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Cycling touring articles by Pat Lloyd and other folk
ON THE EDGE OF LAKELAND by Pat LloydFrom the hills beyond our village on a clear day we can see across Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland mountains. Furthest to the west rather apart from the other fells stands the rolling mass of Black Combe.A group of us were staying at a climbing hut above the Duddon valley and as most of the others had elected to go walking on Crinkle Crags it was just Fred, Harry and myself who set off along the hilly road over Corney Fell intent on the bridle path up Black Combe. Where the road started to descend an unsurfaced track went off to the left dropping steeply down to join the main A595 at Bootle. A frost the night before had hardened the surface and we were able to ride most of what used to be a lovely green track. It is now a designated 4 wheel drive route with unfortunate results necessitating care on the corners where the surface had been loosened. Part way down the track drops into a secluded valley with a stream, a possible ideal wild camping spot.Once in Bootle it was decision time, the Cumbria Coastal path would take us to where our bridle path left the main road but two of our group had ridden it earlier in the week and had been up to the axels in mud so we opted for a couple of miles of the A595 to where the bridle path sign pointed to the left nearby the church at Whitbeck.A good ridable cart track doubled back along the foot of the hill to where a small disused quarry provided seats for our elevens, Bootle having been tea roomless in spite of the cup sign on the map.A track seemed to divert round some farm buildings so we tried that first but it just went to where a small pond appeared to have been the header water for Whitbeck mill which was down the other track.The mill had been converted into a house but the water wheel was still in place on the gable end and various bits of machinery were scattered about.An easy ride brought us to Fell cottage,which although locked and boarded had an up turned rowing boat in the overgrown garden indicating that perhaps it was someones holiday home. Holegill Beck had us off and negotiating the handy rocks to arrive dry footed in spite of the amount of water coming down. Next was Hallfoss Beck and now the climbing started at Butchers Breast, where did that name originate, the mind boggles.So far we had had a dry stone wall on our left but now our track veered to the right and after making a wide U turn we started the push up the shoulder of the hill.A slight diversion was made to a ruined sheep fold which made an excellent lunch spot with the sun blazing down and marvellous views.The sea below was a brilliant blue with the Isle of Man on the horizon looking like a mirage where the blue of the sky met the water.What wind there was was on our backs and helping to cool us down as we pushed the bikes forever upwards. Where it leveled we were able to ride for short stretches but mostly we walked as the going was softer with peaty sections.Fred's Valentine gift of a wooden lolly stick purloined from a motorway cafe, while not appreciated at the time of offering now came in handy to decoke the front mudguard which was getting clogged up with dry grass The track actually bypasses the summit but a short diversionbrought us to the trig point at 600 metres which was surrounded by a low wall. So far we had not seen a soul since leaving the main road but a man was eating his lunch here and on the path below four women were making their way up and also a lad on a mountain bike who was riding so perhaps the descent would not be as steep as we thought.Not so.He must have been a professional as we had not gone far when he came hurtling past at the speed of light on his way back down.It became obvious that this route was the usual way to climb Black Combe because it was quite eroded and we were not able to ride much.As we reached Moorgill Beck the track descended very steeply with footprints worn into the grass, rather dodgy with the bike. I reckon the lad on the mountain bike must have been airborn here but there was no sign of him flattened on the valley floor so he must have made it safely.We eventually reached a gate where a cart track took us to the left to join the A595 which now left the coast to head in land to Broughton in Furness. We did not stay on it long but turned onto a lane signposted to Po House, this meandered above the Whichan valley finally joining the A5093 at The Green, also tea roomless so it was an eat up on a bench beside the road before the last climb up Corney to arrive back at the hut just after the walkers,perfect timing as Dave who was the climbing club member would now light the wood burning stove for us. An excellent day with unbelievable weather and scenary. For anyone thinking of trying this route we probably did it the wrong as our way up would be all ridable going the opposite direction. Not recommended unless it is a clear day as there are no distinguishing land marks and steep screes on the eastern slopes. The map we used was The English Lakes 6 South Western area.