Wigan Train Station… again

I’ve blogged about Wigan Train Station in the past where I mentioned about the new code and security for the cycle store (read about it here). This morning I saw a notice taped to a couple of bikes.

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This is good, as it can be really frustrating not being able to park your bike because there are bikes that have been dumped and never move from one week to the next. If you’ve ever lived in Oxford or Cambridge you’ll understand how many bikes are abandoned, so it’s good that Wigan Station are doing something positive.

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The bikes in question are old and cheap and they could have been used as an excuse to be in the bike store, pretending to unlock a bike, but in reality eyeing up other bikes.

Next on the agenda must be to stop people parking in the short stay disabled spaces.

The Fleetwood Ferry

Helen’s Mum lives in Fleetwood, which isn’t too far from Lancaster, but it’s only 21 miles if you take the ferry across the River Wyre. The ferry only takes 5 minutes and cuts out about 12 miles, some of which is on busy roads, so all in all it makes the journey more fun and enjoyable. Below is a photo of the Ferry arriving in Knott End, along with some side beard.

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The prices have recently gone up, so it now costs £2 per passenger, plus 50p for your bike. Well worth it I say, and a vital link between the two towns if you don’t own a car, as the bus takes hours.

The Ferry has been running for over 175 years and is part of Lancashire’s heritage. Unfortunately, due to the savage cuts to local authorities in the last seven years, the Council can no longer afford to run it. Arrangements had been in place for the Council to fund it for another four years, but this has recently fallen through, and the ferry is up for tender from private operators. Inevitably this will mean more price increases.

The cuts to local authorities has meant the closing of libraries and museums as well as dozens of services being paired back to the bone. None of these cuts are necessary, and I’m not the right person to blog about politics, but I worry about the state of our country if we have another five years of Tory rule.

Once we reached Fleetwood we only had a mile to cycle to get to Helen’s Mum’s house, and lunch, sitting in the sun in the garden. We then headed back to the ferry. The journey back across took slightly longer, as the tide had come in.

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Back in Knott End and it was a tailwind all the way home, only spoiled by some very poor driving.

If you’re in the area, make a point of using the Ferry, as it could do with our help, and once it’s gone I fear that it will be gone forever.

The Bay Cycleway

I like Sustrans routes, even if they do take you around the houses sometimes. A couple of years ago Sustrans made a big fuss about the new Bay Cycleway, which starts (or finishes) in Barrow and finishes (or starts) at Glasson Dock, taking you on a picturesque tour of Morecambe Bay. All you need to do is follow route 700.

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Myself and Helen had decided some time ago that as soon as she got her new touring bike we would make a day of it. So last Saturday we bought train tickets from Lancaster to Barrow and cycled to the station for the 9am train. This is the first problem with the route, most of the trains are run by Northern, who don’t take bookings for bikes. The train pulled in and it only had two carriages and five of us with bikes trying to get on. We were too slow and couldn’t get on.

Plan B: We would cycle to Carnforth and get on the next train, instead of waiting in Lancaster. This train when it arrived was five carriages and had plenty of room, although there was already two other bikes on board. We chatted to the other cyclists, who were off to Whitehaven to do the coast to coast. They had to change trains at Barrow and were slightly worried as they also hadn’t been able to book their bikes. I hope they got there. Helen has since emailed our local MP about the poor service for cyclists on trains run by Northern.

The train journey to Barrow is full of interesting views, as I described in a blog from a few years ago (read it here). Once again I mused over the lack of a cyclepath across the bay at Arnside. One day it will be built.

Once in Barrow we headed towards the start, but as we were an hour behind schedule, we opted to miss out section to Walney Island and join the route as soon as we found it. You can see our route below. As you can see we also missed out the loop through Arnside and Silverdale as well as the loop to Morecambe. We also stopped in Lancaster rather than go all the way to Glasson Dock.

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Out of the train station in Barrow the roads were busy with Saturday traffic and the cycle paths would suddenly stop and then re-appear later. We then almost missed a vital turn that took us down Cavendish Dock Road. There didn’t appear to be any sign posts at all. Fortunately I had created a route for my Garmin which let me know where we should go. This section was brilliant on traffic free cycle paths and views out to Roa Island and The Bay.

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There were also a few narrow barriers that could be a problem if you had wide bars.

