Day 3: Nantwich to Clitheroe (70 miles, in theory)
We awoke once again to an undisturbed night’s sleep in a farmer’s field. I was feeling awake and refreshed, having slumbered very deeply while tucked away in my tent. It’s amazing what a difference it makes, and I was eager to get another 70 miles of cycling under my belt.
Now that I was rested, I was ravenous. I ate two falafel wraps for breakfast, and I was ready for the day ahead.
Unfortunately, day 3 didn’t quite go to plan. It started off beautifully, as we rode through more picturesque countryside. The sky had clouded over slightly, but it was still pleasant to be outside. As we approached more towns, the country roads gave way to canal paths and designated cycleways in local parks. It was really pretty, and things were looking good.
However, it soon became clear that the canal paths, despite being pretty, weren’t the most practical way to cycle 70 miles before sundown. Every kilometre or so was punctuated with kissing gates. It was a total nightmare with four of us taking it in turns to get our heavily laden bikes through, and it wasn’t just kissing gates either.
Once we’d adapted to this new rhythm, and found the most efficient way to get through, we started to encounter different types of barriers, and we had to get more and more creative as we poked our bikes through gaps and climbed over obstacles. It took us about 2 hours to cover 30k, and we started to realise that we were going to arrive in Clitheroe long after dark.
We stopped for lunch and made some coffee by the river, in Newton-le-Willows, and it was at that point that we had to face facts. The route just wasn’t conducive to covering the distance we needed.
We decided to give ourselves the best chance of getting there before dark, while still allowing ourselves some decent riding. We joined some horrid main roads and made our way to Wigan, where we caught a train to Preston.
Getting the train with a bike is not a picnic in the UK. Our rail network hates cyclists, for whatever reason, and they make it nearly impossible to travel. Four cyclists attempting to board a train with four very heavily loaded bikes, therefore, was not taken lightly. Having failed to board the train we were booked onto because it was already full, we circulated a flask of whiskey and prepared to barge our way onto the next one.
When we finally got into Preston, we had 20 miles of beautiful countryside still to ride through, but tummies were rumbling and emotions were high.
There were a fair few climbs to contend with, and I found myself struggling again. Lucy and Ania were miles ahead, while Renata and I went at a slower pace. We eventually made our way there and regrouped.
I’d really like to say that the three-day ride ended with smiles all-round, but for me personally it didn’t end on a high. Once we got to Clitheroe, we found we were actually supposed to go to Waddington (I’d seen a turning for there miles back, but didn’t realise it was relevant), and so we took a Google Maps route to our final destination, which was a big mistake. It took us down the wrong side of the river along a route that is not only impossible to cycle on, but is barely walkable as well.
The day ended with me fighting back tears as I struggled to haul my bike up over loose, rooty, muddy trails, breaking under the weight and at one point almost slipping into the river. I’d stopped having fun by that point, and I just wanted to get to Waddow Hall and pitch my tent. It wasn’t my finest hour.
I rolled into Waddow Hall alone, having fallen behind while I was faffing with my bike and grumbling to myself. My spirits soon lifted out of necessity however, as the Cycle Touring Festival undoubtedly attracts cycle touring folks, and cycle tourers are friendly, sociable creatures. No sooner had I entered the grounds, that I was greeted by fellow travellers with smiles and warm wishes, and I had to pull myself out of my sulk very quickly.
Hot and bothered, I pushed my bike up the hill and pitched my tent with the others. After a much-needed shower and plateful of food (and vegan cake!) I felt miles better, and bumped into a friend from Bristol who I hadn’t expected to see.
The happy ending comes in the form of the festival itself. For one thing, Waddow Hall is absolutely beautiful, with vast fields for camping on top of a hill, providing gorgeous views, and a weir where many people went wild swimming to cool down in the blistering heat.
I spent the weekend admiring my surroundings, experiencing a glorious sunrise walk out along a public footpath, and later attending numerous talks where I learned about all topics from astronomy to rescuing wild animals by bike, to cycling the length of New Zealand to educate children about single-use plastic, to 10 ways cycle touring can go wrong.
I met some incredible people and heard so many stories of people’s amazing journeys, and left feeling inspired to go and explore the world by bike.
On that happier note, I’ll leave you with a few photos I took during the weekend, because I’m at my best when surrounded by greenery.