about talks publications code

Day 6 – Kirby Lonsdale to Moffat

In Cycling most of Land's End to John O'Groats | 28 Apr 2023 | cycling

Slept well and felt good enough to try Penrith at least. Resolved to follow my sister’s advice “tortoise and the hare, ‘nuff said!” and to keep my mum’s advice in the back of my mind “common sense is as important as determination”. Gently does it.

It was immediately apparent that I was better than yesterday. Then, the 7 miles from the railway station seemed an ordeal. Today, I was pootling along OK. Even when my bike computer started announcing the odd hill — it hadn’t rated anything the past two riding days, it rated 19 hills on the first day in Cornwall — I felt I could bump the gears down and grind gently away.

The Lancashire fells are really beautiful and brought back fond memories of caving trips with the Manchester University Speleology Club. I felt unusually emotional at several times today. One of those was remembering my friend Dunc: housemate, caver, climber, scuba diver and generally great person to adventure with. Unfortunately lost to cancer in his 30’s.

Sheep with lambs have been a feature of the whole trip, but perhaps Lancashire is even more sheep farming country than other places I’ve been. They keep the grass down to a finely mown length.


Sheep and lambs in Lancashire

It was much windier today than it has been. At times the wind was hard to peddle against it, though for much of the route I benefitted from it being behind me. It made times when my route veered out into the shoulder of the fell feel more elemental.

Road along the side of the fell

Route running through open grazing on the shoulder of the fell

In a few places the fell was ablaze with gorse in flower. I’ve also been seeing this throughout my trip, lots in Cornwall. Gorse is a tough plant.


Gorse surrounding the road

The route was steadily climbing and a times switched from side to side of the M6 motorway (the main north-south road on west side of England). I was basically following the M6 and it’s Scottish continuation, the A74(M) all day, and will again for the first bit of tomorrow. At about 30 miles I reached the town of Shap, a good sign because I’ve only previously known the name as the highest point on the M6. Lots of downhill to Penrith.

Penrith was my decision point. I felt OK so onward it was, “steady as she goes”. Around Carlisle the route took a seemingly nice bike path that, a mile or so in, ended with a rather definitive block. I didn’t have to go quite all the way back to escape to roads but it was annoying all the same.

Blocked bike path

Bike path blocked for gas works near Carlisle

Carlisle is the last big town along the M6 in England, and everyone in the UK knows that Gretna Green, or actually just Gretna which is slightly south of the railway station at Gretna Green, is the first town in Scotland, the place to elope to take advantage of Scotland’s marriage laws. I’m not interested in a second marriage but I was nonetheless welcomed by Scotland to Scotland in Gretna. I wonder whether the Scots share the sentiment?

"Scotland welcomes you" sign


The remaining miles were first over rather nice gently rolling farmland, and then a long stretch along an annoying road closely following the A74(M), perhaps the old A74? This had a generally very rough and ill-repaired surface and an often completely useless bike lane. I imagined letters to the roads department…

Dear person responsible for maintaining bike lanes in Dumfries & Galloway,

Let’s start with the basics. Do we want bike lanes so that people can get that mountain bike experience in close proximity to heavy goods vehicles? No, we don’t! We want bike lanes so that cyclists can be a little safer while following the same routes as other traffic.

Bonus question: Is it actually worse to have a well signed but unusable bike lane than to have none at all? I think so.

[helpful suggestions inserted here]

Yours very sincerely, A. Noyd of Old Lane

The miles did keep clicking along though. I felt tired but OK. Eventually, a sign to Moffat which I was delighted to see. In the last couple of miles I did see some particularly funny lambs and then proceeded to find the Moffat Independent Hostel very easily.

Lambs in a field

This group of 6 or 7 lambs were mightily engaged in a game of “Who can stand on the concrete block?”. The block was not big enough for all of them to stand on at once without some sort of collective action that I think might have been beyond them.

So, I’m back in the game! 113 miles today and 6,800 feet of elevation gain. About 8 hours in the saddle and about 2:30 in stops.

Day 6 map