Monday, 18 May 2015

Dave Rayner Fund, Etape Du Dales

112 miles, 9545 feet climb

Fleet Moss
Buttertubs Pass
Tan Hill
Coal Road

These iconic words which ignite a glint in the eye of every cyclist; they are stamped on the cover of the rider briefing and also I discovered in my brain.  Once I had this quartet of climbs under my belt I was still a long way from the finish.  I was almost broken, battered by an unrelenting wind which had followed me since I set off from Threshfield at 6.30 am.

The evening before, enjoying a suet pudding and a glass of wine in the pub near the event HQ with Alun and Steve, savouring the lovely moment of warm comfort, I predicted that I would not remember anything of the following day.  You really live in the moment of every second at times like this, and savour if not remember each second and every minute.  Like I said, you are not competing against anyone, just enjoy it.

As I set off walking from Wood Nook campsite at 5.00 am the next morning to the start at Threshfield, near Grassington, I caught a glimpse of the sunrise and hoped the weather would settle down for the long journey ahead.  Checking the forecast the previous week, the forecast had gone from heavy to light to no rain, but the pictures of the wind were getting bigger.

As I sat in my car I had left at the start the day before, cold rain fell and the cold wind bit.  The rain stopped but not the wind.

The Dave Rayner Fund has run this sportive for over ten years.  It was to be my fourth sportive and I knew it was going to be hard when I entered.  I then spent the winter months separated from my bike instead of cycling every day like I like to.

In an attempt to get fit fast I spent a couple of days cycling in the Dales, taking advantage of the balmy weather just after Easter.  I set off with a map and no plan and toured the Dales with panniers. I had also picked up a late place in the Tour De Yorkshire and used that 142k sportive to get some miles in, that was a fantastic day out.  I was proud to be taking part in the inaugural event.  Maybe I would do it every year and one year manage all the climbs.

So, here I am in Threshfield setting off with the first group at 6.30 am, overcooking in three layers underneath a Gore waterproof top, I quietly get on with the ride.  From Grassington, to Kettlewell, Buckden, Hubberholme, and along the newly emerging River Wharfe, turning right and uphill at the confluence of Oughtershaw Beck and Green Field beck.  Now here the wind feels pretty vicious and the going was difficult from the start.  The first climb up Fleet Moss, and instead of relishing this, I felt forlorn.  It was so hard, trying to get up the hill in the wind - I thought my brakes were on, or my gears had broken, I could not see me finishing and felt so despondent.

Nodding at the curlews being blown around to my side motionless on the wing, the climb was soon over and the joy of the long descent to Gayle and Hawes was dampened by the buffeting of the sidewind, more than the usual care on a fast descent was needed.

Sailing through Hawes, a fleeting visit to the feed station for drinks and flapjack, food in mouth I set off for the climb up then down Buttertubs Pass.  Stationed in key places around the route are ambulances.  Aside from reassurance they really flag up where you need to exercise extreme caution. There is one here.  Down and along to Muker, Gunnerside, Low Row, Arkengarthdale and left to Tan Hill (taken from the rider booklet as I have little memory of this section).

I have been to the Tan Hill Inn when I walked the Pennine Way and I  was excited to be cycling up here on this classic Yorkshire road.  Of course the wind driving me back was tiresome and the times I saw the Tan Hill Inn on the dark moorland ahead only to find it was the reflected light in my brain I was following to keep me moving forward were many.  Men and women were quietly toiling up the hill on foot and I was pleased to arrive at the Inn on the old pushiron (mile 38).  Having no time to queue for coffee and food I refilled my water, inhaled a banana and headed off into the new direction which could only be down.  Yes, what could be more savoured than that long sweeping downhill down Stonesdale Moor.

Through Nateby to Garsdale Head, arriving at The Moorcock, a few hours later a feed station offered weary travellers food and drink, and I could not mask my hunger nor could I remember my manners, I just stuffed those butties in my mouth.  Ham and cheese and onion, in they went, like a craven heiffer.  I was pleased to be able to rest a sandwich on my rear rack, while I went to fill up my water bottle.  It had come in handy after all, as I told those who later laughed at my "suitcase rack" as they passed.

