A Quick Jaunt to Thirsk.

Why Thirsk?

Because of LEL (London Edinburgh London) the flagship ride of Audax UK. Not as a cyclist, but myself and my eldest daughter Beth had ourselves up as volunteers to help at the Thirsk Control.

Firstly though we had to get there...

My hysterectomy and bowel surgery op in March (sorry if its too much info), almost put paid to my cycling this year, and to be honest I was 'cheating' a bit by taking the bike on this trip. Initially I had the car booked on the ferry, but the fears in my belly of driving in the UK, were building. Once I had my final signing off by the Consultant on the 1st July, I was informed I would be able to cycle again... but only if carefully, and slowly.

Despite telling them I cycle a lot, I got the impression no one on the NHS really believed me. OK... Ill take it carefully and slowly.

So, I cancelled the car and started at last to look forward to our work at Thirsk, as we would indeed be cycling there instead. Beth and I cycled initially to Hawes, then on to Helmsley and finally to Thirsk its self. Why not directly to Thirsk? Cos of the 'carefully and slowly' promise to the NHS and to my family. So one night at Hawes, two at Helmsley and then onto Thirsk for 4 days before coming home via Hawes again and then the ferry. See, nice and careful. Nice and slow.

The Hawes YHA accommodation was just 40 miles from the ferry. Thats one hassle of taking the ferry to UK, it eats into a full half day of travel, as the boat docks at noon. The route to Hawes YH is lovely once of course you leave Morecambe and Lancaster behind. Both the towns suffer from narrow streets and lots of traffic. The off road bits are heavily used by pedestrians and as such, they are themselves stressful and slow, we thought we would go the road way. To be honest we were soon on the B roads. The sun was out and it was at least 5 degrees C warmer than home once we were away from the coast.

Now... Thing is see, I was travelling with Beth. 🙂

Beth is my eldest and she has just completed a very stressful 2nd year at Lancaster Uni where she is studying Economics. Its been a real tough year for her. Ending in June in a cycling accident where a car ploughed into her stationary bicycle while she was waiting to turn right at a road junction. Beth was thrown clear and landed on her feet. Not so her poor bike, which became lodged beneath the wheels of the car and was dragged down the road. The car did not stop. After crunching fully over her bike, the driver sped off, leaving a very shaken Beth and crumpled bike behind.

Thankfully it was witnessed and many lovely people of Lancaster had the number plate and details. The police tracked the driver and an insurance claim was lodged.

This meant though that Beth had no bike. So for our ride to Hawes, Enid my winter rider held her wheel aloft and offered up her services. I provided Beth with bags and we sorted out our gear. I am after a few years finally managing to sort my bags out quite efficiently. But we had a lot to bring as we were working in the kitchens and clean clothing was required for the 4 days of our volunteering stint. (This assumes I wear mucky cloths.. I dont, but I do 'recycle' items sometimes and we had no idea what cleaning arrangements if any existed at the Control).

Beth though wasnt taking any chances and assumed there might be long lengths of time without much to do... so brought with her a lot of heavy reading materials! Her bags were stuffed to briming and I could hardly lift them! (I'm not allowed to lift heavy stuff as yet)

Poor Enid. Beth and I set off for the ferry. Outside our door is a down hill, a junction, then a big up hill. I rode off on Hettie, looked behind me at the empty road. Waited at the next bit of pavement to see Beth pushing Enid up the hill! 'Hummmm not looking too good is this is it?'

Thankfully, it was just a little gearing issue. Beth being a Shimarno kinda girl, me being a Campagnolo lady. And the Campag gearing on Enid was foxing Beth a bit.

Once off the ferry we set off for Hawes.

Did you know Hawes is uphill? It is... and its uphill for 40 + miles from Lancaster!

Ferry to Hawes. OK it included Douglas, but no hills at sea!

Since the 12 of March this year, I had cycled a total of 50 miles split up over 5 days. Yes, it was a testing time. But we had all day. Beth had issues too. I was glad she had over loaded Enid now, because I didnt feel so slow. Beth is a fast cyclist. She likes plastic bicycles... er..Carbon I mean. And she normally rides a bike where lightness is the word of the day. (She is the Uni President for their Triathlete team and competes herself) Here she was, carrying 2 stones of luggage, all on the back wheel. Enid has her plastic front forks on and every time Beth tried to stand in the pedals, she could feel the front wheel was not a happy bunny down on earth, so sitting and grinding was the only way forward.

