16 Blackpool to Spurn Point Other

Maps 104 & 105 – Wharfedale and York

York Minster, south transept

Today was another glorious ride from west to east across beautiful Yorkshire countryside. We were never far from somewhere I knew; but somehow we managed to follow an interesting and cycle friendly route that was almost entirely new to me. That is one of the objectives of the adventure, of course, to experience new places. But also to experience the same places in new ways, perhaps. And so it proved, linking together our overnight stop near Barnoldswick with Ilkley, Wetherby and York along the quietest lanes we could find. We enjoyed 65 miles of great cycling, mostly free from traffic. The rare exceptions came first at the very start into Earby, and later for a couple of miles after Wetherby, where we couldn’t avoid busy roads. What a difference! It really does take all the fun away, not to mention adding in a considerable feeling of danger. Sharing a road with fast moving cars, lorries and buses is in no way enjoyable. Luckily, ever since the start of this adventure in early May, it has still been a very small part of what is otherwise an ongoing pleasure.

For me, planning the best route for each day is a big part of the adventure. I like the challenge of connecting the dots in the most appealing way for cycling. It can be quite a challenge, and I am sure it will get even more tricky as I move south; but it is nearly always possible to find a rewarding way, and usually a pretty direct way, too. Often it presents itself easily. Sometimes, like today, it takes more thought. But since I love maps, and always have, I feel I am learning about the world before I even start to ride. It was certainly worth the effort this morning.

When you are dealing with hills, as we were, the main roads tend to take the lowest and flattest routes. People often ask me, do you try to avoid hills? My reply is always, no, I try to avoid traffic. I will always take a quiet, hilly route over a level, busy one. So this morning we chose a long, steep climb up onto the moors above Earby, up and over into the Aire valley, and then again across Addingham Moor from Silsden to Ilkley, in Wharfedale. There were many other ups and downs, but these were the biggest. And they were well worth the effort for the views, the solitude and the lovely rural villages they took us through. I realise that is easy to say when you have 4 months of cycling fitness in your legs (or a battery, in the case of my recent companions). It is still hard work; but you know you will get there and it doesn’t hurt too much! There is something pleasing about standing up in the pedals and pushing hard up a steep climb, and discovering that you can do what you have seldom been able to before. Clearly this is doing me some good! I hope I don’t lose it again. I’m worried I might.

After our morning of riding up and down a lot, we arrived in the genteel Victorian surroundings of Ilkley. This is a lovely town with a tree-lined high street that harks back to times gone by. It famously has a branch of Betty’s Tea Room, which had a small queue outside. We crossed the street and ate for a fraction of the price at a church cafe, which was very good. We significantly lowered the average age of its clientele this lunchtime; but they were doing a brisk trade and I would happily return. They were getting to grips today with a brand new till at the counter and it was going well initially when I ordered a bacon roll with egg and mushroom as add on fillings. But when Jenni ordered the same thing without the bacon, it caused some confusion, since the bacon roll was the basic item. Computer said ”no”. A possible solution came to me in a flash. Order 2 rolls the same in the till, but put both orders of bacon in my roll. To everyone’s great relief, and my benefit, this worked! Computer said ”yes”!


We then followed the north bank of the River Wharfe, more or less, all the way to Wetherby. The country got a little gentler and the villages were well kept and pleasing on the eye. There were pink roses and geraniums aplenty, next to well proportioned stone built homes and converted barns, many with manicured hedges. There was very little not to like in this delightful part of the world.

Ilkley – spot the bikes

Wetherby is a likeable, prosperous small town on the old Great North Road. Today it is bypassed by the hurtling traffic on the A1(M) that rushes north or south. The closest most people get these days is Wetherby Services, a mile out of the town and really in a parallel universe. We found a pavement cafe near the small market place and had coffee and cake beside well heeled women with small dogs. Then we rode down to the riverside park by the old stone bridge and finished the last remains of yesterday’s bank holiday picnic. There were many benches and tables placed conveniently next to an area frequented by a large dabble of noisy and entertaining ducks. I like ducks a lot. They have a whole collection of endearing characteristics all rolled into one unlikely creature and they are often a feature of places where people go to spend their outdoor leisure time. It is a winning combination.

Wetherby ducks

The final section of the journey was less beautful, but pleasant enough. The land levelled off and was dead flat by the time we reached the banks of the River Ouse, just below York. We rode in to the city along quiet lanes and cycle paths from Bishopsthorpe, where the Archbishop of York has his palace, past the racecourse and the old Terry’s chocolate factory with its distinctive clock tower. This fine building has now been turned into luxury living accommodation. As with so many former industrial buildings in the north of England especially, it has been transformed and repurposed in a very tasteful way. It is wonderful to see these places given a new life. They are architecturally and culturally important. In more recent times, at least, it seems to be something we have done quite well in this country. We saw a fantastic old mill conversion this morning in the lovely village of Cononley in the Aire valley. I could even imagine living in it.

Bishopsthorpe Palace

We passed the equally excellent Millenium pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Ouse and were soon in the middle of York. It is a fine city with a long history, much of which survives to this day. Down by the river this evening the rowing crews were launching their boats, so you had to be careful to look where you were going.

York station cycle parking

We cycled right into the train station and parked our bikes in the double decker bike stands, which was not at all easy to execute. York is a railway town and it has a proper, big station on the East Coast main line. We ate in the old (and now rather fancy) station hotel before I put Jenni on the train to Sheffield, and on to Hathersage and home.

And so after five days of company I am back to riding alone for the first time since August. Tomorrow I set out once again for the seaside. If I don’t have fish and chips for dinner again, it will be a surprise!

York and the River Ouse