CLIVE'S CUMBRIAN WAY EVENT REVIEWS
I rode the CCWay for the first time this year, having missed it on it inaugural year. I am a member of host club Honister 92.
With just a couple of years cycling behind me and only a handful of 100 mile rides in the bank I was slightly apprehensive at having a go at this 276 mile route, but threw caution to the wind, entered and have got to say it was one of the better decisions I've made in my time.
So it was that I, along with 50 or so other hardy souls, was stood in the car park of the Sheep and Wool Centre just outside Cockermouth at 5am on a dull but cool Saturday morning. I opted to go in the first group with a projected avg speed of 13/15 mph, the 2nd and 3rd groups would follow us at half hour intervals.
After signing on, getting sorted and a bit of chatter it was 5.30 and time to roll out, and our group of about 20 made an easy decent into Cockermouth, where a gradual pull out of the town led to the rolling back roads heading northwest through the hamlets of Tallentire, Greengill and Allerby out onto the quiet (at this time of day) coast road and the flat run up to Silloth. Friendly chat and banter with friends and getting acquainted with those not known was ideally suited to this section, it probably also helped to calm any slight nerves anyone had, not many of us knew at this time, there was a lad among us who hadn't done a 100 mile ride before.
We arrived at Silloth and its bone jarring cobbled streets in seemingly no time so good was the crack.
On to Skinburness, where the route turned in from the shores of the Solway Firth for a while at least, the route remains almost pan flat through Calvo, Abbytown and Newton Arlosh leading us back out to the coast again and the imposing sight of the transmitters at Anthorn. The first sign of any undulations of note started to arrive at Boustead Hill, on the outskirts of Carlisle, where we arrived at the first feed stop at The Sand Centre shortly after 9.30am and 50 miles in, (I remember thinking, only 1/3 of the first day under the belt) to be cheerfully greeted by the support crew Ray (organiser), Charlie, Brian and a table groaning under the weight of cake, bananas, chocolate, gels, energy drinks and more, it was here as well that the other 2 groups caught us up.
Fed and watered, pockets stocked, we assembled our group and headed off East out of the city on the A689 towards Brampton and the start of the hills. A sharp turn right in the town centre started the long southbound leg of this epic route with a steady height gain of 1000 feet over the next 14 miles on quiet roads with the rising Pennines on our left, through the villages of Castle Carrock, Cumrew and Croglin. Every now and again Charlie and Brian would pass us in the car, stop, take a few pictures and just check everyone was okay. The less busy roads also lent themselves to a bit more banter and crack, before we knew it we were pulling into Langwathby and the welcome sight of Ray's van and the full table, surrounded by the guys from the 2 quicker groups. 83 miles in now and I don't know whether it was the buzz, the nice steady pace or the generally happy atmosphere but, there was no sign of fatigue from anyone, just lots of laughter and joking, more cake, chocolate, bananas and a Lucozade, drink bottles filled and it was off southbound again.
Another 17 miles of undulating country roads led us down into the market town of Appleby host to the famous annual horse fair the remains of which were plainly visible on or way through, a strange sight was a field on the outskirts the size of 5 football pitches, with 1 portaloo smack bang in the middle of it, considering the thousands that attend the event, it made for an interesting topic of conversation in the group for a while. 2 miles down the road from the town and we hit the 100 mile mark, (2/3 of the first day in, its backs broke I said to myself) only 56 to do. Kirkby Stephen was the next main town we encountered and the beginning of the 7 mile climb of Mallerstang, not steep but unrelenting and where the mountains began to enclose us on both sides. A puncture here gave us all a short time out before we started up. It's a stunning valley that this climb rises from, the scenery draws the eyes to both sides, but it was here that the group started to split into two's and three's as each found their own pace up the steepening hill before us and where my legs at last started to mutter little complaints to me. As we reached the summit in dribs and drabs another time out to regroup was very welcome.
