Being a freemason in Cumbria comes with the additional risk of putting on weight due to the excellent food that we get at the various lodges. Added to that, being away from home (I’m from Preston) and living in a hotel five days a week for over five years resulted in me putting on a few stone. So, when my job took me back home I had a medical check up and found that I was borderline diabetic and tipped the scales at almost 24 Stone. Over a year and a half later in February this year I was 3.5 Stone lighter and feeling much better for it.
At the beginning of February an old school friend contacted me and asked if I fancied doing a bike ride for charity. Clarke and his wife Michelle unfortunately lost a baby 13 years ago and since then have regularly raised funds for Preston Baby Beat Appeal. A bike ride sounded good – Until he told me that it was 170 miles from Morecambe to Bridlington. Without a second thought I agreed to do it. Not having ridden a bike for probably the best part of 15 years, I dug my bike out of the garage and joined the lads one Saturday morning for a 10 mile ride – I struggled with that, despite us stopping for a coffee en-route – What had I let myself in for. Over the following months, I was determined to get myself fitter and went out several times a week, building up the distance each time. In May, I set out on my first 50 mile ride, about 15 miles in I slipped on gravel when turning a corner and the bike went from under me, unfortunately, as well as banging my head, and grazing my right hand side, I had also dislocated my left collar bone. I ended up missing 4 weeks of training. But I was determined to continue with the ride.
The Way of the Roses route is a cross country trail comprising the Lune Valley, Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Vale of York and the Yorkshire Wolds. Part of the National Cycle Network, it consists of traffic-free paths, on-road cycle lanes, country lanes and quieter roads.
At 9.30 on Friday 28th June, myself, Clarke and 9 other overweight middle aged guys set off on our journey from Morecambe after having the obligatory photos on the beach dipping our rear wheels in the Irish Sea. Checking the route a couple of weeks beforehand, it revealed the first day and a half was very hilly, so we set off at a steady pace. Travelling up the lune valley, through Lancaster to our first rendezvous point with our support vehicle at Crook O’Lune. Everyone was in good spirits until we left the carpark and faced our first hill, we knew this was nothing compared to what was coming later in the day. The sun was starting to beat down on us and with a slight headwind it made the journey a little tougher. With the first hill out of the way, we entered the village of Hornby, with a short comfort break we set off once again. After a few miles, one of the lads had an issue with his rear gears, as he started one of the many little climbs, his derailleur became entangled in his wheel. Myself an a few of the lads stopped to help him and waved the others on, arranging to meet up at the next stop. We lost over half an hour sorting it out and managed to get it working good enough to get us to Settle where we knew there was a bike shop.
Next stop was Clapham, 25 miles In and a chance to regroup before we started to hit the real hills near Settle. We arrived in the picturesque village of Settle around 1.30, called in at the bike shop to get the bike repaired and had lunch while we were waiting. Settle marked the half way point of the day, but also the start of the most intense part of our journey with respect to the hill climbs. As soon as we turned the corner out the the small market square, we were faced with a sign that made us all turn white “20% Incline”, within a few hundred yards, despite weaving across the road, we were all beat, and resigned ourselves to walking good mile out of the village, As we reached the first plateau, I was crippled by cramps in both my knees and dropped to the floor in excruciating pain. Despite drinking lots of water mixed with electrolytes, the heat of the day was taking its toll on me. However, spurred on by my travelling companions and the spectacular views (including Pen Y Ghent and the geological unconformity at Horton in Ribblesdale) I completed the climb and then enjoyed the extremely fast decent into Airton, where an ice cream aided my recovery. It was about 5pm and we still had another 20 miles to complete and another big climb ahead of us.
Everyone in the group was feeling the pain now and those last 20 miles took almost 3 hours to complete, the undulating landscape was punishing enough but was made worse with the high temperatures and increasing humidity of the early evening. I finally reached the summit of Greenhow Hill (1,304’) and then had the fright of my life when I had brake fade during the decent into Pateley Bridge, but managed to come to a halt and allow the brakes to cool down before making the final journey to the hotel and a long awaited pint and a well-earned rest.
The day started with a boost to the charity, Mark Davison, sent me a text informing me that at his installation into the chair of his RAM lodge, they raised over £160 for the charity.
After a cracking cooked breakfast and copious amounts of coffee, We felt pretty fresh and ready for another day in the saddle. A quick check of all the bikes and a liberal amount of sun cream and we all set off again! It was a misty start to the day which helped keep us cool as we made the main ascent of the day up to Brimham Rocks, our first rest after just 5 miles, but a great photo opportunity. This was soon followed by another photo opportunity at Fountain Abbey. The weather was amazing and really helped get us in the mood for it. The rest of the day was relatively flat with a few “undulations”, we had a short break in Ripon and then stopped in Boroughbridge for lunch. After a good rest, we headed for York and followed a very scenic track along the River Ouse and then passing the spectacular Minster in the city centre. Leaving the city walls of York behind us, we called at a local supermarket to get some much needed cold drinks and Clarke treated the team to Ice Lollies (which were greatly appreciated). The final 20 miles of the day was pretty flat, but the heat took its toll once again on one of the lads, who was suffering heat exhaustion. Ensuring he was hydrated we got him to the hotel in Pocklington where he managed to get himself sorted. During the evening, we met a lovely gentleman that had returned to the area to visit friends, he noticed that we weren’t the usual type seen cycling and when he heard our story, he disappeared and returned with a £50 note that he insisted we add to our total. His generosity really did make us feel that all the effort over the past few days and the training over the previous months was worthwhile.
Following a good night sleep, we woke the next morning relieved to see clouds in the sky. Our legs felt like they were on fire but after another great breakfast we set off on our final leg of the journey. The spirit amongst the lads was high and we were stopping regularly to take photos and videos at one of the stops, on hearing my commentary about the charity, a lady appeared from her garden and gave us a donation. The scenery was amazing and everyone was enjoying the last few miles. 10 Miles before the end, we arranged to stop at the St Quentin Arms in Harpham. Our Support Driver Natalie had driven ahead and arranged for sandwiches as we were running behind schedule and thought their kitchen would be closed. On arrival we were pleasantly surprised by the welcome we received, and the fantastic sandwiches that they had prepared for us along with bowls of the best homecooked chips I have ever had. While we were enjoying our food, the landlord made a donation to our charity and then when we went to settle the bill, he refused to accept it and his wife (who had made the sandwiches) came out in tears and commented on what a wonderful thing we were doing – We were totally blown away with their generosity.
The last 10 miles were a breeze after that and after a quick stop to put our T’shirts on we made the final trip along the promenade to be greeted by our families that had join us in celebrating our epic journey. The journey was completed by dipping our front wheels in the North Sea.
To date, we have raised over £6,000 for the Baby Beat Appeal and will contribute significantly towards establishing the bereavement centre at the Royal Preston Hospital maternity Unit. I would like to thank all my Brothers and Companions in Both West Lancashire and Cumberland and Westmorland for the generous donations I have received.
It isn’t too late to donate, please visit my JustGiving Page (Click Here) or contact me directly to arrange to make a donation.
W.Bro Ian Grant
IPM Ennerdale Lodge No. 4216 & Brigantes Lodge No. 9734