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Sunday 21 July 2019
10:15 - 14:00
Morning ride: Landscove
Sunny and warm
12 miles (▲ 310m ▼ 310m)
4 Participants: Dillan Edwards, Ryan Filer (Adult, Goathurst), Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
We had provisionally planned to ride to Fermoys at Ipplepen today, but since Gavin and Ryan needed to be home by 1.45, we weren’t sure we would have time to do it justice. We gave it a try though and had a good chat riding up Green Lane.

When we got to Broadhempston we thought maybe the café in the community shop there would be an option. The café closes at 12.00, but even though it was only 11.27 the lady there apologised that the coffee machine had gone wrong, so they had turned it off. Well we have always found they like to find some reason for turning it off nearly an hour before closing time, so we weren’t too surprised.

We rode a short loop that was intended to bring us back to Landscove by a roundabout route, but we missed a right turn track that Google suggested and ended up back in Broadhempston again, much to the amusement of a local. Another loop took us past Ron Greet’s tractor farm and up to Memory Cross, bringing us to Landscove by 12.15.

We had excellent coffees and cakes under the sunshade in the gardens, and after a very enjoyable chat we headed home for 1.40.
Tuesday 30 July 2019
07:30 - 23:00
Tour: Lake District
Day 1: Home to Hawkshead B&B
Cloudy start, rain later
5 Participants: Tao Burgess, Dillan Edwards, Michael Jones, Jude Norris, George Rogers
With everyone in the group over sixteen we were unable to secure cheap train travel for our Lake District tour this year. Trains would also have been difficult as Cross Country have a limit of two bikes per train. So everyone met at Crofters, Buckfastleigh by 7.45 to load the bikes into Tao’s Volvo V70 and the luggage into Michael’s V60. We finally got away by 8.25, which we didn’t think was too bad.

Somewhere near Bristol there was a loud explosion in the back of Michael’s car which gave the four occupants a bit of a shock. Closer inspection revealed that George’s rear inner tube had exploded spontaneously, leaving George looking as deflated as his tyre.

We stopped for an hour’s coffee break at Gloucester Farmshop Services, then set off for stage two to Keele services. There was congestion on the M5 near Birmingham and Michael’s satnav suggested it would be about a minute quicker to take an alternative route around the east of Birmingham from Catshill. Michael hadn’t realised that there were toll roads in the vicinity and had forgotten he had unclicked the “avoid toll roads” option on his phone. Half an hour later Michael was driving along the relatively peaceful M6 toll road which cost him the princely sum of £6.60. Tao and Michael were both sharing their location, and Michael was certainly moving much faster than Tao over his longer route. When Michael pulled up at Keele Services, however, he only had to wait one minute for Tao to arrive, exactly as predicted at the start of the detour, and that of course amused Tao greatly. Jude helped George replace his inner tube before they both joined the others in the Services for excellent food at Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chips restaurant.

The final leg of our journey started at 2.25 with some unwelcome rain moving in. Our plan had been to leave the cars in a National Park free car park near Kendal, about ten miles from the hostel, but when we arrived the rain was still falling and Tao really didn’t like the look of the people hanging around in the almost-deserted quarry car park. We drove on to our second choice, the car park at Crook church, but nobody wanted to ride in the rain if we didn’t need to, so we took the cars down to the Bowness ferry, crossed Lake Windermere and headed on up to Near Sawrey.

Arriving at 5.07 gave us twenty minutes for a quick look around Beatrix Potter’s house, Hill Top. Well actually we didn’t want to pay to look at the house, so we just looked around the gardens, imagining Peter Rabbit hiding behind the cabbages. We then drove the short distance to Hawkshead youth hostel. It had a group in this week so we had been unable to stay there, but after chatting with the warden we got permission to leave our cars there free for the week, so we agreed to bring them back tomorrow morning.

