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14 July, 2007

Cycle ride: Lancaster-Tunstall-Leck Fell-Kirkby Lonsdale-Lancaster

On Tuesday, I bought a new bike, so today (Saturday) was my first opportunity to test it properly.  My initial plan was to simply ride to Kirkby Lonsdale along the floor of the Lune Valley and back via the ridge to Halton, but I soon decided to add a decent hill climb and to incorporate places I hadn't visited before: Tunstall Church and Leck Fell.

I'll review the bike's performance in a few weeks [nearer seven months, as it happened], but I'll just say that the ride to Tunstall, ~7 km from Kirkby Lonsdale, took longer than normal but felt easier; it's that type of bike.
I've passed the tiny village innumerable times, but never left the main road to investigate the isolated Church. As the accompanying photos show, it's a pleasant enough building, but it's more significant for its literary association, being the inspiration for 'Brocklebridge Church' in Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre'. The Brontë sisters attended school in nearby Cowan Bridge, so it seemed logical to go there next, if not quite by the same route – presumably they followed footpaths across fields whereas I had to cycle via Burrow and surfaced roads.

Not having planned to visit, I didn't research the location of the School for Clergy Daughters in advance, and didn't go hunting, instead heading straight on towards Leck Fell, on the western flank of Gragareth (the highest point in Lancashire). This is one of the very few upland valleys on the south-western edge of the Yorkshire Dales that I'd yet to visit; in fact, I think it's the last, and I've now explored all nine access routes to the moors between Ribblesdale and Barbondale.
Climbing 300 m within ~3.5 km (and not as one gradual ascent) could have been exhausting on a humid July day, but it was easier than usual: the lower gears of my old bike had been inaccessible for a long time, so it was a novelty to be able to use those on this new bike. Still, I was very glad to reach the top near Leck Fell House, sitting on the edge of the moor for a while to take in the view and a banana.
The descent was somewhat easier, though I was uncomfortable about riding at full speed on an unfamiliar bike, on an unfamiliar road (with patches of loose gravel) in an isolated location, so stayed under 50 km/h.

After a brief diversion to attempt a photo of Kirkby Lonsdale that I've been failing to capture properly for a while (and failing again, really), I crossed the River Lune at Devil's Bridge and headed back towards Lancaster along the northern edge of the valley, making one more stop to supplement/replace photos I'd taken in Halton on earlier bike rides.

In total, I covered 70.3 km (43.7 miles) in 3hrs20', giving an average speed of 21 km/h (13.1 mph) and reaching 47.8 km/h (29.7 mph) at least once. Every ride is different, with different gradients and differing numbers of photo stops, so it's difficult to compare this to previous trips and hence my old bike, but it felt slower – my legs could have pedaled harder, but the bike didn't respond quite as I'd hoped.

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