Day 2, Motherby to Allenheads / 16 May 2008
We had a good night's sleep, despite the odd grunt and howl from Peter. We rose around 06:00 and were down for breakfast at 07:00. Jackie had been accommodating and happy to cook whenever we wanted.
Fed and watered, we paid up and prepared the bikes. The weather was overcast but we were expecting it to brighten up. At 8:09 we rolled out. It was downhill to Greystoke where we picked up the C2C route again. Generally it was level or downhill all the way to Penrith with only a couple of short inclines. We were leaving behind the fells and entering the Eden Valley with its lush pastures and farmland.
On reflection, and with no disrespect to Motherby House, the relatively easy cycling to Penrith means it would be feasible to get as far as Penrith on day 1. This would allow an easier day on day 2, which we knew from C2C folklore was going to be a bigger challenge than the first day.
We pedalled on and were passed by a car every couple of minutes. We realised this was "rush hour" as it was around 08:45. If that was rush hour, we could live with that. The route took us through a rather surreal college campus on the outskirts of Penrith. The track led us down a hill and under the M6 and railway. Eventually we emerged at the top of the town.
We rolled down and into the town centre as I wanted to buy a sandwich for later. In a drive to support local businesses, I bought a sandwich from, er, the ubiquitous Greggs. Oh well, it was handy and we needed to "grab and run".
From the town centre it was easy to pick up the route again as it was signposted down the path at the side of the church. It was nice that Peter had to walk along this bit. Peter's first “proper” walk of the day (and first of many) wasn't far off as it occurred on the long climb out of Penrith. The advice would therefore be if you are making it to Penrith on day 1, DON'T book to stay somewhere coming OUT of the town centre (according to the C2C route). You'll regret it if you do, oh yes.
We journeyed down more lanes until emerging on to the A686 with what seemed a 6" wide cycle lane, then crossed over the Eden river to Lanwarthby. We then pulled up for a nice rest on a bench by the village green.
Climbing out of Little Selkeld, the northern Pennines loomed ahead of us ominously as the lakes disappeared behind us. The cloud hadn't cleared and it looked like rain was possible ahead. The countryside definitely felt different to the previous day. It's amazing how the landscape can change in such a relatively short distance.
Our last stop before the mighty Hartside was just past a small cluster of farm buildings in the gateway to a field. Behind a derelict farmhouse I spotted a muddy downtrodden enclosure. Curiosity got the better of me and I fought through the undergrowth to investigate. At last we found the "babes" we had been seeking.
As the road started to rise, Peter advised me to crack on now and meet him at the Hartside café. It was only a few miles but as it was uphill there would be some serious walking for Peter. I put my head down and headed off.
The first half of the Hartside climb is on a quiet road. I actually really enjoyed it - although it wasn't until later that night I told Peter this. I love a good hill and once I had a good rhythm going it was relatively easy. I don't do walking. Walking's for wimps. Again, I didn't tell Peter this! I actually finds it harder to walk than cycle.
Eventually the minor road meets the A686 and then it's not a very pleasant climb on the main road to the café.
As it was midweek, it wasn't too busy but I imagine it's grim at weekends or in the summer.
Before the final bend on the road to the summit there's a short-cut that's "off-road". That'll do nicely - I steered GH up there and pedalled to the top, arriving at 12:20.
After parking up, I went in for some refreshments - a fine selection of homemade looking cakes awaited. I took my goodies outside and found a bench on which to sit, eat and observe for Peter. It took some time for him to appear - a distant speck on the horizon. Using binoculars I eventually spotted him, and he definitely was taking his time. When he arrived, Peter wasn't in the best of moods despite my best efforts to gee him up! Yes folks, no one likes a smug smart-arse who's been relaxing while waiting. We had a cuppa in the café then continued.
