Ride no. 62 – Borrowdale Bash – classic mountain biking in the North Lake District

Big ol’ round of the classic North Lakes mountain bike loop – the Borrowdale Bash!

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Yours truly amongst the bracken

As you may have noticed in previous posts, there has been glorious weather thus far this summer in the Lake District. I have felt so spoiled and grateful to have such dry, calm weather. The Lake District really does come into its own when it’s beautiful weather – and makes all the weeks (months) of rain worth it. We’ll see if I say the same thing come mid-November… but it really is stunning out there now.

The main novelty is really the dry trails – especially on the Borrowdale Bash. A very classic North Lake District ride, the Bash is really technical and rocky, so it rides completely differently when wet (which is most of the time….). Today was such a pleasure then – to have a proper go at the techy climbs (no excuses of your tyres slipping out on slick slate!), and really giv’er hell down the descents! To that end, I felt absolutely ace on the bike today, proper confident riding that I haven’t really felt in a while.

My fella and I had a leisurely morning and set off with lots of time and sandwiches. It was so warm and sunny there was no need to keep moving to keep warm (usually the case in the Lakes), so you could just enjoy it all.

We huffed and puffed up from Keswick to Watendlath – a teeny village (hamlet?? cluster of houses?) set amongst the fells. Further upwards pedalling on technical, rocky trail where a few walkers gave us friendly commentary (“you must be mad!”) until we reached the top – where the mountains of Borrowdale were spread out in front of us. The descent then begins to the valley floor – the fast, rocky, pick-your-line-and-hold-on kind of riding which is a delight when it’s dry. Got lots of snaps and one big old pinch flat on the way down! That was myself playing around with jumping over some drainage ditches on the trail… whoops.

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Moi descending into Borrowdale from high above Watendlath

From the valley floor a pedal along the road for a bit, and then back upwards, tackling Honister Pass. Well, not along the road (although I think the official route advises that way?), but along a slightly mellower grade of Bridleway that runs paralell. Met some more walkers doing the Cumbrian Way (or some other long-distance walk!) who gave us another friendly comment of ‘being nutters’ :). My fella’s brakes had been a bit wobbly this ride … and by the time we got to the top of the climb, one of his brakes just decided it wasn’t playing anymore. He still (sorta) had one of his brakes, and decided to take the descent (again, a rocky, techy one) from Honister quite gently!

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Me and the Yeti descending from Honister

Managed to get back down to Grange in one piece though – Jack with his faulty brakes and everything. Cycled back via the lakeshore of Derwentwater and stopped for a bit of a nibble before heading back to ‘normal life’. Hung out with some rather bold ducklings and their watchful mother duck. Jack particularly bonded with the ducks through feeding them bits of my sandwich :P. Lovely evening and fabulous ride out – reminds me why I love mountain biking so much – being outside, on rad trails, with great people.

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Ride no. 61 – To Morland we go! Knit night & the importance of community

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Getting shown around Jane’s allotment!

A little bit of a commuting ride to a car-share-ride to knit night this evening! One of our regular knit-nighters has recently moved to Morland, and although it was a beautiful evening weather wise, the ride out there was a bit far for myself for a few hours of eating and knitting. So I pedalled to St. Johns in the Vale (in record time as I was late!!) and hitched a ride to Morland from there.

It was a beautiful evening of good company, conversation, mountains of amazing food and drink, knitting, and meeting new friends. I absolutely love our little knit nights – I feel like our meetings are more than the sum of their parts – they are not only a forum for eating and knitting (the primary aims!), but also of community connection, interaction, skill & knowledge sharing, and friendship.

I think community building in this fashion – whether it is a knit night, a pot-luck, a community woodland or garden, or even a bingo night! – is integral to forging relationships within communities. From these relationships comes trust and co-operation, which is a brilliant platform to start to working together for all sorts of reasons: to make local communities better, increase quality of life and well-being, and solve the big daunting issues that are difficult to face on an individual level.

