Ride no. 30 was the start of a wee cycle tour from my home in the Lake District, across the Yorkshire Dales, to my partners parent’s home in the North York Moors. This ride was relatively short for a cycle-touring day – 27 miles (43 km) – but I didn’t leave myself much time at all to do it in!
Essentially, my partner and I had booked two weeks off from work to go on a long-awaited cycle tour across Devon and Cornwall. My fella, Jack, had a bit more time booked off then myself, so he headed over to his parents place in North Yorkshire for a couple days before we were due to drive down to the South West. Long story short, his very poorly car decided to die completely, and the replacement van that he was buying wasn’t going to be ready for a few days.
So, instead of waiting around at home for the van to arrive and the holiday to begin, I thought I’d pack up my bike and cycle on over to his parents place. This is located 135 miles East, on the southern end of the North York Moors. Once I made the decision to do the cycle tour, I scrambled around for most of the day getting ready – finding the various bits of cycle touring kit that was scattered all over the flat, packing, buying lots of food, and strapping it all to my trusty Surly Cross-Check. Finally ready to go at the crack of 5:30pm (whoops!), I aimed to make it at least to Ambleside and set up my tent in a farmers field somewhere.
I put the hammer down to make it to the Windermere Booths before it closed for the evening to buy even more food. This is a result of my sometimes annoying/sometimes ace cycle-touring habit of massively stocking up on food at every opportunity, as I’m terrified of running out of food on a tour. As usual, in the UK this worry is unfounded as there are shops everywhere…. so this little habit just serves to make my bike very, very heavy!
So now I was laden with a ridiculous amount of hummus, oatcakes, cauliflower (the ultimate cycle touring food?), olives, smoothie, chocolate biscuits, and posh yogurt (there’s more, but that’s the short list), in search of a discreet camping spot in the fading light. Since I’m a fool who doesn’t really read maps, I thought it would be wise to aim for the small village of Staveley before looking for a place to sleep, because hey it’s only 9pm and it won’t take long to find somewhere in the countryside!
Turns out the English countryside (especially the southern Lake District) is awash with farm houses, posh country homes, and steep valley sides that make quick, discreet camping quite tricky. I pedalled a further 10 miles out of Windermere to the outskirts of Staveley, trying to find somewhere to camp that wouldn’t piss off any farmers/home owners/ park rangers.
At around 10pm I found the only semi-discreet, flatish piece of farmland to hand and set up camp. It was 10:30pm and totally dark by the time I was finally in my tent, starving, but afraid to put my light on to eat, in fear that the farmer would see the light and kick me off his land. In reality, the farmer probably couldn’t give a toss if a cycle-tourist parks herself on his field at 10pm, leaving no trace she was ever there… but when it’s dark and you’re alone you think the worst, eh?
So that was the first day – approximately 27 miles (43 km) from Keswick to the Staveley camping spot, almost through the Lake District National Park.