On to Garrigill
We agreed to meet in Garrigill, and I was shooed away by Peter. Luckily as we were at Hartside summit, it was downhill for some way across Alston Moor. Traffic wasn't too bad. Turning off, we descended to Leadgate, turning right for Garrigill. This stretch had some sudden ups and downs and it was quite sapping. Finally I led the way and descended to Garrigill and waited at the Blacksmith's forge by the waterfall thingy for Peter's arrival. The waterfall or “force” as they say up this part of the world was a bit disappointing, given the lack of water. More of a trickle.
Peter appeared at 14:05 and we crunched up the drive to the tea shop. It was small and empty so before long he was putting in some soup and a roll.
Leaving our rest stop, the road took a very steep incline (which wasn't marked on the map). It was time for me to bid farewell to Peter once more. The landscape became more moor-like and with the climbs and dips became quite tiring. Eventually the road topped out over Nenthead and down the very steep road into the village. At the junction for the route is a play area and some good solid benches. I imagine it would be covered in tired bikers at weekends in the summer. Here I met and spoke to Sue and John who I'd been catching glimpses of all day. They were heading to Allenheads Inn too, so we'd see them later. I waved them off and waited for Peter.
After a good long wait there was still no sign of him until eventually a text came through urging me to carry on as Peter was too slow. Not to be told twice, I began the long slog out of Nenthead, peaking at the route's highest point. The sheep on this stretch looked particularly cute and stupid so I made sure they were aware he was coming. Singing helps to do this. Well, I didn't want any of them leaping in front of me.
Final push to Allenheads
After descending into Allenheads, I was expecting the inn to be waiting. It wasn't.
A quick check of the map showed that the village was quite spread out and - yep - the inn was at the far end. Well it would be, wouldn't it?
After riding along the lane to the inn, I finally arrived, checked in and stashed the bike. The room was, er, compact but at least en suite. The TV was at the end of my bed which was dangerous for it. I went down to the bar where a few locals were arriving for their Friday after work sessions. I explained to the bar staff that abandoning Peter was "for the best". The convoy does indeed go at the speed of the slowest ship, but when it's a pedalo, then something's going to give.
No sign of Peter for a good hour so I enjoyed a pint. Eventually he turned up and was sent for a shower while I stored his bike.
You're (not very) welcome
Sue and John whom I met earlier appeared and we exchanged notes about the ride. Food wasn't served until 19:00, which was not very good for us hungry cyclists. We were all ready to eat by 17:30! Peter came down and while we waited for dinner we chatted and drank.
Finally we were able to order our food and it duly arrived. There was something "not quite right" about some of the locals. One of them had a dog that came over and sat slobbering while we ate our food. As we finished, Sue tried to give it a piece of Peter's leftover naan bread. What a mistake. The owner of the dog - absent while we were eating and his dog was begging - appeared and started raging about how his dog had already eaten. Ok mate, well keep it under control. Silly arse.
We made an exit from the bar due to the weird atmosphere plus we needed an early night. The last task for the four of us before retiring was to negotiate the next day's breakfast.
We were shocked to hear it was to be at 08:30. We wanted a 07:00 breakfast for an 08:00 start, as you do when having to cycle for the whole next day. The bar staff went to check if it could be sooner. The landlord appeared and told us that he was doing the breakfasts and as he wasn't getting to bed until 02:00, breakfast wouldn't be until 08:30. Rather (un)graciously he did say that if we INSISTED he could do it “earlier” (08:00!) but he'd have to get up earlier. Excuse us? For a minute we thought we were guests. Silly us. Okaaaay. We backed down. He needed his sleep, bless him. You guessed it, it's rant time!
For a hotel that claims to be cyclist friendly, it didn't present itself that way. We think it would be fair to say that the Allenheads Inn is not customer focussed. It appears to be run for the landlord's convenience, with late dinners and late breakfasts.
We climbed up the two flights of stairs to get to our room and settled down for the night. I took charge of the TV given that Peter would be asleep in nano-seconds. After a bit of Deadliest Catch (they were "on the crab" as always), we turned off the TV and drifted off to la-la land.