‘Where are you off to today?’, I asked the silver haired gent astride an e-bike that looked like a motor-cross bike who I encountered whilst shooting video half way round my loop.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’m 78!’

Older people up North have a habit of telling you how old they are the minute you start talking to them…

‘And I’ve had two heart attacks!’

And of regaling you with their medical history…

‘What, today?’

‘Get away! No not today! I’m off up to Cockley Beck and then up Rhino’s Pass.’

‘Rhino? Like the animal?’

‘No, W-R-Y-N-O-S-E Pass. You’re not from round here?’

‘No, Taiwan.’

‘Oh, right… Well it’s up this way, tough little climb.’

‘How far do you go on this machine?’

’40 to 50 miles, three days a week, I love it. When I was younger….’

The Life Story of Ken Wardleworth then ensued, it was a good one but I was turning blue by the time it finished. 6 degrees with a blowing gale in a Cumbrian valley is not a warm place to be…

In case you’re not familiar with Cumbria, it’s the county above Lancashire and home to the phenomenal Lake District, a land of lakes and beautiful craggy hills, that is one of the most majestic places on the planet (especially on a sunny day, those than can be few and far between in winter).

Cumbria, bordered in red

Setting off from the picturesque town of Ambleside, I headed west along the A593 towards Skelwith Bridge and was soon reminded just what a shock to the system the short, steep little climbs around this area can bring, totally unlike the 6, 10, 20 and 85 km climbs we have in Taiwan.

I continued along this road to the small town of Torver to Broughton-in-Furness, where I stopped to re-fuel (massive flapjack and water). Then it was back north to the beguilingly named hamlet of Ulpha, which sounds Swedish to me, then up to Cockley Beck.

Out of Ulpha
Not sheepish!
Looking east from Cockley Beck
The approach to Wrynose Pass from Cockley Beck bridge

It’s a good thing I did refuel in Broughton as Cockley Beck turned out to be no more than a single dwelling and a bridge. To the left I could have ascended Hardknott Pass (rated the toughest climb in England by the Guardian and built in the 2nd Century by the Romans), but as it was getting on I decided I’d follow Ken up Wrynose Pass (rated 2nd toughest in the land), which was hard enough in itself, hitting 22% in places.

The descent was something else too, hitting -39% at one point, which I think is where I almost hit one of those beautiful dry-stone walls, just escaping certain disaster by a whisker.

Ride time was 2:27 but I was out there for 4 hrs, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped so often to take photos and to film. Gorgeous, glorious ride, fully recommended!

I’d rate this ride as moderate to challenging, if you don’t like short steep climbs it’s not for you, and even some experienced cyclists might have to walk up the top section of Wrynose.

Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

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