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Once beyond the traffic free section the route follows the coast before looping inland towards Ulverston, where you can see the hills of the Lake District in the background.

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Here we made the decision to miss out the loop to Bardsea. Our pooch, Nelly, had been left at home so we didn’t want to be out too long, especially as we were running late. Ulverston was even busier than Barrow and once again it wasn’t totally clear which direction the route went, but we spotted a 700 sign and climbed out of the town, tipping our hats to the late great Stan Laurel, who was born there.

I had warned Helen about the climb out of Ulverston and it didn’t disappoint as it seemed to go for ages, with a couple of fun twisty descents before a last very steep section. It was then downhill all the way to the footbridge and dirt track that we would take to miss out the A590. My beard doesn’t do justice to how windy it was.

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We had been warned about the rough section although you might want to take it easy if you’re on 23mm tires. Once we re-joined the road the route took us up Bigland Hill and over to Cartmel. This is a real monster of a hill, often overlooked because of all the other monster climbs in the Lake District. Cartmel was full of posh people in large cars who had been to a wedding and didn’t want to share the road with a pair of cyclists, so we pushed on, missing out the loop to Cark and Flookburgh. Mid week Cartmel is much nicer, and the sticky toffee puddings are world famous, which you can read about here.

We then found a nice cafe in Grange, had sausage butties and a coffee, before heading back to Lancaster. As I said earlier, we didn’t do the loop through Arnside as we had done this many times before, so we turned off through the deer park to Betham and onto Warton. From Carnforth we took the shortest route home along the A6, which for us was the worst part of the whole route, and is why the official route directs you onto the canal and along the sea front at Morecambe. With a bit more time we do intend to go back and do the whole route.

If you are thinking of doing the Bay Cycleway, here are my top tips.

  • Have a plan B in case you can’t get on the train. TransPennine Trains do take bookings for bikes and they run the odd train here and there to Barrow.
  • It’s very easy to lose the route in Barrow and Ulverston, so either make sure you have the Sustrans map or download the route to your Garmin (other GPS devices are avalaible).
  • Bigland Hill can be missed as the B5278 isn’t too busy. I would also recommend missing out Crag Road to Warton, unless you want to complete the whole route, or love unnecessary climbs.
  • The cycle path from Aldcliffe to Glasson Dock can get really muddy if it’s been raining.

The full route is 81 miles and can be done in one day, although there are a few hills. Overall the Bay Cycleway is a fine additional to the local and national cycle routes and I would definitely recommend it.

Denny Beck Lane

There is a very pleasant 10km route that I sometimes like to run. From our house, along the canal to the River Lune, along the cyclepath, up Denny Beck Lane, over the A683, up Grimshaw Lane, past the prison and into the park to let Nelly off the lead for a lap before heading home. You can see my route in green below.

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Unfortunately, there has always been one issue with this route, namely Denny Beck Lane. Once again the green dots are my track points, recorded every second.

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This small winding road has for years been used as a rat run to get to the M6 without going through the centre of Lancaster. There are no pavements on this road, so it has always been a bit dangerous to run, especially with Nelly. The bridge over the River Lune is also very narrow, but it does have large metal bollards to keep pedestrians and cyclists marginally safe from vehicles.

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A couple of years ago I suggested to the Council that they should close this bridge to vehicles. I didn’t receive a reply.

Today though, I didn’t pass a single car as I ran up Denny Beck Lane. Why is that, you might ask?

Well, this is because of the new Bay Expressway, which has an entry road in Halton, meaning that there is now a quick and easy way for vehicles to reach the M6 without having to go across the small bridge and up (or down) Denny Beck Lane.

I will try once again with the Council, and maybe this time they will agree that there is no reason what-so-ever to allow vehicles to cross this ridiculously small bridge.

Checking out the Quantocks

The Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is without doubt one of the best places to cycle in the country. You should go there… now. In fact, every AONB that I’ve cycled through has been brilliant, so when work sent me to Taunton I took the chance to load up my commuting bike and check out the Quantocks. The hills were not as large as in Bowland, but I still managed 450m of climbing in 28km.

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I didn’t find the steepest climb, and I also found it hard to take a good photo as every lane seemed to have hedges big enough to hide giraffes. I only skirted the southern area of the Quantocks, as can be seen in my route, but next time I want to explore further.

