Saturday 13th May 2017
After much discussion of the weather forecast on Facebook, the B1 ride was cancelled. Chairman Morgan apparently feared the hours of heavy rain forecast for the South Lakes. The B2s, being made of tougher stuff, turned up to Mill Side, a few miles northwest of Grange, and donned their deep sea diving gear— there are always clothes for the weather and what could be worse than some of the stuff we had endured over the winter months? A number of B1s, recognising that the B2s were invoking rule 5, had belatedly decided to show their faces.
As I was putting a glove over an inner glove on my hand I looked up and noticed that the group was already half a mile down the road.
As I caught the peloton, I caught a breath before realising that the pace wasn't about to relax. These B1s seemed to have something to prove. Or perhaps they knew that breakfast at Hawkshead was only served until 1130.
We arrived in Grange-over-Sands, greeted by a large sign reading "Grange-over-Sands", passed the station with a large red and white sign reading "Grange-over-Sands" and cycled passed guest houses and hotels with names such as "The Grange Hotel" and the "Grange-over-Sands" guesthouse. The ever alert Chris was soon heard to mention, apparently with no hint of irony, that he had no idea where we were. My response of "Ulverston, Chris" attracted no more than an "Oh", confirming my fear that Chris must have been paying attention to the Views-over-Sands rather than the local architecture and public services. Our leader, Andrew Darnell, informed us of "just a little climb" after a mini-roundabout. Fifteen minutes later, the real B2s saw the rest of the group fully rested at the summit. "Have you been waiting long?" I asked as I saw stars between gulps of oxygen. "Not at all" they all lied. Yesterday's Strava leaderboard for the Grange Fell Climb cannot lie.
Soon afterwards, Shane, newcomer John and I decided to form a rear group.
Heading towards Cartmel we heard a bewildered-looking woman driver shouting out of the window with increasing desperation "Alcohol. Alcohol? Alcohol??" I was about to calmly explain to her the risks of combining alcohol and a car so soon after breakfast when she chose to enunciate more carefully "Holker Hall? I'm trying to find Holker Hall." We gave her directions, she promptly ignored them. We saw her a few minutes later just opposite Cartmel Racecourse, completely not en route to her intended destination.
John mentioned that he was going to be knocking on his mechanic's door soon after sunrise on Sunday. His bike had been serviced only the previous day and not only were his brakes rubbing but also he couldn't get into the big ring. I looked at him aghast. Where did he think he was going to use a big ring in this terrain? I had spent the last hour envying Shane's dinnerplate cassette. The views were increasingly lovely though and it was just a pity that each of us was now struggling rather with the fact that the forecast weather (90% chance of heavy rain from 10 until 2) had actually been replaced with what would normally be considered a pleasantly warm but overcast dry May morning.
After long, we arrived at a long fast descent and caught sight of Esthwaite Water, at the head of which was Hawkshead and our café stop. Excitedly plummeting down this long-missed negative gradient we realised we'd dropped John whose little ring really wasn't much use downhill. As Shane and I argued about whose responsibility it was to climb back up in search of John, the clouds began to part and our self-appointed back marker arrived.
We charged towards Hawkshead. Arriving at the café, which sells a fine range of boots, we were surprised to see the advance party. "Have you been here long?" "Not at all," they all lied, sitting behind cleanly-polished plates, bone-dry cups and the fossilised remains of bacon rind.
Our group plotted an alternative route back, avoiding the almost 700 metres (33 chains for those still on old money) of climbing that remained. Shane swore me to secrecy about one small section of the return— John was repeatedly mentioning a taxi and we didn't want to allow him any happiness, satisfaction or relief.
Having carefully planned our alternative route, we emerged full of bacon and cake from the café into brighter sunshine than before, fettled with John's brakes and promptly headed for half a mile in the wrong direction.
Sec emerged from our left, having headed for an even greater distance in the wrong direction, and we sent him packing. We promised John miles of gently undulating scenic roads, we gave him the scenery and undulations. We also gave him a lengthy 17% lungbuster. He thanked us gratefully in old Anglo-Saxon.
The terrain changed after we crossed the A590. The roads became quieter, narrower but also with more open views of bucolic old Lancashire, before the Cumbrians conquered the territory in 1974. Increasingly, we could see John as we glanced back. Our speed increased. Thoughts of how we could cool down in cars on the way home spurred us on.
And then we were done. The latter half of the route most definitely deserves more thorough investigation on future Saturdays. We shall be back.
* Some of the facts have been changed to shame the innocent. *