Nothing quite beats a hearty cooked breakfast before setting out on a day of cycling and we were treated to a feast as our generous host served us delicious baked beans, rashes of bacon, spoonfuls of scrambled eggs, piping hot toast and a pot of fresh coffee as we happily sat in his cosy eatery.
With our stomachs full to bursting we departed the seaside town of Silloth ensuring we had wrapped up warm with the added protection of our waterproofs for the sky above was as grey as gravy and the air nippy. We pedalled along a small B road which took us past dilapidated farm buildings, fields of green and through small farming communities. This small B road guided us onto another small B road where unfortunately, I came to a sudden stop as my front wheel had become as flat as a pancake.
I had a puncture and while we fixed it I spotted an elderly chap on his bicycle coming towards us from the opposite direction. He stopped to offer help and then spent the rest of the time telling us about his many romances with fellow female cyclists. He was extremely jolly and rather entertaining to talk too, however as soon as my wheel was repaired we departed ways as quickly as we had met.
Our next spot of company was a very fine drizzle of rain making our surroundings seem rather drab. The small B roads seemed empty of traffic, although occasionally a car would whizz by pushing us into the roadside verges and sometimes spraying us with cold rain water from growing puddles.
The route divided in two and we made the decision to take the scenic coastal route to Bowness-on-Solway rather than the shorter inland route. As we headed towards the coast the breeze picked up and we felt our legs pedalling harder while our loose clothing flapped about. The coastal view was barely visible as the drizzle turned into a heavy downpour. The coastal road was isolated and empty and it was exposed to the elements with nowhere to hide. The only way for us to stay warm was to keep pedalling!
It seemed that we were the only two people silly enough to brave the nasty weather. We encountered groups of sheep and cows, baaing and mooing at our brave efforts. A small group of sheep joined us and ran along the road at top speed bleating loudly as if they were cheering us on!
At Bowness-on-Solway we rested briefly under a small wooden shelter belonging to the Hadrian’s Wall National Walking Trail before carrying on down quiet roads covered in slimy giant slugs! We tried our best not to squash them – it was like a mini obstacle course!
The rain eased, but the skies remained grey and onwards we cycled pausing only to warm up in a lone pub for a hot meal and a chance to dry our damp clothes.
The trail then began to take us into a quiet part of Carlisle, down sleepy suburban streets and along the overgrown banks of the river dotted with a fisherman or two enjoying the tranquility. We cycled over many bridges and through Carlisle’s leafy parks passing elderly folk walking arm in arm and children squealing with joy in the blustery wind as leaves were whisked about in a frenzy of dancing.
As the miles faded away we cycled through a few villages and back out into the countryside where the grey clouds were becoming a frightening shade of black and the flat roads started to roll into hills. The air became even cooler and we saw a storm brewing…
We free wheeled down a hill past the impressive Lanercost Priory at top speed and then suddenly we were attacked by rain that was as hard as nails. It stung our exposed skin, our eyelids became windscreen wipers and our clothes instantly became heavy weights. The rain didn’t give up in its attack and there was no escape from its persistent lashings.
I have to admit this weather distracted us from our first sighting of Hadrian’s wall. In fact we were so cold and wet that shelter was all we could think of as we paused only for a few seconds at the historic wall.
Covered in mud, dripping wet and shivering with cold we must have looked like drowned rats when we were cheerfully greeted by our Hostess, who after our hot showers very kindly cooked us a three course meal to warm our insides. That night we snuggled under the toasty bed covers and listened to the continuous rain beat down on the roof. It was like an army of soldiers on the march and as I closed my eyes I wondered if we would face any more battles tomorrow?