Sunday, 30 August 2009

Cycling Kentmere

I've just returned from a few days in the Lake District National Park. It has an abundance of hiking and cycling opportunities, both off and on road, none of them particularly flat, it being in a region of mountains and lakes. A popular destination is Kentmere, known to many cyclists but perhaps not familiar to non-UK readers.

Kentmere is primarily home to a community of sheep and dairy farmers but also a site of ancient and modern industry. For most visitors to the valley, it is a huge playground for walking and cycling. It is steep sided but relatively flat for the majority of its length. The valley winds its way northwards for 4 miles along the single track road from Staveley to the church near where the road ends. The rise from the village of Staveley is a mere 200 feet although the lane's ups and downs add up to more.

This is as far as motorists go but mountain bikers and walkers can follow along the River Kent for almost the same distance again, past Kentmere reservoir, to the head of the valley at Nam Bield Pass some 1700 feet higher.

The Lake District National Park is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Kentmere sits on its easterly fringe and, like many places in the Park, in addition to the natural beauty, was and still is a place of work. Rural life may appear to be dominated by working farms but industry also plays its part even today.

The River Kent provided power and water for a variety of mills and the valley was also the site of a number of mines and quarries including a silica mine that created Kentmere Tarn that we see today. The mining has long gone and now heron and other bird life frequent the water.

For a many, a day in Kentmere begins and ends at Mill Yard in Staveley. This centre of small artisan businesses, is home to the two principle magnets for riders, the cycle store, Wheelbase, and the eatery, Wilf's, famous for outdoor catering at orienteering and fell running events. Other businesses attract visitors to the bakery, brewery or specialist craftsmen such as jewellers and woodworkers. Cyclists particularly like it because of its proximity to great mountain biking, bike wash, supplies at Wheelbase and re-fuelling at Wilf's and Hawkshead brewery.

Kentmere presents a myriad of outdoor opportunities with the many paths and bridleways that link up across the valley. What you might know as trails are what we call public footpaths in the UK. These footpaths are rights-of-way, many going back to ancient times. They criss-cross between settlements, over hills and passes across the whole of the country, not just in National Parks. They are governed by rules ensuring public access and have to be maintained with functional gates and no obstructions such as fallen trees. Whilst not unique to the UK (other European countries such as Switzerland and Austria have their wanderwegs), these paths form a major characteristic of our countryside and allow public access to lowland and highland areas irrespective of ownership.

Local government authorities are responsible for ensuring access by liaising with landowners who's land the paths cross. Public footpaths often cross farmland, which can require navigating around cows and sheep. Going for a walk might involve linking a number of these paths (as would hiking, rambling or fell walking, the difference being the distance and height gained). This availability of these rights-of-way enables people access to the countryside to appreciate the outdoors and understand the make-up of our rural areas. The importance of this was realised in the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 that decimated the rural economy and resulted in no-one being allowed to use paths and bridleways.

There are other rights-of-way, the most important of which, for the cyclist, is the bridleway. These take the form of paths and tracks. They extend access to horse riders and cyclists as well as walkers. These routes are often nothing more than an overgrown single track path but can also be double track unpaved roads. Motorised traffic is not allowed and, like footpaths, are often ancient trade routes between villages or markets.

A great asset we have for helping access paths and bridleways is the excellent mapping available from the Ordnance Survey.

View this map on
Get directions on

They provide detailed mapping at various scales for the whole country. The 1:25,000 scale is ideal for walking and off-road mountain biking as paths are shown with a green dotted line and bridleways are shown with a green dashed line. Field boundaries are thin black lines and help navigation through farmland.

Other unpaved rights-of-way exist. These include Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) and Roads used as a Path. As these also pass through remote areas of outstanding beauty, their use can be controversial, as they are available to motorised traffic. The presence of noisy 4x4 vehicles or trails bikes, often grates with other non-motorised users. In an attempt to harmonise the sharing of these resources, various groups such as Land Access and Recreation Association (LARA) produced a code of practice to minimise the impact of their activities. Despite this, the right to some tracks have been demoted to 'Restricted Byways' and motorised use outlawed in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006.

Kentmere has a fair representation of all these rights-of-way. The valley floor has the metalled road and some paths and bridleways spreading out to the higher ground. The flat part of the valley is great for a blast on road, which combined with the Crook Road, near where we stay, makes for a nice round trip of about 14 miles, useful for a quick hour's exercise. For longer outings, the many paths, bridleways and byways can be linked to make testing days out for more of a challenge. These access neighbouring valleys allowing more options, west via the Garburn Pass to High Street (2500 feet), north to Haweswater or east to Gatesgarth Pass and Longsleddale.
The combinations are many and provide enough choices for many a return trip.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Bowling anyone?