This is why I would encourage folks to get involved in their local communities in whatever way they can. Getting together with those around you, sharing passions, ideas, goals – is the bedrock of social change. So much more than just eating and knitting, yes? ūüôā

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Ride no. 60 – The Yeti scales Grizedale Pike

p1130471 Epic ride tonight!!

Finally headed up Grizedale Pike, a long-awaited ride that calls for calm, clear, dry weather. When my fella and I set off at the valley bottom, it was just that – calm, clear, dry. By the time we climbed up amongst the fells, the wind had whipped up and severe looking clouds rolled in. Eep. It was still dry trails though!

I rode from Keswick and up Whinlatter pass, then sat in front of Cyclewise with my fella having some food before heading up up up the Red South loop. Up we pedalled, up all the way to the very tip-top of the Red South trail, then a bit of heather and bracken scrambling to the distinctive trail up Grizedale Pike. Once we left the trees the wind was definitely noticeable …. but once we were on the spine of Grizedale the wind was absolutely ridiculous. At this point it was a hike-a-bike, and the Yeti was hoisted up on my shoulders. This wind made it all very precarious – me balancing my bike on my back while slip-sliding around with my ballet slippers on the infamously slick Cumbrian slate…. all while the wind tried its best to knock me down the mountain. Hrm.

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Myself coming down Grizedale

 

Once we got over the hike-a-bike scramble/ wind battle and to the top though, we were rewarded with a truly alpine-feeling descent. It was absolutely grand! Snaking singletrack … with steep loose sections, fast flowy sections, and stunning views – I would highly recommend this ride! Very glad that my fella and I got out on it though – I’ve been meaning to do this ride for absolutely ages and am happy (despite the scary wind situation) that it all came together :).

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Myself & Grizedale pike in the background (is steeper than it looks!)

Ride no. 59 – Sheep tutoring from farmer William

Welcome to another addition of me riding over to Low Bridge End farm! I promise you that not all of my 100-rides this year will revolve around sheep (even though a large percentage of them are at the moment!).  This time I spent a gloriously sunny and warm day at the farm, acting like a small shadow of William, the resident sheep farmer there, asking many questions about everything to do with sheep.

Unlike my usual self, I didn’t get any photos of actual sheepys, or the rounding up, etc – which is shameful, as there were many lovely opportunities to do so! Instead I listened and learned and (hopefully) helped out. We ended up rounding up the Hebrideans, as some were set to be sold off to be used for sheep-dog training (which should be quite the change from their current situation here)! Once rounded up and the Land Rover + trailer in place, sheep were guided into the trailer and all set to travel to their new (temporary) home down by Ullswater.

The Hebrideans were set to arrive at Dowthwaitehead Farm, run by Mayson Weir. Mayson’s¬†farm is located¬†in a very picturesque setting, hidden away in a remote (well, as remote as England gets) corner of the North Lakes, at the head of a dramatic valley underneath the Dodds. As the crow flies it is very close to Low Bridge End (a few miles?), but as trailer-toting humans in a Land Rover, it is closer to 13 miles. It would be a beautiful walk though – head from St.John’s in the Vale, behind Fornside Farm, up to the heights of Great Dodd – looking across to the Helvellyn range. Then, down Deepdale until you find yourself at Dowthwaitehead.

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(source of the lovely photo above^)

Mayson has a variety of rare-breed sheep on his farm (I love the rare-breeds) –¬†from Herdwicks, to Hebrideans, to Black Welsh Mountain and Shetlands … and breeds I’ve never heard of – like Coburg Fox Sheep. They are beautiful sheep originally from Germany¬†– have a little look:

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The Coburg Fox sheep now adds to my growing list of ‘sheep to research’ if I’m ever lucky enough to keep some of my own! But I digress. We safely dropped off the Hebrideans and headed back to the farm – in time for things like tea and food (essential things, I would say!). Then did some ‘feet work’ with the sheep that were rounded up earlier. which included checking them over, seeing if there was any infection, making sure their hooves weren’t getting unruly (in which case you need to trim them like you would your nails). Sheep apparently can not only die from everything (as I’ve mentioned before), but their feet can also suffer from all sorts of maladies (methinks especially in the soggy conditions that are typical in Cumbria). So you need to check them!

