Kirkby Stephen – 2016

Kirkby Stephen 

A short holiday staying in Kirkby Stephen. Some pleasant walking and some tough and enjoyable cycling.

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Saturday, September 10th

We travelled from Edinburgh via Hawick to Kirkby Stephen. The route was interesting but with numerous bends and it was almost a relief to get on the motorway at Carlisle. We arrived just after 5 pm and we were met by Julia who showed us round and made sure we had everything we needed. We were in a refurbished flat with a lot of history as it dates back to 1812. The flat was warm, cosy and up-to-date. We walked up & down the main street and first impressions are that Kirkby Stephen is a nice wee place with a lot of history behind it.

Sunday, September 11th

We had a  slow start after a good night’s sleep.  After breakfast and bike assembly we had another dander around to see the town and being Sunday morning, there wasn’t much happening. Afternoon I was out on a bike ride and had a lovely ride around assorted villages. It was typical Cumbria Cycling’; Narrow lanes hemmed in by high hedges, blind bends, steep hills, liberal amounts of mud and gravel, swooping descents and then wide open vistas. All on virtually deserted roads. I enjoyed the ride a lot. We finished the day with fish & chips which were very good.

Monday, September 12th

It turned out to be a warm, pleasant and windy day. A walk was on the agenda and we selected a route via Ewbank Scar, a limestone outcrop. It proved to be a pleasant walk with some interesting Limestone scenery. The navigation was at times tricky mainly due to poorly signposted or non-existent footpaths and we also had to implement a hasty route change due to a large herd of cows. The Scar provided some lovely woodland set to the backdrop of limestone cliffs with a burbling stream. We descended to Nateby and Kirkby Stephen where we had coffee & cake. In the evening we assumed we could just rock up at the local pub, not so, it was fully booked and with nowhere else doing meals on a Monday night we drove to Winton where we squeezed into the Bay Horse, a busy pub and ate some excellent food.

 Tuesday, September 13th

Cycling-Kirkby Stephen-Outhgill-Garsdale Head-Hawes-Askrigg-Muker-Kirkby Stephen

Away on the bike by 07.45 enjoying the coolness of the morning. It was hot (yes, HOT) and the first hour to Garsdale Head was very pleasant on quiet, scenic roads. Tried the Dent road again and, as in 2006, I failed to cycle up. I managed the first bit and with lungs fit to burst and heart rhythm feeling a bit weird I realised I would not be able to do the rest. Another day or maybe, never. I rejigged the route and cycled via Hawes and Askrigg, pleasant cycling. Unfortunately, the roads between dales don’t mess about and I needed to get myself from Wensleydale to Swaledale.  The road from Askrigg climbs vertically up the hillside in a series of 20% ramps, I was forced to walk the steepest bits and it was very humid. Even walking sweat poured off me. The descent was scenic and demanding with a very steep, narrow and poorly surfaced road requiring much concentration and hanging onto the brakes like crazy. My wheel rims were very hot by the time I reached the valley floor.

Muker next stop and a visit to ‘Molly’s Tree’.

Molly’s Tree

My Aunt, Molly Sanderson (1904-1992), was a lovely lady who for many years spent holidays in Muker with her family. Originally with her husband Jack (my uncle) and later their son (also Jack) and later his children (Robert & Melanie). She was into walking and cycling in her younger years and loved Muker. After she died permission was obtained to plant a tree near the parking area and a small stone plaque was placed at its foot which, says, “In Memory of Molly Sanderson, Who Loved This Place”. She was almost a second mum to me. She looked after me whilst my brother & sister were born and I stayed with her in Preston for ages when I was wee after I succumbed to some childhood illness. She only had one child, my cousin Jack but I think she maybe wanted more and was pleased to look after me. The tree is surrounded by a dense jungle of nettles & brambles so I wasn’t able to see the plaque but I’m sure it’s there. Maybe a winter visit is needed.

