Laura and Tim Moss are round the world cyclists and organisers of the excellent Cycle Touring Festival. The Festival has been running for two years now and has been a great opportunity to meet up with fellow cycle tourists, exchange ideas and listen to the program of excellent talks on all things cycle touring. With so much going on at Waddow Hall (the festival base) I haven’t had a chance to get out and ride Lancashire’s stunning Ribble Valley. This was what the Cycle Touring Weekend was all about, the cycling! However, it was also a great opportunity to meet up with friends old and new, exchange ideas whilst taking in the beautiful Forest of Bowland.
Lancaster – Forest of Bowland – Clitheroe
After meeting with the group at Lancaster railway station and discussing possible routes to Waddow Halls camp ground, we all set off. Laura had sent some route ideas but everyone could go their own way and ride at their own pace. Some of the group were taking the most direct, most hilly route, others were opting for a more flatter but longer ride along the West edge of the Forest of Bowland. I followed Laura, Tim and crew along a route that headed East along the Northern perimeter of the Forest and then headed South to Slaidburn, then on to Sawley, before heading South-West along the Southern edge of the Forest.
The scenery along the ride was stunning. I kept stopping to take photos every so often. I could have stopped at every bend, brow and troth, there were photos waiting everywhere. Riders would pass me whilst I was taking photographs, I’d get back in the saddle, catch up and have a chat with them. Another photo stop, another group of riders, another chat. Then a longer burst in the saddle passing several groups of riders, chatting to each of them along the way. Tea rooms selling freshly baked cakes were a welcome break from the steep hill climbs and another chance to chat with other cyclists.
Waddow Hall Camping
Once we reached the campground I was immediately brought a cuppa and a slice of cake that Laura’s mum had baked, perfect! For the festivals we had the choice of three fields to camp in but for this weekend we all managed to fit in to one, it was nice for everyone to be together.
There was a chance for everyone to get sorted, showered and consume the constant flow of tea, cake and biscuits that lead nicely up to dinner and the bar opening. With full stomachs and aching legs from todays hills everyone was happy to sit around and chat about adventures past, present and future.
Sunday morning started slowly for most with a constant demand of the tea urn. By the time the bacon baps were served, most campers had appeared from their tents. The main topic of chat was route planning. Some were close enough to ride directly back home, others were continuing on their own tour but most were heading back to Lancaster for the train or to collect cars. The emphasis seemed to be on routes that were less hilly or more direct and quicker. The most direct routes had the largest accent and the mere mention of ‘The Trough of Bowland’ had riders shaking their heads and tracing their finger on another part of their map.
Clitheroe – Forest of Bowland – Lancaster
I joined Rob and Geoff to get back to Lancaster. We agreed to bite the bullet and take the direct route back via ‘The Trough’. We waved goodbye to the remaining campers and were on our way. The route was just shy of 30 miles with 2400ft of climbing. Yesterdays ride was 45 miles and 3900ft of ascent. It was just as scenic but much more direct, cutting our way straight across the forest. The cafe stop was just as good too, we stopped at Puddleducks Tea Room at Dunsop Bridge. As with both of yesterdays cuppa stops, this cafe was also very cyclist-friendly and served great food, I’d especially recommend the Bakewell tart!
Now fuelled up and rested, the signs pointing us to ‘The Trough’ didn’t seem so daunting. Apparently team GB’s cyclists train around the Forest of Bowland, it’s easy to see why. Hills are inescapable, every climb we conquered we then questioned “was that it”? But, when we did eventually start climbing ‘The Trough’ there was no mistaking it. It was a ball-buster! It just kept going, when you thought it was flattening out it carried on up. When you turned the corner it was just more up! That said, we stayed in the saddle until the top where we rested and spoke about how nice it would be to have just one more lower gear.
Both rides were really enjoyable and again the weather uncharacteristically played ball. Meeting up with those that share a passion for cycle travel is always inspirational and I drove home full of ideas. I’m sure I speak for everyone by saying massive thanks to Laura, Tim and crew, we really do appreciate your organising. Looking forward to whatever you have planned next!