Coal Road next.  Sad to say that I walked some, then on the bike some then walked again - although I have cycled up it before with Ian Roberts on one of our days out on the Pennine Bridleway today I was defeated.  

On to Ribble Head, through Stainforth, alongside Pen-y-Ghent where from Upper Hesleden there is a steep descent to Halton Gill, for soaring and flying down - the carefully placed ambulance denoted extra caution needed and the limestone boulders on either side of the steep narrow road down looked pretty menacing in the event of a fall.  Along to Arncliffe, Hawkswick, past Kilnsey and back to where I was just over twelve hours ago, Threshfield.  A cup of tea and a ham and chip butty.  Banter with tired folk with ruddy faces.

That's twelve hours of my life I'll never get back.  I can't remember where the congestion was but a group of cyclists waited most patiently for the road to clear of the sheep.  I can't remember where the puncture happened but the lovely cyclist could not have been kinder who changed my inner tube.A glorious ride spoiled, say some, by the cruel wind.  A hard grind and time to think.  Some endure extreme weather conditions with no feed stations for respite and no shelter at the end of the day but I did that for pleasure.  That must be a privilege?

Some riders are dedicated athletes who train and focus.  Some are proud to wear "fat boy at the back" cycling shorts to make you smile as you overtake.  Some are out for a day with friends and I am on a long bike ride because that's what I like to do.  Fellow Striders coaxing me with encouragement as they passed me up the hills were good to hear and thanks are due to those and all involved who made this day quite memorable.

The Dave Rayner Fund, Etape du Dales

17 May 2015

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Skipton to Settle Friday 13th July 2012

Instead of cycling along the Leeds Liverpool canal to Skipton from Leeds I hopped on a train in heavy rain.  From Skipton I cycled along the towpath to Gargrave and from there through Eshton and along Winterburn Lane to Airton, from there to Malham, up Malham Rakes past Malham Lings, to the cross road at Streets where a right turn leads to Arncliffe. 

This stunning route has great views across Cowside Beck, and across to the Monk's Road, which provides one stretch of fantastic running in the Wharfedale Off Road Marathon and it seems like only yesterday Tony, Ivan and myself walked from Malham, up Gordale Scar and along the Monk's Road to Arncliffe, when Ivan was 3.

Cycling into Arncliffe, and off the map - which can sometimes be disastrous but not today - to Litton and Halton Gill, where a climb provided sweeping views of the valley.

Then along the Silverdale Road with grand views of Pen-y-Ghent.

Then down Goat Lane to Stainforth, then to camp in Langcliffe.


Thursday, 31 May 2012

Robert Montgomery


Cycling to Jura, the magical island

Thursday 17 May

The 12:05 pm train from Leeds to Ardrossan Harbour took me straight to the ferry to Arran, and alighting at Brodick, I cycled to the campsite at Lochranza. Just 13 miles with only one long ascent towards the end followed by an equally long descent. Due to misplaced optimism I didn’t stop to don waterproofs and arrived at Lochranza campsite soaked through. I treated myself to smoked salmon in pitta pockets for tea in my tent. It rained all night and I kept dry.

Friday 18 May

My worst nightmare scenario came to fruition, though, packing a wet tent. This was soon sweetened however by coffee and cake at Lochranza village hall, before hopping on the ferry to Claonaig. From Claonaig I cycled to Lochgilphead, along National Cycle Network Route 78. There were good views across the Sound of Jura as I cycled with the coast to my left, and I was treated to my first look at the Paps of Jura from afar.

2.15 pm £3 coffee at a restaurant in Kilberry, the most expensive coffee on my trip.

Playing: Roxy Music, “Dance away the heartache”.

I pitched my tent in a municipal looking campsite, close to the centre of Lochgilphead.

Playing: in the shower, AC DC on the radio.

On the way into town a group of teenagers cycling in the paddling pool next to the playground looked like they were having a grand time. I didn’t want to take a photo as I don’t wish to be intrusive.

Rewarded after my ride by scallops wrapped in pancetta at the Argyll Hotel, washed down by a large Pinot Grigio. Superb.

