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E-BIke touring to pendragon castle



When Carly's stepdad Joe stayed with us, he explored the local area by E-bike. He kindly left us a review of his ride to nearby Pendragon Castle. Here it is.......


I’ve decided to head for Pendragon Castle, described as a romantic ruin, like me. It was

founded by Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur Pendragon of Round Table fame. Is it legend?

Of course it is. But it’s an easy one to embrace when the countryside is so magical. It’s six

miles from The Green, which doesn’t sound much, but factor in my wonky legs and a few

hundred feet of elevation and it’s a challenge, even with my electric bike. Neither me nor my

bike can afford to run out of steam!


Major roads usually follow valley floors or hug the hillsides. These larger highways are

linked by a series of single track lanes with passing places, which snake their way up and

over crests. They are commonly around nine feet wide, asphalt with grass either side,

sometimes bordered by a rudimentary ditch. From a distance they look like dark grey ribbons laid on the hills - fabulous cycling territory, apart from the sometimes precipitous slopes. This is where the test comes in for man and machine.


It's early morning in spring. Lamb time. Pristine, cute little balls of wool gaze at me as I drift

by. Do they realize what a lovely home they have, living in bright green fields within chalky,

white walls? A hare watches as I pass a farm selling goat’s milk soap, I wonder what that

smells like? The good thing about being perched on a bike is that I can see over the walls, a

pleasure denied to low-slung car passengers.


At the Fat Lamb Inn, Townhead Lane meets the A683. Sedbergh is to the right, but I turn left

towards Kirkby Stephen. In a mile I’ll turn right onto Tommy Road, the ribbon that will take

me over the fells and way on down to the castle. It’s one of the few ribbons that have a name, most just have little signposts to hamlets or farms. Why is it called Tommy Road? Nobody seems to know, but one source helpfully tells me it’s 2,747 m long.


But before I turn I lean on a wall and look out over an area of grouse moor. The silence is

deafening until a curlew sings that wonderful rippling trill, an iconic call that rolls away

across the fells. A group of lapwings perform dances of near-impossible complexity before

landing to show off their crested heads. A ‘deceit’ is the name for a group of lapwings. An

unjust name. You can’t fake their incredible skills or appeal.


Tommy Road crests halfway along its length at a spot with the most glorious views. I rest

again, cycle battery in better shape than cyclist. Sheep dot the fells and skylarks rise from the tufty grass and sing on the hover in the sun.


Down the twisty road I go for nearly a mile ever mindful that I’ll need to come back up again.

Part way down in a parking spot is a rather smart estate car, the owner of which is trying to

pitch some sort of tent. He waves as I zoom past. The man and his lady friend are the first

two people I’ve seen in five miles. Pendragons Castle is at the junction of this ribbon and the

B6259 which connects Kirkby Stephen to all points south, including Hawes, and Wensleydale cheese.


I’m not only worried about my battery running out, I’m also bothered about having the bike

pinched, because I don’t want to walk six miles home. I decide to take it through the gate and hide it behind the wall, away from thieving eyes, while I explore the castle. Not that there are any thieving eyes about! It’s merely a worry born of my urban psyche. Things don’t go as smoothly as I’d like. The bike is quite weighty and the spring on the gate is very strong.

The gateway itself is rutted from tractors going in and out (and dragons?). At this point I’m

glad there’s nobody else around because I make a complete mess of the following three

minutes.


I have to wheel my bike through while holding the gate open against the strong spring.

Halfway through, my wheels get caught in a deep tractor rut and there follows a slow motion shambles. I fall over and end up in the mud, trapped underneath my bike. Then the gate creaks closed on its heavy spring, in turn trapping both me and the bike. I’m lying on my back like a corpulent green beetle stuck under a scrap heap. If someone had choreographed this as some sort of comedic stunt, it wouldn’t have worked. ‘Nobody could possibly make such a balls-up of going through a gate.’ It took me a while to extricate myself. I bet Uther didn’t have this trouble, but at least I gave his ghost a giggle.


Drifting through this lovely landscape is a whiff of legend-based commercialism. Just across

the road from Pendragon Castle is a guest house called Pendragon View. Without the legend that is King Arthur it would be called ‘Pile of Stones View.’ I’m half expecting to see

Pendragon’s Ice-creams drive up or Uther’s Kebabs. Much more of this and we’ll have a

Loch Ness Monster situation – a contrived drip feed of nonsense that’s kept tourists coming

to Scotland for about ninety years. It’s a good job Nessie is long-lived or a whole industry

would be furloughed. Of course, now they can add ‘The Porky Cyclist’s Gate’ to the

marketing blurb - that’ll bring them flocking.


I spot something incongruous next to the gate - a bright red post box. There are perhaps two houses within a mile and no town for about three, so what on earth a post box is doing out here? I can only assume it is part of Uther’s marketing plan: ‘Pendragon’s Post Box -

campaign donations here, please.’


As I scramble around the ramparts there are stunning views over the River Eden valley set

between towering fells. It is a magical place. I can imagine Uther’s standard flying from the

towers as horses clip-clop a homecoming along the valley floor, back from massacring a local tribe perhaps.


Time to go. I prop the gate open with a big log, then wheel my bike out. I’m not getting stuck again! The battery monitor shows plenty of charge as I begin my ascent. It looks quite a long way up as the road disappears over a distant crest. It will look a very long way if have a

‘mechanical incident’ but I’m soon buzzing uphill quite nicely. Don’t think I’m doing no

work; the bike is not self-driven - it needs rider input. ‘Electrically assisted’ is the term. I

have to put effort in, quite a lot on the very steep bits, so about two-thirds of the way up I’m

ready for a breather. Then my Korean-made zoomer does me proud and we reach the top.

Two bars out of four showing on the battery monitor, all good so far. Five miles to go and the

very steepest of the climbs done with.


I’m back at the crest of Tommy Road and decide this is one of my favourite spots. I suspect I

will find other equal favourites in the future. It’s the top-of-the-worldness of it, the silence,

the vast skies and the uninterrupted views, at least till the next range of hills, which can be ten or twenty miles distant. Around me, just the birdsong and (if there’s no wind) the gentle

sound of the sheep chomping on the grass. This is the most wonderful part of the world and

my bike does me proud.


After rattling over a number of cattle grids, we arrive with a bit of juice left in the battery.

A three-hour charge for the bike and a cup of tea for me.


That was a great ride, of which Pendragon’s Castle was the focal point. It was undoubtedly

interesting but the real star of the show is nature and the magic of this corner of Cumbria.



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