Category: The Lakes

Blencathra (Part 2)

This is what Saturdays in January were made for.


A Saturday morning and a bit of an afternoon spent wandering the fells around Honister Pass, well, somebody had to as there didn’t seem to be any other bugger around today. Honister will be familiar to many of the bike riders of the North of England and even beyond although nothing with wheels was going up there this morning and a hundred years of evolution of transport technology was briefly rendered completely obsolete by the soft gentle silence of the early morning snow.


I think it may obliglatory under some rule somewhere to mention the winter solstice tomorrow when the up until now three or so minute daily loss of light reverses and we start clawing back our days from the greedy southern hemispherists who stole them. When eventually in a few weeks the difference becomes really noticable I certainly won’t miss the semi-nocturnal existance of going out and coming home in the dark all week but the seasonal version of Stockholm Syndrome which I have started to exhibit means I know that I will miss the long shadows of the lunchtime dusk and mid afternoon sunsets glimpsed during the working day. Also, at the end of a long bike ride or any day in fact I am sure I look much better under subdued light conditions. The weather forecast currently suggests that the star of the show is unlikely to show up for long on the big day itself tomorrow but I don’t want the bike blog police to knock on the door asking difficult questions about my attitude to marking diary dates in the outdoor calender because I’m already on the naughty list for not taking it seriously enough and not wearing a bike helmet when reading Rouleur magazine so here is some of today’s sunlight from over the hill in Cumbria where it is worth extra credit in front of any jury by reason of how little they see of it over there on their slightly rainy west facing side of the Pennines. I suppose once upon a time the whole culture of these islands centred around the sun with huge monuments aligned with the sunrays as they fell on the summer and winter solstices and although we may like to think we’ve moved on a bit since then I’m not sure if we have really except nowadays instead of stone circles to bring us closer to the warmth and to the light we have Easyjet and deep down we’re just as afraid of the dark as we have always been, and in fact as nobody had to face trying to get in a mid week evening bike ride in December whilst struggling against the cold, terrible roads, drunk drivers and the weight of their spare batteries exceeding that of the bike they were riding in the Stone Age, maybe even more now than then.

The Fred

Sometimes a whole bunch of different people all come together with the intention of not only sharing possibly the only thing they have in common with one another but also of having a nice time come what may. Saturday we went to one such happening, a farewell tour gig by a band we’ve been to see quite a few times now and who have a core of fans who were also as keen as us to get this one last chance, until the next farewell tour at least, to see them play together. Three encores and two hours sleep later I was on my way to the weekend’s second opportunity of a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside, heading over the Pennines, behind me a dismembered bike in the car boot and the first hint of sunrise in the slenderist slither of inky blue daylight somewhere out over the North Sea, to a bike ride in England’s top left hand corner county. A few hours later still, standing in a queue waiting for a finishing certificate, I was struck that never, in the field of human bike riding, can so many wet, cold, tired, dirty people stood in the rain in a muddy field on a dreary Sunday afternoon have been so universally in good spirits.

Maybe it was something in the Cumberland sausages dished out by the burger van, maybe it was relief that our bikes were in one piece after a ride where last minute experiments with large hill friendly cassettes had seen one or two chains and mechs give up well before the rider did, or that we ourselves were still in one piece after rain and broken tarmac on steep bendy lanes meant sadly this was not the case for everyone who started, maybe it was the freshly won or renewed bragging rights or the ability to try on the t-shirt ordered before the ride but superstitiously not yet removed from the sealed package, maybe it was the prospect of warm clothes, warm showers, or just warm anything at all, maybe it was imagining soon not being covered in mud from a field from which many were departing on the end of a tow rope behind a tractor, maybe it was not having to push another single revolution of the pedals for a day or two, maybe it was the smiling route marshalls and encouraging locals braving wind and rain to back the riders, but whatever the origin of the feelgood factor it was the warmest feeling inside I have perhaps ever experienced whilst suffering the symptoms of a borderline case of exposure.