Cycling Club

The Adventure Starts Here

C2C - Humber to the Irish Sea

by Henk Francino


fisher of dreamsFurther research into some aspects of sociolinguistics more or less forced me to look further afield than the south of England where an important part of it all takes place. I had to see some people at Lancaster University to discuss the pros and cons of a comparative study. Having spent the wet and lousy summer of 2010 at home redecorating and upgrading the bookbindery and printing works here in Deventer I guessed the Indian summer would arrive at the start of September. And so it did. I booked the P&O ferry to Hull, put the bike into working order, alerted our secretary I was on my way (he generously offered me 'active B&B' at Home Farm, Aldcliffe, thanks for that Peter) and set sail.

1: From Hull to Harrogate

Say Hull say Philip Larkin. So I followed the poet's directions to cross the town and got gloriously lost in the early morning traffic jams. Forget Larkin, inhale the fumes and head for Kirk Ella, cross the A164 and the whole of Yorkshire is at your pedals. Trying to avoid the busy roads I usually end up following country lanes, byways and tracks, or worse. With the sun rising, as expected, and a good number of hours at my disposal I enjoyed a leisurely ride through the East Yorkshire landscape. Farmers were having a late harvest due to the previous deluge so some of the lanes had changed into slithery tracks on which the poor cyclist had to show off his balancing acts.

Getting no applause and having lost my bearings somewhere south of Allerthorpe the farmer at Thornton Grange (SE 751463) advised me to head for Melbourne. We had a nice chat about the bigger and bustling brother of Melbourne down under, the Yorkshire one proved to be a very quiet affair and, worse, the only pub I passed was closed. A bench ('In memory of… who loved this village') further up the road was the only alternative to munch the dry-cleaned P&O sandwich (yes, the ferry's cook should be fired!).

Just before reaching Sutton upon Derwent I took a short cut past Gravelpit Farm along a track of sorts, ending up among a herd of young bulls who were only interested in my panniers. Open a gate, shut it quickly and bye bye bulls. The pub in Wheldrake was closed, too, due to redecoration work in progess. West of Escrick (SE 617419) I picked up the Trans Pennine Trail following the dismantled railway, greeted the Fisherman sitting on top of the bridge over the Ouse (his bike at hand) and sped through Acaster Malbis en route to the famous Shoulder of Mutton in Appleton Roebuck. A hearty three-cheeses macaroni and half a pint of bitter provided the necessary energy for the next leg of the journey. And the discussion I had with a flashy (and fleshy, too) rep about the company's BMW he was blessed with lead to the conclusion, entirely mine, that it is still better to cycle well than to arrive.

So upon my bike and heading west to look for something that was not to be. The not to be is a dotted line on the map with the promising words 'dismantled railway'. Reality proved less promising just west of Tadcaster but I managed to cycle parts of it and even met another diehard who wondered if he would be home by midnight. In the backyard of HM Prisons Walton things improved by the yard and the last two miles to Wetherby were a cyclist's heaven because it is part of the national cycle network, number 66 to be precise.

In Wetherby I learned that the part between Tadcaster and the prison (Thorp Arch Estate) will be developed by Sustrans in the (near?) future. What a shame, I like it rough, really!

With a landlady waiting in Harrogate and the sun setting in the west I had to speed things up. A first reconnaissance of the continuation of the dismantled railway towards Harrogate proved possitive, well as soon as Sustrans cycles in things get civilized. Harrogate's civilization is of a different sort, though. Cycling among the throngs of cars and lorries is one thing, finding the dragon (Dragon House, that is) is another. Upon my late arrival the landlady said she thought I must have had umpteen flat tyres. When I told her the only thing feeling flat right now was my stomach she was quick to send me to a fabulous eating place. A wholesome end to a long but rewarding day.

2: From Harrogate to Skipton

"Cycling from Hull to Lancaster", I told the other B&B guest at the breakfast table who asked me where I was heading for. His jaw dropped and his brains short-cicuited. When the lights came on again he said that when he retired early his collegues gave him a pushbike but after having used it once he put it in the shed and it was still there. Well, mine was alive and kicking and I left Harrogate on another sunny morning. Following the B6162 to Beckwithshaw and turning left there I headed for Otley along some minor roads and tracks. Climbing Almscliff Crag (SE 268490) was a real sweater, the path up was no-cycle area, the bit down towards Stainburn proved a cycle health and safety risk, but what a challenge. All the same, me and the bike survived, but I would advise others to leave the Crag to the right and follow the road: much better for the heart and kidneys!

Otley was busy and the coffee dubious. I followed the road to Askwith and decided that what with the weather and ample time on hand the path up Askwith Moor was worth a reconnaissance. I headed for Dunkirk (in reality a millionth part of its French counterpart) and thence to Moorside Farm (SE 141494). Most of this route had to be walked, and just when I started cycling near Moorside some walkers struggling up the track flagged me down to warn me of the potholes. Very attentive of them but very OTT since most of the tracks around here are one huge pothole, in other words a real rough-stuff paradise. The track to Hollingley Farm (SE 130509) was a delight and March Ghyll Reservoir a good rest and be thankful.