In memory of Molly, much missed and fondly remembered

It was my first opportunity to visit Muker for 15 years and I am delighted to see the tree is thriving. I stopped at the Old School House for some excellent coffee & cake, then onwards towards Kirkby Stephen via Birkdale Common and Nateby.  The road had a long climb and many undulations amongst attractive scenery but nothing as steep as the Askrigg climb. The descent to Nateby was steep and fast and exciting but after the heat and humidity of the day I was very glad to be ‘home’ and didn’t want to cycle another inch (or centimetre). Serious liquid and calorie replacement followed, the ride felt like the hardest 44 miles I have done for a very long time. Phew

The night’s food was an excellent pie from Bryson’s the local bakery with   a refreshing salad, accompanied by rain and rumbles of thunder as the weather cooled off slightly

Wednesday, September 14th

Railway Viaduct Walk

Another nice day and a feeling bit sore after yesterday. This proved to be a pleasant, flat walk with loads of good info points and photographs along the way about railway history. They have done a good job on the renovations to this section of the track. The walk finished alongside the banks of the Eden which was lovely. We were back by lunchtime and relaxed for a while before doing the Town Trail. Kirkby Stephen is stuffed with history and there were loads of interesting things to see like the ‘butter bell’ in the market area that was rung when the ladies were selling butter. We ate at Pennine Boutique Hotel & Bistro, The Steak was Ok, the service mediocre and it was too noisy.

Thursday, September 14th

Cycling: Kirkby Stephen-Sedbergh-Orton-Crosby-Ravensworth-Maulds Meaburn-Morland-King’s Meaburn-Hoff, Burrells-Soulby-Kirkby Stephen 

Kirkby Stephen to Sedbergh: Hard work getting up the steep hill to the station but once on the A683 it was lovely. It was fast, a good surface, peaceful and full of early morning summer smells such as wood smoke, farm animals, garlic and flowers.

Sedberg to Orton: Howgill Lane.  I have long wanted to cycle this road having seen it many times from the motorway across the valley. It didn’t disappoint, narrow, twisty, hilly and scenic.

Orton Scar Café: A fabulous array of cakes and good coffee, good company as well.

Orton-Crosby Ravensworth-Maulds Meaburn-Morland-King’s Meaburn-Hoff-Burrells-Soulby- Kirkby Stephen: Typical Cumbrian villages, some very attractive and great, reasonably fast cycling.

The temperature climbed gradually all day starting at a comfortable 16 Celsius and peaking at 24 Celsius, hot for September and still quite humid. I felt good all day but 51 miles in just over four hours was enough and I was glad I hadn’t planned a longer route. I have decided I must have been a bit off the pace on Tuesday.

While I was cycling Kathryn took a very chilled out approach to the day and relaxed in our cosy apartment with the occasional foray out for ice-cream & coffee (well, it was a hot day)

Friday, September 15th

A straightforward drive to Garstang to meet ‘brother Bob’ at 11.00. We had a cuppa and a chat in the Royal Oak and afterwards Kathryn & I had a walk around Garstang.  It’s such a nice place with great shops, I can see why my mum went to live there and why Bob plans to live there. Then back into the car to Morland not far from Kirkby Stephen where we had an excellent lunch at the Mill Yard Café sitting in the warm sun. The weather is still good but some of the humidity has gone. Needing a walk, we found a pleasant circuit around Crosby Ravensworth and Maulds Meaburn, both attractive villages with some pleasant rural countryside in between. Saw an unusual semi-abandoned big house called Flass which had definitely seen better days and was in need of a complete re-work or demolition, it was a sad sight. Drove back to the flat feeling tired after a busy week to start packing on prepare for the next stage of our trip in Edinburgh.

We were out of our apartment by 10.30. A nice wee place, nicely renovated and very comfortable. The Air BnB setup has worked really well for us, we like it a lot, as we did Kirkby Stephen. We had a last walk up & down the street, had a coffee and set off for Edinburgh for the next stage of our journey. A successful wee holiday with some great cycling and walking in a lovely area whilst staying in a friendly town.

© Peter Main

You are welcome to use extracts from this text but please give me an acknowledgement



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