After a lovely dinner, I cycled back home to Keswick. En route a little Swaledale lamb had gotten¬†it’s little stubby horns¬†stuck in a wire fence. The poor thing – there was a deep slice in it’s stuck horn where it had been trying to wrench itself free :(. Once freed, I then busted out the camera and took lots of shots!

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For anyone reading this who isn’t obsessive about sheep, it’s probably seems like quite a mundane way to spend a sunny afternoon … but I loved it. I am not entirely sure where this love of sheep (and specifically sheep in the context of the Cumbrian countryside) has cropped up from…. possibly a lack of sheep growing up in Canada? There are many that I know here that are just as obsessive as myself, so I don’t feel too out of place :).

The mountain view from Castlerigg was just stunning tonight as well – all the fells were turned a shade of blue. I stopped and took some photos and just had a little moment to myself, admiring the view and breathing in the sweet summer air.

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Ride no. 58 – Shady dealings of the Tamworth pig variety…

p1130295Rainy rainy ride back home from Low Bridge End farm! I cycled over there today to participate in some very shady dealings concerning pigs. Their lovely rare-breed Tamworth pigs have gone ‘on holiday’, which is Low Bridge’s¬†euphemism for going for slaughter. The shady dealings come in the form of I, the long-time vegetarian, procuring¬†a small amount of pig for myself to eat. Let me explain…

The last time I ate meat was two years ago, when I ate Hebridean lamb. This was also raised on Low Bridge End farm. The link above gives an in-depth explanation of why I chose to eat that bit of Hebridean lamb that day, and the same theory applies to the Tamworth pigs from today.

In context: For the last nine months or so, I’ve been living with an almost-vegan diet. In addition to eating no meat, I have excluded all dairy (milk!) products from my diet, as I’ve had on-going stomach troubles that I am trying to sort out. The no-dairy makes my belly happier, but leaves me with precious little options in terms of protein sources that are local to Cumbria. Why? Because Cumbria’s food production capacity is limited, and protein sources in this area are very much animal-based. I do eat a lot of eggs that are locally/ethically produced, but from a local-food perspective, I dislike how much soy/lentils/beans dominate in my diet.

So I’ve been thinking about introducing small amounts of ethically produced, context-specific meat into my diet.

Tamworth piggies

This is a¬†very¬†big deal¬†for me. For a long time I outright rejected meat because I disagreed (on many levels) on how the majority of meat in the Western world is produced – using intensively reared, factory farming methods.¬†I didn’t want to participate in this system, and having a diet completely free of meat made it much easier to disconnect from it.

I still don’t agree with the current factory farming system (at all!), but a few things have changed. I now believe that animal husbandry has a place in sustainable farming practices, whereas before I wasn’t sure.¬†I am starting to realise that in certain places – Northern England and Cumbria being good examples- a local, sustainable food production system will need to include animals. This doesn’t mean there is now a green-light to go meat crazy with your diets. It is all about balance and context:

 In the past, the amount of meat and dairy products that were consumed was more or less governed by the resources available. The number of pigs in a community would depend pretty much on the amount of waste food and crops available. Pigs are great food recyclers. The number of other animals would be restricted to the availability of land after staple crops such as wheat and vegetables had been catered for.

But then came a change: Population growth, wealth and subsequent demand for animal food products outstripped the supply and broke the ‚Äėpermaculture‚Äô type equilibrium. The result was that extra resources had to be put into rearing animals, and crops are now grown specifically to be fed to animals to give us food. It‚Äôs a very inefficient process energy-wise, resulting in about 10 calories of energy being put in to get one back out in the form of meat protein. Additionally, the intensification of animal farming reduced livestock to mere commodities that were treated with increasingly horrific methods.

Quote¬†gleaned from a review of ¬†the book ‘Meat: A Benign Extravagance‘, which I have only read a small amount of (but plan to read it in it’s entirety!).

