Day 4, the finale!
The last cycling day of our Lancashire week. A plan to penetrate the Yorkshire Dales (a favourite area of mine, too rarely visited since moving away from North East England) has been sitting in bold on our unwritten agenda and we retired the previous evening with hope, ambition and fully charged lights. “We’ll ride directly to Hornby then take it from there”.
Thursday morning arrives, and groggy discussions about cycling form and muscular pains suggests the Dales may be another day. We’ll just see how it goes. Steve selflessly suggests I ride the probable century route alone, but I dismiss such talk. I’m here to ride with a friend, I can ride alone any time.
With open minds our initial goal is Lancaster with the possibility of continuing to Hornby, our gateway to the Dales and location of another favoured cafe. Of course, to reach Lancaster off-road means passing Cafe d’Lune (see ‘North West Coast 2016’ Day 2 – here ) Passing? Not stopping? Not likely! Front wheels slotted into vacant stands with cake weakness soon to be satisfied, we look forward to the usual cafe banter.
More than an hour passes as Victoria sponges are devoured, coffees downed, Internet corrected and second coffees downed. We aren’t concerned about lost time, since to lose time it must be important in the first place and time is of no importance today. What the day gives in terms of mileage will be accepted.
With the caffeine starting to kick in, we set off north to Lancaster and beyond taking the usual path alongside the Lune estuary. Through Lancaster and onto new ground for this week, but familiar from previous visits. We pass under the Lancaster Canal’s Lune Aqueduct, a wet patch on the path preparing us for being caught by the constant drips from its arches some 15 metres above.
We continue on the tree-canopied Lune Valley Ramble, sighting railway artefacts and the odd art installation as we go. A disused platform ‘bike lean’ photo, the odd stop to peer through trees down to the river or across fields on the other side, sharing memories of previous years’ passages. Then onto road for the final stretch to Hornby. A railway signal box in a front garden catches my eye, looking as incongruous as beached fishing boats on the receded Aral Sea.
Into Hornby, eyes fixed on what we agree will be today’s apogee. The cafe appears closed on first sighting, and closed cafes are rarely a good thing. But a peek through the window shows other customers. Faux panic over! Toasted panini, coffee and a gluttonous chocolate pudding, before retracing our route back to base.
Riding back along the Lancashire Coastal Way (NCN 6 and Lune Estuary Footpath being alternative names for this multi-titled trail) we spot the beginnings of a starling murmuration. We stop at a bench to watch. Perhaps one hundred birds repeatedly taking off, flying their balletic display, then landing. And repeat. With each pause allowing more starlings to join, growing their number. We are about 20 metres away, and I have not witnessed a murmuration this close before. We can hear their hundreds of wings beat in unison at each launch. Mesmerising.
We watch for ten minutes until our hundreds of friends depart to perch high up on a nearby electricity pylon in distant silence. Cue comedy impressions of exhausted starlings exchanging display notes and then we leave.
A suitable end to a relaxed few days here on the North West Coast, with pink-edged sunset clouds being the icing on this cake.
Words – Jason Liddell.
Pictures – Jason Liddell & Steve Makin.