Ten minutes or so and we were a group again, and ready for the long fast winding decent through Garsdale and on to Sedburgh. We got quite spread out again on the decent as the more adept descenders pushed on. It wasn't to long before the last food stop of the day came into view, tucked away in a sheltered parking place on the lower slopes of the moor leading into Sedburgh. A change to the menu at this one and a welcome one, savoury stuff, lots of it, scotch eggs, sandwiches, sausage rolls much needed after a sugar filled day but still more gels and bananas and chocolate to push into pockets for the final push on to Arnside. Back on our way, and into Sebergh where a swing left kept us on a generally downhill section until Kirby Lonsdale its here the first day was finally drawing to an end, as a sharp right on the outskirts saw us heading west at last through the villages of Biggins, Hutton Roof and new Biggins before crossing the M6 at about 146 miles, roughly 10 miles left and the spirits of the group were on a high as we rolled over the last few miles of quiet roads and into Arnside, here a bit of mad headed euphoric competitiveness took over for 5 of us, as we turned up from the sea front we started a mad charge to the hostel, But, in our head down arse up haste, instead of turning onto Red Hills road and a down hill roll to the finish, we carried on like mad buggers for another 200ft uphill until we were called back by the support car.
Anyway eventually arrived, to be greeted by a group sitting in the sun supping beers, oh yes beers!
Into the room, shower, a couple of snifters, meal, a short stroll to the pub for a couple more and it was Bed and out like a light. Here endeth the first day!!
Sunday morning day 2 dawned cold and clear, we woke at 4.30am, quick shower, dressed, bag packed and loaded into the van, then a quick breakfast and out into the cold morning air, a quick check of the bikes, drinks bottles filled pockets loaded with food and we were ready, the first group would be hitting the road at 5.30am. Off we went along the short road then steeply down to the sea front, what a view greeted us on this clear beautiful morning.
An excellent day in prospect we headed out of town the way we had entered the day before, swinging left and north on the start of this 120 mile day. We headed north through the small village of Sandside making for Levens hall, skirting Milnthorpe, Haversham and Leasgill. We crossed the A590 and turned west through Levens and our first small climb of the day, minor roads now for the next 12 or so miles, these passed quickly as the route here is so flat.
The Georgian spa town of Grange over Sand next at 26 miles (100 to go) and another short sharp climb that took us out of the town, onward to Flookburgh and a
swing north still on very quiet roads, every body awake now and the crack was good. We came to a short 4 mile section next, cycle path and quite rough in
places a lot of care taken her to avoid punctures, at the ed of this section we crossed the estuary and climbed steeply through Greenodd and a small break in
the village for a puncture and toilet stop for some (least said about this the better, eh Conch).
It was a beautiful warm day now and all were resplendent in the CCWAY jerseys. We must have made a great sight
The 32 mile mark came at the busy town of Ulverston, a little um and ah about the route here then onward to the first food stop of the day on the beach 38 miles in, magnificent views over the estuary here and a few photos, while we enjoyed a bit of banter and the heaps of food on offer from the seemingly limitless supply in Raymond's van. 20 mins or so and it was off, just as the other 2 groups pulled into the food stop.
This next section of the ride would to be relatively flat down the coast road, 5 miles with the last mile and a half pan flat and very fast before a shape right turn that would take us into the suburbs of Barrow-in-Furness. We made good time even with a little bit of dodgy route finding through the town, out by Furness Abbey and off the main road for a short while at least, onto a cycle path through Chapel Hills wood where we regrouped. We emerged onto the main A595, and it was here our groups only major mechanical occurred, a snapped rear derailleur, four of the group including myself stopped to lend a hand, a phone call was made to the support car, but we busied ourselves by converting the crippled steed into a single speed. But happily it was not needed as, just as we finished, Charlie and Brian appeared with the spare bike (just as well) we were a good 20 mins down on our group, who by this point we were informed were tucking into the barbecue at the pub in Kirkby-in-Furness 5 miles down the road.
We made good time and rolled in just as the others had all finished, so it was a quick but delicious meal (could have murdered a pint) for us, then back on the bike with the first group.
Off again, fed and watered and in good spirits. Looking across the estuary as we left Kirkby, Millom was 2 miles away, but the route to it was 10 miles over some rough track and minor roads, the steep little clicks were starting to appear again, not long but just eating away at the strength. Millom came and went quietly and the weather was starting to turn, the bright sun that had shone on us from the start of the day was now hidden by thickening cloud. Heading north now, (at last) we made good time to Eskdale and the final food stop, here we caught up with the other groups, who had passed us on the run up from Millom. Leaving here together the rain started, not hard but steady, coats on and we were at what is probably the steepest part of the second day, the climb up to Irton pike. It was coming to the bottom of this climb that I realised I'd been in the big chainring the whole day, well 40 odd mile to go, I wasn't going to change down now, so teeth gritted, legs complaining ( just a bit), calling myself some pretty indescribable stuff I stayed in the big ring and watched everyone go by, but eventually got to the top.