In Hawkshead we quickly found the Ivy Guest House, a rather imposing property with luxurious facilities and even a four-poster bed in one of our rooms. After good showers we wandered to the nearby Co-op for snacks and settled down in the TV lounge to watch Happy Feet and try out Michael’s new 4K camcorder.
Wednesday 31 July 2019
08:00 - 23:00
Tour: Lake District
Day 2: Hawkshead to Coniston Holly How YH
Cloudy with occasional showers
24 miles (▲ 535m ▼ 540m)
5 Participants: Tao Burgess, Dillan Edwards, Michael Jones, Jude Norris, George Rogers
Michael, Dillan and Tao got down for breakfast first after an excellent night’s sleep. The breakfast attendant asked if we wanted to start now or wait for the other two, but when we said we would wait she just waited there nearby, watching us – like Mr Mann from Little Britain waiting until the book he wanted was released! Breakfast was very good though, and we really couldn’t fault the establishment.

We drove the cars the mile or so back to the hostel, unpacked the bikes and then returned to Hawkshead Co-op to buy lunch in case the Grizedale café wasn’t open. A short climb took us to Moor Top car park, and from there we followed the path through the forest to the Visitor Centre. Grizedale is famous for having a number of wooden sculptures visible from the paths – we photographed many on our trip here in 1991 – so we were keen to find many more of them today. Sadly we found only three, one of which we had seen in 1991 but was now somewhat overgrown. Tao, George and Jude discovered that the footpath shortcut to the Visitor Centre was really not a good idea, but when we stuck to the main path it was a very enjoyable route.

The Visitor Centre turned out to be very busy with various groups doing outdoor activities. The cage was not only open but was as good as a school canteen, with a good selection of hot meals available. As we already had lunch we ate what we had for the most part, although Michael couldn’t resist a coffee. Around the other side of the café was the enormous Woodcutter statue we had seen in 1991, standing tall and impressively near the Go Ape zip wire.

Our next task was to identify the location of a very scenic photo taken in 1991. Michael thought it was somewhere between the Visitor Centre and Satterthwaite, so we followed the main path on through the forest and then took the bridleway towards Satterthwaite. Just a short distance down the bridleway we found the spot, a grassy path in a secluded valley complete with stream. George and Jude were down in the stream within seconds, building a dam and generally having fun in this natural playground, so we ended up staying there for more than half an hour, enjoying the peace and solitude.

The bridleway took us eventually to the tiny hamlet of Satterthwaite, where we sheltered from a light rain shower on the seat in the play park, finishing the remainder of our lunches. Continuing onwards we followed the picturesque Corker Lane into the hills, then missed the turn for the bridleway shortcut over the mountain which would have shaved two miles off our journey. Going by road via Oxen Park was probably a better idea anyway despite the hills, especially in view of the occasional heavy showers that came along to dampen our spirits.

We eventually reached Coniston Lake where we followed the road all the way along the eastern flank. This was the lake where Donald Campbell was killed in his speedboat Bluebird when it crashed during his attempt at the water speed record in 1967. It certainly had a good length with few bends, so was undoubtedly a good choice for a record attempt. When we reached Coniston village Michael took the group down to the café by the lake and we managed to get a take-away coffee served from the hatch. This was indeed a pleasant spot, with ducks aplenty and great views over Coniston lake.

We bought supper and breakfast at the Co-op, which was actually independent of the main Co-Op brand, then rode the mile or so to Coniston Holly How youth hostel, a new hostel for South Dartmoor Section. It was nothing special, but the room was reasonable, the showers were OK and the kitchen facilities were adequate.
Thursday 1 August 2019
08:00 - 23:00
Tour: Lake District
Day 3: Coniston to Wasdale YH
Hot and sunny, rain later
26 miles (▲ 955m ▼ 945m)
5 Participants: Tao Burgess, Dillan Edwards, Michael Jones, Jude Norris, George Rogers
We made our own breakfast this morning and ate it in the dining room. An enormous TV on the wall was showing BBC News with subtitles, although we couldn’t quite understand why they had a standard definition version of the channel selected: the picture was highly pixelated.

While Tao was kindly bringing all the bikes out of the shed he noticed that George had a flat tyre, so that gave us time for both Tao and Michael to do some filming around the hostel – including one point where they were filming each other!

We finally got away at 9.45 for what was likely to be the hardest day of the tour and called immediately to the Spar, which turned out to be better stocked than the Co-op: the plum and damson yoghurts were immediately snapped up by Tao and Michael.

