Saturday, 20 April 2013

From the archives - Another bank holiday - Another cycling trip

This is the account from the Swaledale Outdoor Club's cycling trip to Cockermouth YH during Mayday bank Holiday weekend 2000 written up by myself for the club's newsletter. there was originally a number of photos, but these were digital and accidently deleted years ago... Anyway to the story

At the May Day weekend, several members of the SOC's Cycling Section spent a few days on the edge of the Lakes based at Cockermouth YH exploring some of the less touristy areas of north and west Cumbria.


Whilst the other poor souls were still stuck in work, the weather had finally come good, and I loaded up the bike looking forward to a good ride across to Cockermouth.

I headed up through Woodland, Eggleston, and Mickleton before starting the last long pull over the pennine watershed heading to Brough. My legs felt surprisingly fresh following the previous weekends escapade, and I climbed strongly in the sunshine. Once I had plummeted down into Brough it was a nice saunter through winding lanes towards Appleby. The closest I came to hassle from motorised transport was when I was "buzzed" by a WW2 fighter flying around for about 1/2 hour. Appleby was skirted round and I soon arrived at Penrith for some lunch.

From Penrith I headed to Greystoke, and then joined the C2C route heading towards Keswick. Several sections of this route actually run along the eastbound carriageway giving a continental feel as approaching vehicles pass your left shoulder.

The C2C route also utilised several sections of the old road, and the last few miles past Keswick are on the old railway line. The whole route generally is very rideable except for a few steps where the A66 bypass crosses. From Keswick I continued round the C2C and then made the mistake of taking the Cockermouth fork which after using good surfaces suddenly left me with a choice of a very steep and muddy woodland track, or the A66 - I chose the A66 for the couple of miles to Dubwath where I could drop back off it and take the minor road through Embleton into Cockermouth.

Once in Cockermouth, I raided the local supermarket, and with some vague directions from the tourist information office went in search of the hostel. When I found it, I was still 20 minutes only, and had to wait along with a walker until 5:00pm when the hostel was opened up by the voluntary warden. Like Slaidburn the week before Cockermouth is no longer staffed by a paid full time warden, but by a series of committed hostellers putting something back into the organisation from which they've had so much pleasure for many years.

Liz, Paul, Ray and Lil arrived during the early evening and accompanied me into town where we proceeded to boost the local economy by downing several jars of Jennings finest. We were just walking back when I received a call from Helen to say that they were walking down, so just to be sociable I headed back into town for the second time.


Saturday dawned cloudy , and judging by the moaning so did several of the party, or was that because some of us rose at 7:00 am?

After breakfast, and enough tea to float several battleships we headed off. Peter and Paul decided to have a real mans ride and tackle Hardknott and Wrynose passes. I would have gone but my legs were tired from 90 miles the previous day, and I've done them before. Honest!

The rest of us meandered through loads of lanes, managing to avoid A roads and Workington before completing the last couple of miles on the reivers route into the centre of Whitehaven. Once we found a suitable cafe,we proceeded to refuel. Roland having a serious cream fest - Allegedly there was a waffle hiding underneath but it took Roly nearly a week to dig down to it!

After myself and John fed the local bike shop's till, we took the C2C heading to Ennerdale. At first this skirts through several housing estates, but the route, on a disused railway, is well used and respected with very little litter and no glass, which is a total contrast to local urban routes. The route also has lots of interesting sculptures and art along the way.

A Sculpture on the C2C near Cleator Moor

The route follows the old railway line for several miles before dropping onto minor roads winding past Loweswater heading upto Whinlatter pass. We left the C2C at this point heading straight up to Cockermouth and the hostel under blackening skies, pausing for tea in the town centre at Pop's Chatenooga diner. Pop, who by the way reminded me of Pop in the BBC's League of Gentlemen coincidence? seems to have something of a takeaway/diner monopoly in this area as we counted 2 in cockermouth and another in Aspatria just up the road.

Evening saw half the party eat at the hostel, whilst myself and the rest, hit the local pub for a mixed grill apiece, befoe meeting up with the rest of the party in "The Bitter End"


Various routes were discussed over breakfast, and eventually most of us decided to stay together and head east to Caldbeck where Liz had promised us an excellent cafe stop. Ray and Lil cycled across towards Skiddaw, and then had a day walking on the fell. Roland took his car and headed down to Wasdale to walk down there.
The bridge over the river Derwent, at the top of Bassenthwaite Lake

We stopped at "Trotters and Friends" for tea, as Liz had wanted a look at the pigs. However the reality didn't match the brochure, and we all left unimpressed with the cafe and the farm. We then headed past Overwater to Caldbeck.

Only 4 miles left to the cafe. Great!

After the cafe stop Brian, John, and I headed back as the others wanted to look around the gift shops. We had a very pleasant afternoon in the spring sunshine meandering towards Wigton before heading to Aspatria, and then back to Cockermouth.

Myself, Brian, John and Roland again headed down to the pub for a meal. We had finished and were just downing a pint when we spotted the others walking past with an addition. Is it? no it couldn't be, could it? Yes it's Martin!!

We drank up and then joined up with them in The Bitter End. Martin had plenty of stories as usual. Also as usual we left Brian, and Martin in the pub. They made it back to the hostel with about 30 seconds to spare.


I packed up after politely refusing all offers of lifts for both myself, and my luggage to cycle back home. I managed to get about 4 miles before I had to turn back because of an minor but painful injury, and then cadge a lift back. I returned to the hostel just as the ride was setting off to head towards Maryport but I was even unable to attempt that ride, and instead spent the day dossing around Cockermouth before meeting up with everyone again at 3:15pm to head back to the North East. Once loaded up the cars, especially Brian's looked like Tour de France team cars.

The SOC team cars ready for departure outside the hostel

Thanks to Helen for organising the accommodation, and to everyone else for their company, and to Martin, Brian, and Helen for getting myself and my stuff back home again.

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