As outlined above, our food production used to be on a smaller, more balanced scale with regards to animals. Animals used to be used for all sorts in a food production capacity Рgrazing on grass lands not suitable for arable crops, rooting around to clear land, manure for nutrients, eating potential pests, etc. They were raised as part of a system, in conjunction with many other food production activities Рwhereas now they are just an end in themselves (usually just for meat!).

Suffice to say, animal production has an integral place in a sustainable food system that takes in a systems/holistic view of everything. The trick is the context – why is it reared, how is it reared, what are the other viable options for food production in the area, etc.¬†When animals are reared in a way that has more of a nod to an entire sustainable food system, one that takes into consideration context and balance, then I largely agree with eating meat. In fact, I think those farmers working towards ‘doing it right’ need to be supported through people buying and consuming their products.

 

Photos from my wee ride!! ^^^

So, all that being said, I made my first real forays into intentional meat eating! The reason I say it’s a ‘shady dealing’ is to do with my firm sense of identity as a vegetarian which is quickly shifting … so I feel like I’m obtaining illicit drugs when I’m dealing with meat! I stashed the rashers of Tamworth bacon in my panniers and stole off in to the night …

Ride no. 57 – Dry trails and summertime sunsets

Beautiful eveningUp Latrigg tonight, smack-dab in the middle of the school holidays. It’s been SUPER busy in town and on the fells, so I have reserved my mountain biking to a more stealthy, anti-social hour of just before sunset (aka 9pm). It was a bit of a spur of the moment affair – where I thought that it was far too beautiful of an evening to not be out on my bicycle!

Had a fun spin in the woods up on Latrigg, on the little Yeti mountain bike – dry trails, sunsets, lush green forest – what more could you want? Also saw a wee mouse dart across the trail in front of me. Quick one though, he didn’t end up under my tyres!

Hello little fern!

Ride no. 56 – To Blencathra on bicycles!

Path into the clouds

My fella and I had a day off together, yippy! The weather was markedly different than yesterday – chilly, drizzly, windy. It felt like we rolled the clock back a couple of months – but no mind, we set off for a bit of a walk anyways. Decided to head locally and ride over to Threlkeld on the old railway line. The weather kept all of the other ramblers away, so we had bumpy old trail all to ourselves.

Locked the bikes up at the start of one of the many trails up the side of Blencathra, and headed upwards! I’ve been in the Lake District now for over three years and haven’t been up this iconic mountain yet, shameful. My days and evenings off I usually end up on one of my bicycles – so I don’t usually fell walk that often. I do like hill walking though, it offers more chance for observing the details in the landscape than cycling does…. also it’s a bit more social than riding as it’s easier to chat when you’re at walking pace versus cycling pace!

The many ways up Blencathra

The many ways up Blencathra

It was especially nice to have a day off with my fella in the hills as I feel like this year we’ve barely had any quality time together. He has been in college full-time and worked part-time, and I’ve been working part-time and volunteering part-time – so between the two of us we haven’t had much time together since his studies began. I mean, I do see him everyday (we do live together!), but when you’re just doing the daily tasks of making dinner/cleaning the house/etc, I think you miss out on the increased closeness and intimacy that ‘days out’ together really gives you. Reminds you of why you’re with each other in the first place – shared interests, values, life goals … love :). Righto, sappiness over!

Jack scrambling into the mist!

Jack scrambling into the mist!

Hiked up and up into the mist and got some excellent views over the North Lakes before being completely surrounded by clouds. There is a good bit of scrambling up top on this route (can’t remember the name now, eep!), which was nice as it reminded me of my many hiking adventures in British Columbia at university. The difference here is that you could see a pub from the scramble … whereas in Canada you can usually just see forest, mountain, ocean, ice, or prairie! ūüôā

Ride no. 56, short but sweet!

Ride no. 56, short but sweet!

After a few hours up in the hills, I felt like the world was set to rights again Рa good walk and a long chat always does that pour moi. Unlocked our trusty steeds  and pedalled back into Keswick with a renewed sense of clarity and calm.