Fringe Box



Uphill All The Way: Single Point of Failure (Thorne to York)

Published on: 6 Jun, 2014
Updated on: 19 Jun, 2014

UATW 002 470This is the tenth report on the author’s progress in his bid to cycle from Guildford to Edinburgh. The reports follow: Uphill All The Way – The Idea and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One) and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part Two)

All Uphill All The Way articles can be found under the Leisure section heading on the front page, in their own sub-section called Uphill All The Way.

By Martin Giles

Those who assess risk look for single points of failure, for example a chain on a bicycle. If it breaks the bike is useless which is why I am carrying a couple of spare links.

I was to discover another single point of failure on my way to York. But it was not part of my bike.

I awoke early at Thorne, which is just in South Yorkshire (I had already cycled to Yorkshire!), to find that the predicted rain had arrived. I faced the day with resignation and a new plan.

My planned route from Thorne to York.

My planned route from Thorne to York via Selby.

So far it had not been raining when I started my journey; instead the rain had started while I was cycling. Then I had got gradually wetter while continuing to hope that the rain would ease of until it reached a point that I was wet through.

Today though I knew what I would face as soon as I left my below par accommodation and I had decided to use my cape, or rather my wife’s cape. She had bought it to give her some protection on her frequent local journeys.

Slightly worryingly from my point of view she did not use it favouring a jacket and over trousers. She had been keen for me to take it, but had advised me to have a trial run in the rain before the tour began. It was good advice but I had not got round to it.

Anyway, I reasoned, I had got soaked without it so the worst that could happen was that I would get soaked with it.

Did I imagine the amused looks on Thorne residents as I left their town, past the earthwork that is all that remains of their Norman castle? Probably not perhaps I was a bit of a spectacle. But after a bit if fiddling while I got used to the thing the cape did not seem too bad.

All that remains of Thorne's Norman castle.

All that remains of Thorne’s Norman castle.

It stretched right over the handlebars and let quite a lot of cool air in to prevent overheating. I would not be doing my Thomas the Tank Engine impression, producing clouds of steam, just yet.

Conveniently at the front is a large pocket into which I can put my iPhone and reading glasses. Navigation stops involved less searching of pockets and the glasses were steaming up less.

I went past what I believe was the entry of the old colliery at Thorne. Perhaps its demise was one reason for the town’s decline.

The road out of Thorne leading up to the old colliery.

The road out of Thorne leading up to the old colliery.

Opera singer Lesley Garrett comes from Thorne, but a friendly lady at a convenience store, the type of place we used to call a newsagent, said that she rarely returned. I am not surprised.

I suspect Thorne residents would laugh at Westminster claims of economic recovery. Looking at the town it was easy to understand the resentment such claims, coming from a privileged political set, might cause.

In times past many would have worked in the local fields but now, as in agriculture all across the Western world, one man with a farm machine can do the work of scores of men. More recently there had been mining but that had closed down too; the local wind farm, a more modern source of energy, was probably supervised by just a handful of individuals.

It might be progress and it might be inevitable but surely the government should be doing more for such towns. The mixture of young men and no work is in particular, in my view, a recipe for trouble and perhaps one reason why shopkeepers have to board their windows up nightly.

Heading out back into the fens I eventually found a road that would take me over the M18. I paused to take my first ‘selfie’. Here I was over a noisy motorway in the rain with nearly 30 miles still to pedal. Deep joy. It would get deeper.

My first UATW selfie. Over the M18, wet, with over 25 miles still to go.

My first UATW selfie. Over the M18, wet, with over 25 miles still to go.

The rain persisted. It was not torrential but persistent. I passed a cricket ground. It was probably quite a serious local league side, considering it had adverts around the boundary, but there would be no play today. I wondered if my teammates at Ye Olde Ship Inn Cricket Club, who were due to play that afternoon would enjoy better weather.

I turned off the main road and at another junction check my navigation on my iPhone. Disaster. The phone would not respond to any pressing of the the few buttons. The apple symbol was appearing periodically but that was all.

Looking in the cape pocket it was clear why water had been collecting in the bottom of the pocket and must have entered the phone.

This was a serious blow. The phone was my map. I could bring up a map on my laptop but only if I had wi fi and I certainly could not keep getting my laptop out even if it was raining.

Fortunately I was on a national cycle route, no. 62, so I was able to continue following the signs. I hoped that I would not miss a turn, something I have found quite easy to do, and be able to make it to Selby, the next town on my route.

It was a lonely, worrying ride. Would I stay on the route? Would the iPhone work again? How else could I navigate? I did have a Garmin system, kindly lent to me, but I had not had time to learn how to use it. I couldn’t even call anyone. I felt cut off, adrift. Was there really a time when this was the norm? At least it was still flat.

A freight train at a remote level crossing near Selby.

A freight train at a remote level crossing near Selby.

