Day 8 - Clitheroe to Patterdale

This was the most beautiful day so far for me, as I love the wild north of England. It was also tougher than I had expected. I knew about the two 1500 ft passes I would have to negotiate, but did not anticipate how hilly it would be between Kirkby Lonsdale and Kendall.

I left Clitheroe just before 9, fortified by a huge and delicious Indian curry last night, and a good night's sleep. I decided not to take the shortest road to Slaidburn, mainly because I could save at least 400 ft of climbing by going around via Bashall Eaves (famous for an unsolved murder in the 1930s), Whitewell and Dunsop. It was a lovely morning, with sunny spells, and the Ribble Valley was idyllic. They say that Dunsop is the centre point village of the British Isles. I stopped to chat with a garage attendant reading a newspaper. "This is the most beautiful place between Lands End and John O'Groats," I said. "Oh, it's alright," he said, barely looking up.

But it was really beautiful, farming land and increasingly wild moorland as I climbed above Slaidburn to over 1500 feet. In the 10 miles between Slaidburn and Bentham only about a dozen vehicles passed me, plus a cyclist who turned out to be going from Edinburgh to the Wirral. He said he had really struggled yesterday, into a heavy headwind. I realised again how lucky I have been to have southerly, following winds, the whole way from Lands End.

The run down from the top into Bentham was very quick, and I then continued to Kirky Lonsdale where I stopped at a supermarket to stock up. I asked the car park attendant if he would keep an eye on my bike, which he happily agreed to do, and when I came out he (having seen my flag) volunteered that he had been an AIDS counsellor in South Africa for many years.

After Kirkby the road was hillier than expected. I passed underneath the M6 and eventually reached Kendal. Then on minor roads and a cycle track along the A591 towards Windermere, but then cutting up to the right and over the hill to Troutbeck for the final push over the Kirkstone Pass. It started raining and my legs were tired. I lived off my altimeter, giving a silent whoop every time it showed a further 5 metre altitude gain. I had to walk several times, but finally reached the Inn at the top, just about the highest point I shall reach on this ride. Then a fast, wet run down the Ullswater side to my B&B just before Patterdale, arriving soon after 5.30.

Altogether a great day: 68 miles, average 9.7 mph, total ascent 6450 ft.