Glenfield Park, a business space rental company, appears to have a lot of vacant units at the moment. A planning application has been made to convert the ground floor of its building into a bowling centre. I presume that's bowls as opposed to 10-pin bowling.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

What next for the Cemetery?

This former Lion Brewery hostelry had three attempts at being an Indian restaurant and proved it wasn't viable. It's up for sale yet again. I predict it going the same way as the Severn Trees pub and will become a private dwelling or perhaps offices. It's demonstration of a trend that people are increasingly staying at home rather than going out and sitting in front of their large flat screen TVs eating takeaways washed down with cheap supermarket booze.

Perhaps it would make a good cyclery: 'Cycle of Life' anyone?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Spontaneous Critical Mass

What a great advert for cycling and one that organisers of local cycling awareness events must be jealous of, when a star of cycling invites one and all for a spontaneous group ride and 300 riders turn up. Lance Armstrong had a lot of new friends today after he organised a short ride around Paisley, near Glasgow. He set the time and place and said everyone welcome. Paisley's cycling advocacy received a serious spike as the group brought traffic to a standstill.

It was also a great demonstration of the power and influence of social networks as Lance Armstrong's Twitter invite connected direct with his fans.

BBC News:

Scottish TV:

Push Cycles (at slow speed)

Eh, those wert' days mi laddo. Nice to see signs like this one, down by the River Kent between Burneside and Kendal, still exist. You can almost imagine the squeal of the rod brakes on the chrome rims as the bicyclists slow down and their bells go tring-a-ling-a-ling.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Potholes Again

Recently, I expressed delight at some of the road I commute on getting resurfaced, but also some dismay at the bits in between that will be missed by the repairs but still represent significant hazards to cyclists. It seems, from what I've noticed on my route today, some of those will get repaired in the next few days. Potholes to be filled have been marked.

I've actually come up with a cunning plan because the men that fill the holes aren't the ones that designate which ones are to be filled. Before any actual repair work commences, the 'surveyor' or person responsible goes along the road and highlights the holes to be filled with spray paint. In this case, white spray paint. All it takes for the plan to work is for someone who feels the 'responsible' has missed some hazards, to highlight
with similar coloured spray paint any holes that need filling.

The one in the picture got its paint yesterday. I notified the council about this hazard via Fill That Hole back in February. Elsewhere on this blog I've praised Blackburn with Darwen Council for their responsiveness in making repairs but taking six months for this one is poor. Admittedly, it's not the worst one on the route but from today's evidence, the decision as to what gets repaired appears somewhat flakey.

Another hazard, notified in April by someone else, hasn't been repaired or marked for repair but holes either way along the road that present less danger have been marked.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Little Harwood

I thought we'd have a scenic piccy from my route since the weather has been looking up this week.

This is the war memorial clock tower in the civic gardens at Little Harwood. It was erected in 1923 at the suggestion of the local postmistress who proposed a lasting memorial to the local men who fell in the Great War.
In the background on the left is the old Star cinema, which sits in the shadow of the Clitheroe railway line and is now an Islamic centre. On the right is the NHS health centre.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Event: Tour of Pendle

This year's Tour of Pendle cycle race kicks off at 9:30am this Sunday (9th Aug) in Nelson. The race is three laps of a course taking in Brierfield, Barrowford, Whalley and Read and finishes around lunchtime.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

T'was not to be

Brave effort, but the LEJOG tandem record remains unbroken as James Cracknell and Rebecca Romero called it a day north of Lockerbie this morning due to injury. My knees have been giving me jip on long rides, but I can't imagine what kind of pain Rebecca Romero was in after cycling over 24 hrs.

I hope they have another go - but carry a GPS tracker next time. Their efforts are great publicity for cycling and engaging followers with an interactive web application is great for drawing more audience. Thanks for the tweets guys.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Sleepless in the Saddle

Not the more famous endurance race, but the condition needed for James Cracknell and Rebecca Romero when they pass through Lancashire in the wee small hours tonight. Their ambition is to break the world tandem record for Land's End to John O'Groats in 51 hours 19 minutes 23 seconds. Rest will encompass something like 3 minutes every three hours with a longer break at each 9 hour interval. They started 7am this morning from Cornwall and hope to be in Bristol by late afternoon.

Follow their updates on the Cycling Plus twitter feed or go out and cheer them on their way: their schedule is registered with the Road Records Association.