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20 August, 2005

Cycle ride: Kents Bank-Humphrey Head-Cartmel-Lancaster

I left my usual range today, catching the train to Kents Bank on the north side of the Kent Estuary, 'properly' into Cumbria, though still slightly outside the Lake District National Park.  The plan was to explore Humphrey Head, which projects out into Morecambe Bay and overlooks the areas of North Lancashire I already know well.  From there, I planned to visit the village of Cartmel and its priory before returning to the coast at Grange-over-Sands and catching the train home.

The first slight setback was reaching Kents Bank to find I'd left my map at home – I'd memorised the layout of the district, but not the specific roads. I considered hunting for a shop likely to sell maps, but decided to just follow road signs. It meant I took a few wrong turns on minor roads, but basically worked.

Humphrey Head is (locally) famous as the place where the last wolf in England was killed, in the 14th Century. Wolfhouse Gallery in Silverdale takes its name from the fact that it has a view of the headland. It's an attractive site, and surprisingly overlooked by visitors (Alfred Wainwright mentioned it in one of his guidebooks). Not that I'm complaining – I doubt I'd have seen a Peregrine Falcon close-up if this had been a busy tourist magnet.

I locked my bike to a fence and walked to the top to take quite a few photos, so stayed longer than I'd expected; I could have made up some time by following minor roads if I'd had a map, but instead stuck to the main, signposted roads and reached Cartmel via Flookburgh and Cark. I took the opportunity to check return train times at the station, as I'd also forgotten to do that beforehand.

Cartmel was smaller and less 'touristy' than I'd expected, especially considering it has a famous mediaeval priory church and racecourse. I stopped at the latter for a drink, but for some reason didn't think to lock up the bike again and have a proper look round the Priory or even its churchyard. I took a few photos of it and the village, anyway.

I was surprised how close Cartmel is to Grange-over-Sands; merely 2 km over Hampsfield Fell. I don't know whether completing the intended route sooner than expected led me to make a rather rash decision, or whether I'd subconsciously known from the start that I was going to do it (remember, I hadn't checked return train times in advance): I decided to cycle home from Grange. It's a familiar route (by car...), and I've frequently cycled the 14-mile (22½ km) section from Milnthorpe to Lancaster, but Grange isn't that close to Milnthorpe; I suppose I added 30 miles (48 km) to the planned ride.

An additional slight complication was that I chose to avoid the A590 (T) dual carriageway, so stuck to less-direct (very) minor roads as far as Levens, before joining the familiar A6 and slogging my way home – not fun, as I was tiring rapidly, it's not exactly a thrilling route, and for some reason my right arm was really painful. Just short of Carnforth, I had to stop for a few minutes, as my right hand could no longer grip the handlebar. I'm accustomed to that cramping occasionally on long rides (maybe a consequence of surgery to pin a broken finger in 2003), but this was the whole arm, from the shoulder. I hope that doesn't recur.

So; overall, that was 36.65 miles (59 km) in 2:20 hours, though that's only counting time on the bike, moving, and omits the walk up Humphrey Head and various drink, photo and rest stops. In case anyone's interested, my maximum speed was 28.9 mph (46.5 km/h) and average speed was 12.9 mph (20.7 km/h).

Incidentally, I've published over 40 photos with this entry, so each of the 'photos' links in the foregoing text goes to a different index of thumbnails (Humphrey Head, Cartmel and the ride home; visit all three or start here and go through all the images.

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