Friday, 28 September 2012

Four down

Another early start saw me back at Lorton and climbing Fellbarrow and Low Fell, the fells I'd not done last week. Although low in altitude they are sufficiently isolated to provide good views of both the inner Lakeland fells and out across the Irish Sea. Both the Galloway hills and the Isle of Man were clearly visible.

Looking up Crummock Water  from Low Fell with Meallbreak on its right
Then it was up to Honister, once I'd managed to negotiate all the tourists stopping on blind bends to look at the view that is. True to form I'd got two hills left that weren't close to one another: Fleetwith Pike and Base Brown. The summit of Fleetwith Pike is at the Buttermere end of the fell so is a brilliant viewpoint. There was a motorised paraglider flying over the valley and the sound of the engine came and went with the breeze.

Derelict shed in the workings on Fleetwith Pike

Getting to Base Brown was a matter of contouring round tops following tracks and non-tracks to avoid too much up and down. Whether it was any quicker than following the main paths I'm not sure. So with the summit gained I'd completed my fourth Wainwright book, The Western Fells. By the time I was back at the car it was mid afternoon so time to head home. Just 21 tops to go.

On the Sunday ride there were enough to have an A and a B ride. The A ride was pretty quick, the average speeds are creeping up. This is probably because we are getting used to each other's riding styles so have started to ride closer together thus gaining extra benefits from drafting. We headed out via Barnoldswick to Downham (café stop) then back via Bolton by Bowland, Hellifield and Otterburn where I short cut for home. It did feel a rather cold day with an easterly breeze and I didn't feel particularly warm at any point on the ride. On the plus side I did get home before the deluge started.

The deluge brought its own problems a couple of days later when our kitchen flooded again :-( after an hour and a half of mopping up I managed to get outside and figure out what the cause was. With luck I'll be able to stop it permanently. I feel sorry for the people who get flooded regularly.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Back on the Wainwrights

Given a fine forecast for the Saturday with encroaching rain for Sunday it was time to head back over to the Lakes and grab a few more Wainwrights. So, having woken at 5am I'd had breakfast and was on my way by 5:30. The A65 was surprisingly busy, in fact it was busier than the M6, don't know what was going on.

My target were the hills around Loweswater - this is an area of the Lakes that I really don't know having rarely ventured further than Buttermere. A bit of investigation revealed that the ground between the fells had a reputation of being "damp" so with recent precipitation it looked like it could be interesting.

I left the car at 0750 and headed towards Burnmoor Fell. Basically a steady plod up through woods then by means of missing the path a steep section to reach the ridge and so the top. For the next couple of tops (Blake Fell and Gavel Fell) it was simply a case of following the fence line on the ridge. The ground was damp but not overly so. It was after Gavel Fell that things got interesting.

White Moss is known for being wet ground and it didn't belie its reputation, however since so few people cross it the vegetation is still intact so it's possible to stagger from grass lump to grass lump. All a bit slow going though and it was a relief to get on to the firmer slopes of Hen Comb.

Buttermere and Fleetwith Pike from Hen Combe

Taking the fell runner's line (i.e. straight down) to Mosedale meant some very steep ground avoiding small rock outcrops on the way. A bit of a detour to cross via the bridge then it was straight up Meallbreak. It was here that I saw (not met) the first people of the day and a short while later passed a solitary walker near the summit. Apart from a couple of parties near the fell gate they were the only people I saw on the hill.

The next objectives were Fellbarrow and Low Fell but as I set off I realised that my knee wasn't going to be able to handle it - with the bad summer weather I've done so little walking to crags or anywhere else that I'm just not used to it. So home it was.

Sunday's bike ride was out to Feizor and back - there weren't many of us out (seven) so we all jumped in to the B-ride! After a very nice tea and scone at the cafe we returned in increasing rain for a total of 88Km of riding. On Wednesday there were twelve out riding and the pace was pretty brisk, with the nights drawing in there were lots of new lights on show - Hope Vision 1s being quite popular as well as the Lezyne. With all the flashing modes of the tail lights it was quite a disco heading round the roads to Thornton.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Biking in Somerset

A slight delay in postings due to being away on holiday. It had been a choice between Scotland or the South West, the SW won so after booking some accommodation we headed down to sample the delights of mountain biking on the Quantocks, Exmoor and Dartmoor.