As the weather seemed fair today we decided to include the detour to Tarn Hows, which involved a rather nasty bridleway climb through the woods. Dillan was feeling a little unwell on the climb, but after spending twenty minutes admiring the scenic lake and surrounding hills and woodlands he was feeling well enough to continue.

We were retracing the steps of our 1991 tour again today, which involved following a bridleway down to the road at High Yewdale and hopefully confirming the location of another 1991 photo. The bridleway was steeply downhill and very rough, and when we arrived, a group of young walkers were so fascinated to see whether we could ride down it on our bikes that Michael neglected to take the confirmatory photo. A photo near the bottom had to suffice, but it was definitely the right location – and the walkers gave loud cheers as we successfully negotiated the descent.

As in 1991 we followed the lane route through the Tilberthwaite valley, stopping briefly to watch a drone hover over the old quarry workings. Soon the lane turned into a bridleway, and here we found the location of another of our 1991 photos that previously featured Neil Ault and Martin Luke. Tao had a printout of the original photo and helped Michael take some new shots with the same composition.

The bridleway continued for a few miles through delightful woodland, and in the warm sunshine this turned out to be one of the most perfect, scenic and enjoyable cycling routes we have ever ridden. This, surely, is why we love cycletouring. The route eventually led us down to Slaters Bridge, and after a few photos we learned from our 2015 mistake and returned to the road at Little Langdale instead of trying to follow the track that appeared from the map to be a shortcut.

Now began the harder part of the day, with two notoriously steep passes to climb before we could stop for refreshments at Dalegarth station. Michael wanted to stop for lunch half-way up the first pass, Wrynose, at 1.20, but with the leaders keen to reach the top we ended up stopping in three separate locations for lunch. It was getting quite hot when Tao, Dillan and Michael reached the top only to find that George and Jude had decided to continue to the second pass. By now we were so thirsty and so short of water that we had to fill our bottles from the mountain stream near Cockley Beck Bridge. The water turned out to be clean and refreshing, but if it had been otherwise I'm not sure how we would have managed.

Tao remembered reading somewhere that Hardknott Pass was one of the steepest roads in England, which probably explains why it is often closed to traffic in the middle of winter. The heat was now debilitating and Michael in particular was finding it hard going today. He was encouraged by comments from a tourist who was watching the climb from his parked camper van: he reckoned it was remarkable that anyone could climb it on a bike, let alone someone with panniers.

When we reached the top we found George and Jude’s bikes near the side of the road. Looking around we saw them at the top of Hard Knott mountain, enjoying the fabulous views and taking some panoramic photos. Michael was out of water again so he and Dillan continued down the twisty and steep descent to get fresh water at Dalegarth station. When the others arrived a few minutes later at 3.50 we were all very grateful for the chance to sit down at the table on the platform to enjoy hot drinks and flapjacks, watching the miniature train arrive, load up and then depart again.

By 4.40 we were all ready to leave, but now the first drops of rain began to fall. We hadn’t ridden far down the road before the heavens opened and a literal monsoon drenched us all. Tao had not had time to put his coat on, and since it was now too late he just had to stand there and take it without complaint. Well, without much complaint! It calmed down after ten minutes or so, but our shoes were now full of water for the final few miles to the hostel.

These last few miles felt much harder than we might have expected: the frequent climbs were quite demoralising when we were so wet and miserable. When we finally reached the hostel at around 6pm, the rain had almost stopped and we were able to fully appreciate the magnificent setting of the hostel right beside Wastwater lake.

We were hoping once again for the exceptionally warm welcome we had received in 2015. Sadly, however, Wasdale hostel was now rather ordinary. Gone were the blackboards chalked up with exciting snacks and hot meals, prepared by the chef whenever required up to 9pm. Now the hostel only offered sausage, mash and peas, only at 7pm and only if ordered by 6pm.

Michael got the bike shed key from the warden and followed the directions he gave, but when we got to the area behind the hostel we couldn’t see a bike shed anywhere. We tried the key in one or two unlabelled doors that might possibly have been the place, but the key didn’t fit. We returned to ask the warden where it was and he offered to come out to show us, although he appeared slightly annoyed that he had to do this. The bike shed turned out to be the door marked “Private” - he didn’t seem amused when Michael suggested we couldn’t really be blamed for not trying that one.

