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Cycle Tour - Late October 1981, by Connie Ogden

It all started last year really, "shall we go youth hostelling this winter?" well, we were a bit apprehensive at first, not having hostelled for about twenty years. It's not like it used to be, we were told, the hostels nowadays are always filled with school parties and people who have traveled there by car, and also we thought, we are a lot older too. shall we really be able to mix with younger ones? And so nothing came of it. However, this autumn, after spending all last winter and most of the summer cycling every Sunday with Mel and Brenda and family, and with David the youngest (only nine years old) doing very well on his bike, Brenda said she wouldn't mind having a bash at it again. She and Mel had done a lot of hostelling, both at home and abroad, before they were married, and now that the children were growing up and David was doing so well, why not? Julie and Graham were already keen hostellers and Adrian, eleven years old, had a twelve-day tour under his belt. So, we took the plunge and booked a long weekend at the end of October. The racing season had to have finished before Mel or Derrick would commit themselves.

The first hostel we had booked into was Helmsley. there were eleven of us in the party, Mel, Brenda, Julie, Graham, Adrian, David, Bev who is also a keen hosteller, and is now introducing her dad, Don, into the game. Derrick, Timothy and myself. It had been a long time since I had ridden the bike with so much weight on, Mel looked just like a pack horse with all the gear he was carrying, even David had a saddle bag on (he was carrying all the sleeping bags).

We all met at Hemsworth church on the Friday morning and rode via Pontefract, through the lanes to Cawood and Stillingfleet, where we stopped to have a sandwich. The weather was fine but cloudy with an autumn nip in the air. Having appeased our hunger we rode on through Naburn, memories came flooding back of the days when we used to call at a cottage there and get the most delicious dinner of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and two veg, and including apple dumpling for the price of 2/6 …ah well …on through York and it was a good job Mel and Derrick were there or I think we should have got lost. From York to Strensall where we stopped and had a drink in a café. From here, most people going to Helmsley, would go via Stillington and straight ahead to Helmsley, but when you are with Mel, you don't go the shortest way you go the longest. So, off we went via Sheriff Hutton and as we passed the ruined castle silhouetted against the skyline, it looked very impressive. We had a walk up Terrington Bank and then swept down in Hovingham. Unfortunately by now low cloud had descended and a steady rain had set in, so we had to dismount and cape up. the time was now three o'clock and we were ten miles from Helmsley, or so we thought, "it's no good getting to the hostel before five o'clock", said Mel, "we can't go in before then", and promptly added another five miles onto the route which included walking up Caukleys Bank. It was unfortunate that the weather was dull because the scenery was really beautiful.

We arrived in Helmsley at about half past four, had a walk round the market square, bought some milk, (we were doing our own cooking at the hostel) and arrived at the hostel at about five passed five. Julie, being the most experienced hosteller, booked us all in and off we went to make our beds.

Things certainly have altered, duvets on the beds, central heating, hot showers, fitted carpets, sheer luxury to what it used to be, but the price has altered also, i'm afraid.

After we had cooked and eaten our evening meal we sat around chatting and reading. We were all tired, but David and Adrian had done remarkably well, they had ridden about seventy miles that day and looked the picture of health, with rosy cheeks and shining eyes.

We all slept like tops and awoke to a clear sky and sunshine but rather windy. After breakfast and having done our duties, we loaded the bikes and were ready for off by nine-o-clock. We hadn't got further than the gate when Mel discovered that he had a puncture. However, fifteen minutes later, we were on our way. saturday nights hostel was Dacre Banks, roughly about fifty miles.

We left Helmsley by the Stokesley road and dropped down to have a look at Rievaulx Abbey, another impressive ruin, in a beautiful setting. We continued on our way up Scawton Bank, we were really getting into the hills now, and onto Sutton Bank. It was such a clear day we could see for miles but the gliders were grounded because it was too windy. I think that the autumn colours were at their best that day.