I came across a remote level crossing. It was closed. A freight train, hauling containers, rumbled into sight and slowly passed by. Freight trains are quite a rare sight on our railways these days so I took a picture. Later I read that the line to Selby, to serve a new colliery, is the only new railway line (other than the Eurostar line I presume) to have been constructed in the UK since the war.

I passed a cycle route sign that indicated the route went off along what appeared to be an overgrown footpath. What should I do. The path looked muddy and I would get even wetter in the overgrowth. I even suspected despite an earlier experience that the sign had been mischievously altered.

Fortunately a few hundred yards further on too friendly women out walking their dogs told me that although the sign had been correct I could carry on the road I was on to Selby. “Turn right at the next junction. It says no entry but take no notice of that. It will take you to the main road then turn right.” I followed her instructions. It would have been a lame excuse to a police officer but I felt I needed all the local advice I could get to reach York.

I found the main road as described and a few miserable miles later I was in Selby. I looked for a comfortable place to have lunch and regroup. I walked around pushing my bike. None of the pubs looked great nor did the cafes. I eventually settled for what was once probably a premier hostelry in the town and an old coaching inn. Inside the modernisers had been at work.

Oh well, it was dry, the prices for lunch seemed reasonable and they were happy for me to use their power sockets and essentially they had wi fi. Firstly, I connected up my iPhone to recharge the battery which I suspected might have been drained by the on / off cycle that I had seen.

Joy of joys it sparked into life. I answered a message from my wife but then noticed the phone behaving strangely. The volume display appeared unbidden and started to roam up and down the range. Then the screen appeared to indicate that it connection to iTunes on a main computer was required.

Oh dear. to the bemusement of the bar staff I continued to unpack my panniers. Looks exchanged indicated that they feared I might next put up a tent. Instead I retrieved my laptop got on to the internet and sought advice on wet iPhones.

The first entry was not the most helpful. “Take great care not to allow your iPhone to get wet.”

I went to the next on the list. “Pack your iPhone in silica gel.” Call me unprepared but silca gel had not made it on to the kit list.

The next entry was a bit more practical. “Pack your iPhone in uncooked rice.” I did not have any of that either but I should be able to get some at my destination.

Next I checked the remaining route to York. Fortunately it was all along a National Cycle Route so should be signposted. In the event it was one of the most straightforward bits of navigation so far. Not only that it was largely on an off road metalled cycle track allowing an average speed of 12mph.

The cycle route from Selby to York, easy to follow without a map.

The cycle route from Selby to York, easy to follow without a map.

I arrived at my destination, the road in which my airbnb was located, but I did not have the house number. I had expected to be able to call on my phone to get the details. I cycled up and down the road pathetically hoping there would be some kind of sign or indication. There was not.

I returned to the nearby village suburb of Fulford looking for a phone box. No such luck. this was 2014. Everyone has mobiles don’t they?

I tied up at the back of a pub. Entering I immediately asked if they had a phone for public use. “No sorry.” The young barmaid looked perplexed by my question. She made me feel like Doctor Who. I had travelled straight from the 1980s.

Eventually I was allowed to use the pub phone in return for a pound donation to charity. I happily coughed up. After a false start – no reply – I got through to my hostess who with a laid back voice told me that she was at No.39. “I will be there in a few minutes,” I said anxious that she did not move.

She didn’t. I arrived. She welcomed me. I told her about my phone problem.

“You need some rice,” she said, “shall I get you some?”

“Yes please?”

She showed me my accommodation, a coverted attic. It was immaculate and comprehensively equipped.

“Do you have any drying facilities,” I asked, hoping I was not pushing my luck.

She replied: “Yes leave what you want washed in a bag outside your door.”

After my nightmare day this seemed to0 good to be true. A great room, clean clothes and uncooked rice. What more could a man with a wet iPhone want?

The sun even put in an appearance. The famous opening line of Richard III came to mind: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

The castle tower in York just as I remembered it from a childhood visit. The traffic unaware geese were new though.

The castle tower in York just as I remembered it from a childhood visit. The traffic unaware geese were new though.

I packed my phone into the rice immediately and went off into York for my dinner. After a quick walk around to reacquaint myself, York was bigger than I remembered, I looked for a place to have dinner. I was spoilt for choice and would have happily eaten at the majority of the many eateries York boasted.

The Shambles in York, one of its most famous lanes.

The Shambles in York, one of its most famous lanes.

Then I passed a carvery. As the husband of a vegetarian I do not get to enjoy a roasted joint very often and the temptation was too strong. Together with a pint of John Smith’s it hit the spot.

I returned on one of York’s many cycle paths to my cosy loft. If only my phone would recover I would be well set up for the second half of my journey to Edinburgh, but tomorrow I still had a visit to the National Railway Museum to which I could look forward.

05.06.14 UATW computer data:

Miles cycled: 34.25 miles

Average speed: 9.7 mph

Cycling time: 3 hours 32 minutes.

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