Oct 7-9 York
The weather was clear when I left my hotel in Durham for the ride into the train station. I never am really sure when I make the decision to get away from the riding conditions that have been ailing me, in this case mostly wind and some rain. The hour train ride to York took me into rainy conditions again, but I am booked here for three nights to have a good look at this historic town and to give the weather a chance to clear a bit. It is all a gamble.
My first night is in a B&B, close to down town, and they let me leave my bags and bike while I walked back into the centre. After a pub lunch (The Shakespeare), I bought my ticket into York Minster. The ticket is good for a year and I would use it three times during my time here. I first went up the tower. It is sold as a separate activity, but I always buy in. I guess I always like to do a climb, but the views, even on this drizzly day are good for me. Looking down on the slate roofs and twisty streets, the scurrying tourist activity is replaced by a geometric pattern that is calming. I always think there must be a formula. In the Minster, over the next days I went on a tour with an elderly volunteer who tried to point out some of the stained glass panels that interested him. He probably talked about 10 out of the 1000s. I say tried because the panel of interest was often so high above ground level that it was hard to pick out and see the detail. His knowledge and enthusiasm were certainly infectious. There were many things of interest to me here, including a significant media supported display of the old Roman structure upon which the Cathedral, in all of its evolutions, was built. By the way, a cathedral is a place of worship, but a minister is also a place of teaching. (I am not sure of when the extra ‘i’ is used).
I went to Yorvik, a presentation on the Viking occupation of York. It was created to appeal to young and so I greatly enjoyed it. I am finding that many of the significant tourist attractions in Britain have added a lot of entertainment features, some of which I find appealing. I went to a play, by Harold Pinter and enjoyed the cultural feeling. So much of my travel time is spent trying to avoid cities and so it is nice periodically to appreciate the good things that cities offer.
Mostly I walked or rode my bike around town. The river Ouse running through town, and down to the sea, and which allowed the Vikings to get there, is well appointed with walking and bike trails. But possibly the intricate streets and old building are what sets York apart from many towns. I can’t shop much but I can appreciate the buildings and the pubs are plentiful.
As I was checking into the hostel in York I said hello to a young boy, about 6, with what looked like his grandfather. I got the most delightful response and long description of the wonderful things they were doing. Each morning we had a similar discussion and I ran into him in Yorvik, and it was like meeting an old friend. I guess now we were old friends. My other talking companion in the hostel was a tall erudite expert on cathedrals, and he filled me with other stops that I must make.
Oct 10-13 TheYorkshire Dales
I managed to get a country pub/hotel and two YHA bookings for the dales, largely with help from a YHA York staff member. This gave me four days to ride in the Dales (valleys), my route determined by the places to stay. I left York YHA on the bike trail along the Ouse. The trail lasted for about 10 km and then I was on quiet country roads. The riding in the morning, for the first time, was relatively flat and I was going back North so the wind, if there had been any would have been with me. But it was finally a quiet sunny day and I was almost sad when I got to my hotel. It was still just after noon and so I left my stuff and rode another 5 km into Thirsk, the place where James Herriot (Alf Wight) lived, worked as a vet and wrote his “all creatures great and small” books. These books talk about the Yorkshire Dales and no doubt form part of the literature that has made them famous.
My second day, I left in a deep mist and immediately began to climb. I found cycling here to be quite up and down while in the dales themselves and dramatically up and down when crossing between dales. The roads are all basic non-engineered roads and can be very steep. As I was riding around I noticed 15%, 17% and 25% gradient signs on the road. I had to push my bike in many places and usually had my brakes tightly on when coming down. It is far more pastoral than the Lake District, with grass and sheep going right over top of the hills. But the stone buildings and fences set up the fields and tree patches dramatically. Again, like in the Lakes, you could stop any place to take pictures.
But this is cycling nirvana, especially if lightly loaded. At the hostel in Grinton that I stayed in there was a group of about ten parents and an equal number of teens, roughly 12-16 years old. They were on a two day bike trip, completely un-supported., meaning they carried their own things. I was impressed. I was on the Tour de France route for possibly 75 km of my time there. There were hundreds of cyclists in the dales during the lovely Saturday and Sunday I was there. Probably as many cycles as cars, both exceeded only by motorcycles. My favourite dale was Swaledale, but my best ride was through Middale, the day I was leaving. On a cloudy gloomy looking day, the wind was behind me, I never had to push my bike up a hill and I rarely touched my brakes, as I touched speeds in the 50s (kph)
I loved my brief but satisfying four days in the dales. My gamble with the weather really paid off. I came out at Lancaster, finishing with an 8 mile bike trail that took me into the centre of town right to the train station. I bought another hour long train trip that took me to Crewe, I hoped past the big cities in the middle of England. I had no good idea of what I would do from here. The weather was punk again, and I holed up in an expensive hotel about 5 km from the train station. I would begin cycling into the Midlands in the morning. Yorkshire had been wonderful.
A side note: I visited my 50th Pub in the Dales.