The Long Way Home.
I knew that The Pennine Bridleway was fairly well signposted, particularly in The Yorkshire Dales, and I did have a map of sorts for the southern part of the route. (Not that I find maps much use these days – I’m red/green colour blind and can’t really see fine details anymore even with reading glasses).
En-route I happened across a fellow touring cyclist, who appeared to be very heavily laden compared to my minimalist set-up, and we chatted for a few moments before I continued on at more energetic pace. A break for coffee at the Hornby Tea Rooms-cum-Post Office proved to be a delightful distraction (highly recommended if you’re passing through) and I lingered there awhile whilst admiring a large clock on the wall emblazoned with the phrase “Anytime is cupcake time”. I found myself quietly nodding in agreement to that piece of sage wisdom.
Throughout the day I had been mildly irritated by a slight clanking noise in the general drivetrain region and had stopped a couple of times to investigate but couldn’t spot anything. Eventually I discovered that my rear cassette had worked loose and would need tightening before very long at all. I Googled “Bike shops in Settle” and to my delight came up with the 3 Peaks Cycles Bike Shop & Cafe – if that’s not a perfect combination then I don’t know one that is. I made it in the nick of time, they were just packing away, and the mechanic whipped my bike into the workshop and had me back on the road in no time at all. I called ahead to a nearby campsite, the opulently titled Knight Stainforth Hall, and scored myself a good deal for the night – they gave me the backpackers rate of £8.50. It was a lovely place, with an excellent shower block and equally excellent restaurant, nestled perfectly in a valley on a thundering stretch of the River Ribble (I made a mental note for a possible future packrafting adventure).
I whizzed down into the valley and crawled back up the other side, just in time for another brief shower. My Gravitas rain jacket came to the rescue, for the first of many such occasions, and I soldiered on regardless. It took about 40 minutes to reach Settle (which would have been 10 minutes on the road had I known) where I called once again at the bike shop.
I ordered breakfast and waited patiently for it to arrive. I then waited a bit more, and then a bit more. Forty-five minutes later a flustered member of staff sheepishly asked me if I was still waiting for a drink? At which point I politely pointed out that I was also waiting for my breakfast too. My coffee arrived promptly, followed ten minutes later by my breakfast – It was worth waiting for, the black pudding was delicious.
The chainring itself was a modular system from Superstar Components, thankfully the crankset and BB were both made by Hope.
I scooted, one-footed, along the canal for about two miles and then rolled through town to the factory. A lady replied over the intercom and I babbled frantically about what I was doing and about my current situation, barely pausing for breath.
I think she was either dazed and confused or just felt sorry for me, either way she buzzed open the door and let me in (in the nick of time too because the mother of all thunderstorms unleashed itself at that very second) Phew.
My final day was set to be a big one, much bigger than I originally planned that was for sure, and as I blissfully rolled through Hebden Bridge, following the Rochdale Canal for about ten miles to Summit, I pondered the day ahead. The early forecast was fine, and it looked like it might remain reasonable heading south so long as I kept up a decent clip. With the value of hindsight the forecast was a tad optimistic.
A short coffee stop at Hollingworth Lake set me up to tackle the high moors and I made good progress for a while. Descending towards Dowry Reservoir the clouds burst and subjected me to a session of torrential rain, completely exposed to the elements and with no sign of shelter. It was thankfully short lived, and I climbed and descended again, into Diggle, whereupon I spied an ominous looking storm brewing in the distance. I chanced upon a timely positioned pub – The Church Inn -in Uppermill and decided to assess the situation over lunch, and very nice it was too; a splendid Tuna Ciabatta and side salad washed down with a half-pint of fine ale. The storm broke just as I got settled and didn’t abate for quite some time. The sky above the moors continued to look ominous and I decided that Route 68 might be the sensible option; heading over the High Peak in those conditions would have been foolhardy.