After a bit of walking I managed to pick up a path near Windsover Farm taking me into the hamlet of Middleton. Going to the right there and following some steep zigzags I finally ended up on a road west of Ilkley with the river Wharfe to the left. Easy cycling now in glorious sunshine, through Beamsley and on to Bolton Abbey for lunch.

Leaving the abbey for Halton East I suddenly found myself in a melee of screaming fire engines coming my way, so the only thing left for me was to dive into the ditch to let them pass. Minutes later this spectacle was repeated with the engines coming the other way, communication with HQ must have been disturbed one way or the other, in the end I saw them turning left and making for the A65. I later found out there had been a serious accident on the A-road they were heading for. Getting away from this madding crowd I decided to make a detour across Embsay Moor. From Halton East I turned north, leaving steep Halton Height to my left.

The track to Brown Bank Brow (SE 005572) was not too bad for the first couple of miles but from Hutchen Gill Head onward it was walking most of the way and in the end the track became a path, hard to follow in places. Still, the views were stupendous, Skipton enjoying a lazy afternoon in pleasant sunshine. I took a sunbath on Rylstone Fell and revitalized bumped down to the B6265 that took me into Skipton. There I made an emergency stop along the Springs Canal at The Royal Shepherd for the much needed pint of Copper Dragon before going in search of my B&B for the night.


Trough of Bowland3. From Skipton to Aldcliffe

Peter had given me instructions for an attractive route out of Skipton to Dunsop Bridge where we were to meet. Leaving the busy A59 at Broughton I made for Gargrave, turned left there and went westward. I initially followed part of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, restoration work on the sluices at Bank Newton had resulted in a more or less dried up canal.

The combination of an Indian summer and the autumnal onset had resulted in a colourful backdrop, cycling here was highly enjoyable. South of Hellifield I took the minor road to Wigglesworth. Being in no hurry I slowly pedalled up the B6478 to Tosside and Slaidburn. Too slowly for a local lass who rang her bell, overtook me and cycled furiously up a nondescript hill. On the Yorkshire/Lancashire border her stamina must have collapsed because she was walking uphill there… welcome to Lancashire!

The coffee at the Bankside Cafe in Slaidburn was less dubious than the one in Otley. Just south of Slaidburn it was a slow trudge uphill when suddenly our RSF secretary came tumbling down at a horrendous speed. We met in the middle of the road, Peter had to turn round and join me in the climb… walking! In Dunsop Bridge, nearest village to the centre of the British Isles, we had lunch in the Puddleducks Cafe to prepare ourselves for the Trough of Bowland. Peter took the lead, no chance losing him for he left a distinct trail of vapour, I just had to follow that.

While resting at the top two other cyclists came up from the other side, we had a chat and then it was… swooshhhh, all the way down to Dolphinholme. It was a home game for Peter so he lead me along pleasant and quiet lanes, past the university buildings and so to Aldcliffe where I would be staying at his cosy home.


The active B&B Peter had offered me consisted of:

Putting the milk into the coffee myself in the morning.

A South Lakes Group ride organized by Simeon Orme

We met at the home of the sticky toffee pudding, Cartmel. From there Simeon, Jim, Peter and myself raced past the racecourse to Haverthwaite with an early coffee stop in between; an Ulverston Lighthouse Lunch on the top of windy Oubas Hill with magnificent views over Morecambe Bay; a ‘lousy coffee’ break (what’s the matter with British coffee standards these days!?) at Spark Bridge; a salmon count near Newby Bridge with a negative result; tea and gingercake at Cartmel and a hot shower at home to wash away the dirt.

A ‘grand tour’ on my own (Peter was preparing his bike for a ride in southern France) via Halton, Nether Kellet, Over Kellet, Capernwray, Keer Holme, Hutton Roof, Holme (with an al fresco lunch at the Smithy’s and meeting a grand old man who said he liked my bag fixed to the handlebar but had never been on a bike himself); an awkward and somewhat tiresome ride down to Silverdale beach with as a reward this moving poem written on the bench on which I collapsed:

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lakewater lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

With the heart beat normal again I headed for Jenny Brown’s Point and managed to cycle most of the sometimes muddy ‘path’ (in fact following the course of the dotted line on the map) to Ings Point to the east of Warton Sands and hitting the road there I went south to Carnforth to follow the Lancaster Canal straight into Lancaster and then back home to Aldcliffe where Peter was still busy polishing his bike (he refused to do mine as well, active B&B you know!)

A pleasant visit to Fred and Pat Lloyd in Halton where we were invited to finish the rest of the 2009-2010 winter store of chocolate and oats biscuits. We didn’t succeed, alas, so there should be some left for next winter (which, as I am writing this article, is promising to be a severe one).

A not so active departure from Peter’s, he offered me a lift into Hellifield early in the morning, thus escaping a Trough of Bowland revisited. But we did have a very active breakfast indeed at the station cafeteria. After saying goodbye I cycled east, nearly hit by lightning near Wetherby and having my second flat tire in Beverley (the first one was in… Peter’s garage!). Arrived home safe and sound by the middle of September and snowed-in in December.

Maps used: OS Landranger nos. 97, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107.

Henk Francino
(Deventer, Netherlands)