Day 1, Whitehaven to Motherby / 15 May 2008
Rise and shine
We arose around 06:30 and met for breakfast at 07:00. After filling ourselves we fumbled around in the yard with our baggage and busted our machines out of the "secure parking" which was actually just a courtyard exposed to the elements and the pub's smokers. We made our way to the start which was only a few hundred yards away.
Beginning the C2C
The morning was bright and fresh with not a cloud in the sky. We hoped it would stay this way, but as this was spring in England we expected a change any minute.
We gingerly picked our way through the bird poop to get down the ramp to the C2C marker. There were some menacing looking swans amongst the birds but they'd probably seen it all before so they treated us with passive indifference.
After some photos we mounted up and prepared to leave. A cheery local wished us well and with high spirits we pushed off at 08:07, heading along Preston Street, past the roundabout and left on to the path around Focus DIY.
We rode through the 'burbs of Whitehaven through quiet estates, avoiding broken glass and dog turds - skills we'd hone in the next three days. The route joins the railway path which inclines gradually and we could tell it was getting more rural as the dog turds changed to horse turds.
First rest stop
We'd decided that the sensible thing to do was stop every hour and have something to drink and a bite to eat. Our first took place between mile 7 & 8 by one of the many sculptures on the path made from old bits of industry.
Eventually we left the rail path onto a lane by Lamplugh School. This quiet road took us by rolling fields with stunning views of the fells. The sheep and cows were sunning themselves and all seemed right with the world.
For me the best cycling is along lanes like these. Many people like railway paths because they are relatively flat. I find these boring as invariably they are bordered by trees and you have no idea where you are - it's like driving on a motorway. You may go past a city or place of interest, but you'd never know it.
After some twists and turns we descended to Loweswater and found a nice spot in the trees by the water's edge for another break; we both agreed it certainly beat working for a living. Pressing on, we knew that a climb was coming up Whinlatter. We played relay with a couple of road cyclists (on what most people would call “racing bikes”) until eventually we reached the bottom of the long climb. Peter bade me farewell at this point because while I favour the "wham bam thank you mam" approach to hills, Peter's relationship was more "on-off". Mostly "off", as it would turn out.
As the climb steepened, I started gaining on the trailing roadie who was huffing and puffing along. His bike was lighter, but I did have a loaded tourer. With a cheery "Nice day!" I passed the struggling not-so-fast racer; Okay, I had better gearing but that's beside the point. After climbing hard, I paused to chat to the lead roadie while his mate caught up.
Whinlatter Visitors' Centre
Joining the B5292, the route joins a forest track on the right side of the road. I chose to stay on the road as it was only another mile and it was very quiet. Therefore I rolled into Whinlatter visitor centre around 11:25.
Setting myself down on a bench, I relaxed and waited for Peter's arrival. It looked like the centre had recently been remodelled and grounds keepers were sowing grass seed and such like. Also, as it was mid-week it was a great time to be at that sort of place. Mostly it was more senior citizens who clearly didn't have any concern for the tedium of work. There were no screaming kids and families either. Yes, I decided that week days were the best time to do pretty much anything. Eventually Peter came into view and clambered up the hill to arrive around 12:00. Perfectly timed for lunch, sir. The morning had gone well and I hadn't killed his cycling partner (although he didn't look totally peachy).
We entered the "Siskins Café" for a bite to eat. It was relatively quiet but we imagined at the weekend it would probably be a lot busier and the wait for service considerably longer. Anyway, my tuna-mayo baguette was very tasty, while Peter opted for a civilised toasted teacake.
Suitably refreshed we continued our journey - next goal Keswick. The windy track down from Whinlatter centre is indeed steep as the map indicates. I have to question the obsession with keeping us off the roads. Is the loose surface safer than the short stretch on a road? Yep, here comes another of my rants. Without mishap we bottomed out and joined a lane that led to a shaky suspension bridge over the River Derwent.
Keswick railway path
The road led us into Keswick and out the other side to join the railway track by the old station building. As I said earlier, I have some ambivalence about these railway paths. They are safe, level and relatively fast but they are dull. Throw into the mix the walkers who hog the path and it just gets annoying. Occasionally a nice vista opened up and all the old bridges and tunnels we passed over and through were interesting, if somewhat rusty. Greta Bridge that carries the A66 over the path was interesting and we're sure the occupants of the house underneath were pleased about its construction. Apparently it was voted best concrete bridge 1999. Now you know.
We stopped for rest at a brick shelter on the path. An informative history display reminded us of the area's industrial heritage. At mile 34 we emerged alongside the A66 and there then followed a stretch next to the road. After so long cycling tranquil tracks and lanes, this was a stark reminder of how bloody awful the roads are these days.
A66 and all that
Rolling through the village of Threlkeld we climbed again and started another pointless detour at about mile 37.
More walking by Peter and lots of gates to go through, saw us get to the detour's turning point at Mungrisdale with the pub and a river. We had a rest at a convenient bench before continuing and arriving back at the A66 and the path. We weren't far from Motherby, our first night's stop and although tired we knew it wouldn't be long. For a stretch we were on the old A66 road that ran parallel but set-back from the current road. This was nice and wide and of course vehicle-free. An older couple soon caught up with us as Peter pushed again. They stopped for a quick chat before showing us a clean pair of heels in their race for Penrith.
At mile 44 it was time to leave the route 71 and take a slight diversion to get to Motherby. I led the way and rolled through this pleasant village, remembering that Motherby House was the last on the right. I arrived around 16:25 to be greeted by our host Jackie who was cleaning a bedroom window. After throwing the bikes in an out-house the first thing offered was a cup of tea with cake which we gratefully devoured.
Our room was a "family room" and had four beds in total - two were bunks. Peter took the one closest to the window and I the bottom bunk in the corner; this was tactical due to potential snoring issues as he wanted maximum distance. The room was comfortable and very much the typical B&B; a little old fashioned but clean and warm.
Jackie kindly phoned ahead to the Herdwick Inn in Penruddock to alert them to our arrival for dinner. After getting cleaned up we hobbled down the road. The walk was said to be 10 minutes but was nearer 15 in our tired state. At the inn, the landlord greeted us as we walked in and soon we were enjoying a pint and ordering our food. We had a table by the window and watched as other customers arrived. It had been a long day but we were pleased with ourselves.
Around 19:30 we wandered back up to Motherby. It was a very pleasant evening but we were tucked up in bed not long after 20:00 as we had another long day ahead of us.
For groups doing the C2C Motherby House is a good place to stop due to the warm welcome and hospitality.
The end of day allowed for some reflection. The weather had been excellent with blue skies all day. It hadn't been too hot for me and the mid-May temperatures were perfect.
So far the signage had been excellent. We didn't really need our maps for navigating but would recommend taking one as you can see where you are and how far you have to go.
I have ridden long distance holidays before and tried different types of snack foods. For this ride I tried out flapjacks and they seemed to work well. The oats gave the long-term energy while sugary syrup the quicker hit needed.