And welcome to Egremont Castle, in the shade of the ruined keep, where Amber has freaked herself out playing hide and seek and started first crying for her mama, before shifting up through the gears of shouting, yelling, screaming and now finally shrieking.
Amber’s mum walks up the steps towards me, wearing big shades and a tired smile: ‘Who said playing hide and seek in the castle was a good idea?’
Anyway, before I left Bournemouth to pick up the latest leg of my second ride around Britain, I was surprisingly emotional about my new debit card.
The old one, you see, has been with me since June 2018.
There aren’t many possessions in our lives that are so clearly timestamped and with so clear an expiry date and I took the cutting up of this old workhorse as an opportunity for a bittersweet taste of nostalgia.
This card has served me well, joining the team when I was rootless, directionless, empty, and there at my side as I found confidence and purpose in my writing and my outdoor work, both instructing and with Thighs of Steel.
The faded card leaves me thousands of miles richer and, daily it seems, on the edge of new life.
It feels stupid to be saying this, but thank you old 4543. You done well. I’m excited to see how your successor fares.
Liverpool to Newcastle: The First Three Days
Today’s story is going to be heinously short and primarily photographic. As I mentioned, I’m in the middle of a bike ride, stage seven of my second ride around Britain.
I have too many thoughts that will turn into stories, but perhaps not today, not when I am dictating this into my malfunctioning phone in the late afternoon sunshine on a castle park bench.
Today started gently, with a roll down to Lake Windermere and a glorious, bare bottomed soak in the fresh water.
I then spent an hour and twenty quid in Joey’s, a plant-based cafe at Wray Castle on the north end of the lake. Essential fuel for the climbs, the steep steep climbs, of Wrynose and Hardknott.
So steep, it was, that I watched one Belgian number plate sliding backwards down a 30% incline, engine squealing.
‘You have lots of luggage,’ the Belgian said through wound window as I passed. ‘Lots of luggage and lots of courage.’
Yesterday started early and finished late.
This had little to do with the illuminating distractions of Blackpool and Morecambe, and more to do with:
- An inauspicious tide at Fleetwood, which made for a 14km detour around the estuary.
- A series of failed camp spots, which resulted in an extraordinarily steep, unscheduled, hill climb as I came into the Lake District, and then a fairly unsatisfactory pitch on the slopes of a denuded Forestry Commission ‘forest’, cocooned in a cloud of ferocious midges.
Dinner was served at 10:00 p.m, a hasty repast of Co-op olive bread and vegan coleslaw.
Between yesterday’s beginnings and yesterday’s endings, I delighted in new discoveries: especially Silverdale, a no-reason-to-visit-it-unless-you’re-visiting-it outcrop of land to the west of the M6.
It’s exactly the sort of why-not place that I want to see more of on this second round of Britain.
And Wednesday? Who can remember that far back?
Suffice it to say that I still think Liverpool is an ace city, with a canalside run through Bootle that gently escorts the traveller into nature’s soft embrace.
I really enjoyed Crosby dunes until I came across a cycle path sign buried up to the hilt in six foot of shifting sand.
I wonder how many hapless round Britainers have met with such granulated fate underfoot?
Anyway. Sorry I can’t be more coherent in my storytelling this week.
It’s time to make myself scarce.
A couple of polite young lads just asked if I minded them flying a drone up here, and, besides, I must seek camp.