Following the river to the end.

I’ve followed our local river, the Yarrow, on my mountain bike from it’s source at Horden Stoops at 1,066 feet above sea level back to home. Today I thought I should do something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and ride from home to the point where the Yarrow joins the bigger River Douglas. On Saturday my wife Ali, our dog Freddie and myself went to that very place by car and had a lovely morning. I’ll explain more later.

I generally ride as little road as I can by bike and stick to the trails and today’s ride would start on trails for some distance before I’d be forced to add road sections to the mix. I left the road after 400 yards and rode through Duxbury Woods alongside the river. I soon remembered that the trail towards Birkacre is rather poor and I must have had to get off the bike around 10 times to climb over stiles, narrow wooden bridges and up steps. It was slightly tedious but at least it lead to the Yarrow Valley country park where the riding was easy if not exactly exciting. With only one more short road section I covered 8 miles before reaching a bigger road. After about 10 miles I felt something which has become too familiar recently. My front tyre was flat and I couldn’t steer the bike any more. This was my third puncture to add to the 2 I had on my ride before last. I had already bought 2 new inner tubes and fitted my spare, after removing the offending hawthorn thorn from the tyre.

I found a shady place to fix the puncture. The temperature was around 20 celcius with a clear blue sky.

I continued, having already decided not to take another off road option which follows the river, but instead skirted the village of Croston to take a road I’ve never been on before. It is a narrow lane with signs at each end saying access only. Cars are not supposed to use it as a shortcut to anywhere. I was close to my destination but first visited somewhere we’d found last Saturday. We stopped along a country road to walk the dog and suspected it lead to a big house. We were right. It was Bank Hall which is a Jacobean house from just after the time of Queen Elizabeth the first. It fell into disrepair and was abandoned, with collapses of the structure from the 1980s, but is now being restored. The roof has been replaced and it is being converted into 10 apartments starting at a very reasonable £275,000. Not such a high price to live somewhere which looks like the picture below.

I continued along the lane to the end of the Yarrow. I’d dropped from 297 feet at home to just 22 feet.

On the horizon I could see the West Pennine Moors to the east from Great Hill at the northern end down to Winter Hill. The rickety steel bridge has bollards set too close together for our car and was very noisy to ride the bike over.

The confluence of the Yarrow and Douglas was visible but I couldn’t get a good picture. I turned to ride home and intended to stick to the road. Footpaths lead each way along the Douglas but I didn’t want to add any more distance to the ride so used the out bound route to beyond Croston. I was in unfamiliar territory on a now purely road ride and was unsure whether I’d tire on the way home. I wasn’t feeling it in my calf muscles as I so often do when I’m off road but felt something down the outsides of my thighs. I suppose that at a higher rate of pedal spinning but using less turning force I’d been using my muscles in a different way. I imagine that my legs would change with a more regular diet of longer road rides After Croston I got that uncomfortable feeling again, this time from the rear tyre. Another puncture, again cause by a Hawthorn thorn. With no spare tube I pulled the thorn out and patched what was a brand new tube, on only it’s second ride. I kept the effort up all the way home and still couldn’t feel stress in my calves but am aware of the effort in the thighs. It had been an interesting ride on a glorious autumn day. Yes, I think I have to concede that autumn is creeping up on us and it’s seems earlier than usual. Thankfully the weather is expected to remain dry, which is a blessing in September. I’d covered 25.09 miles with a surprising 851 feet of climbing. Most of this must have been on the undulating trails on the way out rather than the road based return.

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