Playing on the juke box: awful music which was so remote and alien to me I could not attempt to identify the source of such evil, so thank the Lord it was soon turned down – I can only presume someone requested that. Indeed I did make a point of thanking the bar tender such was my relief. Food and drink came to £21.50 but they missed off the 2nd glass of wine and threw in a side of vegetables for free so I gave the lady a £4.50 tip. Such is my munificence. And I was a bit tipsy too.
This extravagence and quaffing has driven a large coach and even larger horses through my budget.

Back at the campsite a friendly Scottish man working on the wind turbines offered to help me move my tent as he said I had pitched it in a waterlogged area which to be honest I don't think it was. I declined his kind offer and we left it that I could knock on his door (caravan) if I got cold.

Saturday 19 May

In the shower on the radio: 3 songs which I am later told were covered by the Beatles, one was “Baby it’s you” by The Shirelles, followed by the Fab Four themselves with "We can work it out”. The shower walls are covered in the formica from 6 Kersal Drive kitchen surfaces.

I left Lochgilphead campsite around 10 am and bought some Jungle formula for midge attacks.  The lady in the chemist was how Nigella Lawson might have been had she been born in a different world.  Beautiful, kind, warm and normal.  Also purchased: shower cap and tweezers.  I love browsing in chemists. 

After leaving the Smiddy for slow service, I stopped at the Baptist church for St Margaret's coffee morning where I paid to enter and was treated to coffee, free refills and sandwiches and cakes on the table. Also, to the company of Jess and Jen who invited me to join them and were interested to find out where I was heading. Their friend who joined us disapproved of the route I was following, which skirted the western side of Loch Awe. This redoubtable lady chillingly implored me to “reconsider”.

I cycled out of Lochgilphead along the Crinan canal towpath with James, a friendly and proud local man who had one of the best commutes in the world, cycling from his home to Lochgilphead; he pointed out Dunadd Fort, home of the ancient Kings of Scotland. I detoured to Crinan for coffee and then retraced my tyre tracks to return to route 78, turned left towards Kilmartin and stopped by an ancient burial cairn, two stone circles and a burial chamber in a valley.


An ancient burial cairn

I took a minor detour from route 78 to see Carnasserie Castle then headed for the road of doom along the western side of Loch Awe. Ignoring the lady’s implorings I gaily cycled up the dark road with the forest to the left and drops down to Loch Awe to my right.

The road to Carnasserie Castle

Carnasserie Castle

Ford to Taynuilt

Here the cycling was hard, I was carrying a heavy load in the region of 30kg spread across four panniers, two bags on my back rack and a rucksack. I know, why would you? Trust me, I have listened and I have learnt. I will not bring four Gelert 9 inch steel rock tent pegs away with me again. Ever. In fact, I left them as a present for a very inspired person on my last camp. The other side of the coin however, which excuses me (in my book) for carrying 500g of cooking oil around with me for two weeks (which remained unopened), those steel rock tent pegs, the vast wardrobe which was a vain luxury… was …. the fastest descents I have had the pleasure of dropping down. The stretch from Ford to Kilchrenan is just over 18 miles which covers a number of climbs and drops (as opposed to descents).

I cycled past a camping sign near Kilchrenan, also past a friendly looking pub, then on to Taynuilt and from there, a stunning 12 mile ride to Oban along the single track road through Glen Lonan. Pure heaven with cattle the only traffic.

I cycled past Oban to a clean and neat campsite, Roseview, in Glenshellach, with silence in the showers, the walls the same lino that the Hancocks had on their kitchen floor. 

I slept well after my long ride only half waking and listening to some interesting banter from the fellow campers when they returned from their Saturday night out in Oban.

Sunday 20 May

The 20 bikers who were on a Boy’s Own weekend were slowly waking and peering out of their tents by the time I returned from the shower and they hoped they had not woken me the night before, I assured them I slept well. Ivan and Scott were helpful, in showing me how to use my Trangia and recommended Applecross to me for future trips. I waved them off and packed and paid.

Two Scottish campers shared some cycling tips with me too, and on their recommendation, I headed back to route 78, followed the single track road up and down to Connel Bridge then turned right and followed a quiet road along the northern shore of Loch Etive. The remains of Ardchattan Priory was an interesting stop and the wild garden and the cactus house boasted some fine specimens.

