Longer leg today covering 95 miles, average distance covered per day slowly creeping up. The wonders of Blackpool awaited me today.
25 June 2013
I don’t think I’ll spend another night at a Haven Holiday Camp. It was an experience, but at £22.00 for a basic camping spot, it really wasn’t worth it. And I still had several dubious songs going around my head in the morning!
Once I’d paid, packed up and checked my bike I was on the road by 09.30, pedalling under sunny skies from Flookburgh to Grange-over-Sands, and on around Morecambe Bay. The wind had a bit of a chill to it, but the day looked promising weather wise. I followed a bit of a bendy route to begin with, avoiding the main roads, through some lovely countryside.
I crossed over the River Kent on the A6, turning south, and stopped at Levens Hall for a hot chocolate and flapjack break in their cafe. It’s a lovely Elizabethan country hall, with a great old steam engine that they’ve restored, and a fantastic topiary garden. Of course the hall also has its fair share of ghosts and associated curses, and apparently appeared in an episode of Most Haunted years ago. I mostly liked the steam engine, which they still get up and running on a Sunday. Apparently it used to run fairground attractions, and eventually passed into the hands of the hall who’ve kept it in fine nick.
Refuelled on flapjack I continued down the A6 for a bit, before turning off at Milnthorpe and following the River Kent down to Arnside.
I noticed several fishermen out along the banks of the river, and stopped to see how they were doing. Looking down at the river I saw 4 grey herons in a group, also intent on fishing, and completely unbothered by their human counterparts. They seemed to be having more success.
From Arnside I rode down through Silverdale, passing and waving to several other cyclists out for a ride. Bolton-le-Sands and Hest Bank followed, as I continued to follow the coast around Morecambe Bay, before arriving in Morecambe itself at about lunch time. At one point I did have a near miss as a car tried to overtake me around a dustbin lorry. I slammed on my brakes before trying to pass the lorry as I realised the car was going for it, and thought it safer to let them though. In their haste they still managed to prang the safety struts on the truck, which flicked back into one of the workers. He wasn’t badly hurt but quite a bit of swearing ensued! Thankfully the driver did the responsible thing and stopped to check no-one was injured.
Morecambe really is typical British seaside town, complete with promenade, a multitude of fish and chip shops, amusements, bars, beach and baring-nearly-everything-holiday-makers, even though it still wasn’t that warm. I had lunch at a Weatherspoons, cheap and cheerful, whilst watching aforesaid holiday makers stroll about in unwise choices of outfit, with some disastrous tattoos. Far too many overweight people, that’d be lobster like in coloration by the end of the day, but it was quite fun people watching.
I’d quickly had my fill of Morecambe, so rode down the coast towards Heysham where you can catch a ferry to the Isle of Man. I stopped to call Lauren, one of the Latitude management crew, to talk to her about joining ‘Le Tour de Latitude’. We agreed I’d try and join up with them from either London or Colchester, to ride up to Henham Park near Southwold in Suffolk. It’s 125 miles from London, so I’d rather have joined them from Colchester, but it depended on how far I got around the coast by then. One bonus is that they’d carry my panniers to the festival, so I’d have the luxury of a lighter weight bike. Whatever happened I’d have to come back and finish off the rest of the coastline back to Norwich post the festival, so I’d didn’t regard it as cheating! Got my ticket reserved too so all good.
From Heysham it was a short loop inland to Lancaster, another place I’d never been before but needed to tackle to cross the River Lune. Lancaster was the most impressive city of the tour to date, architecture wise, with a great looking castle and nice streets with lots to see.
You could really see and feel why Lancaster was such a powerful city in the Middle Ages, and it got me wanting to learn more about the War of the Roses when Lancastrians fought Yorkists for control of the country, in another of Britain’s bloody episodes.
Wheeling my bike around the cobbled streets, and then through the pedestrian zone, I chanced upon a Cycle Awareness event and had a chat with Mickey, one of the people running it. He’s an ex-London courier rider and we talked about cycling on British roads, and encouraging more people to get on a bike. Safety is an issue but not as much as some people think, it’s often a confidence thing. Mickey pointed out the only person he has ever known who’s been killed on a bike was a courier rider who got hit by a car in the Welsh countryside. They’d survived being a courier rider in one of Europe’s busiest cities, but got nobbled by someone driving too fast on a country road. Very sad.
Mickey, who is one of those people you can instantly get on with, had several bikes for people to try out, including a Penny Farthing and a Recumbent; it looked as if a lot of people were interested in learning more. Hopefully this sort of activity will get more people cycling. It would also help if people signed up to the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ petition, and dropped a note to their MP to ensure they attend the debate in the House of Commons – see the link below:
Really worth while supporting, and keep an eye out for Mickey and the Cycle Awareness event if it comes to a town or city near you.
I could have spent more time in Lancaster, so it’s gone on the list for a return visit, especially as my photos really didn’t do it justice. There awaited a long ride down to Blackpool, so I had to get on my way. The next stretch started off alongside the Lancaster Canal.
