Thursday, 11 June 2015

30 Days Wild: Day 11 - Morecambe Bay Cycleway

Today is where 2 blog projects meet for a few days - my 30 Days Wild challenge meets the launch of the Morecambe Bay Cycleway - which is fine as this superb 100 mile (they say 81 in the press release but that's without some of the extra little loops we'll be adding) cycleway takes in some of the most spectacular countryside around Morecambe Bay.  It's come about through a joint venture between Sustrans (more of them on Day 2) and Morecambe Bay Partnership - a tiny charity that punches well above its weight when it comes to boosting the tourist economy in the region.

The money to make this happen has come from the the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Coastal Communities Fund and will make a positive  difference to the local economy.

Day 1 saw us leave Sandy Gap on Walney Island at 11am and wind our way through glorious scenery in equally glorious sunshine until we found ourselves at Gleaston Mill for lunch.

Quick paddle at Sandy Gap

Cooling the feet at Gleaston Mill
Suitably refreshed we headed out for a "gentle" afternoon taking in the views from the top of Birkrigg Common before descending to Conishead Prory and the long awaited finish line.

I spent most of the day avoiding the TV cameras


The cycleway is here largely due to the steely determination of 1 woman - Susannah Bleakley, whose persistent sunny demeanour hides a core of absolute steel when it comes to getting stuff done.  As Executive Director of Morecambe Bay Partnership she has worked together with Sustrans to establish this magnificent cycle way, linking the entirety of Morecambe Bay - but it's way more than a just a cycle route, routes such as this encourage visitors to the area, who will need accommodation, food, drink and probably ibuprofen.

Not content with creating this route, Susannah provided info about  local history too
On day 1 the route takes in a combination of cycleways, quiet lanes and the occasional main road so you really need to be confident on roads if you're going to tackle it - though it didn't have to be that way.  Alongside this busy road is a narrow footpath and broad grassy verge and a little digging under the grassy verge uncovered a lot more tarmac - all it would take is for the local council to broaden this section of path to allow access for both cyclists and pedestrians and the route would become a whole lot more family friendly.

The section from Bardsea along to Ulverston runs along the busy A5087 and I'l admit I was pretty shaken riding along it. The Sustrans volunteers guiding us did a superb job but car after car did their level best to run us off the road.  20 years ago I used to train for triathlons and put in many hundreds of miles of road cycling, but a lot has changed in that time and these days I avoid roads wherever I possibly can.

A long cool bottle of water at the priory and I was soon back to my usual annoying self.  We've opted to head home each night which means I can hit the G&Ts and enjoy a nice long bath to ease the limbs.  Day 2 will see us heading from Ulverston to Grange-over-Sands so if you're in the area, give us a wave and if you're driving past, be sure to give me a nice wide berth.

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