George and Jude wanted to do nothing else but jump in the lake when they saw it, so they went swimming while the rest of us had showers and settled into our room. The showers were attached to the wall and so weren’t the best, and our room was very cramped in contrast to our 2015 visit, but it was just about adequate. None of us wanted to pay £10 for sausage and mash, so we prepared our own meals and ate them in the salubrious dining room. There was then time for a chat and drink in the library.

Highlight of the evening was a walk around the part of the lake near the hostel. The hostel grounds and lakeside paths are all owned by the National Trust, and there were no other properties or people anywhere near us. The views across the lake were magnificent, even as darkness descended, and we were awestruck by the perfect stillness, beauty and tranquillity of the place. We got some great photos and video shots before returning to the hostel.

As usual in youth hostels these days, our one window was prevented from opening more than 3cm by a bolted metal strap, so we had to prop the room door open to keep the air circulating sufficiently for us to actually sleep. Except some people in the next room were so noisy that we had to shut the door again after half an hour.
Friday 2 August 2019
08:00 - 23:00
Tour: Lake District
Day 4: Wasdale to Buttermere YH
Sunny and warm
33 miles (▲ 495m ▼ 425m)
5 Participants: Tao Burgess, Dillan Edwards, Michael Jones, Jude Norris, George Rogers
We were up at 7.45 after an uncomfortably warm night in our small dorm, made a little more bearable by opening the door again in the middle of the night. We prepared our own breakfasts and ate it in the dining room where hostel breakfasts were also being served for £5.75. Michael asked the member of staff whether we could buy a couple of cups of filter coffee to go with our breakfast, as Dillan fancied one, and we were told that would be fine and we could sort out payment later. When we were leaving Michael went to reception and commented that he should probably have checked the price before taking the coffee, but the assistant warden assured him she wouldn’t be ripping him off. When she finished her calculations, we were charged around £4.40, that’s £2.20 per cup - more than Morrisons cafe and nearly as much as Costa!

The morning was fine and sunny, so Michael decided to wear his sunglasses for the first time in years, much to everyone’s amusement. Michael ignored the merriment as they do protect the eyes against UV light which causes eye damage over time, and when Tao tried them on later, he had to agree they were brighter than his.

We started the longest day of the tour by riding the flat route to Gosforth, and since the shop there stocked many interesting sandwiches and rolls for lunch we all bought lunch there. Michael, as usual, really wanted a morning coffee, but the coffee machine was not working for lattes. The woman behind the counter was very helpful, however, and offered to heat up a jug of milk if he got an espresso from the machine. He then settled down on the bench opposite the shop to enjoy it whilst George and Jude made friends with a local cat.

We had to stop briefly at the gated entrance to South Lodge to put a chain on. A large dog came over to see us off, closely followed by a woman who needed to know why we had stopped there. She seemed to accept our explanation but still stayed there with the dog until we actually left. When she found out we were riding to Buttermere she strongly advised us to take the “delightful road through Ennerdale” that she assured us was used by all cyclists going in that direction. Michael already knew that whilst the Ennerdale route was four miles shorter than our planned route through Cleator Moor it involved a good deal more climbing – 340m instead of 197m. She insisted it was flat and easy, however, even though she was not a cyclist, so in the end we just had to agree to differ and rode off to follow our original planned route.

Tao was quite interested in seeing Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant and was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have a visitor centre! We got some good views looking back to it from the lanes beyond Beckermet, its buildings glinting in the morning sunshine. Years ago, we had wanted to get away from the area as quickly as possible, but now it seemed relatively safe.

Our relatively flat cycle route took us first through the high street of Egremont and then onwards to Cleator Moor where we visited the enormous Co-op. This had everything we could possibly need for today and tomorrow, so we filled our panniers. Jude and George tried and failed to tempt Michael with a new Innocent juice whose main ingredient was cucumber.

