A bike ride in the (other) Wolds
"I went for a bike ride in the Yorkshire Wolds," I say.
"Where's that?" they ask.
"East of York."
The Lincolnshire Wolds are north east of Lincoln, south from Hull, and although this part of the country is separated from the Yorkshire Wolds by the city of Hull and the Humber estuary, it is similarly quiet and a fine place to go cycling, as I discovered with Chris last weekend. Plus, we rode there over the Humber Bridge and I like cycling over bridges.
We started from a large car park at the northern end of the bridge (more about that later) and set off south to ride about 80 miles and return before dark. It was a route Chris had put together from recent rides from the East Riding of Yorkshire where he lives to the 'south bank' – the ceremonial county of Lincolnshire. First, we passed through North Lincolnshire then into the non-metropolitan county of Lincolnshire – not the same as the actual county. Or perhaps this is the actual county. Read more about the incomprehensible structure of English counties. The roads were quiet anyway, and the land almost entirely agricultural with very few shops. I think we like it this way and we'd brought our snacks with us.
The 'Woldsy lane' photo illustrates the type of landscape. Lincolnshire is reputedly flat but it is not so flat as people imagine: farms have names like "Hill Top" and the county has a high point of over 550 feet. East Anglia is flat, and Norfolk, Suffolk, and perhaps Cambridgeshire. We don't want it too flat for cycling but we do want traffic-free roads and plenty of choice. And a traditional English tea room or two. We found all that.
Our first coffee stop was a country pub near Caistor called the Swallow Inn. At places like this you can normally get away with munching your own sandwiches while you drink their coffee at their tables, especially if you sit outside. What you cannot do any more, it seems, is buy cigarettes and I fancied a drag (strangely, you can buy cigars but not smoke them). I find pubs have become sterile places since Caroline Flint MP and the puritans cracked down on our traditional pleasures, but that is another story.
We continued south into a breeze, navigating partly with Chris's map and partly my Garmin. We made a wrong turn (my mistake) after the village of Hatcliffe but as it turned out, this was a good thing, as Chris wanted a 100 mile total for the day. So it was a good thing later when we detoured to Market Rasen for urgent supplies (my fags). Now behind schedule we turned back north but agreed we'd stick to the planned route through the actual – and scenic – Lincolnshire Wolds, breaking off first for 'afternoon tea' at Tealby Tea Rooms. It is actually only one room, with the toilets accessible through the proprietor's living room at the back, but proper English traditional, with tablecloths, scones, and respectable ladies sipping Earl Grey in silence.
The Lincolnshire Wolds are as lovely as the Yorkshire Wolds but smaller. The rain held off and the falling sun cast ever longer shadows across these rolling uplands. The breeze was behind us now but it would soon be dark. I love cycling at dusk. We came to higher ground and thought we spied the spires of Lincoln Cathedral away to the south west in the direction of the setting sun. Then we dropped into a town – Caistor probably – and dived through some alleyways round the church then along some long straight roads across the plain northwards and switched on the lights. We'd cycled some 70 miles and began to look for the towers of the magnificent Humber Bridge.
The next few miles of wonderful cycling will remain in my memory. On high ground again, the track went for several miles straight in pitch darkness and distant lights twinkled to the left and right as we crackled along at a fair pace. My front light is better than the one Chris was using and for the first time this ride I was his equal. I have realised he is definitely faster than me but my light put me in front fair and square. However, that is not why this passage was so memorable. Occasionally it happens and I cannot explain why.
The lights on the Humber Bridge eventually came into view and we dropped from the blackness down into Barton upon Humber, a small town at the southern end of the bridge. "Watch out for the Saturday evening drunks," says Chris. Unhindered, we floated through town and up to the bridge at 7 o'clock as rain was beginning to fall. 87 miles, and Chris would achieve another century cycling home. Now find my car. We didn't expect Mrs B's to be serving tea but as we approached through the trees, things seemed promising: the sound of music, a party maybe. But no. An evening fair? Hundreds of people, hundreds of cars, engines revving, a custom car rally was taking place. Most unexpected!
My car was coned off in splendid isolation in front of a line of hotrods on display by the cafe. We found an exit and I moved it through the crowds and out through a barrier where I loaded my bike while Chris, getting cold, shone my torch. This excellent ride was well worth my drive over the Pennines and it took place on the last day of British Summer time, plus Chris made another century, so that sealed it perfectly. We are now back on Greenwich Mean Time until next spring when things may change permanently if the clocks go continental, as proposed. I'd like that.