Mel said that while we were in the area we might as well drop down White Horse Bank and have a look at the White Horse of Kilburn at close quarters. It was interesting, but not in my opinion, as impressive as when seen while riding up the A1. What a bank though, with gradients of 1 in 4 to 1 in 12, it is about two miles long and there is a hair pin bend at the steepest point. How we got round it I shall never know, in fact I didn't, I had to run off the road and just managed to pull up one inch in front of a huge stone pillar. David braked hard, and his back wheel jumped two feet off the road but somehow he managed to stay on. Don's wheel rims became so hot with braking that his inner tube blew up like a shot gun going off, all the others thought it was very funny but admitted to being a bit scared. After we had steadied our nerves and put a new inner tube in Don's wheel, we carried on via Kilburn and Byland Abbey, those wily monks certainly knew how to pick their spots to build their abbeys, they are always in the most peaceful and picturesque settings. On through Coxwold and Husthwaite, we were now into more level terrain and were able to get a move on as we had lost quite a bit of time with punctures. We called at a pub in Brafferton and the landlady kindly made us all a pot of tea. After lunch we pressed on to Boroughbridge where we restocked with food for the rest of the weekend.

Then on through the winding lanes via Roecliffe and it happened again, another puncture, this time it was Graham's, so while Mel did the repairs, we had a walk round the village of Bishop Monkton. No litter here in the road or graffiti on the walls, why can't all places be like this?

Earlier we had decided that while we were in the area, we would go and have a look at Brimham Rocks, so we pressed on via Markington and now we were getting into the hills again. We had walked two or three of them when Adrian yelled out, "look dad a sign post, Dacre Banks two miles", "yes, but we aren't going to Dacre Banks yet", said dad, "we are going to Brimham Rocks", and so on we toiled, up and up, the sign posts ran out but the hills didn't. out came the map, it surely can't be much further, "keep going up", says Derrick, "that's the only way". It was beginning to drop dark and still no signs of… you know what… on we rode, getting slower and slower, then Tim shouted, "they're here", and sure enough, as we came over the brow of the hill, there they were, huge boulders and rocks all shapes and sizes, standing like sentinels against the darkening skyline.

The road now led downwards and we were swishing past these rocks on either side of the road for about two miles. It was a pity it was nearly dark as we missed the real beauty of the area. We were enjoying the freewheeling after so much climbing, and we could now see the lights of Summerbridge twinkling in the distance. After passing through Summerbridge we rode up to Dacre Banks to arrive at the hostel at about half past five. As we were unloading the bikes, Mel said, "what an eventful day we've had, two punctures, a blow out and a runaway".

After our evening meal, we settled down to a cosy evening by the fire, no central heating here, Dacre is only a simple hostel, but after don had stoked up we were all soon dozing off. there were three more people in the hostel, all cyclists, so we had a lot in common to talk about. Once again we didn't need any rocking when we got to bed.

The weather changed during the night and we awoke to cloudy skies. After we had had our breakfast and done our chores, we were leading the bikes when David said, "do we have to go home today Mam?" and I think that this summed up how we all felt. We set off through Dacre and up Darley Head, here a mist had dropped and we had to cape up. We past the radar station at the top and felt as though were on Mars with all the weird looking apparatus and the mist swirling round. The mist cleared as we started to descend down Norwood Edge, it was great swishing down whilst dozens of cyclists were toiling up the other way. There was a hill climb going on but we hadn't time to stop and watch although circumstances dictated otherwise, one of Brenda's brake blocks shot out and she nearly ended up head first in the reservoir, someone? …had put the brake shoe on the wrong way. I think Mel had her well insured. We arrived in Otley just as it was striking twelve-o-clock and we stopped for lunch. When we came out of the café it was pouring with rain so we set off home via pool and Harewood Bank. By the time we reached Wike the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to struggle through the clouds. We rode on through Scarcroft, Garforth and Wakefield and now it was time to say goodbye to our Royston friends as they turned off by Barnsley Golf Course, then Tim said goodbye at the Cutting Edge and turned off for Wombwell. Derrick and I arrived home twenty minutes later, tired but happy.

We had enjoyed a wonderful weekend. Where else but in the cycling world could you get good companions, fresh air, healthy exercise and beautiful scenery.

By Connie Ogden
Published in the Birdwell Wheelers magazine, March 1982.

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