A wild monkey puzzle tree in the wild garden

I turned left at Inveresragan heading for Barcaldine and climbed (in fact pushed, in places) a single track road to a nice summit stretch with some waterfalls dotted around. This was hot cycling, on a hot day. A couple were sleeping in their foldaway chairs by their car half way up the hill, with stunning views of Loch Etive to greet them when they awoke. What heaven.

Then heading down to Barcaldine where I arrived at the luxurious Caravan Club site in a walled garden there and was greeted by 5 staff in red t-shirts who booked me in and showed me where might be a good place to pitch. It looks like everyone here is retired and enjoying their retirement. I suspect I lowered the tone a little, I certainly lowered the average age. 

I approach a man sitting on a recumbent, he looked comfortable and pretty attached to his bike to sit on it between rides.  The lady did the speaking. They were going to the Moray coast after a week at home, and then somewhere else. I expressed my envy at their relaxed lifestyle. “It wasn’t what we planned. We planned to spend our retirement in the Alps and Pyrenees, but then he had a stroke”. I looked at the gentleman with his neat grey beard and eyes which seem to want to speak. The lady continued, explaining how he goes out on the recumbent and she walks alongside with the dog. They can’t go far in case they get a puncture, you "can’t get him out easily" and putting him on the ground would be difficult whilst she tried to fix the puncture. I didn’t really know what to say. I went to pitch my tent.

I struck out on a cycle ride without gear and ended up in a pub. Dear me.  I met some sailors who showed me pictures of their boat, a man who showed me pictures of his bike (a Molton, I easily identified it, having been the proud owner of a gold Mini-Molton as a child) and then a woman from Holland who cycled extensively and we enjoyed good bike conversation, then her partner Bernard, a diver and her invited me to join them for dinner and we enjoyed a lovely evening sat looking out over Loch Creran.  No music.

Monday 21 May

6.50 am I set off on a ride without gear and explored the Strath of Appin, then on to Port Appin, and then I followed a disused railway along the Sound of Shuna. I wanted to go further, to Duror, but had to head back. I spent between 10 and 12 noon packing and then set off back up the single track road with the waterfalls, sped down the big hill now, to Loch Etive and at 1.15 pm found myself not only at the edge of my map but the end of the road which came to a halt.

I had to turn round and go all the way back along the northern side of Loch Etive, to Connel, across the bridge at 2.45 pm and from there on the single track road through Glen Lonan (heaven), to Taynuilt which meant a ride of around 20 miles round the Loch as there was no ferry to get me across. No trouble, I thought, I will just camp at Kilchrenan tonight.   Time in the saddle is always a treat. 

I noticed as I approached the friendly (looking) pub at Kilchrenan it sounded quite busy and lively. As I stood in the door way and then approached the bar you could hear nothing. No music, no sound, nothing at all. Except my constricted, clipped, nervous request as to where the nearest campsite was. This was followed by a repeat of the earlier sound I had heard, nothing. It lasted so long, I was about to say this silence is really awkward isn’t it?

The lady behind the bar: “no, there are no campsites around here. You will have to find a farm and ask the farmer nicely if you can camp there”.  

Me: “I will just have to keep on going then, won’t I?”.

That silence again, and it accompanied me as I walked out and got on my bike and cycled back to the road, to do the big hills between here and Ford at the southern end of Loch Awe.

I was tired. I thought I would see how far I could go before either reaching a campsite or a place which looked good for a wild camp. Four hours later I ended up in Lochgilphead, again. Just before I reached this traveller’s resting post, I pulled into a petrol station, and rustled around looking for nice food but there was nothing edible. I inhaled a bar of chocolate and asked if they sold wine in such a way that it caused people to look up, sharply. Oh dear.

In the shower, “My best friend’s girl” by The Cars. Oh, sweet music. My feet had gone white and various toes were clumped together in places for company, I think, after a long day’s riding.

Tuesday 22 May

I packed and paid, returned to the Crinan canal towpath and saw James cycling towards me, I said hello and he double took, then stopped, and called, "didn’t you make it to Jura?" I said I was heading for Tayvallich as I was booked on a boat later today, he was pleased to hear where I had been since we last met.