In gorgeous weather I slip-streamed two water treatment lorries down a country road, before turning on to a cycle track to Glasson, alongside the Lune Estuary. For once the cycle track was great, not leading me astray, with a good surface and no bumps.
I passed a couple of good looking pubs near Glasson, with holiday makers and a few cyclists enjoying a pint in the sunshine. As usual I was sorely tempted to stop, however I managed to resist and pedalled onwards, down to Cockerham, and then continuing on the A588 through flat farmland to Hambleton. The countryside reminded me a lot of Lincolnshire, being flat with lots of waterways and dykes, and similar crops being cultivated.
After crossing the River Wyre I turned north up to Fleetwood, on the B5412, riding around the coast and turning south back down to Blackpool. Fleetwood was not particularly inspiring, and the toilet cost me 20p which I wasn’t overly impressed with.
I made it to Blackpool at about 18.00 and had a great ride down the promenade, which goes on for miles and is very cycle friendly. Lots of people were out of their bikes, which had been the case all day with the good weather. There were the serious cyclists on their lightweight road bikes, mountain bikers, families with children either strapped to various parts of the bike or cycling behind, commuters, shoppers, and the odd tourer. All were generally friendly and said hello, and gave a wave or a nod. Cyclists are a good bunch.
I was also quite taken by the Blackpool trams, which run regularly and are quiet and clean. I reckon more cities should have them, although cyclists have to be careful not to get their wheels caught in the tracks and go a tumbling, or get run over by them as they can sneak up. I think a lot more cities used to have trams but they were scrapped with the advent of the car, d’oh.
The promenade runs all the way from Cleveleys down to practically Lytham-Saint-Annes. I cycled past the ‘attractions’ of Blackpool, including the Tower, Illuminations, and various other monuments and buildings. The sound of cabaret singing was coming from the pier as I passed by, and there was still the odd donkey or horse and cart plying their trade along the beach.
The pier cabaret was belting out some classic numbers, which were being appreciated by the people drinking on the promenade, however I rode swiftly on not really wanting to partake of their Diamond White.
The above contained much wisdom…
I’d noticed one of my spokes had come loose again, probably due to bumping about on Lancaster’s cobbled streets, so I’d need to have a wheel straightening session again that evening. Nothing new there though!
I believe Lu’s Dad, Norman, was born in the shadow of Blackpool Tower, although that might have been a dream, I’d best check.
In general I found the Illuminations pretty unimpressive, although I’m sure they’re better at night. The Tardis was quite cool though.
And who can go wrong with big shiny balls. All that was missing was a bit of ‘Road to Amarillo’.
With Blackpool finally behind me, and not on the list to return to immediate future (aside from the great long promenade), forgive me Blackpool, I pedalled on towards Preston. It was a good last 10 miles with a bit of a tailwind, so I got my head down and the miles flew by. I rode along the A584, with the River Ribble on my right, and stopped just on the outskirts of Preston, quite by chance next to a nice looking pub; the Lea Gate Inn. Rather handily I had been in touch with Sue and Adrian, who live not far away in Bolton and had offered to put me up for the night, and collect me too! I gave them a call and settled down for a pint whilst Adrian drove out to meet me. Awesome after a hot day’s ride.
Before long Adrian arrived and we loaded my bike and kit into the back of Sue’s Mondeo. It was a bit shiny and new and I was worried my dirty bike would sully it, although thinking about it I was probably just as dirty so there was no hope really. It was a bit weird being in a car again after so long – the world seemed to zip past too quickly.
It was great to spend the evening with Sue and Adrian, post a superb 95 mile day, and a wonderful roast chicken dinner courtesy of Sue. Adrian has lots of IT kit and managed to find me a new cable for my Power Monkey, so I could get that up and running again; he has a treasure trove of useful bits and pieces, although I’m not sure Sue would agree. Sadly the Garmin wasn’t so easy to fix, I still needed to phone them. Sue’s Dad also has lots of biking contacts in the area and could probably get me a discount at the local shop if I needed any repairs post my bike checking session in the morning, very handy. After a good catch up I was quite happy to collapse into bed, and slept very well, although I did have to share!
Maine Coon cats are much larger than most other domestic cats, and very fluffy. Whilst not very clever they’re more talkative and companionable that the usual breeds, and more dog than catlike at times!
Tomorrow I’d be riding on to Liverpool, after negotiating Preston, and intended to pedal around to Frodsham to visit the Duffys, after dropping in to see a couple of other people along the way. I’d need to put in some long legs to get round to Latitude, but planned a shorter day tomorrow to catch up with friends and rest my legs a bit.
Stats and general update, by the 25 June:
- I’d covered 3,457 miles
- Been on the road for 57 days
- Had lost about half a stone, roughly
- Had a niggling calf injury that was irritating more than anything else
- Had an achy right wrist due to all the riding and juddering about. I probably hold my handlebars too tightly
- Was feeling fit and healthy, aside from the above, although I could do with stretching more
- Was feeling mentally strong and starting to seriously think about other future tours…