Back in the Saddle Again

Saturday, July 11

Today was the day! Time to get back in the saddle and back on the bikes and hit the pedals once more. Yay! The day dawned warm and sunny and we packed up our gear, loaded up, mounted our steeds, got a feel for them again and prepared to ride out of York.

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

We only had a short pedal through the city streets before meeting up with the cycle path and this was a fantastic start to the ride. The path was a disused train line, so it was nice and flat and had a brilliant little feature that I’d read about and had wanted to see – we rode the solar system! Along the path for about 10km, a model of the solar system had been created to scale and it was the best model of the solar system I’ve seen anywhere, and really helped to understand size and scale. We started with a bit of a search though…we couldn’t find the sun! We turned onto the path, rode a short distance and discovered Mercury. Hmmm, we’d obviously bypassed the sun somewhere. A u-turn and back we went, but after travelling the distance on the sign pointing to the sun, we still couldn’t see it! “It’s a bit ironic,” I commented to Steve,”that we’re having trouble finding the sun because we’ve had trouble finding it for five months so far!” We rode along the path and stopped to turn around again, at which point we met a group of cyclists who stopped to ask us about our load and our trip and they were really friendly and wished us well. Then as we rode along, a man on a bike came towards us, stopped and immediately broke into conversation, as we’ve found people here do. I love that relaxed sense of familiarity with strangers that people have. He asked where we were heading and we said towards Selby. “Oh yes, that’s good, which way to you think you might go after that? I’m just thinking which way might be best after you go over the bridge. You could go to Lincolnshire, that’s nice, or you could go…” He continued to chat and suggest routes for us and he told us about his own cycling trips with his wife or on his own. “Sometimes I just get on the bike and ride to Selby and back, y’know, when I get fed up at ‘ome, I just go for a ride.” He was so nice and within the first 8km of our ride we’d already come across that wonderful British friendliness from people we’d passed. It was after we’d left this nice man that we eventually found the sun! How could we have missed it!? It was pretty big! Our defence is, it was hanging above the path, rather than on the path, as the other planet had been. So from there, we set off to ride the rest of the solar system. I tried to use myself or my thumb as a measure of scale and to show the relative size of each planet. I haven’t included all the photos, but here’s a selection of planets.

The Sun
The Sun

 

That tiny little ball on top of the stand is Mercury
That tiny little ball on top of the stand is Mercury
Earth
Earth
The distance between Earth and our moon
The distance between Earth and our moon
Jupiter
Jupiter
Pluto and its moon
Pluto and its moon

It was a terrific ride and it was great to see the size of the planets relative to each other.  Sometimes we would only ride a couple of hundred metres between planets and some were two or three kilometres apart, so it gave a great sense of scale and distance too. The path itself was also through trees and beside fields, so it was a scenic ride as well as having the science lesson to go along with it.

We passed by something that was another wonderful little find. Why can’t we have these things at home!? We passed the Trust Hut, which was a small little hut that sold snacks and drinks with just a box for people to put their money in. They also had some very nice looking home baked biscuits and rock cakes, so Steve decided to relieve them of a couple of those and popped his money in the box. What a wonderful idea, to have it there on the cycle path, so bike riders and families and walkers who are using the path, can stop for a snack or a drink or cuppa and sit at the tables beside the hut and it’s all just an honour system. I think that speaks volumes for the character of the people here, that someone is willing to provide that little service. It all looked privately operated, perhaps by the people living in the house beside the path, but just see what the people here are like?!  Just like we have been discovering…wonderful people…friendly and hospitable. Diamonds! Here was another example of that.

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We eventually made it to Pluto. Poor Pluto was off the track a bit. All the other planets had been alongside the path, but to get to Pluto we had to go up a track beside the path, duck under some thorny tea roses and scramble behind some bushes. I thought maybe, since it’s no longer rated as a planet, poor Pluto had been banished! So we had ridden the solar system and it was brilliant. I’ve always found the solar system difficult to understand and it’s hard to teach and it’s hard for kids to really, fully understand beyond just facts, because the scale and enormity of what we have to talk about is so hard to comprehend. The way this model along the path was done, really made the whole concept more accessible and easier to grasp and was a thousand times better than those run of the mill solar system models with ping pong balls and marbles! For any teachers out there, who want to go for a day’s excursion to walk about 10km in their own area and create a class version or modify the scale, the website for this solar system ride, where you’ll find more info, is http://www.york.ac.uk/solar/

This sculpture sat above the cycle path. I loved the dog cocking its leg and on a bike no less!
This sculpture sat above the cycle path. I loved the dog cocking its leg and on a bike no less!