The rain falling heavier now we rode through Santon Bridge, Gosforth and onto the main A595 for a couple of brief miles then back onto the quieter back roads out on the coast again, the rain wasn't dampening any spirit's at all, Beckermet, Braystones, Nethertown, then just before St Bees the 100 mile mark, 20 to go, not a lot but at the end of this 2 days, enough!
A steep pull out of St Bees then to The Historic costal town of Whitehaven, onto the cycle path here which was followed to Distington. The path from here sits along side the main road for a few fast miles. Soaking wet and just starting to get cold, I felt great, no tiredness, pain, nothing, just elation, 115 miles Brigdgefoot, 116 miles Broughton Cross, 117 Brigham, across the river, 118, 119, then the climb to Papcastle, What a bugger!
One Mile more down hill, off bike, in pub, warm, dry.
Pint (then another).
An hour to have a drink and good crack about the days events, then we regrouped outside for the ride up to the Sheep and Wool Center with the police escort to be met by the local radio station CFM for a few interviews, what a great feeling, what a great weekend, what a fantastic event.
I started out, along with over 60 other riders from cycling club's, both near and far to ride the "Cumbrian Way" The weekend that was chosen for the ride began with bright crisp sunshine on Saturday 12th June 2010. Start and finish venue was to be the Cockermouth Sheep and Wool Centre, on the outskirts of the Cumbrian town. An early start was understandably advisable for the long first day. This was to feature approx 160 miles in the saddle. We were to ride in a clockwise circuit of North, East, and South Cumbria, culminating with an overnight stay in the picturesque seaside town of Arnside. It was agreed prior to the off, to have three good sized groups of varying abilities, with the fastest riders setting out last.
I myself opted for the second group to start.The ride west from Cockermouth out to the rugged coastal road went by very quickly, with lot's of friendly banter and leg pulling coming from one and all. Once on to the coastal road the views opened up and the Views out across the Solway Firth that morning, were to behold. The near flat peninsula road North saw the pace step up considerably, with plenty of good souls willing to do a stint at the head of our own little peloton.
The handsome North Cumbrian town of Silloth boasts some of the finest cobbled streets in the whole of the country. However, they do take some negotiating on cycles, with dental fillings getting a good jolting. But this fine coastal town has so much going for it, that it's well worth the visit. Thankfully it's not a long time spent getting, "all shook up" as Elvis aptly put it, and you're on your way once more on quiet country roads.
After a brief section where the route took us inland through Calvo, and Abbey Town, we were back out on the seaside road once more with the coast of Scotland no more than a few strokes for a strong swimmer away. Part way along this road we passed by the Anthorn Radio Transmitting Station, which sent many of our cycle computers haywire for a short time. I glanced down at my own to see that I was travelling at 78 mph no less! Strange.
With computers returning to normality, the ride through Bowness On Solway shortly afterwards signalled that we had now reached our most Northerly point on The Cumbrian Way. A busier ride due East saw us moving deeper into the border city of Carlisle. This direction duly continued on good fast roads, out to Brampton, some ten miles North East of Carlisle. Some pretty villages came and went on our Southbound journey now, as we headed for the Market town of Appleby. Again on predominantly peaceful roads.
The trip through Kirby Stephen heralded a major change in the countryside, as the remote fells of East Cumbria looked steeply down on the tarmac ribbon of road through Mallerstang. The climb over this isolated area went in quite well actually, with superb vista all around. The farms and homesteads out in these parts must have the world to themselves for sure.
The slightly downhill miles down into Sedbergh through Garsdale are an absolute pleasure to ride, with the speed picking up noticeably once more on this section. The huge Southern most fells of the Howgills towered up on our right, as we all zipped Westerly to our next port of call, Sedbergh. The town was flanked by the imposing grass covered Sedbergh Hills, so different to the craggy fellsides of Northern Lakeland.
