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24 March, 2005

Cycling: Windermere-Langdale-Windermere

Every weekend from January until March (now extended to June), the railway line through Lancaster has been closed for maintenance/upgrading.  This has meant that all my weekend bike rides have been restricted to the local area, within a radius if 15-20 miles.  One benefit of the University being closed for easter is that I wasn't at work today, so could try something a little more ambitious.

I took my bike to Windermere by train; fairly straightforward on the direct local service, though I think it'd have been more awkward if I'd had to catch the Intercity to Kendal first. From Windermere, I followed the main road to Ambleside. If there was an alternative, I'd recommend it, as this wasn't a pleasant ride, in heavy traffic. The first couple of miles were consistently downhill, too, which was a slight concern – returning, I might be both tired and rushing to catch the Lancaster train, so the final section mightn't be fun.

Once past Ambleside, onto the Langdale road, it was much better, and I felt able to decelerate and take photos. My plan was to follow the very familiar route to the Old Dungeon Ghyll, as far along Great Langdale as the road goes, then return via Little Langdale. It's one of my favourite walking areas, but I'd never visited by bike.

Having said that, I digressed onto an unfamiliar route almost immediately. On the map, it looked as if the steep road from Skelwith Bridge to Grasmere (village) would offer good views of Langdale and Grasmere (lake/valley), despite the hazy weather. It wasn't a complete success, as the northern side of the pass was heavily wooded, so I couldn't see Grasmere without actually going there, which wasn't exactly the point.

The rest of the ride into Langdale was more familiar; if you've ever been there, you know the route I took, as there's only the one road!
Climbing Side Pike to cross into Little Langdale was as tough as expected; this was a surprisingly hot, humid day, so I have to confess I walked the toughest section (124m ascent in under 1 km) and was very glad to freewheel most of the way down the valley on the other side.

I'd completed my main objectives, but thought I had a bit more time before needing to head back, so I investigated Colwith Force, a waterfall marked on the map, at the mouth of Little Langdale. There was no cycle access, but a short (~200m) walk was worthwhile – it's a pity more people don't know about the impressive waterfall, but also good, as I had it to myself.

Returning to the bike, I began to worry about the time, so abandoned any plans to look around the slate quarries or Elterwater (lake), and headed straight back to Windermere at full speed, arriving, er, about half an hour too early. I went into the town (village?) centre, and straight out again (I've never liked it; it's a poor amalgamation of tourism and 1950s-style market town), heading for the lake and viewpoints noted on the map, but there wasn't really time, and I returned to the station, having travelled 29.5 miles (47.4km) in 2½ hours (not counting stops), at a maximum speed of 28mph (45kmh).

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