We stopped in Riccall for elevenses in a park and then rode on, along the same route, through villages, across fields and along country roads.

Elevenses
Elevenses

At one point I said to Steve, “We’re in France!” because the scenery was identical to many of the landscapes we’d seen there – open fields, a church steeple in the distance, nuclear power station to our side, village up ahead and rows of poplar trees. We rode through a lot of little villages, that all seemed to be residential villages, rather than commercial ones because they only seemed to have houses, no shops or services. They also seemed to be rich people’s villages, judging by the appearance of the houses and the BMWs, Mercs and Audis in the driveways. When a saw a man in his driveway hosing down his Lotus, that clinched it for me, we were in very affluent villages!  They were probably the sort of villages that villagers can no longer afford to live in.  As we rode through another of these, three kids on bikes approached the intersection I was riding past and they stopped and gave way to me! As I approached I heard one say, “I need a Twix.” so they must have been out doing their Saturday chocolate shopping. When I came alongside them, they immediately said, “Hiya” and “Hi” to me. They didn’t wait for me to say hello, they were in there, saying “Hi” to a passing stranger, right off the bat. Too many people complain about “the younger generation” and say standards are slipping and children have poor manners. Well I am constantly experiencing moments like this from kids, who show time and time again, that they are friendly and polite and deserve more credit than they often get, I think.

We had some great off road paths
We had some great off road paths
And some great scenery
And some great scenery

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Lunch time arrived, so we stopped in Howden and I popped into a grocery store to get some salad. It was in here that I was able to listen to yet another gorgeous and priceless village conversation. The lady in front of me put her items on the counter and the young man serving said, “Well, let’s just have a little look here at what we’ve got today. Pizza for one tonight is it.”

“He might be coming over.”

“Oh, he might come over, might he?”

“He might do.”

Well it looks like he’ll have to get something for himself if he does. Hold on a minute I’ll just get your ciggies.” He turned around and without her even asking, reached for a packet of cigarettes and handed to her. She was obviously a regular and the contents of each daily shop, must have been of interest to the young man! It was a lovely, familiar and personable conversation.

We had our lunch in a park and began researching a place to stay.

In Howden
In Howden

 

It was proving a little difficult, with not many campsites on offer and those that were around either didn’t take tents or were Caravan Club members only. We eventually found mention of the Hope and Anchor Inn, a pub about 12km further on who offered camping, so off we went. The ride continued to be perfect – the sun shone and the route was flat as flat. We rode into the tiny village of Blacktoft, another that contained only some houses and this one pub. Steve went in to enquire about a pitch and returned to say that they didn’t have camping at all! So the camping App was completely wrong! However, the nice people at the pub said we were welcome to camp there anyway, free of charge and they would leave the front door of the pub unlocked for us, so we could go in and use the bathrooms overnight. What five star hospitality! What a country welcome! What wonderful people! We pitched the tent in what was effectively the pub’s beer garden and we had a few people around us on the outside tables, enjoying their afternoon pint. We soon had the space to ourselves though and we happily sat in the tent, fired up the Trangia and cooked our supper. We sat in the pub for a while to have a drink as a thank you to them for providing us with a camp spot, so Steve had his pint and I had a cup of tea, then we both had a port because I thought that might help me sleep. While we sat there we looked out the window at the rain coming down! It had been forecast to start at midnight and it had started a little early. Finally,  back we went for a night’s sleep in our little home in the beer garden!

Our camp under the trees beside the pub
Our camp under the trees beside the pub
Can you spot us in the beer garden?
Can you spot the tent in the beer garden?

The day was the perfect reintroduction to the bikes, after the break we’ve had. The sun shone, the route was flat all the way and we rode a very enjoyable and scenic 59km to our little impromptu campsite in the beer garden! What a super day, full of nice weather, lovely villages, varied scenery and delightful people. We couldn’t ask for more. It was so good to be back in the saddle and back on the pedals. We are back in action!

I’m just going to finish with a two more stories from York, that I didn’t include in the last post, just for a little bit of trivia and one more ghost story, just for the entertainment value. When we were walking along the back streets behind Yorkminster on our walking tour, our guide pointed out a small piece of glass that had been included in the wall of a house. These were put in houses as an indication of the strength of the building. If the glass cracked, it showed the house had moved or there was subsidence. This is the origin of the phrase, “A telltale sign”. A telltale is an outward sign or a device for recording or indicating something. So this very old little piece of glass, was just that and gave a sign to say if there was anything wrong with the structure of the house. Fascinating!