DSCN1008 Beth with Enid. Having 'issues' with Gravity

We cycled to Ingleton, and followed the hairpin out of the village up to the Ribblehead Station where we stopped for a worthwhile late lunch or very early tea at about 4ish. It was good to rest up, especially as I knew the hills that lie ahead.

But you know... the hills to Hawes were nothing compared to Helmsleys' little secret!

Having arrived in Hawes we over nighted at the YHA there in the village. Comfortable, albeit a little – shall I say – Jobs Worth and Rules are rules... I dislike being told I cannot buy a tea bag, but I HAVE to purchase my wine from them should I wish a short bevie before bed! Yes, we did finally squeeze a cheap tea bag out of the place, but only because Beth begged for some (and they made a 200% profit on them at least too! Thats what happens when your with an economist, she knows these things!) Note to self... dont leave home without your own Yorkshire Tea bags again EVER!

Anyway, following morning after cheap tea and lashings of ace porridge for breakfast (ha ha didn't forget our porridge oats), we set off early as we had a ride of about 60 miles to do. Our next night was at Helmsley YHA. Looking forward to it. Day was ace, perfect cycling weather. No wind to speak off, and a clear sky. IT was warm. Infact at a guess, I think it was about 20 C at 8am in the morning.

We took the most direct route to Helmsley, taking us through Leyburn along an A road, but it wasnt busy, infact it was a pleasure to use. Initially I had wanted to cycle via Bolton Castle, but my SATMAP suggested it was hillier and with 60 miles head and an unfit and now fat Mary (I have gained 2 stones in weight), we opted for the flatter route.


FLATTER I said.... did I say flatter?


Here is our route to Helmsley:

The route to Helmsley

When we arrived at Knayton, the route had been lovely. Gentle rises and falls gave us the impression of a nice easy ride. In fact we were making really good time for two laden bicycles, (one heavily so). We looked at our watches, we had ten miles to go and it was only 3pm. So we were hoping to be at the hostel for about 4pm, knowing they often dont open until 5pm, I promised Beth a cafe stop to eat the time away...

Then we turned off onto a 'lovely' single tracked lane and wound lovingly rounds some outcrops of lumpy land... all looking so innocent...

We cycled up a short incline, around a wooded escarpment, and looked ever upwards in horror at the task that was rising ahead of us! The tarmac went ever upwards. It twisted like a laughing dragon around and around sharp hairpin corners that tricked our brains into thinking 'surely we are at the end now?'

But no, there was more to come.

Much more....

Around one bend, not sure which side Boltby village was on, but we certainly cycled though Boltby and Old Byland. The road snaked its way though a wooded part of the hillside and a stretch of uphill road the likes I have never cycled up before on a fully loaded bike rose before us. Beth's Strava account said it was a 25% er.

By this time, I had already walked at least 2 miles pushing Hettie. Beth on the other hand had held on to the fact that she was cycling the route no matter what.. but even she had to admit defeat. The hill was SO steep that nothing could keep the front wheel on the floor. So much so, I had to push Hettie up the long hill, hide her in the bushes at the top, and walk back down the hill to push Enid from behind.

It was ages and ages and ages of hard slog. Sweat dripped off our noses. Finally at the top, we slugged the final drops from our water bottles. We had only gone 3 miles and it had taken us a full hour! Beth had also almost worn out the road cleats from her shoes...

'Some where near here', I said to Beth. 'Is the Kilburn Horse – we must look out for it'.

Well, we never did find the Horse that day.

Once at the top, we could see nothing over our heads, we were on the embankment surely... well, it then dropped into a deep valley and we had to repeat the procedure all over again. We were totally trashed energy wise. Our tanks and our water bottles were empty.

DSCN1014 Finally, at the top of the hill-work enroute to Helmsley – so where exactly is the Kilburn Horse then?

Then, suddenly the road joined a main road and we were back on the home straight travelling downhill at last! As we approached Helmsley a lovely sight was in front of us, as Helmsley Castle stood tall and proud (albeit a bit bashed from its battles during the War of the Roses).

Helmsley is a really stunning marking town. One of the nicest I have as yet ever stayed at.... Beth reckons its so beautiful because its so hard to get to, and so hard to leave!

Oh.. And on the return journey to Thirsk, we discovered why we couldn't find the Kilburn Horse.... It was because we'd been cycling over his back. 🙂

9 comments on “A Quick Jaunt to Thirsk.”

