It’s going to be a scorcher.

The breeze on my bare arms and legs is cool and I am making the most of it. It’s just after six in the morning and the forecast says the temperature will reach the high twenties today but for now it is just perfect for cycling.

As is often the case at this time of year I woke just after five and enjoyed a brief discussion with myself on the subject of seizing the day or snoozing for another couple of hours. I’m pleased to say that carpe diem won and I was out of the house an hour later and riding along normally busy roads that were blissfully traffic free. In fact for the first hour or so I think I saw more cyclists than motorists. Most of them looked like they were commuting to work which made my situation even sweeter. I reckoned I had about four hours before the heat would spoil the fun and I amused myself playing around with possible route ideas and speculating on how far I might get in that time. The sky to the east was bright with the new day’s sun forming a dramatic backdrop to the hills of the Trough of Bowland. One thing was certain, I wouldn’t be troubling those slopes given a combination of limited time and my current fitness level.

Early sun over the Trough

Early sun over the Trough

I was vaguely thinking that I would like to go north but wondering if the wind would pick up and if so which direction would it be from. Something at the back of my mind says it will be light to moderate and from the south west so going north might be a mistake. I push the issue aside and start to make a plan. I haven’t been to Scorton for a while and a round trip there and back would be just about perfect at around forty five miles. Decision made, Scorton it is. Well, for now, anyway.

I spot a small animal or bird in the road ahead and I’m delighted to find it is not one but two Lapwing chicks. They are tiny little balls of fluff and incredibly vulnerable at this early stage in their lives. Just as I am thinking this, there is a loud peep above me and the mother bird makes it very clear she isn’t happy with me so close to her precious charges. I ride on hoping that the little ones don’t make a habit of playing in the road. We are really lucky here on the Fylde to have a healthy population of these delightful birds with their acrobatic flight and cheerful ‘pee-wit’ calls. To the naked eye they are a drab black and white bird but if you can get up close or catch them in binoculars you’ll see that they sport a spectacular head plume and their feathers have an iridescence that shines green and purple when it catches the light. They are smart and regal but you would never believe it looking at those scruffy little chicks.

picture copyright http://www.rxwildlife.org.uk

picture copyright rxwildlife.org.uk

I love these quiet twisting lanes but I know there is a section of the route that I am less keen on so I turn down to the canal to explore the towpath at Bilsborrow as an alternative. The canal is packed with moored boats, many occupied but the curtains are all firmly drawn as it is still too early for the laid back boaters. Amongst them is a narrowboat hotel, a lovely idea if you fancy a taste of canal life without any effort or planning involved. Like a luxury cruise in miniature and absolutely no temptation to run laps of the upper deck each morning. As I re-mount the bike my eye is caught by what looks like a small black candifloss on legs. It turns out to be a moorhen chick. It’s legs are too long for its ridiculously fluffy body and it looks like a creation of the muppets as it runs to the safety of the water. There is new life at every turn at this time of year and the canal is a great place to spot it.

After a short break in Scorton village to eat a few biscuits, which is all I have brought with me, I am off again and in theory turning for home.

Brief resting place

Brief resting place

Problem is, when I get to the A6 I find myself turning right instead of left and I have a new plan. Working for the Canal and River Trust has given me a much better grasp of how the local canal network fits into the roads of the area and I have thought of a way of using another towpath to take me to Glasson Dock. This kind of spontaneous change of route is the plus side of riding alone. I generally prefer to have company but it does tend to inhibit flexibility, as not everybody appreciates my fluid approach to route planning. After a short spell on the busy main road I join the Lancaster canal at Galgate Marina and the noise and fumes of the heavy traffic are replaced by instant peace and tranquillity.

Galgate Marina

Galgate Marina

The Lancaster canal itself has no locks on it’s navigable length but I am joining the branch that drops to the sea at Glasson via six locks in two miles. The surface is, admittedly, not ideal for my wheels and I wouldn’t attempt in on skinny road bike tyres but the tourer can handle it even though my backside is less enthusiastic. I’m just becoming aware that the temperature is beginning to rise but it doesn’t matter because I am completely absorbed by the stunning surroundings. All along the water’s edge bright yellow Fringed Water Lillies float on the water and yellow Iris flower along the banks. Swallows are busy twisting and turning at impossible speeds as they hunt for food and the ubiquitous heron stands stark still on the opposite bank, momentarily distracted from his fishing as he watches me pass by.

Lock 1 on the Glasson Branch

Lock 1 on the Glasson Branch

Warming up

Warming up

There is always a heron

There is always a heron

At Glasson the proprietor of the Lantern O’r Lune cafe is busy setting out his alfresco seating and anticipating a busy day no doubt. Unfortunately I am still too early to get any food or drink so I take the hill out of the village and feast on the view over the Lune river to Sunderland Point instead. It’s a stunning setting if you can just keep the Heysham nuclear power plant out of your eye line.

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Looking across the Lune river to Sunderland (no not that Sunderland)

As I turn south to head for home it becomes obvious why I have been going so well. That south westerly wind has picked up and now it feels like I will be battling it all the way home. Time to focus on the pedalling and put some miles in before it gets any hotter. Halfway home I feel like I’m wilting but the day is saved by a small bakery and a huge slab of serendipitous apple pie. A lady outside the shop wants to talk and it’s obvious that she is lonely as she tells me of her struggle to come to terms with the death of her brother even after four years. I’m happy to listen and stuff my face with delicious pie; it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Emergency calories

Emergency calories

Although I am tired now the ride ends on an optimistic note as I pass through several villages that are rejoicing at the news that the threat of gas fracking that has been hanging over them for the last couple of years has finally been lifted. The county council has refused planning permission and this quiet rural idyll has been given a stay of execution for the time being. The possibility of today’s ride being dominated by noisy, ugly drilling rigs and gas flare stacks is just too horrible to contemplate. The image it conjures up would be no place for a young lapwing to grow up.

Long may it stay that way

Long may it stay that way

It’s late morning by the time I get home and the weathermen aren’t wrong about that heat. It’s going to be a real scorcher. I’m not sure what I will do with the rest of it, but the first part of the day, at least, has been well and truly seized.

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