Re-joining the old railway cycle path, we stopped at the same conveniently-located seat near Frizington that was used in 2015 to eat our lunch. While we were there, an elderly woman walked past who had the appearance of a well-educated wildlife expert, but when she pointed out some Painted Lady butterflies in the hedgerow and told us they had migrated here all the way from Africa we began to think she was possibly a bit mad, knowing that butterflies are very fragile and only live a few days. As she wandered off, talking to herself, we felt sure this was the second example today of someone appearing to be knowledgeable who actually knows very little. When we checked Wikipedia later, we discovered that Painted Ladies have a lifespan of 12 months and that “Every year, painted lady butterflies make huge migrations from Africa to Europe and back again.”

We continued to Rorah and on past Loweswater, where Jude and George, eager for a swim, decided that perhaps the next lake would be preferable. We then took a bridleway shortcut around Scale Hill, Brackenthwaite, that we had never tried before, recommended by Google, and found it to be relatively easy and very scenic. There was even a small cave along the route.

Soon we had re-joined the road and reached the Lanthwaite viewpoint overlooking Crummock Water. The views of the lake and surrounding mountains were breath-taking and we stopped there for quarter of an hour to enjoy the views. While Michael was occupied taking some video shots, George helped himself to a yoghurt from Michael’s pannier, deliberately selecting the one that Dillan advised was Michael’s favourite.

The descent to the lakeside was very enjoyable, and when we reached the small beach near Woodhouse Island the temptation for a swim was just irresistible for George and Jude. Just a mile from the hostel we settled down for over an hour to watch the two boys swim out to the island, climb trees and then swim back again, giving us all a chance for a much-needed rest or sleep.

We checked into the hostel at around 5.30. In 2015 this was the first hostel we found that offered “Supper Club”, the inflexible meal scheme now offered at most non-city hostels, advertised as a return to traditional hostelling values but actually implemented to cut costs. It was a nice hostel in a nice location, and we did have an enormous room to ourselves, but there were issues: showers were slow and took ages to get hot, but worst of all there was only a single power socket in the whole room. We were able to borrow a distribution board from reception, however, so we managed to get everything charged.

Dillan and Michael had bought a ready meal and oven chips but working out how to switch on the oven proved quite a challenge. There was a knob for each hob, a knob for oven/grill temperature and another knob to select between lower oven, upper oven, lower grill, upper grill etc, but all the markings had been wiped off all the ovens. A piece of paper on the wall gave a clue about what to do, but it took some trial and error to get it working.

Jude and George once again didn’t fancy joining the rest of us for a walk around the village and lake, so after chatting with them for twenty minutes we wandered down to Buttermere and followed the bridle path that ran down to Buttermere Lake. This was another idyllic location with fabulous views and stunning peace all around. Tao wanted to get to the waterfall up in the mountains beyond, but the bridge over the river was closed off for six weeks of reconstruction and there was no other way across. We contended ourselves with taking some video shots, talking to the ducks and returning to the hostel via a different path to find Jude and George already in bed and fast asleep.

A group of “hostellers” were talking and smoking on the front porch of the hostel, just below our dorm, well into the small hours. We wondered why YHA would allow this when people needed to sleep and decided to ask the warden about it tomorrow.
Saturday 3 August 2019
08:00 - 23:00
Tour: Lake District
Day 5: Buttermere to Keswick YH
Sunny and warm, cloudy later
14 miles (▲ 510m ▼ 575m)
5 Participants: Tao Burgess, Dillan Edwards, Michael Jones, Jude Norris, George Rogers
After breakfast we found out from the warden that the noisy “hostellers” last night were a group of men on a stag weekend who had been warned late last night not to make a noise but had returned to do so anyone after the warden retired to her quarters at the back of the hostel. Apparently, there is a telephone number for each hostel that gets straight through to the warden - we will remember that next time.

We set off in hot, sunny conditions once again. The warden advised us against trying the bridle path around the far side of Buttermere lake, so we stayed with the road, which took us past the famous Buttermere Pines. Sadly, however, signs all around the fenced area made it quite clear that the public were not welcome to explore them.

