(written by Dave)
We have/had no phone service in Slaidburn, this was written on 9/Sept and will be/was posted at some later date.
Quiet night in the maize maze. I learned from the owner/farmer that they have 1,400 laying chickens and the maze was just something that they did for fun. They draw pretty big crowds throughout the summer, June – August, but from September it starts getting quiet. They are only open on weekends now and will soon close for the season. I guess when you make a maze out of maize, you sort have a finite season anyway. The maize will only last so long into the autumn before it becomes pretty easy to work your way out, i.e. you just walk across the field, rather than trying to find some magical path!
We had sun this morning at camp and really enjoyed our time packing up. Even though it was very foggy overnight, we managed to get the tent put away almost completely dry. By 9AM, the sun had burned off all the fog and we actually found ourselves riding without leg and arm warmers for the first time since Germany. Forecast for tomorrow is rain, so that was the English summer – 9/9/2012, write it down, their one day of summer (I’m getting into the local spirit as they have had a bad summer and it is a constant conversation point when we talk to locals).
The first half of the ride today was a bit of a navigational challenge. Our maps were not detailed enough to cover the route in our guide and the guide is too bulky to have in our map holders. This meant we had to stop a lot to consult the maps, the book and our iPhone. This slows us down a lot but it didn’t matter as we were riding in sunshine! We managed to find mostly one-lane farm roads all the way to Hornby where we had an early lunch (egg and bacon rolls of course).
Soon after we left Hornby we entered the Forest of Bowland. I’m not sure why they call it Forest of Bowland versus Bowland Forest. For that matter, I’m not sure why they call it “forest” anything. There are not very many trees in Forest of Bowland. In fact, most of the hills are covered with green grass for livestock or heath in the higher elevations. That’s not to say that it is not scenic. Quite the opposite, our ride covered many back lanes and roads and was very scenic. I may have pushed the limit on photo taking once again. Scenic or not, we had expected some trees in the forest.
Many of the roads that we rode today were in our book but also suggested by one of readers (Kirti) who used to live in this area. Thanks for the tips Kirti – for the record, we ticked off Slaidburn Road, Hornby Road, Wray road and a few more (we did not ride into Lancaster so we missed the castle and your old home – sorry about that!). We really enjoyed the climbing today, actually setting a new LWOP record for percentage of grade. On the climb over Cross O’ Greets we hit an amazing stair stepping climb where most ramps hit 14% and the last one hit 17%. We took little pauses between the steps but I’m happy to report that we pedaled every inch of Slaidburn Road – on bikes that weigh over 50kg – not a bad day in the saddle.
We saw lots of sheep today, as we have almost every day. Most of the sheep have either red or blue on them. I’ve been trying to figure out why so I grabbed a couple shots and asked the crew here at the hostel if they knew what the story was. I had thought that red meant that those sheep were heading for the slaughterhouse and the blue ones were the lucky ones who got to play another year. Well, the hostel folks are not really sheep folk and they had other thoughts. They suggested a couple things- red sheep had been “serviced” by a ram, red and blue were markings made by the owners of various farms as a kind of branding, or perhaps red and blue were sheep that had or had not been tested for fall-out from Chernobyl. Eventually they ran out of answers and suggested that I head over to the pub and find a farmer. Any sheep folks reading this post are welcome to jump in…. I’ll will however be continuing my research, but outside the pub. I don’t want to be showing up in a pub, asking too many questions, with pictures of sheep. You never know who might own those sheep and how they might take it.
With all the hills, photo stops and our late start, we didn’t make it very far today. We were thinking of camping a little further down the road but when we arrived in Slaidburn, found the YHA having an open day, we didn’t need to be asked twice. We decided to stop here for the night. The open day volunteers gave us a tour and told us to hang out until the staff returned and we could sort out a room. They said that the hostel was nearly empty. Most of the rooms sleep 4 or more people and we were hoping for a room of our own. On the web you can book this but you have to buy all the beds. This can be pretty expensive if all they have left is an 8 person room. We might as well stay in a B&B. We needn’t have worried as being empty, they were happy to sell us a room for four and only charge us for two beds. I’m not sure what happens if a load of folks show up but as its 9PM on Sunday night, I think we are safe.
Tomorrow the forecast is for rain. Rain is actually forecasted for the next three days. We are not sure where we will ride to either. So… we’ll probably get up early, hope for dry and hit the road. We will be riding the semi-farm/industrial lands between Manchester and Liverpool so finding some place to stay should not be an issue. As there are no campgrounds, we’ll have to be inside somewhere.