I’m one of the first people to be cycling the Way of the Roses (WoR) (it’s April 2010 as I write this; it’s only just opened officially) and I’m riding it for an article for Cycling Plus.
The WoR is a recent addition to the list of Coast to Coast routes, and runs 170 miles east from Morecambe to Bridlington. The prevailing wind is behind you all the way, but the fact you start and finish at sea level with mountains in between alerts you to the prospect of some climbing en route.
I’d got to Morecambe a few days before to meet up with my friend Tim and cycle round the Isle of Man. Setting a jaunty tone for the WoR is the splendid statue of comedian Eric Morecambe (the town supplied his stage name) doing his daft sailor dance, which forms the unofficial start point of the ride.
Eric and Ernie’s signature tune was ‘Bring me sunshine’, which this fresh April morning obligingly provided as I set off, now Timless, to cycle the WoR, after a wild camp last night.
It was a pleasant, easy, sunny roll along the prom path and subsequent smooth paved railtrail to Lancaster, crossing into its centre by the elegant Millennium Bridge. I found a bike shop to buy some bolts for my rattling toeclips; being footloose was no advantage.
I explored the city briefly. The castle, like much of the town centre but only partly like me, is rugged and handsome and darkly majestic, all brown and black and soot-gold. Tourist Info were very helpful, supplying maps and introductions to the cycling officer and pub recommendations.
Diligently following their advice, I headed for their suggested pub on the canalside, the Waterwitch, while I waited for them to find me the maps they said I’d need. I charged up my camera, did laptop internet stuff, had a couple of pints and a fine Cumbrian Fell Burger and chips, and felt good, if rather guilty, as it was now pushing 2pm.
Now provisioned with maps, and a warm fuzzy sense of well-being from the local real ale, I carried along the Lune riverside path, delightful in the sun. It was a flat easy trundle, and I was far from the only cyclist.
At Crook o’ Lune, in between two bridges, my path left the Lune to head north. A change from that level path: a steep climb now, with lots of map consultation. I enjoyed fine, sweeping Lune Valley views, down and across an old bridge, and came into Wray, one of many handsome and sometimes pretty villages.
It soon felt very remote, with narrow untrafficked lanes clambering over bare hills and fells. I was in Yorkshire much sooner than I expected: indeed, the historic boundary runs so far west that at one point it’s only eight miles from the Irish Sea. No wonder they call it the Broad Acres.
Another steep climb and undulating, thrilling lanes brought me views of Ingleborough. Then it was all slow and steady progress to and through Clapham, a fine riverside village. The last push of the day, up to my target of Settle, was up on the top of the moors in bright late evening sun, with Ingleborough grandly spotlit.
I decided not to camp at Little Stainforth, going instead down the long downhill into Settle. It proved a good choice: I found a campsite a mile north of the town, and spent an evening in pub in handsome town centre doing laptoppy things.
Miles today: 35
Miles since Morecambe: 35