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15 April, 2007

Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Whernside-Lancaster

Slightly later than expected, today I (sort-of) completed one of the walks I've been planning: Whernside in better visibility than November 2005.

Sort-of: though there was no low cloud this time, today seemed particularly humid, with dense haze limiting visibility to only a couple of kilometres. On past occasions, I've noticed this to be a coastal effect so, hoping it'd be clearer inland, I caught the 14:45 train to High Bentham after lunch.

I cycled straight to the Old Hill Inn, where the Three Peaks route joins the road; the obvious starting point. However, I couldn't find anywhere safe to park the bike, so dropped back to Chapel-le-Dale and a secure fencepost in the church car park. That added about a kilometre to the walk, but I'd be able to return via a different route, passing several pot holes and adding a little variety.

Passing the Old Hill Inn again and following Philpin Lane, I reached the open moor behind Bruntscar Farm and finally started the 'proper' walk at about 16:15. If only the National Park Authority could install cycle parking at that point....

Despite the humidity, I found the steep climb to the Whernside ridge fairly easy, though I wasn't rushing. Somehow, the next section, the gentle ascent along the ridge to the summit, was less pleasant, largely because the destination was constantly visible (though one constantly wonders if it's a false summit and whether the hill continues to rise beyond the apparent horizon), unexpectedly far away. It's only 1.2 km, according to the map, but felt further! Hillwalking doesn't only require physical stamina....

I reached the summit shelter at 17:35. Though I wasn't remotely tired, the ascent had taken much longer than anticipated, as the humidity didn't encourage rapid movement. Given the time and the fact that the end of the walk was merely the start of the 20-mile bike ride home, I realised I'd have to reconsider my plans. After stopping to take a few photos and have a drink, I studied the map.
Continuing along the path to the Ribblehead Viaduct and back to Chapel-le-Dale along the valley (which I think is called 'Chapel-le-Dale' too – anyone know? It's not named on the OS map) looked considerably further than retracing the route I'd already followed, so I did the latter. Similarly, the path across fields from Bruntscar and a steeply undulating track to Chapel-le-dale looked as if it'd take rather longer than following the tarmac'd Philpin Lane back to the main road, so I decided to retrace that part, too.

As I started back down, I finally caught a glimpse of Pen-y-ghent – as the sun began to drop, the mist was thinning. Whilst remaining appreciably misty, the view across to Ingleborough was drastically clearer than before; not really enough for decent photos, but adequate to prove there are some very impressive views eastwards from Whernside. I'll have to visit Whernside again some time, in reliably clear weather if that exists.

Back at the bike by 18:45, I had another drink then set off.

I think I've identified the easiest route back from Ingleton, avoiding almost all the steep slopes at the particularly 'lumpy' junction of the glacial valleys now occupied by the Rivers Lune, Greta and Wenning. At the crossroads where the Chapel-le-Dale road joins the A65, go straight on, past the Mason's Arms, ostensibly towards High Bentham via a narrow lane. About halfway there, turn right after Langber and follow the remarkably straight lanes directly to Wennington. It's not immediately obvious on the map (which is why I hadn't found it until actually visiting the area), but this route follows a ridge, undulating no more than 25-30 m all the way.

Having had a decent lunch made a major difference on the ride back. Most of my trips are fueled by breakfast, 2-3 cups of tea then a very light snack before heading out for 4-6 hours and ~60 km. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the final 10-15 km tend to be rather hard work. Today, however, I felt fine all the way, if a little bored on the long, familiar sections I don't normally notice – zoned-out exhaustion does have at least one benefit.

Approaching Caton, I noticed that the fog was begining to gather again over the river, becoming quite dense before Lancaster. It was lucky that I decided to take the 'shortcut' (a rough track, so probably not actually quicker than the main road) from Denny Beck past HMYOI Lancaster Farms to Williamson Park, as I didn't have lights and I wasn't happy riding in fog and the associated early twilight. By the time I reached the Park, the fog was so dense as to hide the dome of the Ashton Memorial from only ~50 m away.
As I subsequently saw on the TV news, the North Lancashire coast had experienced this fog for most of the afternoon; I'd made the right decision to head inland, rather than complete another ride I'd planned, to Knott End near Blackpool.

I'd been out of the house for six hours (14:35-20:35), cycling 53 km (32.9 miles) from Bentham to the Old Hill Inn then back to Lancaster at an average speed of 21.9 km/h (13.6 mph) (22.7 km/h until I took the 'shortcut'....). The bike was in motion for 2:25 hours; if anyone's interested, my maximum speed was 50.1 km/h (31.1 mph), presumably on the steep descent into Ingleton.

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