Day 10 Culgaith, Cumbria to Dumfries – 68 miles.
What a day! With dire warnings from the BBC that storm Aileen would blow us off our bikes, half drown us or both, we set out in weak sunshine with an odd gusty blow. The fast flowing, muddy waters of the Eden and Esk rivers, struggling to remain within their banks, were testament to Aileen having done her worst overnight.
Distaster then struck in this gloriously pastoral corner of England, Keith’s bike started limping, a curious sight to see. Having been around the world once literally and many times over in distance, the frame had broken where the chain stay joins the rear wheel dropout. With his panniers redistributed to Gavin and me, Keith managed to ‘limp on’ the three miles into the bustling little town of Brampton. In less than the time it took Gavin to check out public transport options, the first local accosted proved to be our guardian angel, a mechanic on the sandwich run from a nearby garage. Anticipating our arrival, our new friend and his colleague had the welder on standby, and in the time it took Gavin and me to pedal the half mile back to town for our own lunch supplies, Keith’s bike had been fully repaired with a test ride successfully completed. Our saviours at C&C Barnett had to be pressed with ‘beer money’ in lieu of the payment they steadfastly refused. The virtue of a steel frame for a touring bike is surely proved; it would have been game over had Keith been riding an aluminium or carbon fibre frame. Bike restored, lunch consumed and tour back on track in less than an hour! From here on Keith’s steed will be known as Lazarus having risen from bikey death.
Fifteen miles and the odd heavy shower, including a hail storm, later we reached Scotland at Gretna. A sharp downpour saved the obligatory photograph from bring photo-bombed by the local Parks and Gardens man, as he scuttled back to the shelter of his van. The final twenty odd miles, heading west on quiet but relatively level roads along the Solway Firth, were a hard slog against the wind. It was a relief to finally roll into the town of Dumfries and welcoming embraces of our good friends Maree and Phil who join the adventure north.
Day 9 from Slaidburn Lancashire to Culgaith a distance of 58 miles on a dry day with sunny spells was truly spectacular. The first 12 miles saw us out of the Trough of Bowland across heather clad moorland. Two huge, steep, climbs were more than rewarded by exhilarating freewheeling down the other sides, dodging the odd sheep along the way. Surprisingly our arrival at High Bentham, truly remote, was impeded by a substantial traffic jam – a long line of farmers with trailers full of new season lambs heading to the market. Eau d’lanolin filled the air.
What a contrast in a few short days, from the mayhem of traffic and density of population west of Manchester to absolutely tranquility as we entered Cumbria. Tracking to the east of the M6, wide green valley bottoms, with fields bounded by perfect dry stone walls run up to the fells, beyond which lie Yorkshire and later County Durham. Whilst this was our most hilly day so far, by some margin, it will take some beating in terms of the so, so beautiful scenery.
Our billet for the night, The Black Swan at Culgaith in the fabulously fertile Eden Valley took us through sleepy villages, delightfully named: Crosby Ravensworth, Maulds Meaburn, Kings Meaburn, Temple Sourby …. Supper was a chance to catch up on old times as we were joined by my friend and former long-term colleague David and his wife Judith from their home in the nearby town of Appleby.