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17 December, 2005

Cycle ride: Lancaster-Casterton Fell - Lancaster

Filling in a gap, today.

I know the valley between Ingleton and Ribblehead fairly well (though not its name, surprisingly), and I know Barbondale, which links Kirkby Lonsdale and Dent. There are two smaller routes onto the hills between the two. I'll investigate Kingsdale when I have more time and daylight, as it'll be a very long ride, even if I catch trains to and back from Bentham. The remaining road is a dead end, climbing between Barbon Fell and Casterton Fell, to Bullpot Farm and the headwaters of Leck Beck. I'd been there once before, caving in Bullpot Of The Witches, but that visit was by car, in poor light, and years ago. I fancied seeing it properly for the first time.

It was still a long way, and I suppose it would have made sense to cycle from and back to Wennington station, letting the train cut 20 miles off the trip. However, I knew it to be manageable (if ambitious), so cycled the entire route. It turned out to be 45.27 miles (72.86 km), and took 3:41 hours; slow, but that included a killer ascent, a 1 km walk over rough, frozen ground, and a diversion to Sainsbury's for groceries. To finish off the statistics: my maximum speed was 27.4 mph (44 km/hr) and average speed was 12.1 mph (19.5 km/hr).

The plan was to follow the main road to Kirkby Lonsdale, then a tiny, steep road to Bullpot Farm. The map indicated that a bridleway linked that point with Blindbeck Bridge, in Barbondale, from where I could head straight home.

The first part was straightforward: a mindless slog up the Lune Valley. I don't particularly like the stretch between Tunstall and Kirkby Lonsdale, as it seems endless: there are no particular landmarks and it's imperceptably uphill. A car passenger might think it's perfectly flat, but the road actually rises 30 m over 5 km, which is just enough to make the distance feel much further. The result is that one has a flawed perception of the distance covered, and thinks that Kirkby Lonsdale simply must be 'just around the next corner' when there's still a couple of kilometres still to go. At least this time I was prepared for it.

The next section was more of a surprise: steeper than I'd anticipated, for longer. Considering I'd already cycled 18-20 miles, I wasn't pleased, and thought I might need to turn back; I wasn't even halfway round the route, but was tiring. Thankfully, after climbing 212 m in 2 km (696' in 1.2 miles), the worst was passed.

As I approached Bullpot Farm, something curious happened: the temperature dropped. A lot. Maybe it was just the altitude (around 300 m), but even wearing thermal gloves, my hands became painfully cold and I began shivering despite wearing a shirt and two fleeces. I had a quick look at the entrance to Bullpot OTW (and noticed plaques commemorating those who'd died in that cave system...), but otherwise moved on rather quickly.

As I'd expected, the bridlepath to Barbondale wasn't rideable, especially on my road-configured bike, so I walked, shivering. Though still at ~170 m asl, that valley was much warmer, so I lingered to take a couple of photos (including one I missed last year) before heading back. The light was begining to fail, but I got as far as Claughton before proper sunset, and reached home (via Sainsbury's) a little after dark, at 17:15.

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