The road continued up our third and final pass of the tour, Honister Pass, which once again proved challenging in the morning heat, but we were rewarded at the top by the Honister Slate Mine which had a café and shop. It’s amazing how many different objects can be made from slate, as Tao discovered while using Michael’s old HD camcorder around the site. A few of us bought some useful slate artefacts to take home with us.

What goes up must come down, and we all enjoyed the long downhill to Borrowdale. We soon reached Rosthwaite, where we had a choice of routes to Watendlath: either a steep, rough bridleway shortcut of 1.7 miles or a long 7-mile road alternative. Michael had ridden the shortcut in 1991 and advised that there would be a lot of pushing and carrying if we took that route. In the end Dillan preferred the road route so Michael accompanied him, and the others decided to chance the bridleway.

The road route involved a bit of a climb from the Keswick road, which was once again quite tiring in the hot conditions, but then it levelled off and brought Michael and Dillan to the destination about five minutes earlier than the others. They all looked very tired and very hot, and when we all met up we discovered they had been unable to cycle any of the route, having to carry both bikes and luggage in the sweltering heat. Whilst they were glad to have completed it, they would have chosen the road route had they known. Well actually, they did know really because Michael had told them, but I guess they just had to find out for themselves.

Watendlath is a picture postcard hamlet in the mountains, situated next to Watendlath Tarn, sometimes called the Devil’s Punchbowl. As we were all hot and tired, we did first things first and purchased icy drinks and scones from the nearby café, settling down in the shaded gardens for rest and refreshment. There were numerous wasp traps hanging from the nearby trees and bushes – we trapped two or three of the more annoying ones in our upturned water glasses while we sat there.

Juist after we left the café to walk to the tarn, we saw the proprietor remove the café sign from the entrance: they were actually closing up at ten past three, probably the optimum time for people to visit a café. It must be nice to have so much money that you can turn away good business. We spent an enjoyable twenty minutes filming the ducks on the beautiful lake in glorious 4K.

We were all glad to be following the road back out towards Keswick, nearly all downhill. As Tao rode past some Indian tourists, he was stopped for some intense interrogation about our sport of cycletouring – the kinds of bikes we use, how far we travel, where we stay. They kept him talking for more than ten minutes before he was able to re-join the group, but perhaps the seed he planted that day may bring cycletouring to new groups in India.

Our next stop was at the Surprise View viewpoint which offered extensive and spectacular views over Derwent Water to Kewsick and beyond. The view appears on the front cover of the Keswick Landranger OS Map, and we could certainly see why it was selected to represent the area. Boats on the lake were just tiny dots from our vantage point.

Being on bikes we were able to skip past most of the long traffic queues heading into Keswick. We had selected what appeared to be the best bike shop in town, Keswick Bikes, to replace Jude’s rear brake pads which were worn down to the metal. The shop had two well-stocked floors and offered just about anything a cyclist might need. They were pleased to replace both front and rear pads immediately and did so in thirty minutes for a very reasonable price, so they definitely receive our recommendation.

We quickly checked out the Dales Co-op nearby and then headed on to Keswick youth hostel, a new hostel for South Dartmoor. It was situated right beside the fast-flowing River Greta and boasted a luxurious reception area with sofas by the balcony, where freshly made coffees, cakes and snacks were available at any time. There was even a free spring-water dispenser with lemon slices floating inside. Our rooms were modern and comfortable, the showers scored 100% on our mark scheme and the members’ kitchen was enormous. It’s small wonder that by the end of the tour, everyone voted this the best hostel of the tour.

During coffees on the sofas we debated where to get our evening meal. Being a town hostel there was an interesting and varied menu available from reception, but there was also the possibility of buying food from the well-stocked Dales co-op or even getting take-away food from one of the many restaurants in the town. We really were spoiled for choice this evening. In the end, George and Jude got an Indian takeaway, Tao got a luxury pizza from the Co-op and Michael and Dillan shared a stone-baked pizza from a nearby restaurant.