  1. Tina wrote:

    Another great write up MJ! What a fab experience the two of you had. So glad you are back on two wheels, loads of future fun to come 🙂

  2. Hilary wrote:

    Great to hear from you Mary, that was quite a ride for someone 'taking it easy'! You must be so pleased to be back on the bike again and a mother and daughter trip like that sounds a great experience. I was really shocked to read what happened to Beth in Lancaster, I can't believe someone would just drive off like that after hitting a young girl. So glad that she landed on her feet – oh to be young and bouncy again!

    I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences as a volunteer at LEL, has it inspired you to want to give it a go yourself? This audax caper is certainly addictive! 🙂 I cycled near Brest this summer and kept looking across at it thinking 'hmmm......., I wonder......, could I ..........? No, I'm too fond of my sleep!

  3. Mary wrote:

    Really glad to be out and about again Hilary.

    Amazingly the Police told Beth the woman had up to 24 hours after such an incident, to report it! But thankfully, after a bit of phone hassle to the insurance firm, Beth received her cheque for a new bike just after our arrival home – so every cloud and all that. Im so very pleased it was just the bicycle that got trashed, even though it was her competition bike.

    Will be writing our LEL experience soon, trying to get it off to Arrivee as well.

    Audaxing is VERY addictive. But I expect you are beginning to find that out for yourself. 🙂

    Rode 160km the other day, so at least this season I get my Randonneur badge (500).

  4. Mary wrote:

    Ooh, yes have you spotted the new Audax Challenges this year Hilary? A new badge for 25, 50 or 100 AAA points! Im gonna give them a try out come the new season. 🙂 How about you?

  5. Kern wrote:

    It twisted like a laughing dragon

    ... I love it.

    A great writeup of "the road gone wrong". Glad to see you're back in the saddle and taking it "carefully and slowly". Imagine what it will be like when you're back on form 🙂 .

  6. Chris wrote:

    Mary wrote: The hill was SO steep that nothing could keep the front wheel on the floor.

    Don't feel bad about that one, Mary. Boltby Bank (or Sneck Yate Bank) is one of Simon Warren's original 100 Greatest Climbs – it's a brute. I found it harder than the Kilburn Horse climb when I rode it earlier this year. (The horse is on the far side of Sutton Bank, so there is little wonder you didn't see it that day 🙂 )

    Boltby Bank top

    My bike earlier this year – before this summer business

    You certainly picked a hilly route to Helmsley. There is an easier one – via Coxwold and Old Byland Byland Abbey if I remember correctly – but it wouldn't have been as much fun.

    If I've got it right you must have passed over a ford at the bottom of a steep hill with another to climb towards Old Byland, yes? It's not a route suggested by the Sustrans cycle map, but I reckon it is the most rewarding way to get to Hemsley from the north. I went that way – but fell in – last year.

    Great to read that you are taking on some tough climbs after your ops. Ouch. Well done, especially with you carrying all that kit. Looking forward to your L2L report...

  7. Hilary wrote:

    Mary wrote

    have you spotted the new Audax Challenges this year Hilary?

    I have indeed! I won't be trying for 100 though! 😆

  8. Dan wrote:

    Well done Mary and Beth! Glad you are back on the road again (both of you) and a small victory against the Lancaster Lout who hit your daughter's bike – though I'm sure we'd all rather they were removed from the roads permanently rather than just hit with a greater premium next time. Yes, Google Maps does a good job of finding the most direct routes to places, doesn't it? 🙂 I'd agree with Chris that Boltby Bank, or Sneck Yate as it's also known, beats White Horse Bank, Wath Bank and Sutton Bank to be the toughest way into the Hambleton Hills. I'd even class it as tougher than the fabled Rosedale Chimney, though I've never ridden them both in the same day.. there are some lovely little roads once you're up onto the 'plateau' though, round Old Byland and further north especially. Hope you enjoyed the rest of the trip – how was the audax?

    Best of luck with your continued recovery, Mary! We'd all rather you behaved yourself and did take it gently for the time being, if it means you end up at full fitness again rather than doing any damage by feeling the frustration of not giving the bike its head for a while! Any which way – good to hear from you again! Looking forward to your next adventure! x

  9. Patrick wrote:

    Well done Mary – and Beth. I tend to agree with Dan though. Take it easy at first...

    LOL (some chance)

    Mary wrote: the driver sped off, leaving a very shaken Beth and crumpled bike behind ... The police tracked the driver and an insurance claim was lodged ... (the woman had up to 24 hours after such an incident, to report it)

    I've not heard of that before—hit and run +24 hours grace. 'tis a disgrace. Anyway, good to hear Beth was unhurt and got a new bike. And it's true, Helmsley is lovely.

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