Geoff Wilkinson writes:
Journey to the Centre of….. where exactly?
Preamble: when I recce’d this ride to Dunsop Bridge on 4th April I established three things: 1) The Puddleducks Tearoom (our destination) proclaimed itself to be located at the precise centre of the United Kingdom (more of which later); 2) the journey there and back from Skipton was a bit further than the “normal” 50ish miles for an SCC Saturday ride and 3) the proprietors were very relaxed about their ability to accommodate a sizeable cycling group. Nevertheless, I promised to call them on the morning of our ride to advise on our numbers and ETA. They agreed this was a good idea so, to be on the safe side, I called on the Friday before the ride and again on the morning of the ride. On both occasions I was diverted to voice mail where I left my messages. No responses to two calls generated the germ of a very small doubt which lodged itself in my mind. Still, it’s just a café – yeah – and it’s Easter Saturday – yeah – so they’re bound to be open. What could possibly go wrong?
So, what could possibly go wrong? The morning of the ride (Easter Saturday) dawned bright and clear with just the slightest of early morning chills to enliven the senses. Everything pointed to it being one of the warmest Easter weekends on record.
26 eager cyclists turned out for this, my first, SCC ride as leader. The six members of the “fast squad” departed with gusto leaving the remaining 20 to brave the A59 in two smaller teams so as to lessen the annoyance to the Easter traffic. The “usual” route to Bolton-by-Bowland was pleasant and incident free – save for one heart-warming moment when the gentleman passenger of a boy-racer’s car enlightened us by opining that, in his (no doubt humble) opinion we were all, in fact “a bunch of wankers”. Well, who would have thought it?
Relief presented itself in the form of the public conveniences at Bolton-by-Bowland, and during the relieving process 5 members of the group resolved to follow a shorter route by heading up to the “Delicious Deli” at Gisburn and thence back to Skipton.
The remaining 15 girded their (now relieved) loins, gritted their teeth and pressed on. The climb out of Bolton heads up Holden Lane which, evidence suggests, was last resurfaced in the summer of 1749, and follows Holden Clough which is long and relentlessly steep and leaves little breath available for small talk. Eventually someone summoned enough wind to shout “stop” and we regrouped at Lane Ends before pushing on via Easington and Newton (and four fabulous and well-earned descents) towards Dunsop Bridge – with the scent of coffee and burnt sausages (more of which later) now in our nostrils.
Arriving at The Puddleducks Tearoom we were greeted by a small scene of calm indulgence surrounded by a larger scene of chaos and carnage. The calm indulgence was being experienced by the six members of the “fast squad” who had settled themselves down “al fresco” and were tucking into their pies, beans, toast, teas and cakes. As ride leader it befell me to admonish them severely for failing to cool the Sauvignon Blanc in anticipation of our arrival. Personally, I blame Rick S – a man of wide experience who should know better.
Then things went downhill… the place was busy (it was Easter Saturday after all), but they did remember my visit and their agreement to accommodate us, didn’t they? Err… no. In fact they were the NEW proprietors, having just taken over the business TODAY! Ahh… but the old proprietors surely passed on my request didn’t they? Err… no. Ahh… but you did receive the two voice-messages I left for you didn’t you? Err… no we haven’t listened to the voicemails yet. Ahh… but you can serve us can’t you? Err… no, well not for at least half an hour as we’ve got 30 outstanding orders to fulfil.
In an effort to negotiate a route through this trauma-inducing impasse we were offered the option of a “bulk deal” on sausage butties which, it appeared, could be whistled up by magic as long as we all agreed to the same choice. So we did. We awaited the impending feast with a mixture of starvation and trepidation, during which time an erudite debate ensued concerning the claim that we were now sitting in “the centre of the United Kingdom”. Doubters asserted it must mean Great Britain rather than the UK. Others disagreed. Edward intervened “you’re both wrong” he asserted “the centre of the UK is over there” (he pointed). “I could even give you the coordinates – assuming you know what a coordinate is” – he mansplained to Caran. And, you know what, he’s right. It’s at Whitendale Hanging Stones near Brennan’s Farm (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brennand_Farm).
Who said troubles come in threes? After topping off our sausage butties with a round of cakes we, somewhat reluctantly, mounted our trusty steeds and plodded off into the east. Luckily, there was little headwind and we made rapid progress until my enduring bad luck intervened once again and I punctured in the run up to Wigglesworth. Still, with help and encouragement from Matt and Neil, I was soon back in the saddle.
I feel this ride report is now in danger of outlasting the ride itself, so I’ll draw rapidly to a close with the following summary: Dunsop Bridge is 30 miles away – back in Skipton we all had over 60 on the clock but everyone survived both the ride and the sausages, and we now know where the centre of the UK is but don’t trust the proprietors of The Puddleducks to listen to their voice-mails and Karen is right… a G&T does go down well after a long ride.
PS: please don’t ask me to lead another ride until I’ve fully recovered.