To conclude a great day and excellent evening Tao, Michael and Dillan walked around Fitz Park, just over the river opposite the hostel. During our wanderings we discovered two new books on different benches with accompanying notes. They had been left by the West Cumbria Look 4 a Book club, and the note invited the finder to keep the book or pass it on to someone else who would enjoy it. Nice idea!
Sunday 4 August 2019
08:00 - 23:00
Tour: Lake District
Day 6: Keswick to Langdale YH
Dry start, rain later
17 miles (▲ 440m ▼ 345m)
5 Participants: Tao Burgess, Dillan Edwards, Michael Jones, Jude Norris, George Rogers
After group photos on the hostel balcony overlooking the river we bought provisions from the Dales Co-op and then joined the cycle route that headed east towards Threlkeld along the old riverside railway path. Soon after joining it we found a large notice advising that the path was closed because two bridges were “taken out” in the 2015 floods and repairs were still underway. We got around the first one by simply going down to the nearby road and climbing a bank on the other side, but the second one a few miles further along sounded like it might be more of a problem as there were no roads nearby.

After riding as much as we could we too the advice of locals and came off the path at Low Briery Holiday Park and followed the Eleventrees road up the hill. At the top we found a large number of parked cars and an ice cream van, which was surprising on a country road. Closer inspection revealed the reason for the interest: Castlerigg Stone Circle. Tao, Michael and Dillan took the time to walk up for some exploration, and it certainly deserved its description as one of the most atmospheric and dramatically sited of all British stone circles, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area. It is also one of the oldest, dating to around 3000 BC.

Our next stop was at a picnic site overlooking Thirlmere reservoir which Michael had remembered passing in 2015. What looked like a castle on the opposite bank turned out to be a valve tower, controlling the flow of water from the reservoir to Manchester and Lancashire. It was a peaceful spot and made a great place to relax over lunch.

The Co-op in the picturesque village of Grasmere provided us with essential supplies, but then Michael’s plan for a group café stop came to nothing when Jude, George and Tao preferred to look around the shops. Michael and Dillan had an artisan coffee and a Cumbrian Dreamcake, containing coconut and nuts and resembling a chocolate brownie.

By the time we all met up again, the clouds had closed in and rain was falling insistently, which did not bode well for our planned rowing boat trip on Grasmere lake. We rode the mile or so down to Faeryland boat hire, but the rain was just getting worse. When Michael asked the proprietor whether he expected it to stop soon, he said it was forecast to be in for the rest of the day now. Nobody wanted to pay to row in the rain, and I suspect that one or two didn’t really want to row in any kind of weather, which is probably why they rejected Michael’s suggestion of having a coffee while waiting to see if the rain would stop, so we decided to abandon the idea for today and try again tomorrow morning.

Langdale hostel, previously called High Close, was only a mile or two away, but the 120m hill we had to climb to reach it in the rain made it feel much further. The rain stopped at 3.45, three minutes after we arrived, so the Faeryland proprietor had turned away good business with his pessimistic predictions.

South Dartmoor last visited this hostel in 1991 and it was interesting to see how things had changed since the photo taken on that trip. The main things to have changed seemed to be some new developments in the extensive gardens and some straps to stop people opening the windows (they were open wide in the 1991 photo). George apparently attempted removing the straps on our window with a screwdriver when nobody was looking, since it opened onto a flat roof, but he found the blocks were glued onto the window frames as well as being screwed. We had a huge room though and were generally very impressed with the hostel.

We had plenty of time before supper, so after testing the showers and finding them adequate we set about exploring the hostel, which had three sets of stairs, dungeons now used as classrooms, and a panelled hall where the upper balcony had been covered over with more panels to prevent people falling off. Tao had as much fun as the rest of us finding which route was quickest back to our room.

We cooked our food and ate it in the peaceful dining room, then spent the rest of the evening drinking coffees and playing Jenga on the sofas in the hall. At bedtime, George hung towels all around his lower bunk bed to keep the light out but given the hot weather and poor ventilation I suspect he would have preferred a bit of light to the near suffocation he must have had to endure.
Monday 5 August 2019
10:00 - 22:45
Tour: Lake District
Day 7: Langdale to Home
Dry with sunny spells
11 miles (▲ 165m ▼ 265m)
5 Participants: Tao Burgess, Dillan Edwards, Michael Jones, Jude Norris, George Rogers
The weather was much brighter this morning, so after a good self-catering breakfast and some photos we returned the way we had come last night to the start of the path around Grasmere lake. Michael quickly went down to see if Faeryland was open this morning, but the place was locked up with nobody around – we had been told on previous visits that the owner opens up quite late in the morning, essentially whenever it suits him, so he lost our business once again.

