Ripon initially challenged my opinions that evening. Our rather desperate digs were compensated for somewhat by our enthusiastic host. Then, we happened upon Moonglu, a well-stocked and friendly local bike shop where the owner gave Tim a replacement rotor our of the parts bin. Result.
Following the now stock post-pedal routine, we made a beeline for the most welcoming pub we’d seen and made merry with some excellent Timothy Taylor beers. Forgive the nerdery, but it was heartening to see the excellent Boltmaker on tap alongside some more unfamiliar brews. Beers lubricated the brain cells and the conversation turned to books, an irregular but enjoyable conversational tangent.
So far so good… but while our restaurant for the evening was nice enough and the food good, the clientele were decidedly odd. ‘Stare-y’ I guess you’d describe it. The same was true of the pub where we’d had our beers earlier. The whole place put me on edge again and I was keen to leave.
After an EU surplus breakfast in a distinctly dingy dining room, we readied our gear and pushed off into sunshine. Today was to be an easy day. We had a tailwind of sorts and the terrain would be flat – a far cry from the hills of the Dales and The Forest of Bowland. We pedalled off side by side chatting about our night. We were both glad to be leaving the town and resolved to find a more appealing place to stay that evening.
Out of hill country and you might think the Way of the Roses becomes quite bland. Au contraire. The roads are exquisite, sewing together small villages and, again, mercifully free of traffic.
We sped through a village and I slammed on the brakes while Tim kept on barrelling along. I retraced my tyre marks and stopped by two attractive women sitting outside the local pub enjoying a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Tim watched me from afar and then, with some consternation, saw me pull out my camera and take a picture of the two sunbathers. Little did he know my companions were mannequins, which obviously accounted for their lack of response to my advances… obviously.
This was very agreeable riding, helped no doubt by us becoming more accustomed to the ritual of the road. After an entertaining – and free – crossing of the Aldwark Toll Bridge we soon we turned into the grounds of Beningbrough Hall and Gardens where coffee and cake were taken in glorious surroundings.
The route then picked up a riverside path to the ever-lovely city of York. We didn’t linger, though, save for another navigation gaffe on our departure. We had designs on reaching Driffield that evening in order to give us just a handful of miles on the last day and, hopefully, an equally easy train ride home. Besides, the forecast was set to turn foul again and we didn’t fancy the drowning.
We’d followed NCN route 65 on the way into York and now route 66 continued our easterly course and we ticked off Dunnington, Stamford Bridge (not that one) and then Pocklington.
Irrational as my dislike of Ripon might have been, I had an equal and opposite response to this small market town. Maybe it was the profusion of Tour de Yorkshire banners and yellow bikes that lined the roads or the very excellent deli where we had a late lunch (more Yorkshire tapas for me I’m afraid, a rather more sensible salad for Tim), but we wanted to stay.
I shook the Internet for a B&B. Everything was busting budget sadly and I struck a conversation with the owner about potential camping options. Well, it would have been a shame to lug the gear all this way and not use it just once. We settled on a campsite to the north of the town centre. We approached a set of farm buildings that had been converted into a shop, café and a fledgling campsite. The facilities for tented folk were basic to say the least, but we warmed to the purposeful looking owner who charged us a bargain rate for the night and offered to lock our bikes in his barn.
Tent’s pitched and after a brisk shower, my liking for our host grew as he rolled out his encyclopaedic knowledge of Pocklington’s, or ‘Pocky’s’, attractions. He even finger-sketched out a map on a piece of scrap plywood lying at our feet. I joked with Tim later that I should brought the map with us.
We heeded our host’s advice on a pub and drank very decent Black Sheep ale before a very more-ish curry. It had been the right decision to stay.
The morning dawned bright but we both knew conditions would not stay that way. Tim claimed that he’d had ‘no sleep’ in his tiny single skin shelter, but that didn’t correlate with the snoring that emanated from his tent and troubled the neighbouring horses all night.
We headed back to ‘Pocky’ for breakfast and the heavens opened. We couldn’t complain, we managed to avoid the worst of the weather on our crossing so if the final day was going to be wet then, despite our misgivings yesterday, we were ready for it.
We hadn’t bargained on the climbing though. The very lovely Yorkshire Wolds presented an obstacle that needed to be crossed at the start of the day and we pushed the pedals along truly stunning quiet roads. We then lost the route and started to head north into a very nasty headwind. After far too long, I realised the mistake and rather than backtracking, we enjoyed (endured for me) a few very fast miles on the A166 to Driffield. I cursed our error under my breath as trucks unceremoniously thundered by. I put my head down and hammered out the miles – such a contrast to the start of the day.
I chomped on an energy bar at Driffield waiting for Tim to catch up. We were about to embark on the final section of our journey and I started to feel glum that it would soon be over. We then pedalled the only bland section of the Way, a shortish bimble along a main road to the delightfully named village of Nafferton. As dull stretches go, it wasn’t that bad at all again underlining just how good the Way of the Roses is.
Burton Agnes soon rolled under our wheels and we were descending to Bridlington. We caught a glimpse of the sea and pedalled through the outskirts of the town. I gestured to Tim to go ahead and finish the route first and a few metres down the ‘prom and we reached the sign. Picutres taken, and the relief evident for Tim, we sprinted to the railway station and just caught a train back to Manchester.
I sat on the train watching Yorkshire rattle by. I felt tremendously satisfied. The Way of the Roses had been challenge enough, but the company had undoubtedly made this trip. Riding bikes is a wonderful thing no doubt, but laughter is a better tonic for the soul.