Cyclist approaching – the bridleway between Bishop Wilton and Fangfoss
After at least half a dozen visits to Hockney Country I thought this weekend we might at last have seen The Man. The weather was gorgeous – warm sunshine and almost windless: perfect for sitting at an easel to paint the English landscape. Sunday’s big blue skies would not have suited Constable, who liked to paint clouds in his pictures, but it might have been ok for David Hockney. Perhaps his creative mind has moved on to something else or perhaps there’s only so many ways you can capture the same hedge or clump of trees on an iPad. Chris and I speculated what we might say to Dave if we came upon him by the side of the road. We’d probably have just said hello and cycled past.
David Hockney: the wild man of the wolds
If the ‘Hockney team’ and their friends in tourism really believe the Yorkshire Wolds are going to ‘cash in’ on ‘the deluge of attention’ as they put these gentle hillsides and country lanes in the ‘national spotlight’ there was no sign of it. We saw hardly anyone all day. There were empty tables outside the few cafés there are in this region and this is how it should be. Dave himself was nowhere to be seen (whether he’s even managed to capture the essence of this lovely region seems open to debate – read Brian Sewell – but that is another story).
Chris consulting the map
Back to cycling. As I am from Lancashire I do not know my way around the Wolds. Chris does. He’s cycled and documented most of the Big Skies Bike Rides and other local routes he’s worked out. They are superb. Even so, there is still some navigation required because (i) there are so many lanes, and (ii) they tend to look similar. “Have we cycled along here before?” I ask. “No,” he replies, or: “Yes, but in the other direction,” or: “Not exactly but we crossed over a bit further on.”
Even Chris has to look at the map. We come to a junction. He shows me the map and the place we are aiming for. The question is, where are we now? Bugthorpe or Bagthorpe? The map has become smaller. It is now less than the size of a credit card but split into two. I reckon next time it will have disappeared altogether… a Garmin has appeared on his handlebars!
I don’t actually care where we are or where we are going. Every lane is empty. You cycle side by side down the middle for five miles between clipped hedgerows amongst rolling fields, through a silent village, wind up a hill through a wood, break out onto an upland plain with views to the Vale of York, then pedal flat out down a long gradual hill into a steep sided valley, three miles to a short sharp rise up to the crossroad, turn left at the pond then onwards again across a plateau towards distant trees where you drop again to a junction with an old wooden road sign neatly painted in white… Meltonby, Bishop Wilton, or Great Givendale?
The Vale of York
The Big Skies rides are not really long enough for a full day. 45-60 miles with a couple of cake stops is ideal, especially if you’ve travelled to the start as Chris and I did (he had cycled 20 miles to Market Weighton and I had driven 110 miles). There are good routes and even better routes so it is possible to go the ‘wrong way’ – hence the occasional stops to check the map.
The scenery in the Yorkshire Wolds is obviously not as dramatic as the Yorkshire Dales, or the Peak District or Wales or Scotland, but when you cycle in those places you are sightseeing as well, there are far fewer roads to choose from, and there is more traffic. True, some great climbs but from a pure cycling point of view I’d choose the Wolds. You can pedal more or less continuously, even down hill, and the absence of motor vehicles is wonderful!
So a note to Hockney’s hordes… if you are looking for David you will not find him here. Hockney Trail? No such thing, so there’s no point driving around looking for it. Anyway, the trees he painted have been chopped down. But he does have a house in Bridlington and the shopping in Beverley is apparently very good.
The bridleway between Bishop Wilton and Fangfoss again – me this time
For reasons unknown, Garmin Connect will not display average moving speed, only average speed including stops (a new café near Stamford Bridge Post Office and The Ramblers’ Rest in Millington).