The cycle to Tayvallich was refreshing, I was heading for the sea to hop on the Jura passenger ferry, I had a coffee in the shop at the port then sat on a bench and had a picnic and burned in the fierce sun.  A sailor told me I wouldn't need sun block as I applied some too late, no chance of burning here - but I was! 

A group of locals and visiting retired people congregated around my bench and we whiled away the time waiting for my boat, then Donald pushed my bike to the RIB, complaining about the weight and introduced me to Nicol as “organised chaos.”. 

Nicol, the captain, set off for Jura eager to be efficient, and had to return to collect someone who rang him from Tayvallich. Georgina from Oban was visiting her brother and the three of us were the only passengers on this speedy vessel to Jura, the Paps became closer and larger.

Alighting in Craighouse, I checked in at the camping field in front of the hotel and as the other three members of the Jura posse had not arrived yet, I pitched my tent, went for a bike ride, then had an early night.

Wednesday 23 May

I cycled down to meet the JP off their ferry from Islay and showed them round the field.

They pitched their tents and we reccied the three Paps of Jura, an amazing experience.

Thursday 24 May.

JP cycled to a forest, where we left our bikes and walked to the Cruib Lodge bothy where we swam in Loch Tarbert and had a lovely evening, slept well on the clean floor of the bothy which was in better condition than my house.

Friday 25 May

JP headed back to Craighouse.  The field in front of the hotel was filling up with tents.

I went to the marshalls’ meeting in the fire station and me, Molly and Judy were officially allocated checkpoint 7.   Rob suggested we take water up – which had not dawned on us as a requirement – and we took up his kind offer of a lift to the start of the path to CP7.

Saturday 26 May

Molly, Judy and I met Rob and he drove us to the meeting point for the Raynet lady, Ann and the two men who had marshalled CP7 before.  We all walked up to CP7 and between us looked after the 200 or so runners who made it to that check point, offering water, Lucozade, Rob’s brew and gels to those who looked most in need. A very hot day. 

An amazing race. The 3 JP members who were running did brilliant and all got round, in respectable times. 

Sunday 27 May

The JP left on the first (or second as it turned out) ferry to Islay then we hopped on the ferry to Kennacraig, and cycled to Claonaig where we parted company.  I headed south along the eastern side of the Kintyre peninsula and they headed for the ferry to Lochranza, Arran. Setting off from our point of parting around 12.30 pm and then arriving at Campbeltown around 4 pm having enjoyed a stop for coffee and cake near Carradale at a Network tearoom.

Tourist info pointed me in the direction of the campsite at Machrihanish. I was temporarily derailed by a sweet shop where I had an ice cream and stocked up on lemon bonbons. Arrived 510 pm

Monday 28 May

I treated myself again. This time to a bike ride without gear. I packed a pannier with inner tubes and related paraphernalia, left camp around 9 am and around 20 minutes later arrived back in Campbeltown. I stopped at Gallery 5 for a coffee, and the man who served me reassured me I didn’t need to worry about my bike outside, “Nobody steals anything in Campbeltown, they just get drunk and fight” and had a chat with the proprietor of Aladdin's Cave opposite, then I bought picnic food from the Co-op and set off for the Mull of Kintyre.

In the Co-op, in my head, a refrain I can’t shake, “what a wicked thing to do”, Kris Isak,"Wicked game".

Around 10.30 am I set off along the coast road and arrived a few hills later at the Argyll Arms at Southend around 11.45 am, opens at 12 ... so I kept going. I spoke to a walker with a big ruck sack who had walked the Kintyre Way and was now waiting for a bus, as I ate my ice lolly at the shop and continued on my way.

I came across a man sheltering in shade of some gate posts of a drive leading up to what looked like some former institution. He told me he believed it was a hotel completed "before the war with Hitler". I later find that this is indeed the shell of the Keil hotel and it was completed in 1939, and served as a military hospital during the war. This gentleman had a glint in his eye and as he picked up his rucksack and bag, and hopped towards the bus as it turned round and stopped, he told me he used to go cycling and walking before, he could not go as far now, but he isn’t giving up.

