It rained. Day 7: Gretna to Carnforth

We were lucky to find accommodation for last night around Gretna given that most had been snapped up weeks ago for the Radio 1 Big Weekend in Carlisle. The hotel that I’d picked out when planning the challenge had availability but suddenly hiked its price by 50% when I called to confirm. Well there’s a surprise! A quick call to Carlisle Tourist Information and by sheer fluke a B&B had called in moments earlier to say they had vacancies. I spoke to Carol, the owner of Kirkpatrick House B&B directly and promptly booked at a very reasonable rate. Carol even took a few pounds off when I explained what Jer was doing! What’s more, the B&B was only a few miles from Gretna – perfect. Kirkpatrick House is a gorgeous small manor with large rooms and high ceilings. Carol was a wonderful hostess – we were treated to coffee and biscuits in front of a roaring fire when we arrived and a splendid cooked breakfast in the morning with local bacon and sausages, and eggs from her own hens. Even the jam and marmalade was home-made. I would recommend Kirkpatrick House to anyone. The address is Kirkpatrick-house.co.uk. Thank you Carol – hope to see you again one day.

Despite the lavish breakfast, we were back at the start point in Carlisle at 7:45. Jer was off once more.

Our destination today is Carnforth looking out over Morecombe Bay. The predicted mileage is around 65. The route passes through Carlisle on the A6 down to Penrith and over Shap on the edge of the Lake District. Jer then heads for Kendall and onto the finish at Carnforth.

Rain was predicted for today and it was certainly grey skies as we left Carlisle. The rain wasn’t far behind and after passing through the town, light rain was already falling. The first 5 miles was spent going through a myriad of traffic lights that seemed to typify Carlisle. The sight of rolling countryside and green pasture fields outside the urban sprawl was much more gratifying. The terrain was moderate but the wind was against Jer today. For this part of the leg, at least, it was tolerable.

Our first stop was at 19 miles just before Penrith and the countryside was much the same. The rain had picked up a little but the effects were calmed by a hot brew and a mug of soup. After 6 days of cycling, Jer appears to face each day with less trepidation and more confident in his ability to handle the rigours of the challenge. It was for this reason, I think, that he seemed very relaxed about the next section today…reaching Shap summit at 430 metres above sea level. Sure enough, after passing through Penrith and the village of Clifton with it’s beautiful apsidal church, the ascent began. The lush pasture fields separated by a chequer board pattern of dry stone walls gave way to open, brown scrubby moorland with hills rising on either side. We were on the eastern edge of the Lake District National Park and it was bleak up there today. The rain was still moderate but was being pushed hard by a very strong cross wind – it was piercing. We agreed to stop at 30 miles. As it turned out this went beyond Shap summit and back down into the valley and a return to pasture fields. I took the time to pause on the peak and take some photos before the sharp descent. I knew Jer was going to have as much trouble going down the other side as he would have going up. I passed a cyclist coming up the opposite way and a side wind nearly knocked him over. At the next stop, Jer told me that it nearly happened to him too.

After another cup of tea, and a consulting the maps, Jer set off for the other side of Kendall and our next stop at 40 miles. I went ahead and sent Jer a text after I’d gone through the town to help with directions as the road we wanted split, turned, veered and generally made a nuisance of itself out of the town. Brief stops at 50 and 58 miles, the last being just beyond Milnthorpe, and Jer did the last few miles into Carnforth to finish a miserable day in the pouring rain. In all, Jer completed 63 miles in 6 hours averaging just a smidge over 10 miles an hour. Once more, the weather was the victor and much of Jer’s view was looking down at the tarmac to avoid the driving rain. Lovely countryside but it’s difficult to appreciate any of it when you can’t raise your head to see it!

We deliberately finished the day at Carnforth railway station so that we could meet our brother-in-law, Kev. Kev sacrificed a short break after a long working week to come up on the train from Salisbury today. Kev will be staying with us overnight at our hostel at Arnside, just a few miles away before making the long trip back. The three of us went out to dinner in Carnforth this evening and Kev took the opportunity to present Jer with a pledge note for an incredible £500! Kev has spent the last month or so collecting pledges from friends and colleagues – the most amazing part is that none of them know Jer personally. What can you say…

2 Responses to “It rained. Day 7: Gretna to Carnforth”

  1. Keep going uncle Jer, you are doing so so well and reading the blogs everyday, really proud of what you are doing and what a nice visit from uncle Kevin! Also everyone who contributed to you, amazing, you can do it 😀 xxx

  2. Susie Matthews says:

    Great day Jer! You’re looking good on it! Must have been that breakfast! Well done!

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