Squawk squawk squawk

Dent in the Dales (Cumbria) to Armathwaite, Cumbria via Yorkshire 

We were people with a mission this morning, knowing that the only cycle shop we actually pass en-route closes at 1pm on a Monday – it was twenty miles away and we had a long steep Climb over by Dent Station to start. 

We spoke yesterday of the fear and loathing instilled by the words steep and climb. Imagine our response to the addition of the adjective ‘ very’ this morning. They did not lie. It was a 17% climb this morning up above Dent Station which is marvellously surrounded by upended sleepers on the fields above the track, presumably to try and avoid snow closure in inclement weather. Difficult to imagine in today’s searing heat. 

Dent is England’s highest mainline station. 

In fact it was so hot that I could have been hallucinating – did I really see three very old ladies on a kind of motorbike with double side car contraption, laughing gleefully as they steamed up the virtually vertical hillside? All wearing crash helmets. Keith saw it too. 

And then, like some military reenactment,  a Hercules transport plane came  so slowly towards us, up the vAlley, below the hill line, all four props turning. A truly wonderful sight. 

And at each bRidge over the railway were men with baggy shirts, hats and cameras. Clearly expecting a steam train   – which one? We would have loved to stay and watch, but had to stick to the plan. 

So  _ the mission to get to the  shop. Important because my brakes seem not to be working as they should. Despite our best efforts we were pooped  to the breakfast post by a group of five Dutch people who, unusually for the Dutch,  spoke  virtually no English. It took a long long time for them to order breakfast and we weren’t eventually on the road until 9.15. 

The climb was exceedingly hard. To while away the time  Keith started wondering if I could swim faster than I could walk up a 17% hill. After all sorts of calculations and conversions we decided the answer was no. He can’t either, but he has learnt to swim this year. 

 Then Keith talked about how he would never beat his record for running one mile, achieved on the school playing field when he was 16. Six minutes. Something he’ll never do again. Because he’s held back by his build or his age or his peanut consumption?  No. Because they’ve built on the playing field. Boom boom!!! And so it went on.  

Descending from Dent Station was a blast. Terrifyingly steep for those without brakes (and with nerves) it was also physically too steep to walk down with a fully laden tourist bike. I tottered down like a 90 year old trying to restrain a run away Zimmer frame. 

Cycling against time we pushed ourselves at top rate along the lanes managing speeds of up to 20mph at times. 

Catching shouted directions from a local trimming his hedge we finally made it to the cycle shop with just minutes to spare to find….the website was wrong. …    he’s actually open until 5.30. 

Once again a knight of the road, one of life’s great little helpers, Simon, arranged the bIke for inspection, checked the tyres and the tube pressures, sorted the brakes and showed Keith how to tighten them in future, and refused any payment. Put a couple of quid In a  charity box he said. 

The shop was in Kirkby Stephen a proper small market town, bustling, full of independent non- chain shops including a post office recently transferred to an upper class second hand shop, managed by a bald headed man with pince nez on the end of his nose and a queue of at least eight women. 

The rules for trading in the town are interesting. Note that payment for selling potatoes is by paying the town council with potatoes. Payment for all other merchandising is with cash. 

Appleby in Westmorland, our next sizeable town, was preparing for its annual horse fair. It had a feel of the Wild West about it, stakes hammered into the verges, for the horses to  be tethered to, large notices warning of the penalties for wrongly parking a carAvan, and disclaimers in the event thAt anyone might be injured by a horse, stories surround this fair of travelling families using the opportunity to settle old bets. Behind all this was an elegant town with side streets full Of flowers and stylish Buildings.

So we next met, as part of our fairy tAle narrative, what other than a Franciscan monk and a doctor doing the worlds longest charity walk, having  vIsited every country in Europe including the baltic states, they were heading towards Ireland, then the orkneys and shetlands  before walking round the Scandinavian countries, Benelux, and back to Germany. 16000 miles. So that’s where simon’s couple of quid in a charity box went. We gave rather more of course. And wished them well on their travels as they did us on ours. Here are Frans (the monk) and Heiko:


And cycling still on molten tar, collecting grit, we worked our way along the valleys (‘rolling hills’), spotting a sparrow hawk, recognisable by its flap flap guide flight, a pied fly catcher, honeysuckle of quite a different hue (more white and gold than red and gold) to that further south, hedges bedecked by wild roses in perfect form, to our destination of The Duke’s Head at Amathwaite. A place with an interesting sign, a lovely building and three travellers from a converted  camper van to swap stories of Leek, Anglesey and Hadrian’s Wall. 

We were the only guests. Possibly the best breakfast yet. A place I’d recommend. 

Around here the hay has been cut, dried and is mostly baled. The farmers of Cumbria must be very happy. 

A good day. 

Mileage: 56.3 (cumulative: 533.8)

Ascents: 3742

Tantrums: 0 

Pints: 2 (oh dear)

Pages: 0 (cumulative still 67, but I struggle to remember what happened). 

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