I had a picnic on the beach just past St Columba's footprints

and then made my way to the lighthouse at the Southwestern tip of the Mull of Kintyre. The foghorn was impressive and I would love to hear that but never will. That sounds like a Morrissey lyric. 

Arriving back at Campbeltown, I dropped in at the Royal Hotel on Main Street for a pint.

Playing: John Coltrane - track not known.

I sat outside, overlooking the harbour. An elderly man came along, stopped and greeted me and eyed my pint, and caught his teeth before they fell out, he was then refused entry and came to me complaining there was no reason for that of which he knew.   I wondered if this was one of the locals who didn’t steal but got drunk and fought, and wondered if we would come to blows over my pint. He looked thirsty. I was thirsty.

On his second attempt at entry the landlady told him to "leave the lady alone” and when he passed me, I said maybe there was somewhere else he would find where he could be served. I was later told he was very nasty in drink and barred from all the pubs in Campbeltown. 

Playing now: Wham! “Wake me up before you go go”. Then, Duncan and Sandy started talking to me and after about an hour of politely refusing I accepted their offer of a drink. They had been drinking all day and were ready for bed. It was about 7 pm by this time. Duncan was interested in my job and also in the separation of the powers and was keen to engage in discussion on what brakes can be applied by the judiciary when the executive exceeds its powers. I could not remember.

Sandy had a very interesting and wizened face. I would have loved to have a picture of them but didn’t want to intrude. I have only my memory. They were very good company but I think I caused upset when I laughed aloud when Duncan complained of this of his wife and women generally: “Women deteriorate faster than men”.

They pobbled off and I went to the Co-op to buy my tea.

Tuesday 29 May

I had another coffee at the Gallery coffee shop, paid my second visit to Aladdin’s Cave and was sold a camera, having shown the owner my pictures of the foghorn at the Mull of Kintyre.

I cycled to Claonaig and arrived with minutes to spare and hopped on the 17.50 pm ferry to Lochranza. At which point the walker, Lars, who I had chatted to at Southend appeared and we sat together on the ferry marvelling at our luck with this balmy weather as the ferry sailed into Lochranza. Cycling to the campsite I struck up a conversation with two cyclists and the four of us enjoyed an entertaining evening at the Lochranza Hotel later. I wept with laughter at Paul's tales of his £2 journey on the Glasgow to Birmingham Megabus. What a great evening.   We had a late night which was risky bearing in mind an early start was necessary in the morning.

Wednesday 30 May

Ian, the cyclist who was cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End, and myself set off around 6.30 am and made it to the ferry to Ardrossan Harbour with minutes to spare. Before I left the campsite though, I left Paul, the cyclist who lives on Mull, the four tent pegs he had laughed at the previous evening and a hard boiled egg outside the door of his tent. 

The train from Glasgow back to Leeds marked the end of my cycling trip but I have plans for my next cycling trip in Scotland underway already.  Cycle touring is quite addictive as a way of life.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Mary Towneley Loop 18 June 2009

On Wednesday night, I was thinking of a nice route for the next day’s bike ride and had a yearning for the open moors of the South Pennines. Having hurtled along the M62 between Manchester and Leeds at least a thousand times I am often drawn to the moors between. For the vigilant driver, it is a cruel voyage across such a heavenly tract; for like Orpheus the traveller is forbidden to look at the beauty which is desired due to risk of death. I long for the freedom to hurtle through the moody skies and rolling moors yet this time on my bike. I hap upon the Mary Towneley Loop and set my sights on that.

I find the website of and read a little, I find the map and start highlighting my old and tatty OS Outdoor Leisure Map 21, South Pennines, marking the route. The highlighter isn’t working very well and I have had a glass of wine or two, so there is a realistic acceptance I am likely to get lost the next day. I like the sound of Lady Towneley. Idonohoe says: “The Mary Towneley Loop is dedicated to the memory of Mary, Lady Towneley, who rode from Derbyshire to Northumberland to highlight the state of the country's bridleways and campaigned for The Pennine Bridleway for many years.”