The Quantocks are only a short distance away from the M5 so made for a good afternoon destination before finding our B&B. We only did a short loop but managed to go right instead of left when climbing up a wooded valley so wondered why 40 degree slopes with exposed tree routes had appeared on what was meant to be an easyish climb. The rest of the route was very good though.

Cath making a splash

The following day our route began with a ridiculously steep climb, we were on route this time, and we began to wonder if we were going to get totally beasted with the supposed gradings. The rest of the route was straightforward with some nice sea views. We decided to do another route straight after so headed east towards Minehead and another steep push. Once on the ridge it was all very easy and we decided to drop down via a different path and head back to our accommodation via back lanes rather than following the guidebook route.

Heading inland we settled on a loop from Withypool but couldn't find any parking so headed over to Winsford instead. One of the longer rides in the guidebook, it was actually quite easy despite being graded the same as our coastal route the day before. Even the black section was straightforward. The next day we did the Withypool loop, though started from our hotel further downstream and had a hard time following the "bridleway"! The actual route was very good with open views and good riding and surprisingly easy to follow given our record on the earlier routes.

Heading down a quiet lane.

Finally down to Dartmoor and a couple of routes: one on the moors south of Okehampton using military roads felt properly wild - the routes on Exmoor felt more like riding through farmland with small bits of open land. The second route was characterised by lots of river crossings using stepping stones - these were tricky if you had short legs or cleated shoes! There was also a large cat aiming to steal my cream tea!

On Dartmoor above Okehampton

Cath on yet another river crossing.

Somewhat amazingly we didn't have any rain all week, unlike Scotland, so it looks like we made the right choice again. I'd put up some links to the slideshows on my website but I've currently got an access problem so can't upload/update files so things will have to wait.

Monday, 3 September 2012

More Bike related Japery

Last week Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on another world, died. One of my abiding childhood memories is being woken at four in the morning to watch the moon landing. For a farmer to wake his kids to watch such an event that had no conceivable direct link to him shows just how much the whole Apollo effort captivated the world.

Armstrong could have used his fame in so many ways but he chose to head back to engineering and instill his enthusiasm for aeronautics in to others. Perhaps his attitude is best summed by his quote: "It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small."

It took a day or two for my legs to get back to normal after the Ride with Brad, the climbs at the end definitely having packed a punch!

Nine of us turned up on a dull drizzly morning for Iain's "epic" trip to Bowness. However Cath decided that the pace was a bit much for her so went her own way then after a sprint towards Settle ( I thought use of the whip was frowned upon in racing?) Phil decided that he'd rather not reacquaint himself with his breakfast so headed back, meeting Cath at Rathmell as it happens.

At Clapham we left a worried looking Andy & Andrew in the hands of Tim and his mate who all needed to be back a bit sooner. So while they headed over Stainforth and Halton Gill to get home the remaining three pressed on ever westward towards an increasingly sunny Lake District. We joined the A65 at Goat Gap and by the time we got to Kirkby Lonsdale we decided to keep going as we (by which I mean I) didn't know the back roads between Kirkby and Endmoor to avoid it.

It wasn't too bad as it wasn't desperately busy, then it was in to Kendal and try to figure out what they've done with the one-way system this year. By the time we got to Bowness we were all ready for a rest. We just had to find the cafe where Iain and Sean were meeting their wives. One cafe stop and lots of food later and we were ready to head home.

Sean and Iain decided on following the A65 all the way for the return leg. I spent the next three hours hanging on the back as we pushed for home. We had a pit stop at Ingleton for Sean's inevitable mechanical then at Gargrave they had stopped and I suddenly became the hare and just managed to hang on until the roundabout before town.

Iain's 52 miles each way turned out to be nearer 60 and we averaged 17.4mph for the whole trip which felt fast. Perhaps more surprisingly we did nearly 10,000ft of climbing, lots and lots of small ups and downs.

Not wanting to face the climb back up home I'd rung Cath to pick me up from the Narrowboat :oops: Phew!