Before starting to recount Leg 54, here’s a link to the latest fun sketch from It’s A Trap:
It’s A Trap are a Norwich based group of friends who create entertaining film and audio shorts, check out our YouTube channel. I wasn’t involved in this one, so it was a nice surprise!
24 June 2013
I woke up in good time, keen to get down to Barrow-in-Furness where there’s a good bike shop I’d found on the net the evening before. The wind had dropped a bit but was still blowing, however it was a nice bright day.
Breakfast consisted of sausage rolls due to a slight lack of other supplies, although I wasn’t complaining, beats cornflakes. I had a quick check of the bike ably assisted by Lobster; my temporary spoke fix was holding up well, although my carapaced friend was somewhat dubious as to its potential longevity.
Post a shower I was ready to hit the road by 09.00, and got on my way after bidding goodbye to the lads starting their coast to coast, as well as Dave the dog walker, who donated a quid to the Big C – thanks Dave, it all helps!
I stopped just outside the campsite to take another look at the bay and beach in the daylight.
I quite fancied spending a day on the beach, however bike mending was required.
St Bees village looked nice, with several promising pubs.
I pedalled along the wriggly country roads out of St Bees, the scenery proving to be a lot more entertaining than yesterday, with dramatic hills, and the wind being mostly behind me making for easier riding. It was a great ride down past Sellafield, near Seascale, where I was hoping I might benefit from a gamma ray or two to give my legs some Hulk like power, sadly it appears the plant is too well shielded for such things.
Next up was Ravenglass, another village which sounds like it should be in a science fiction or fantasy novel, with it’s Roman Baths and the castle of Muncaster just next door. By the looks of it there’s lots to do in the area, and I’d have to add it to my list of places to come back to, along with a visit to the Lake District which I was mostly missing by sticking to the coast. Sticking to the coast did have some benefits in that I missed the steepest of the hills, however I still had to deal with my fair share on the way down to Barrow-in-Furness.
I was slightly concerned about the numerous dark clouds lurking over the a Lake District, making it look a bit Mordor like, however the coast looked mostly clear. I stopped at a garage in Holmrook and bought a chicken and leak pie for second breakfast, just in case the weather turned and I needed the extra energy – that was my excuse anyway. It was homemade and tasted excellent, so I bought another one for later, then phoned the bike shop to let them know I was coming and to make sure they could fit a quick wheel repair in. I ended up having quite a long chat with Simon, their wheel builder, who gave me a few pointers on my route down to Barrow. I was looking forward to meeting the guys at Topmark (108 Greengate Street, Barrow-in-Furness).
The hills looked impressive, and of course were called Fells now, rather the Braes or Munros of Scotland. Scarfell Pike lurked in their somewhere, which I’d climbed one early morning several years ago, starting when it was dark and reaching the top as the dawn broke. We were doing the 3 peaks challenge at the time, and I remember leading our group up a rather dubious looking path, using my head torch to pick out the stone cairns that marked the route. Thankfully we avoided any steep drops and saw the sun rise, before charging back down for bacon rolls at the minibus, happy days.
The signs said Muncaster Castle was allegedly haunted, however in the sunshine it didn’t look very spooky. I had fun whizzing down the hill through the trees from it, and then across the flood plain towards Bootle.
The great countryside continued, accompanied by a few significant hills which got my legs and lungs going, as I looped around through Millon and down to Barrow-in-Furness. The last bit alongside the Duddon Channel and through Askam seemed to take an age, with lots of ups and downs, however I made it to Barrow at about 13.00, after a good session having covered around 50 miles.
I headed straight for Topmark, sort of, via a slightly roundabout route really, and met up with Simon who quickly got to work replacing my two broken spokes, and straightening out my wheel. This was a bit of a tricky task as I’d had to make a lot of tweaks to make it here (I’d done a bodge job really), and essentially involved slackening all the spokes off and starting again.
Wheel straightened and reattached I picked up some spare spokes in case any more broke, and Simon gave me a few tips on wheel maintenance, and on my route over the next couple of days. I could only deal with non-drive side spokes, as the drive side are harder to get at and you need a tool I wasn’t carrying with me, so I was hoping it would only be non-drive side that broke, if any. It wasn’t surprising I was encountering spoke breakages, the rear wheel wasn’t exactly right for the bike, and I was carrying a lot of weight over some pretty rigorous terrain. My worry was that now they’d started to break they might all go, a bit like Velcro undoing. I also got my chain checked – it was still well within limits, so I hoped it would get me back to Norwich.