Yet more peaceful, quieter roads took us on through Kirby Lonsdale, Hutton Roof, and Burton-In-Kendal. It is here where we crossed over the M6 motorway, culminating with our resting place for the first evening of the two day ride, Arnside. This superb picture card seaside town is nestled right on the Morecambe Bay, making for a splendid terminus to a long, but rewarding day in the saddle. Our large party of sixty-plus riders enjoyed the tremendous hospitality of the Youth Hostel at Arnside, as thoughts wandered a just a little to what was before us on day two..
An early night, was followed by a hearty breakfast for one and all at the youth hostel. Though, the weather had turned for the worse overnight and the sixty or so cyclists were greeted by drizzle and dark clouds. The first miles of our ride home went in very comfortably. Thankfully, the busy main road out of Arnside was swiftly left behind us, as we were then onto the superb peninsula road through Bardsea, Baycliffe, Aldingham, and Rampside. The sea air was rallying us all at this early stage!
The first day groups had now given way to various riders opting to jump up a group, or alternatively drop down to another, with thoughts of approx 120 miles still to be negotiated. The fastest group soon pinned back there ears and hurtled off into the gloom, at a rate of knots! During the course of the day many of the groups were to get splintered, but this in my opinion was understandable in the rainswept conditions. But it was homeward bound now folks!
A quick ride through the large shipping town of Barrow preceded, a return to the more undulating Northbound roads of Southern Cumbria. Askham-In Furness and Kirkby-In-Furness, both had tasty climbs out of them, as the hills were coming along more regularly now. That said, none of these ascents were that difficult, even though the earlier drizzle had now given way to full on rain. All good character building stuff!
The Duddon Bridge was crossed shortly after this, as the route then took us through the industrial town of Millom. After a couple of more climbs, the gradient relaxed for quite some time, with the villages of Kirksanton, and Silecroft being ticked off on our Northerly route. Sprawling up out of the sea on our right were the impressive fellsides of Black Combe. These fine hills seem tucked away down at this end of Lakeland, and seldom encounter the droves of walkers that other, more central fells tend to.
During our ride through the next village of Bootle, the route directed us to head out to the coast past the munitions property at Eskmeals. This winding seafront road comes to a halt at certain "tidal" times of day, when the sea comes right in and covers the road completely. Yes, that's exactly what we came upon that day. Feeling pretty tired, and soaked to the skin by now, myself and the fellow (Honister 92) rider opted to wade in. I'd have to admit at this stage the sea water was no colder than the rain that was pouring on us!
With bikes above our heads, we walked through the three foot deep waters for about twenty yards. Our feet were actually on the now submerged tarmac as we waded through. Memories of Tom Berenger, rifle above head in the film "Platoon" came flooding back for me! So a check on the tidal schedule for this section is advisable, or alternatively, turn back to Bootle and add about five miles to your total route.
Once back on the main A595 road, we quickly found ourselves cycling past the magnificent Muncaster Castle, and it's wonderful gardens. Next up came the village of Holmrook, where the main road was left yet again, with us heading to Seascale by the sea. Seascale lies just South of the huge Sellafield Nuclear site. From here, a couple of "fastish" miles soon had us back on the A595 at the village of Gosforth.
A good climb North out of Gosforth, and a swift ride through the villages of Calderbridge and Beckermet, came before a long downhill section into St Bees. Down to our left on this descent, the villages popular golf course stands above the sandstone cliffs that are just about keeping the Irish Sea at bay. With all good descents into villages, there comes a testing climb back out again. Phew, St Bees doesn't disappoint. But don't be disheartened, it's "nowt" really, as us Cumbrians like to put it.
Next town to slip by, was Whitehaven. After a short cycle along the harbour, and through the town's streets, the sharp climb up to nearby Bransty is upon you very quickly. But at this stage, the route is all but done, and you are back on the A595 in no time. We we're soon cycling through Parton, and Distington before the long main road haul Northbound to Bridgefoot via Windscales Moor. At this stage the skies brightened. "The sun shines on the righteous" thought I!
The final miles of a fantastic two days, saw us peddling through the Brigham, Greysouthern, and Eaglesfield villages, prior to the emotional few hundred yards down into the Cockermouth Sheep And Wool Centre, the scene of our outset. For me, it was a terrific experience, and one I would thoroughly recommend. Two days is quite a challenge in honesty, but it can easily be broken up into a longer casual ride to suit.