Day 10: Bispham Green to Ambleside

Distance: 71.78 miles
Time: 5 hours 25 minutes
Average speed: 13.2 m.p.h.
Distance from Lands End: 517.53 miles
Distance to John o’Groats: 502.47 miles
Number of times we were captured by police speed-guns today: 2
Number of convictions for speeding: 0

Halfway! We now have fewer miles to do than we’ve already done, which feels like a good milestone to pass.

We had a fantastically relaxing rest day at Phil and Claire’s, chatting, reading the paper, and enjoying the feeling of legs not in motion (thanks, folks!). So it wasn’t surprising that with fresh legs and a lovely flat route out of Bispham Green we covered a huge 15 miles in the first hour, with Phil alongside, under overcast skies.

We managed to negotiate our way around Preston (more or less), passing our first police speed-gun, and three amused policemen, on the way. Phil stayed with us to Woodplumpton, where we stopped by the church to say goodbye. It was a good tip to pop into the churchyard, which is famous as the burial place of ‘Old Meg’, supposedly a local witch – a strange inhabitant to find in a graveyard, although she was apparently buried vertically, with her head downwards. A round stone marks the spot.

Alone now, we managed to maintain the pace we’d kept with Phil, and headed towards Lancaster, shadowing the M6 and the A6, and crossing over the Lancaster Canal numerous times. The riding was fast on the flat terrain, and we maintained an average speed of well over 14 m.p.h., past Lancaster, and right past the hospice where Jonathan’s Dad was so well looked after, and which helped to provide the inspiration for this trip.

We had the briefest glimpse of the sea then, the first time we’d seen it since Cornwall, which seems like such a long time ago now. The miles were just flashing past, and at 1pm we were so nearly at 50 miles we decided to push on to clock up a new ‘morning mileage’ record.

We stopped eventually with the magic 50 miles on the clock, at the Wheatsheaf in Beetham. The lunch was very good, with Wainwright beer for the Captain, and a confirmation that we were now in Cumbria. The sun had come out now, and after lunch we managed to dodge the Daily Mail, who were interviewing people about the proposed closure of the village Post Office, and glided down to Milnthorpe, where a herd of deer were milling about by the river.

A short section on the dual carriageway took us officially into the Lake District National Park, and onto some lovely lanes, although here in the South Lakes the landscape is really more like the Dales. The drystone walls are of rounder grey granite stones, rather than the flat slate stones which are such a feature in some Lake District towns and villages. We heard curlews today too – a real sound of home, which made us feel we were getting properly ‘up north’ now.

We started to see fells appearing on the horizon as we got closer to Bowness, but we knew we didn’t have to tackle any of them today, so we could enjoy the scenery! Our only significant climb of the day wound up through leafy lanes, and as we crested the ridge, we started to look out for the lake at Windermere. Passing Bowell Cottage (Clare: “Errgh, don’t think we should stay there”, Jonathan: “No, not Bowell, Bowfell….”), we caught just a glimpse of the water shimmering in the sun, but it wasn’t until we hit the road next to the lake that we could really see the lake properly.

Windermere was absolutely heaving, but we had already decided to push on to Ambleside today. The bike is having some attention there tomorrow morning at Ghyllside Cycles, so it made sense to do the short run from Windermere today. As we left Windermere we went through our second police speed-trap. Pointing her gun as we passed, the policewoman cheerfully called ’17!’ after us as we coasted down towards Ambleside.

Ambleside was much quieter, and we popped briefly into the bike shop to see if it was any more convenient for them to look at the bike tonight. We’ve been experiencing some strange occasional free-wheeling behaviour, which sounds like it could be important to sort out sooner rather than later, so we’ll see how that goes tomorrow.

We soon found a room in a guest-house close to the centre of Ambleside, a lovely light room with plenty of space. Sadly, though, we are now once again in the same room as our shoes – they were quite rightly banished to the shed with the tandem at Phil and Claire’s!