A small group gathered at the Boot and Shoe on this cold morning. Some had read the forecast which explained why the group was so much smaller than in recent weeks. Nigel had even read the forecast for Chipping and warned us that it was expected to be at the edge of a band of snow crossing from the East.
Most of us set off up Bowerham Lane and Blea Tarn Road but some chose a more direct and less up-and-down route to the Applestore. The main ride followed Proctor Moss Road across the valley of the River Condor and then along the side of the valley above Damas Gill for the first views of Harris End – the sun was shining and much of the sky was blue. We went through Dolphinholme on Wagon Road and around Tinker’s Lane to Long Lane and then a left turn onto Brewer’s Lane to run parallel with Harris End away to our left. Over the footbridge at the ford and then around the bottom of Nicky Nook until we dropped down to the Applestore past the parked cars of Sunday walkers. At the Applestore we found Anne and Mike enjoying bacon sarnies and we joined them to dally over coffees, teas and cakes. The warmth indoors was welcome and there was some reviewing of routes and weather before four of us (Patience, Len, Geoff and Tim) set out for Chipping. Nigel stuck to his forecast and went homewards with Anne and Mike.
To begin with, as we picked up Higher Lane again, the weather was good – still some sun although the views westward across the Fylde included bands of grey cloud. The ups and downs as we rode along the valley side parallel to the motorway didn’t seem too onerous but in places were rather muddy where tree felling had been going on. A familiar route along Sandholme Lane led us to less familiar territory up towards Claughton. The dip to cross the River Brock on Walmsley Bridge Lane was not as pronounced as Brock Bottom, but as we rose on the other side we were met with blasts of wind from the gaps in the hedge just as cars were passing and there was a steep drop to our left. Slowed by the headwind, we made our way to Whitechapel and along Church Lane to Syke House Lane. By now Harris End was way behind us and the dominant landmark was Beacon Fell. We turned almost towards it and then turned away, and by the time we were going up Loud Bridge Lane the wind was getting stronger and began to have rain in it. The weather was coming from east-north-east and that was exactly where we were heading; could we get to Chipping before that mass of grey cloud reaching to the land was upon us? Not quite. The rain was never heavy but was getting wetter as we rode into the village. Our hands and feet were cold and getting inside the Cobbled Corner was a relief from the wind chill and damp. It was not too busy and teas and plates of beans, eggs and sausages were not long in coming; the ‘Paris-Roubaix’ special was popular although we hadn’t ridden quite as far as that…
The rain was still in the air when we left the café for a direct ride back, thankful for having the wind behind us now. And then, as we left Chipping, the rain became sleet and eventually thin snow. Len had a little trouble getting both his feet heaters switched on but we all whizzed along enjoying the descents but wary of the occasional side blasts and the wet road surface. The haul up Delph Lane was not pleasant with the snowy wind blowing through the thin line of trees to our right and the descent to Oakenclough wasn’t the usual freeride pleasure because of road works with reluctant traffic lights. As we rode up beside the Barnacre and Grizedale reservoirs, there was Harris End again with the wind whipping down the gaps between the fells (Hazelhurst, Stake House and Harris End). The damp road suggested caution for the approach to the cattle grid at the bottom – but there wasn’t any of the traffic that gathers there on a fine day. Once round the bottom of Harris End, the weather seemed to lighten a little and the prospect of Lancaster to the north west looked better. But even was we zipped down through Street and across the Wyre, it was still damp and windy and the slog up past Wyreside Lodge was accompanied by half a dozen cars who all seemed able to see around blind corners. The wind blew us along towards Galgate and the gentle downhill meant there was not too much peddling to do. Up through the University, we rode back to Hala and at the Booths crossroads split up. A ride with not many miles or miles per hour and rather more weather than we would have wished for – I’m sure we were all glad to get back to warm houses.