Full marks to Topmark for friendly and efficient service, and going that extra mile to help me out and offer advice. I was getting to really enjoy dropping into bike shops along the way, you learn a lot as things break! Here’s a link to the Topmark website – http://www.topmarkonline.com/ (they also do lots of water sports equipment)
Post bike repairs I grabbed a quick cheeseburger from a McDonalds, because sometimes it’s just nice to eat dirty food, and they have free wifi, then had a quick look around Barrow-in-Furness.
It’s a quite a big town, and not very touristy being quite industrial. I had a look at where they build submarines from the bridge over to the Isle of Walney (BAE Systems).
Post Walney Island, which is essentially a large sand spit that been built on over the years, I followed Simon’s suggested route which took me along the cycle track from behind Morrisons, around the bay to Rampside. I passed a few frigates on the way.
I was a bit confused as to which navy the frigates belonged to, however the mystery has been solved by the Interweb! Apparently the 3 frigates have been moored there since 2007, after BAE built them for the navy of the Sultan of Brunei. Although the Sultan paid for them, he decided he didn’t want them anymore and was looking for someone else to sell them to. It doesn’t look like he’s had any luck, despite them being ‘lovely little runners’, with only one previous owner who has effectively left them boxed. At least the port is benefitting from harbour fees whist they’re moored there.
I had to dodge around a group of kids drinking beer, who thought it would be fun to throw empty beer cans at me, and then met some police trying to find another group of kids who were running amok, nice area. Despite the local flora and fauna I made it around to Rampside and to the end of the road where a ferry runs over to Piel Castle.
A nice couple offered to take my photo, so here’s a rare shot of me and my bike in totality.
Of course then Lobster wanted to be in the photo too.
I decided against taking the ferry over to the island, it being a little windy out on the water, as demonstrated by my hair.
A lovely ride along the western side of Morcambe Bay followed, up to Ulvertson, past the big sand flats which are so dangerous to the unwary, with people getting trapped on them by the tides and sinking sand.
In 2004 twenty one Chinese immigrants were unfortunately drowned whilst collecting cockles out in the bay, when the tide came in. They were here illegally, and being paid £5 for a 25kg bag of cockles. They should have never been out on the sands, where they got cut off by the incoming tide despite a group of British workers trying to warn them. I guess desperate people will go to ay lengths to earn a crust, and unfortunately there are always people around who will take advantage. No one ended up getting prosecuted for any wrongdoing, which seems an injustice. I’d have thought those organising and paying the work gangs should be held accountable in some regard.
In Ulvertson I rode past the Hoad monument, which commemorates Sir John Barrow, a founder member of the Royal Geographic Society.
Again following Simon’s directions, and with my bike performing well, I rode around the top of the bay and down to Flookburgh, via a cycle path that avoided the worst bit of the A590. The cycle path took me over a footbridge traversing the River Leven, which flows from Lake Windemere into Morecambe Bay.
The slightly bumpy cycle track eventually deposited me on the B5278, for a very pleasant final stretch through woodland.
I stopped at a local shop to buy a few provisions before heading to campsite; I’d decided to try a Haven Holiday Park, how bad could it be? The shop owner let me know the holiday park shop was a lot more expensive, he having worked there, so I stocked up on essentials, and enjoyed a cold bottle of banana milk before going any further.
It turned out to be an ‘interesting’ choice for a stop-over, but I thought I should at least experience the holiday park sensation once. I probably should have chanced it and found a spot to wild camp but the lure of a hot shower trapped me. The holiday park is massive, with it’s own small supermarket, restaurants, bars, and swimming pools, as well as of course the entertainment complex. There were lots of caravaners and campers there for a holiday, but after 30 minutes in the live lounge I realised it wasn’t exactly my sort of place. Agadoo and Road to Amarillo aren’t my favourite choices of music, but seemed quite popular amongst some of the punters. I had a chat with one of the bar staff with whom I sympathised for having to listen to the same music night after night. He said the worse thing was when he found himself singing along without realising it.
I retreated to a quieter bar where I could use the wifi, charge stuff, and write up my journal and blog in peace, over a pint. It had been a good days ride, with excellent progress made covering 87.5 miles, so I was keeping up my average. I wandered back to my tent at about 23.00, humming the Spice Girls and Ace of Base; if you can’t beat them join them.