Ah it’s time for a short cycle ride, this time the brainchild of The Whitley Bay Champion, Dave Stead. Richard Higginbottom joined him on the train up to Leeds on a cold but bright April morning and we got to the capital of Yorkshire just before 12 to meet up with cycling novice Steve “The Shunter” Hunt.
Amazingly Richard remembered the way to the canal and we were soon underway, getting to the Marina at the West side of the city in pretty quick time. Lots of delightful young women taking exercise got The Shunter into a head of steam. At Rodley it was decided to take lunch and The Railway Tavern served excellent food. The Shunter was borrowing a bike without mudguards and was duly caked in brown stuff (as well as mud) and needed to “sort himself out” in the Gents. The barmaids sadly declined his request to them for help.
Back on the bikes and off towards Saltaire … ah what a magnificent sight as the works, recreation grounds and housing make for a pleasant ride. We stopped to take in 5 minutes of Salts FC vs Overthorne. Dave chatted up an interested spectator who turned out to be the mother of Overthorne’s skipper. A little on the mature side for our North Eastern wanderer.
As we approached Bingley we were looking forward to a well-earned coffee. Where’s the Shunter gone? It’s the one serious climb of the entire weekend as we scale the towpath alongside the 5 lock ladder (puff! wheeze!) to ensure the calories in the cappucino are pre-burned.
Steve’s coffee is almost stone cold by the time he appears having pushed his bike up the incline. Dave and Richard feign concern and allow Steve time to recover before re-mounting and heading further West as the towpath turned to shingle … then grass … then mud and negotiating it became more taxing. The scenery however becomes ever more pastoral and bucolic – more than making up for it in the opinion of the captain and vice captain of the illustrious Salmagundi Gardeners.
Steve was not in agreement. He could hear his thighs screaming for mercy at every turn of the crank and maintaining momentum was becoming a serious issue. Furtive looks during constant breaks to see where the nearest railway station was led us to the conclusion we’d need to put Steve onto the Gargrave train at Skipton and meet him at the Mason’s arms. Could we make the 5.25? No worries thought Steady and Higgs as we had roughly 90 minutes to cover what would normally take 50 minutes. Steve got slower. And slower again. “2 speeds here, dead slow and stop” muttered the grumpy East Anglian as lunch became a distant memory and replacement carbohydrates were needed. We missed the 5.25 as we got to Skipton station at 6pm to enable The Shunter to cry “I’ve never been so pleased to see a railway station”. Bit unseemly as he tried to mount the ticket office clerk and we had to hold him back. Dave and Richard found that no tea shops were open so refuelled swiftly in Morrissons before hitting the towpath again. Hardest going of the day proved that Steve had made a wise move .. but it was soooo beautiful we considered it worth it.
At the Mason’s Arms and Steve’s just starting to recover in the company of Ian Smith. Ian had planned to join us on the towpath but was attacked by a male swan protecting his mate who was nesting in the middle of the towpath. The swan took to the air to ward off Ian, a grand tale of beating wings culminating with a sharp peck in the back as he fled the scene was most entertaining. Food and ale aplenty were consumed and the evening whizzed past. Dave asked Steve how he was planning to address his fitness issues. Steve didn’t dignify this impertinence with an answer and changed the subject to golf. A fight was about to break out across the other side of the pub. We were gearing ourselves up to assist the landlady (yeah four drunk accountants in their forties, we must be pretty scary) but it turned out she was more than a match for the miscreants who were summarily turfed out.
Sunday – a crisp and clear start – another beautiful day. Sun always shines in Yorkshire. Here’s Crazy Paul Oberg with Becca and Emmeline, wearing a big grin and sitting proudly astride his new hybrid bike ready to lead the charge back down to Leeds. We agreed to cycle with The Barnsley Anchor to Skipton to get him to the train – and took the road to enable this. But the speed differential between Paul and Steve was amazing and in the space of two miles Paul was almost a mile ahead of Steve with Richard and Dave within 200m of Paul. We texted Steve to say goodbye and set off in pursuit of the man from Hull, catching him as we joined the towpath at Skipton (Paul took on some competitors in a local bike ride and was giving them a proper pasting, which they took pretty well – nice folk around here).
Now Sunday became the complete opposite of Saturday. Paul, released from the self-imposed shackles of family life for a day rode like a demon, David and Richard having to work hard to keep him in sight, let alone keep up. It took until Bingley Locks to start to get on terms, the coffee stop being essential. Can we feed something to Paul that will slow him down? No chance … the countryside passed by in a blur; pedestrians, dogs, local wildlife being put in peril as the Hull Hurricane burnt rubber on the towpath followed closely by the Whitley Bay Whirlwind and the East Anglian Express. We got to Leeds in very quick time and rewarded ourselves with some excellent beer and food at one of Paul’s favourite real ale houses near the end of the canal. Re-acquaint with Becca and Baby Emmeline. Later Richard worked out that Saturday’s trip (without stops) took just under 5 hours. Sunday took under 3 hours. A sort of long-winded weekend of interval training for Richard and Dave. Until the next time!