Now, the next day, as I am pushing my bike up very steep hills, and getting a real work out, I think: is there anything I would like to campaign and protest about? A trait I do not like, I am a bit of a political inactivitist. Social injustice does get me angry, the poverty in which people live all around us, is shocking but no one seems to see it, or even know about it. Oh, the treatment of prisoners too. So, if I wanted to campaign about something, now I know what to do about it! Go on a long distance bike ride! The phones are ringing in Whitehall, the minister for social equality and child poverty is on holiday, they can’t decide whether to interrupt her break or let her know the news. The email is prepared and the button is pushed: “she’s on a bike ride now”.

Still, in fairness to Lady Towneley, I am sure there was a lot more to her efforts than going on a bike ride. And I will find out more about what she did because the MTL is a route to the ancient packhorse trails, which I like.

The Pennine Bridleway National Trail leaflet says of the MTL: “an ideal short break destination for horse riders, mountain bikers and walkers. Take a journey through the South Pennines – you will encounter open moorland and hidden reservoirs, ancient packhorse tracks sweeping into valleys with gritstone walls, mill chimneys and canals offering a glimpse of past histories”.

Now there is the clue! Horse riders, mountain bikers and walkers. What about me?! I am none of them! Not when I am on my Ridgeback Velocity hybrid bike. I found out fairly quickly that some of the route is not suitable for a hybrid. Lucky for me, I was happy to push my bike.

Idonohoe continues: “You need to be fit! With the Loop a healthy 47 miles,the ability to ride at least 30 cross country miles is a must. The loop is a 7 hour ride at a respectable pace and you will need to build up a good bomb proof base...”

Thinking of myself as a strong cyclist, that did not register with me the night before! I was thinking of the heavenly Great Yorkshire bike ride from Wetherby to Filey the previous Saturday, how easy that had been, around 70 miles literally crossing the country, but not cross country, I now appreciate!

Pushing my bike up another steep hill, I think that the Mary Towneley Loop reminds me of The Garden of Jane Delawney. I sing alot, “Froggie went a courting and he did ride aha, aha, Froggie went a courting and he did ride a ha, a ha, Froggie went a courting and he did ride, sword and a pistol by his side aha!” and proceed to improvise on that splendid ditty. I create a rap in the style of Biggie Smalls about the perils of cycling wearing only black, generally I pass the time pleasantly and when I can actually ride, it is glorious! I sing terribly out of tune, and shriek “oooeee” like Jones in the Confederacy.

I started from the car park at Hebden Bridge, cycled along the canal to Charlestown where I joined the MTL. I stopped at the Red Lion in Whitworth about 4 hours later for a pint, and was advised by the landlord to abandon my plan to complete the loop in one day. He seemed a reasonable man, he didn’t take any money off me for my pint of lager – well I only had my card on me – and taking stock, I realised it was foolish to continue as I had no tent on me and would have been cycling into a night on the moors with no equipment – I had totally underestimated the time this 47 mile loop would take. The landlord and his gang were very friendly but they wondered if I got bored on my own. No I don’t. They suggested I invest in GPS however getting lost is part of the adventure for me.

So, I cycled back to the MTL (having left it accidentally) and then down through Broadley and Syke, heading for Littleborough, where I planned to hit the towpath and cycle to Hebden Bridge, it’s rushhour on the A58 and treacherous. I am genuinely scared. Another cyclist agreed with me that the road was very dangerous, and following his nod, I leave the A58 immediately and head for the tow path well before Littleborough.

The Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team website: “The Mary Towneley Loop is a 47 mile circular section of the Pennine Bridleway. The entire route is way marked and easy to follow, the riding surfaces mainly good on tracks, newly created paths and trails or minor roads, and involves approximately 6300 feet of ascent. The loop takes in some of the best scenery and off road biking the South Pennines have to offer, traversing the hillsides and crossing the valleys between Rossendale, Burnley, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Rochdale. It crosses high exposed moorland and is a strenuous, demanding day out. A good time would be 7 hours but it has been done in just over 4 hours.”

Well it took me about 4 hours to do a quarter! I will have to do it in sections, because the landscape, the scenery and the views in the quarter of the MTL I did yesterday were what I dream of, and I can’t wait to see the other three quarters. I have absolutely no intention however of getting a mountain bike so am happy to take my time to immerse myself in that Pennine air.