P1090588

When the Vikings arrived in York they were, as Vikings tended to be, quite aggressive. If someone didn’t pay their taxes or did the wrong thing, they would be cut from the top of their head, down their nose and their nose would be split open. Anyone walking around with their nose cut open was then known to owe money! This is the origin of the saying “paying through the nose.” Fascinating again!

Now the ghost story… The cellar in Treasurer’s House is said to be haunted. Many years ago, a young sixteen year old plumber was working in there and said he saw a group of Roman soldiers appear on horses. He stood and watched them and then watched them disappear through the wall of the cellar. When he told his story and described what he’d seen, historians said he couldn’t be telling the truth because Roman soldiers didn’t wear the type of clothing that he’d described. Later, when excavations were being done at Hadrian’s Wall, remains of Roman clothing were found that were identical to that which the young plumber had described. Other people have since said they’ve also seen the soldiers in that cellar. That young sixteen year old plumber only died two years ago as an old man and continued to say up until his death, “I really did see them!” I guess when you think about it, the original Roman roads sit below street level so if a Roman ghost was going to be seen it would probably be somewhere like a cellar!

Here endeth the daily record, the science lesson, the English language trivia and the ghost story!

Sunday, July 12

4:00 am Flap, flap, flap, woomp, woomp, woomp, patter, patter, patter…

Oh! What a wake up call, wind and rain hitting the tent. Maybe it will stop. Maybe it will go away before we leave. Just lie here a bit longer.

5:30 am Flap, flap, flap, woomp, woomp, woomp… OK time to get up and do a check on what’s going on out there. When I zipped open the flap of the tent, it was thankfully to find that the rain had stopped and all that remained was the wind. Well, one out of two ain’t bad.

We packed up our little pub garden camp and off we went. We continued following the National Cycle Network route #65 and for another day, it didn’t disappoint. We rode past farmland, up country roads and through villages.

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You don’t get to places like this in a car

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Approaching the Humber Bridge
Approaching the Humber Bridge

We rode in wind and under grey skies and we did get rained on at one point, but is was still a really nice ride. It even threw in a few small hills, just enough to get the breathing going and wake the legs up, but nothing too taxing. We were continuing to head south and that meant crossing the Humber Bridge. Why do so many bridges look the same? I’m sure there’s an international catalogue of bridge designs, The Big Book of Bonza Bridges and cities just choose the one they want and the result is, city after city have identical bridges, a bit like those catalogue houses. Someone in Barton-on-Humber, thirty years ago said, “Ooh, I like the look of that nice red one in San Fran, that’s got a bit of pizzaz, I think we’ll have one of those.”

“Very good choice sir,” said the salesman for Bonza Bridges, “it’s on page 94 of the catalogue and it’s a very popular choice. Or we have a quite striking arch design that’s been a hit in Sydney.”

“Oh no! We don’t want anything from the colonies! We’ll have that pretty red one, but we’ll have ours in a stylish grey I think.”

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Going under before going over!
Going under before going over!

Up and over we went and arrived in the town of Barton-upon-Humber. Something appeared to be going on in town and as we pedalled towards a spot to sit and have elevenses, we saw that the third annual Food Festival was in full swing and people were wandering about carrying their bags of local produce. We sat beside the Rope Walk for a snack and to decide what to do next and where to have our Sunday pub lunch.

Elevenses
Elevenses

 

While we were sitting, two men walked by and took an interest in the bikes and were giving them quite a look over. We said hello and got chatting and we ended up having the opportunity to meet two more wonderful, friendly locals, David and John. David told us about some of the cycle touring he’d done, including cycling Ben Nevis in Scotland. How impressive is that! John asked about where we were from and where we’d been and how we’d found things so far. I told him the highlights had been the wonderful people and we all agreed that the good people stories are the ones that never seem to make the news and we hear too much about the bad things that go on. If only the everyday, delightful encounters with gracious, friendly, welcoming people could get more air time. I don’t know if they realised it or not, but right there, David and John had given us another of those moments. They took the time to just stop and talk to a couple of strangers, ask us about our trip and our onward journey and to wish us well. Those are the magic moments. The moments when we get to spontaneously chat with people, because they have been open and friendly enough to strike up a conversation with us. Those continue to be the moments that make this trip so special.

