C2c Day 1 : Workington to Little Salkeld (via Whitehaven & Keswick)

Day 1 is done. And it was a reasonably challenging day.

Of course, as some people may know, the official C2C cycle route starts in Whitehaven, not Workington. So job 1 for the day is to find a route out of Workington (no easy task), and ride the 8 miles south. The mantra “be bold, start cold” is fitting, and a couple of unexpected lumps in the road warmed our legs in the early miles. Nigel asks if “we’re nearly there yet”.

Cycling provides thinking time. I muse on whether the arrival of wind turbines (and there are loads on and off the coast here) are comparable to the arrival of the railways in Victorian times. I decide they’re not.

On our train journey, I got an interesting insight into another life. The woman opposite, ageing faster than her probably thirty- odd years, is writing in a shorthand notebook with a bright pink pen. She’s writing a response to the nasty letter she’s had from her boyfriend accusing her of cheating on him. But the fact that she has offered to move to Glasgow, to marry him when his divorce comes through, and has virtually given up clubbing and alcohol makes this unlikely. She writes to him every day. Whilst touching, this seems unusual nowadays. It could just be she likes writing letters. Or he’s in prison.

Reaching Whitehaven at around 0930, we encounter a lot of fluorescent, Lycra clad people all heading off in the same direction as us. And there’s a queue for the inevitable photo by the sign.

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Once we’ve got ours, we set off along the old railway line up to Ennerdale. As I learned last year, but have conveniently forgotten, railway lines are not flat – and this one has a hefty incline all the way up. But the surface is good and we make reasonable progress.

Once we reach the end of the line, it’s back into the rolling lanes of the Lake District in the shadow of Loweswater Fell and Grisedale Pike. And it’s not got any warmer, despite pedalling uphill and the sun shows no signs of making an appearance.

We head towards Whinlater Pass – our main lengthy climb of the day. There are two sorts of climbs – the ones where you can see the whole task ahead of you; and the ones where you can’t. This is the latter, and the forest keeps a few extra inclines as a surprise.

Lunch is outside at the Whinlater Forest Visitors Centre (recommended), and it’s still chilly. Then it’s a downhill into Keswick during which I briefly touch 30mph. Nigel reminds me that TDF riders do that speed on the flat. He’d make a top motivational speaker.

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The journey out if Keswick starts on the less well appointed old railway line to Penrith. This will slow Dan down considerably if he comes this way on Sunday. But it is quite a pretty route and we dodge dogs, dog-walkers, buggies and continually swap places with other riders.

The railway line path comes to an end and we follow route 71 towards Penrith. I remember my other learning from last year – National Cycle Routes often take the least direct, and sometimes downright weird routes. This one is no different and it takes the rest if the afternoon to do the short distance to Penrith. The undulating hills take their toll on our legs and even the jelly babies don’t seem to help.

One of the roads is gated, and I wave through a red van. If I’d realised who it was I’d have closed it. For it is my nemesis from LEJOG – the dreaded Peak Tours van that followed us all the way from Cornwall to Scotland taunting us with there cups of tea and luggage carrying. Will they feature on all the rides I do?

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There is consternation amongst the team when the signs say “Penrith 7 miles”. There is further concern for Nigel when it turns out he hasn’t read Simon’s carefully prepared itinerary and hadn’t realised Penrith isn’t home for the night. Little Salkeld is a further 7 miles.

The mantra from the start of the day has been adjusted to “start cold, stay cold”. But at least there is the prospect of a decent pub tea to sort us out.

Out of Penrith is a climb towards Langwathby. It’s a fair pull for tired legs, and we’ve been joined by about twenty other people all heading the same way. There’s a fast descent into the village, where I make the discovery that the totally empty pub can’t fit us in for dinner. Not even straightway because 50 minutes is not enough time for us to eat and leave before the pub is regimentally filled by hoards of desperate hungry people at precisely 1800. Happily the friendly B&B offers to make dinner for us.

So that’s Day 1. A chilly 70 miles or so up a fair few hills. Turns out to moor is going to be shorter. And wetter.

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Countdown to the final mileMay 5th, 2014
All done.
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