Monday, 30 May 2011

The Wolds, the Wind, and Some Asparagus

This weekend we had our second attempt at a circular route through the Yorkshire Wolds, via the town of Pocklington. We found this route in our Big Skies Bike Rides booklet, which shows off a number of amazing cycle routes through the Yorkshire Wolds. We'd attempted the Pocklington ride last autumn when I was recovering from a nasty cold, and sadly my lungs just couldn't cope with some of the long hills typical of the area, so we gave up and came home (after desperately searching for a train station that just didn't exist!).

We took the now-familiar Route 66 to Pocklington, which is a cycling dream with long, flat roads, very few cars and fantastic scenery. From Pocklington we headed upwards - quite literally - into the Yorkshire Wolds, a hilly ridge of sparse farmland seperating the Yorkshire Dales from the East Coast. The difference between the Wolds and the Howardian hills lies in the drama of the landscape. The Wolds don't boast such torturous ascents as Bulmer Bank - the gradients are much more kindly in both directions - but instead the climbs are long and unexpected, and by the time adrenaline is required to power through the tougest gradients, the legs have just about run out of steam! The scenery is also very different; the Wolds are very rural, but without the picturesque, chocolate-box pleasantries of the Dales and other parts of Yorkshire. Huge bullocks graze on grassy verges, and roads twist and climb through the valleys, with hills upon hills spreading out into the distance.

We got to Pocklington and managed most of the way around the circular route fine, and I was getting a little complacent as we approached the final quarter of the 17-mile tour around the Wolds. But then the threatening skies started to break, and we found the winds, which had been in our favour for the first 30 miles, were suddenly against us, bellowing in our ears and making it impossible to concentrate on anything but pedalling over and over, as furiously as we could.

The winds were relentless, and it was completely exhausting. We stopped off back in Pocklington for a Soreen re-fuel, and it would be fair to say that spirits were rather low: getting back was going to be tough. We had already committed to stopping off for some of England's best asparagus at Sand Hutton, so we headed back on a different route, adding a few extra miles to our belt to boot. We bought the asparagus from a cart in the farmyard, leaving our change in a little box on the stall; these 'honesty boxes' are very common in the area, and in every village there are eggs on sale by the side of the road, left for passers-by to help themselves to for only £1.80/dozen.

The last few miles were by far the toughest, and seemed to drag by unbearably slowly. The wind was blasting in our faces, making every mile double the effort, and by the time we got back to York it felt as if we'd done 80 miles rather than 60. It all came to a head when I managed to fall off my bike in a carpark while on the way to pick up some food for tea! My bike fell to the floor and I followed suit, managing to save myself in a rather undignified lunge over the bike!

As we arrived home it struck me that the skies were blue and the wind had calmed. Typical. Still, we took the opportunity to give the bikes a good clean before putting them away for the night, as this is never a fun job for the following day!

And, for the record, we roasted the asparagus in olive oil, and it was amazing. Definitely worth the de-tour!

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