A hare strolled across the road about thirty yards ahead of me. When I say strolled, hares don’t really do strolling do they? Maybe it was the heat but it kind of lolloped slowly looking for all the world like it’s back legs were just too long for it’s body. It reminded me that some things or some animals are made for a particular role and with hares it is racing across open grass land at breakneck speeds rather than strolling. I think I am the same. I’ve got two very different bikes built for different purposes; a sleek, lightweight aluminium road bike with carbon forks and skinny tyres and my trusty heavy steel tourer that is like an old comfy friend. The road bike, like the hare, is built for speed and I never feel quite right on it. I always feel obliged to try and ride as fast as I possibly can to do it justice and I worry constantly that I might be missing something. The bike may be built for speed but I don’t think I am. Today I am on the tourer. I am pootling about on quiet country lanes at something a bit faster than jogging pace. I’m enjoying taking in the roadside flowers, the country smells and the buzzard up above that no doubt has his eye on the hare that has just crossed the road. It’s a slow, lazy day.
Gill and I are aiming vaguely for a couple of pubs about twenty miles from home that we want to check out with a view to eating out tonight. We are meeting up with friends who are cycling from Lands End to John O’ Groats and are passing through Lancashire today. The plan is to pick them up from their B&B later this evening and drive them to a suitable hostelry to enjoy a meal and few pints and to hear their tales of adventure. They are bound to have some, I know.
Unlike them, we don’t have a set route today and when I ask Gill if she fancies ‘doing a bit of meandering’ she is more than up for it. I have no idea who Jacob was but we peel off onto his lane, a narrow, poorly surfaced road that makes up for the rough ride with a total absence of cars for the next few miles. Sadly these almost forgotten lanes probably don’t even feature on the local authority’s list of scheduled maintenance and I suspect that there will come a time when they are the sole domain of tractors and heavy wheeled mountain bikes. In the mean time we can relax and take the opportunity to divide our attention between the badly potholed road and the wide variety of birdlife that is all around us. Gill recognises the call of a greenfinch from the hedgerow which excites us because they are becoming increasingly rare these days, as are the lapwings that we are lucky enough to see regularly in this part of the Fylde Coast. It’s hot like a real summer’s day, the first one this year and finally we have lost the constant cold winds that have plagued us this spring. Everything about the situation suggests we should take our time and drink it all in.
Our route twists and turns like a writhing snake and we find ourselves criss crossing the Lancaster Canal over ancient hump backed bridges as we weave through countryside bursting with the growth of late spring. Twenty miles from home and we are beginning to realise just how unfit we have become but the first pub is an excuse for a sit down and a chat with the barmaid about menus and serving times. It’s a definite maybe for later. It is only another couple of miles to Ye Horn’s Inn near Goosnargh and this time we opt for a beer in the garden.
I am enjoying a pint of Goosnargh Gold ale which is apparently the product of the pub’s own micro brewery and I am delighted to see the brewer, Mark Woods, unloading barley from a pallet. I wander over to congratulate him on his beer and he is more than pleased to give me a whistle stop tour of the set up. The entire brewery could be slotted into a large garden shed but the quality of the beer it produces is no small achievement. I think we have found our venue for the evening.
We have been gradually ascending towards the foothills of the Trough of Bowland during the morning so the first part of the ride home is all downhill and the breeze created by the extra speed is more than welcome. I can see the tar in the road beginning to bubble and my mind wanders back to some of the really hot days of last summer. Days when we spent hours being scorched by the sun on our bikes only to pitch early and find that inside the tent was even more like an oven than outside. There were times back then when I longed for cooler weather but right now, after weeks of cold winds I can’t get enough of the lovely hot sunshine.
There is just time for one more twist to today’s ride and looking at the OS map I can see that we can use the canal towpath to link two dead end minor roads. Just as well we opted for the shire horses rather than the thoroughbreds. The going is bumpy but perfectly manageable on touring bikes and the abundance of summer vegetation against the backdrop of the water adds another dimension to the cycling and the wildlife to be seen.
It’s great to meet up with Nick and Bill later and to while away the evening exchanging cycle touring tales and enjoying the warm glow of sunburn on our faces and arms. The Goosnargh Gold goes down a treat, complimenting the duck and the pheasant and three hours flies by in a flash. The dining room setting is quite genteel and I hope it isn’t our increasingly loud raucous laughter that has resulted in us being the last to leave. Dropping our friends off back at their digs we wish them well on the rest of their journey and say our goodbyes. They have another five hundred miles to go before reaching the northernmost tip of Scotland which makes our forty mile ride today seem a little pathetic. But I know now that miles covered versus time taken isn’t what it is about for me. Today was magical for all sorts of reasons, not least for taking the time to talk to Mark and look around his brewery and for taking the road least travelled wherever we could. In fact, maybe the hare had it right after all. Maybe even hares need to just kick back and do a little strolling now and again.