Cycle Day 1 – Carlisle to Cockermouth:
We left the bustle of Carlisle and headed West then South West from the castle, soon familiarising ourselves with the white on blue National Cycle Network signs. Following the River Caldew along quiet cycle paths we saw the first swifts and swallows of the year also many spring flowers bursting through on the rivers banks. Shorty after the pretty village of Dalston, now on quiet lanes, we had our first views of the Pennines and the Cumbrian Fells; both of which were destinations for later in the tour. Head winds began to freshen and we could feel rain in the air.
We stopped for lunch on the village green at Hesketh Newmarket and before setting off donned our waterproofs. Thankfully we did, as the weather went downhill as the gradients went up. The rain and wind worsened, so it was heads down cycling at walking speed for the next couple of hours. Cranks were protesting on each turn of the pedals. Such was the tedium we resorted to spotting roadkill; frog, stoat, robin, rabbit and pheasant. It hadn’t been a good day for them either.
By late afternoon the wind and rain eased, the cloud level and spirits rose. We could see the sun reflecting on Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance. Rounding Over Water we could see the flanks of Skiddaw bearing white streaks of gushing torrents. The sun was shining when we reached Cockermouth. The 32 miles we cycled had felt like 52!
Cycle Day 2 – Cockermouth to Keswick (via the coast):
Leaving Cockermouth westward towards the coast I was on my own today. My other half volunteering for the more direct route to Keswick. It was sunny, there was a whiff of wild garlic and the distinctive sound of the curlew about. I soon joined what was the start of many miles of traffic free disused railway path. Apart from dodging walkers, runners and broken glass this was easy cycling. What a difference a day makes. I could now see the sea – it is always a thrill (however old you are). Once through busy Workington it was back into the country onto the railway path again. There was a section of sea wall to cycle before reaching Whitehaven Harbour. The impressive Marina and cooking aromas were inviting me to stop. Turning inland at Moor Row onto more railway path, the Cumbrian Fells reappeared and it was time for lunch overlooking Ennerdale Water.
The scenery was stunning. I was now enjoying some wind assistance but unfortunately not enough to help with the climb out of Boonbeck or over Whinlater Pass. I knew all I had to do was get to the Forest Centre and it would be downhill all the way to Keswick. There was a small stop before the descent, a Birder’s long lens was focused on an Osprey. Was this my chance to achieve my first objective on this tour? No, but nearly. It felt good to reach Keswick – 42 miles cycled today.
Cycle Day 3 – Keswick Loop:
As forecast, there was rain at night and in the morning, hopefully clearing later. With optimism I took the ‘plunge’ and set off in the rain. Winds were westerly again and in my face cycling along Derwent Water. In spite of the wind and rain the scenery was beautiful. The waterfalls were quite spectacular. Once through Seatoller I reached the start of Honister Pass. I had resorted to bike pushing when two fit young young men cycled past me. They didn’t have much to say but did acknowledge me. Now in cloud I reached Honister Slate Mine then enjoyed the speedy downhill, more or less to Buttermere.
Turning right before the village the route took me over another pass into remote open fell country shrouded in cloud. It was downhill back into a now sunny Keswick. Just the 22 miles cycled today but it is getting the legs tuned for the days ahead.