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27 August, 2006

Cycle ride: Oxenholme-Sedbergh-Kirkby Lonsdale-Lancaster

Somewhere new today: Sedbergh, at the edge of the Howgill Fells.

It may seem odd that I haven't taken my bike and camera to the town before, as it's not a great distance from Lancaster; too far for a round trip by bike, but well within reach of a combined 'train out, bike back' ride. The problem is that whilst I can travel with my bike on any local/regional train heading north then north-west or east from Carnforth, the route north-east from Carnforth is the West Coast main line, primarily served by Intercity trains, for which I need to pre-book space (in a goods compartment) for the bike. I've used that service precisely once, and seen how easily one might miss the correct station (one needs to be specifically let out of the compartment by train or station staff, and if they forget...). The alternative is an infrequent local train which tends to travel at inconvenient times. Even then, the train is to Windermere, so I've always been tempted to visit the Lake District rather than leave the train at Oxenholme and head inland towards Sedbergh.

The first ~10km, to Junction 37 of the M6, were dispiritingly boring, to be honest, but once past Lambrigg Fell and the wind farm, the view east towards the Howgill Fells justified the effort. The local geology and glacial history differ from the Lake District (volcanic) and western Yorkshire Dales (limestone), so the tall yet rounded hills were both picturesque and novel.
Inspired, I decided to make a diversion along a ridge parallel to the motorway for more views of the Howgills across the Lune Valley, rather than head straight to Sedbergh. I'm fairly pleased with the resulting photos, but the memories are better.
If anyone wants to reproduce the route, leave the A684 main road to Sedbergh at the first left turn after the motorway junction, then follow the lane north as far as the right turn towards Firbank Fellside and Fox's Pulpit (not signposted; check a map). Don't mistake it for merely the access road to a farm and overshoot the junction by over a kilometre, having to backtrack up a very steep hill. Ahem. Follow that single-track road round to the south, rejoining the A684 10 km after you left it – or 2½ km if you'd stayed on the main road. It's not a shortcut!
I made one more digression before reaching Sedbergh, parking near Lincoln's Inn Bridge and walking along the riverbank for a couple of photos. I'd recommend that too, though not the slipping and accidentally paddling bit.

This wasn't the very first time I'd visited Sedbergh (the third, I think), but I was still surprised to see how small and undeveloped it actually is. It's called a town because of its historical prominence as a livestock/wool market and because of the famous public school (US: private school), but I've seen larger villages. Unfortunately, the sun was in precisely the wrong place for decent photos of key landmarks, but I took a few anyway before moving on.
Note for non-locals: Sedbergh is pronounced 'Sedbuh', not 'Sedburg'.

The plan was now to follow the River Lune south to Kirkby Lonsdale then on along my familiar route (still following the Lune) back to Lancaster via Hornby. That's quite a long way, but fairly easy on the valley floor.

Each time I passed Kirkby Lonsdale over the past couple of years i've revisited the same spots to try to improve on photos taken previously in awkward light. This was no different: the light was awkward. I tried. I'll try again.

Having left Oxenholme at 10:54, I reached home over 6½hours later at 17:33, though I made far more stops than I've itemised above, and my bike computer reports it was in motion for only 4¼ hours. It travelled 77.9 km (48.4 miles), which doesn't count my digressions on foot, at an average speed of 18.3 km/h (11.4 mph) peaking at 45.9 km/h (28.5 mph) at least once.

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