After saying goodbye to David and John, we started to research where we might end up for the day and again discovered that there were no real campsite options nearby. There were a couple of possibilities but it meant backtracking quite a way in the opposite direction. In the end we decided to just stay in Barton-on-Humber, at a pub that had B&B, have our traditional Sunday pub lunch and then stay on. When we arrived at the pub, we were met by a lovely friendly lady, who showed us a place to store the bikes and then helped us to carry our bags to the room. She chatted to us and asked about the trip and then left us to settle in. Not having been able to have a shower at our pub campsite, all I wanted to do was get under some hot water and soap up! That’s one of the reasons we did a short ride today, there was no way we were going to ride on and sit down to a pub lunch feeling as scruffy and bedraggled as we did!

Suitably soaped, scrubbed and shampooed, we trotted downstairs to see what we could find for our lunch tradition. We were met in the lounge by the same friendly lady, who showed us to a table and gave us the carvery menu. Oh dear, not much for me I’m afraid. Steve asked if they’d be able to feed a vegan and her response just gave me a warm glow!

“No problem, you just tell me what you’d like and what you don’t want and I’ll get something for you.” Off she went and returned with her note pad.

“Right,” she said, “what would you like?” 

I explained that vegan meant I didn’t eat dairy or eggs or meat but basically, if it was a plant, I’d eat it, which she had a laugh at. We went back and forth with possibilities of salad or veggies and then Steve suggested a curry.

“Oh I can do you a curry, how about that? A veggie curry and some rice, would you like that?” 

I said that would be perfect. Steve was having the carvery so she even told him to wait and when my meal was nearly ready, she’d give him a shout, so he could go and get his roast, so by the time he did that, mine would be ready at the same time. How personalised is that! Off she went and soon returned carrying a list of the meals they served and any possible allergens they contained.

“I just thought I’d check with you, because sometimes the curry has dairy in it, but this list just says nuts and sesame, so is that alright?” I said that was fine and thanked her for checking. A short while later she returned again.

“I just thought I’d check again with the kitchen and I’m sorry, the curry has cream in it, but they said they can do you a stir fry with some rice. Would that be OK, with a side salad and some bread?”

I could have just slid onto the floor with delight. I said that would be wonderful and thanked her again, saying I really appreciated how accommodating they were being.

Then, she returned to us again and said, “Now, I’m just thinking ahead to breakfast tomorrow. What would you like? I do a nice fresh fruit salad, and we only use vegetable oil, so we could do you some mushrooms and tomato and there’ll be bread.” I said that would be perfect and I can always have cereal with juice on it instead of milk, to which she said all of that would be on offer to.

Then she gave Steve a three minute warning, saying that my meal was nearly ready, so he could make his way to the carvery.

I was then presented with a delicious plate of stir fry and rice, salad and bread and it was absolutely perfect. How unbelievably wonderful, accomodating and attentive was that gorgeous lady. Not only was she happy to provide a vegan meal that meant a deviation from the standard menu, but checked, checked and checked again that what they had intended serving me didn’t contain any animal products. I’ve never experienced anything like it and to have it happen in a little pub in a little town here, just goes to show the gems that we discover.

After our delicious lunch, we went out for a wander and strolled back to have a look at the Food Festival, where I was able to find some nice local berries, then we roamed along the path beside the river, before strolling back. We also happened to run into David and John again and had another brief chat.

This building at the Rope Walk is the longest listed building in England and is so long because it was once a rope factory, so they needed the space to roll out all that rope!
This building at the Rope Walk is the longest listed building in England and is so long because it was once a rope factory, so they needed the space to roll out all that rope!
Strolling by the river and there's the bridge again!
Strolling by the river and there’s the bridge again!

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Another super day! A nice ride, more delightful people, a fabulous continuation of our Sunday lunch tradition and eventually the sun came out. We added some more magic moments and memorable encounters to our growing collection and once again, the common thread at the heart of them all is, the people. The wonderful, friendly, kind people. Thank you all!

2 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle Again

Add yours

  1. Hi Heidi – had a wonderful grand catchup on your travels. (went to Slide 2 learn in Hobart) Love the idea of the solar system, wonder how many teachers make use of it – sounds like a fantastic way to learn about it. You and Steve look so well in the photos, this way of life obviously suits you :), but sorry you can’t do it forever …. you need to come back and have tea with me (selfish, I know :))

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    1. Hiya dear Jan! So nice to have you back! Hope you’ve been enjoying your hols. I will endeavour to stay well because nothing can interfere with our cuppa-catch-ups!

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