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Another reason that I was excited about seeing the Quantocks is that they get a mention in a song by my favourite band. And not just any song either, but probably the best song that they have written. Joy Division Oven Gloves by Half Man Half Biscuit from their Achtung Bono album. The song also became the unofficial anthem of the save the 6 music campaign back in 2010. How can you not smile at a song that mentions the Quantocks.

The Beards of Bowland search for Botton Head

Another Beards of Bowland outing, although it was only myself and the Prof. Our route was devised by the Prof as he wanted to look for some dead ends near to the Cross of Greet. We set off and leisurely made our way to the bottom of Bowland Knotts with a hefty head wind, where prof insisted on our first photo of the day. What is the difference between a headwind and a block headwind?

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From Bowland Knotts we returned the way we came, looking for dead ends. A couple of gravel roads were found that will be saved for another ride. Disappointingly there was only one other small dead end so we set off up the Cross of Greet, whereupon I got a puncture.

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This was the first puncture that I’d had on my road bike for over a year. My front tyre has now done 8640km, which isn’t too bad. I reviewed it a while ago here.

Once I’d swapped tubes Prof set off across the grass to climb a stone. You’re probably not allowed to do that.

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Once back on the road the serious business of finding Botton Head began. We were both sure that there was a sign post, but we couldn’t find it as we crisscrossed some more back roads, until there it was.

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There wasn’t much to see at Botton Head except for a small farm, although the farmer was surprised to see two cyclists and was happy to chat for a few minutes.

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We then headed back to Wray for a cafe stop. I’ve never been to the cafe in Wray, but others have said that it isn’t very good. £2.40 for a scone without any jam or cream. I won’t be going back.

During our ride we had discussed the relative merits of flat bars and how much better they are for descending. The Prof has flat bars on most of his bikes, while I have drops on my mountain bike. We also discussed close passes. I had had a very scary pass the other week (read about it here), while the Prof recounted an encounter he’d had that week. Coming to a traffic island he’d pulled out to take the lane much to the annoyance of a driver towing a trailer. If he’d gone through the gap he would have taken out the Prof, as the trailer was much wider than the car. At the next set of traffic lights the Prof shouted at the driver, who shouted back, before they both went on their merry ways. I’m not one for arguments.

It was then time for me to head home as I was meeting a real Prof from the Uni to discuss air quality, while the other Prof detoured up Roeburndale, getting himself a couple of KOM’s. I was obviously holding him up.

Another great day out with the Beards of Bowland, both of us. Next time will be my choice of dead ends. Previous Beards of Bowland rides can be found here, here and here.

Book Review 2017 – Part V

The 30 minute train journey twice a day means that I’m reading far more than I have in the last few years, and also writing about the books. Two more cycling books to review here, the first is Cycling home from Siberia by Rob Lilwall and the second is Cycling to the Ashes by Oli Broom.

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Cycling from Magaden on the far east coast of Russia, through Siberia does appeal to me, but not in winter like Rob did with his friend Al. This section of the book was by far the best until they catch a boat to Japan and decide to go their separate ways. Al also wrote a book which I will probably hunt down soon. Rob took his time getting home, taking almost three years, with some long stops along the way, including 12 weeks in Hong Kong, where he met his future fiancee.

Another good section of the book sees him and two others dodging border guards so that they can cross Tibet. Overall the book was an interesting read, although there was a little too much God for my liking.

Another form of religion dominates the second book; Cycling to the Ashes. Obviously the religion this time is cricket, as Oli spent 15 months cycling to Australia to watch the Ashes. As with all big cycling adventure books, it’s full of ups and downs, mental and physical ones, psychological and geographical ones. Much like the first book, Oli decides to cross most of Europe in winter, wild camping most of the time. I have woken up once with a frozen water bottle when camping, and it’s not something that I would want day after day. He also managed to cross the whole of Europe without getting a single puncture. I want to know what tires he was riding.

This book, as the name suggests is full of cricket as well as cycling, so if you’re not a fan of cricket you might want to give it a miss. I did enjoy it even though I’m not a huge cricket fan.

“I think it’s pathetic he isn’t cycling home again,” said Ian Botham, which was written on the back cover. Made me laugh out loud.

My four other book reviews so far this year can be found here, herehere and here or alternatively find the Book Review category on the right hand side of my blog. Part VI will be coming soon.