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Karen in NY
08-27-2001, 06:46 AM
The UK

This past May, I spent a week in Northern England, cycling all around the Lake District. It really is a gorgeous area. The terrain varies, from mountains to lovely shady roads around the lakes. We had great weather, no rain at all!! That was May 8 to 15.

My boyfriend made all of the arrangements, it was a self made tour! He got ordinance survey maps from the library and planned all the cycling routes. Those mapss show the elevations and gradients of all hills and mountains. He lives in the UK and I met him on one of the Irish Cycling Safari bike tours (which you can read about if you click on 'test message' and then you will see my Ireland message.)

The easiest way to get to the Lake District would be to fly to Manchester and then rent a car. It's not too far from Manchester (also Liverpool is close by if you want to do some touristy sightseeing). We drove from London with our bikes (approx 5 hours.) So it's pretty far north, it's close to Scotland. You can rent bikes up there too by the way.

There are plenty of quaint inns and B&Bs around, but we stayed in a rented caravan - which was very large, like a big trailor home. It has heat and plumbing and electricity, etc. It was like a small apartment. It cost about $160 pounds for the week which was a good deal compared to an inn. Also you can get groceries and eat in and make picnic lunches so you save a little on food. The site we stayed in is called Greenhowe and the owner is William - very nice. The site is carved into a hillside just across the road from the Great Langdale Pikes, beautiful , lots of sheep around - gorgeous sunsets! But the hill we were on was so steep I could barely push my bike up at the end of each day! I am talking about more than a 30% gradient here! Alex had to do it for me. William thought that was hilarious. But when I told him where we had gone each day he stopped laughing! Also, our carvan was resting on these skinny steel legs that were perched on piles of slate stones. We were imagining the whole caravan sliding down the hill.

Camping is very popular there, lots of people have their own campers or use tents. If you rent a camper or caravan you are usually expected to bring your own sheets for the beds - one thing to remember.

Alex loves cycling up mountains and some how the routes he planned seemed to go uphill for like 6 hours and downhill for only 5 minutes. How does he do that?? I had to beg him to let me stop and have an ice cream cone.

One funny thing, there is a training base nearby for the Royal Air Force. But I did not know that. Then one day when we had been going up hill for like 4 hours- Alex was far ahead of me, which was good because I was muttering curses at him under my breath - I was pushing the bike at this point - and I had run out of water and was tired - well from behind me I heard such a loud whistle, it sounded like a bomb dropping! My first thought was, something is coming up the road behind me very fast! And all I could do was cringe into the hedges and hope I would not be killed! Well, it was a RAF jet flying near me, we must have been very high up because this thing looked like it was right alongside of me - it was almost breaking the sound barrier. Then it turned sideways and went around the mountain. A few seconds later 2 more followed but they were not going as fast. Later that week on another road it happened again but at least I knew what it was that time!

The area is famous for its hiking trails but due to the foot and mouth crisis the trails were closed. See, in the UK there are thousands of miles of trails and the public has the right of way even over private land - and they did not want people accidentally spreading the disease on their boots while walking thru farmers fields. However that did not affect our cycling.

There are lots of great restaurants and pubs to visit also, plus nice little towns with touristy shops (not that Alex let me do much browsing!). You can also take relaxing boat rides on the lakes, or rent a kayak or canoe.