Exploring the hinterlands: English Welsh border country

Our industrial north has provided us with plenty of canals which are great to follow by bike.  A flat ride with a variety of vessels to watch.

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We trended westwards and crossed the border into Wales. Our first stop was at the very impressive World Heritage Site of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct. 307m long and 38m high.

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We spent our first night in Wales in Llangollen where we had some serious route planning to do for the next few days. There was a brief discussion of how easy it would be to catch a ferry to Ireland to truly complete our UK tour. That idea was put to one side and I pondered on the possibility of reaching the Welsh coast within our time frame. The Badger’s eyebrows were raised at this suggestion so I realised that route maybe a bit ambitious so we agreed on his route taking in the Welsh hills. Within a few kilometres of leaving Llangollen we soon realised that Badge had surpassed me in challenging route choice…

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The struggle up the 20% hill out of Llangollen was tough but the view at the top was beautiful.

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Welsh lamb.

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The Welsh ‘hills’.

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Getting to grips with another new language.

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In search of dragons…

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We found a great camping spot behind the Llanfyllin Victorian Workhouse which is being renovated into a community building.

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Our Welsh visas were short, they were suspicious of Badge’s hairy looks, so we returned to England and the beauty of the Shropshire hills.

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The Youth Hostel at Clun is in a converted water mill and has the most perfect lawn for camping on.

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Not a bad view either.

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Another county pedalled through and soon we were in Herefordshire. We were beginning to see much more thatch and cider. The hills became more rounded and friendlier for cycling.

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We hugged the border and our final night in the hinterland was spent in the Wye Valley. Another lovely grassy camping spot attached to a Youth Hostel. Perfect for a snooze.

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We are within llama spitting distance of the South West. We can almost smell the cream teas and pasties of home.

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England – The North

Our first stop over the border was Berwick upon Tweed. Beautiful old architecture and a very solid wall built to keep out the Scots. The sun shone as we left the town but the wind was building.

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We pedaled around the coast and stopped to have a look at Lindisfarne. The tides weren’t quite right for a crossing and we weren’t prepared to risk it.

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We followed the cost for a bit, then headed inland to Alnwick and then trended south westerly. Unfortunately the wind was attacking us head on and bringing some interesting weather with it. It was quite blowy across the moors.

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The weather began to deteriorate….

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…until it looked like this.

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Where was Spring? British riding was testing us somewhat and most definitely finding us wanting. The winds were strongly head on, the precipitation was cold and the roads were steep. We thought fondly back to those Argentinian days of seeking out shade and a barbecue with good red wine.

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We did have breaks in the weather that afforded us some spectacular views across Northumberland. A stunning county with superb roads for cycling.

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Eventually we had a glimpse of Spring….

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…. and even some sunshine.

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The roads were so busy around Kielder. We joined the traffic jam.

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Sometimes a tableau is so quintessentially English.

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We followed Hadrian’s Wall for a bit before popping into Cumbria.

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North Cumbria proved to be more tricky than anticipated. We had managed to navigate ourselves through the Americas without major mishap but we fell foul of the ‘classic’ Cumwhinton / Cumwhitton mistake. Several miles off course and in serious danger of missing out on Cumberland sausages followed by sticky toffee pudding we had to call in the Welton rescuers. Thankyou Chris and Henry for the lift and the excellent hospitality.

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A wet ride 10 miles down the road took us to Unthank (yep there’s two Unthanks within a 10 mile radius – we did not get fooled this time though). We encountered the toughest riding partner yet of the trip.

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After relentless riding up and down the drive we were allowed to rest up and enjoy some great hospitality with the Gilletts.

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And then we reached the Lake District.

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We took an off road alternative along Loughrigg Terrace for old times sake. Slightly more of a challenge than remembered and heavily laden on this trip.

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A proper trip down memory lane was had in Ambleside with a night at Melbourne (Millans Park) courtesy of Luke, a look around the new Charlotte Mason campus and a pint in the Golden Rule.

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With a bit of student-like rule breaking too.

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After coffee at The Drunken Duck Inn (hardly recognised the place) we headed round Coniston and southwards towards Barrow.

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The mist was thick so we never actually saw Barrow – was that a good or bad thing? We crossed over the bridge and finally made it onto Paradise Island, it’s only taken me 20 years to actually get to Walney. Border control was straight forward but the duty free queue was long. We had a great night with Mark and Sue. Check out Mark’s photos – http://www.lakelandlightphoto.com   Not too shabby for a boy from Walney. We were escorted off the Island the following morning.

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Higginsons in Grange over Sands. The picture says it all.

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We pedaled around the bay and stayed in Arnside. The weather was beginning to warm up.

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From Arnside we decide to head to the Forest of Bowland AONB. It was a large expanse of green on the map and neither of us had ever been there. What other reasons do you need? We were not disappointed.

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Lancashire was treating us well, Eccles cakes included. To top it off we stumbled across this gold post box (plus it was warm enough to be in a T shirt).

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We negotiated the urban areas of our industrial north and tackled the traffic of south Lancashire to pop out into lovely flat Cheshire and the wonderful hospitality of Debby and Ross in Congleton.

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They waved us off as we headed west along the canal, destination Wales: the land of daffodils, leeks, welsh cakes, male voice choirs, rugby and dragons. I was going in search of dragons….