We followed the cycle path around Grasmere, stopping on the “beach” near the end to feed the ducks with the last of our bread. They were all very friendly – too friendly in one case when a duck flew up onto Michael’s lap to steal the bread right out of his hand. Michael was quicker than the duck, however, who quickly found himself caught for a few seconds, much to everyone’s amusement. Tao put the camcorder on the beach and took some interesting 4K video footage by feeding the ducks in front of the camera.

We continued along the scenic cycle path past Rydal Water and on to Ambleside. Once again Michael’s attempt to arrange a group café came to nothing when everyone except Dillan wanted to browse the shops instead. If only John had been with us, he would have jumped at the chance of a café every time! Michael and Dillan enjoyed their refreshments in Lucindas café, although they felt sorry for the barista who was verbally admonished in front of the customers by the rather austere proprietor.

We looked around Gaynor Sports, billed as the largest outdoor clothing showroom in the country, and several of the other unique shops in Ambleside before buying our lunch and heading back along the road to Hawkshead. Dillan felt a little unwell along the way so the rest of us continued to Hawkshead youth hostel and Michael returned to collect him in the car. By 2.40 Tao had loaded all the bikes and we set off for our long journey home.

An accident on the M6 had resulted in long queues of almost stationery vehicles on the M6 as we approached Keele services, so we pulled off as quickly as we could at 5.15 and decided to take our longer break here instead of at Gloucester. We watched frustrated drivers hardly moving through the jam from our vantage point on the restaurant bridge over the motorway. Things started to move again at 6.40 so we set off for the second stage of our journey, made good progress to Gloucester Services for a half hour coffee stop and completed our journey home by 10.40.

This had been a good tour where we ended up getting far better weather than we had feared on the way up. Using some of the routes we used in 1991 made it an interesting trip where we got some of the best cycling experiences available in this largest and most popular of the UK’s national Parks. We’re planning a major tour to Switzerland next summer, so watch this space to see what happens.
Sunday 1 September 2019
10:15 - 13:00
Morning ride: Holne
Sunny
9 miles (▲ 380m ▼ 380m)
3 Participants: Dillan Edwards, Michael Jones, Gavin Pearson
Dillan wanted to test his new chainset, chain and cassette this morning so we rode up to Cross Furzes and found that everything worked pretty much perfectly. Leo the dog wasn't outside his farm at Scoriton today when we rode past, so we do hope he is still OK.

After the climb from Michelcombe to Holne, Gavin showed us the enormous hedge he would be laying next week as part of a course he is doing, then we called in to the Community Cafe for some refreshments. The last two times we visited it had been closed for one reason or another. Today it was open, but they couldn't do hot food as they have no chef yet, and they couldn't do proper coffees as none of the volunteers knew how to operate the machine. We found John, George and Ziggy in there and had a nice chat over our refreshments.

The return journey took us back down through Hembury Woods and home for 1pm.

Special Notice

Our club has been providing activities for cyclists of all ages for more than 34 years now, and we have some great adventures to look back on. Many of our members still cycle regularly to this day and have happy memories of their time in the club.

The number of riders has subsided over the years from the heady days of the 1980s and 1990s when getting more than twenty riders on a Sunday was not unusual. We have had no new riders for well over two years now, and since our last tour in July there have been no riders out for any of the subsequent Sunday rides until today. This therefore seems like an opportune moment to bring the club’s regular activities to an end, giving me a well-earned rest from the regular commitment of organising and supervising weekly rides.

Whilst the Section will close from today, I do understand that many ex-members will from time to time want to get together for cycle rides, tours or other events, possibly including a tour of Switzerland next year which was provisionally planned in early 2019. These will be arranged informally as needed between those interested.

I’d like to take this opportunity of thanking the many hundreds of members who have contributed so much to the success of the club over the years, and to wish all our members the very best for the future.

Michael Jones
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