A Weekend Away
Upon my return to England the first weeks pass in a blur spent with friends and family, the people I missed so dearly on my travels.
Back to the place I call home, the valley I grew up in, amongst the people I am lucky to call my friends and family. Deep rooted friendships unaltered despite the passage of time and distance. We pick up where we left off, reminiscing of times gone by and forging new plans.
Foundations like this enable the restless to travel and explore, to seek answers they wish to find. Safe in the knowledge that those constants will always be there to love and accept the restless if and when they decide to return.
Yet the country I call home feels different. The pace of life, the standard of living, the relentless quest for more. It’s sudden and abrupt clash of cultures when only weeks before I was a nomad, all that defined me was what I could carry on my bike and my basic grasp of a foreign language. Undoubtedly the past 18 months of travel have deeply impacted me, whilst some aspects are immediately obvious it is only with the passage of time that I will fully begin to comprehend how much and how profoundly.
A weekend away with friends provides the perfect distraction from such introspection. To do what by now feels natural, joining two dots on a map and pedalling.
Under the gently rising sun, I point my bike north toward Northumberland. Tyres crunch across frost coated grass, the odd car passing as the first of the morning’s commuters makes their way to the office.
As my body warms to its excertions, Stoodley Pike comes in to view through the chill of the early morning air. An imposing landmark stood at the head of the Upper Calder valley, built to commerate the defeat of Napoleon’s armies in the battle of Leipzig.
Once at the heart of the industrial revolution, it is valleys like this that carry the scars of the once thriving woolen industry across Yorkshire and Lancashire.
And those of a more modern nature, testament to harsh weather high up on the bleak featureless moorland.
Skirting the edge of Haworth, the gentle undulations of Yorkshire Dales can be seen far off in the distance.
The Pugs. Lost in transit on the way back from Colombia, we are eventually reunited. Unboxed, rebuilt and ready for action on English soil.
Around these parts we refer to valleys as dales, a nod to our Norse ancestory. Quiet roads winding through Lothersdale, a patchwork of fields providing the merest hint of England’s agrarian past.
Spring time in England, the muted browns tones of winter slowly receed.
North of Skipton it’s typical Yorkshire Dales country. Dry stone walled tracks take me up hill and down dale.
Each dale seemingly more picturesque than the last, stone built cottages and barns pepper the landscape, along with the compulsory sheep.
Limestone country. En route to Mastiles Lane.
Mastiles Lane forms part of a historic monastic route which linked Fountains Abbey to the northern Lake District. Today it offers mountain bikers a ripping descent in to the village of Kilnsey.
As lunch time nears its time for a stop in the village of Kettlewell. Joined by a steady stream of road cyclists, intrigued by the Pugsley’s weight, comfort and efficiency. Despite my usual positivity when it comes to all things fat tyred, the grovel up Park Rash has me wishing for something more svelte and nimble.
Another steep bridleway takes me up on to the moors, unlocking a vertiable treasure trove of two wheeled fun. Bridleways.
Perfect grass tracks cut through the moorland heather.
Before a descent in to Leyburn and the Dales gem; Asgarth Falls.
Onward through Asgarth, toward Castle Bolton. A land of village greens and war memorials.
Swaledale offers up a treasure trove of bridleways shooting off in any direction you could wish for.
Dry stone walls and flat topped hills. Stringing together a near continous selection of bridleways I cross the Yorkshire Dales and finish my day with a descent in to County Durham. Weary limbs demand some downtime. Finding a suitable campsite, I roll out my bivvy bag and drift off to sleep with the chatter of owls, and the smell of pine needles.
With 60 miles left to ride the following day it’s an early start. Sheep stand in the morning mist en route to Bowes.
Having refuelled in Barnard Castle, the morning’s ride takes me through quintessential England. Village churches.
Amongst the barrenness of the North Pennines.
High and exposed, the wind howls across the moors. As continuous bridleways begin to peter out, the Waskerley way provides a welcome off road alternative. A former railway line for the Stanhope and Tyne railway, it has since been converted to a multi use track for cyclists, walkers and runners to enjoy.
A road junction provides a timely reminder, and the premise of this weekend away. Friendship.
Crossing Hadrians Wall I find myself with a few hours to kill. Despite two days fine weather, I quickly catch a chill, neatly manufacturing the perfect excuse to acquaint myself with the English pub, and a roaring fire to warm my bones.
As my friends slowly begin to arrive from work, we make our way our way down quiet country lanes, lined with daffodils.
Our home for the weekend set amongst fields of Rape Seed.
The whole premise of the weekend is a double birthday celebration. Like any good birthday, we go riding. Northumbrian dirt courteousy of Kielder Water.
Out of the dense forest we steadily climb as the tree canopy begins to open out.
Birthday Boy #1 on top of the world.
Birthday Boy #2 and Kielder Water.
Halifax – Haworth – Cowling – Lothersdale – Thornton in Craven – Hetton – Mastiles Lane – Kettlewell – Asgarth – Castle Bolton – Reeth – Bowes – Barnard Castle – Stanhope – Rockhope – Sanfordham