Cycle Camping: A Mini-Adventure

I completed the work on my desk by 5:30pm; then an hour later had attached a rack to my bike, strapped the tent to it, packed one pannier with clothes for tomorrow and the other pannier with a sleeping bag, roll mat and (the most important of home comforts) my pillow. I rode less than a mile to The Green Dragon and stopped for a pint – my day-off was starting properly!

“The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!” – Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)

The Green Dragon Welton

These long summer days lend themselves to impromptu cycle camping trips because it is easy to head off after work and get a reasonable distance under your tyres before the darkness makes pitching a tent difficult. Today’s tailwind helped too, as I climbed over the Yorkshire Wolds and passed through Beverley heading for the East Riding coastline. I’ve ridden a few day trips with my flask and travel rug but thought that adding a tent and extending the ride overnight would allow me to explore the seaside further north.

There is a cycle path alongside the A1035 – but with the traffic extremely light I just opted to stick to the main road all the way through Tickton and Routh, before joining the A165 to Beeford and Lissett. It only took me a couple of hours to reach Fraisthorpe. Unfortunately there is no campsite near Fraisthorpe Beach, only caravan parking; this is a shame because it has a good cafe next to an isolated beach.

So I just kept going, heading north for Bridlington where I discovered the South Cliff Holiday Park. I really hadn’t planned my adventure in detail, instead I’d just hoped to find a campsite along this holiday coastline. South Cliff Holiday Park wanted to charge me £32 for a single night – and this seemed rather expensive for backpacker accommodation – then I remembered a book called Tiny Campsites and a recommendation I’d come across for The Wold Farm Campsite via CoolCamping. One quick phone-call later and I’d confirmed that a single night for a camping cyclist would be £10. I was delighted to know that I was heading for a cyclist-friendly campsite in a scenic location.

Wold Farm

In Flamborough I stopped at the Co-Op to pick up some food and drink for the evening and then continued to Wold Farm Campsite, arriving with enough daylight to pitch my little tent. As the sun set and the stars came out, I cracked open a tin of beer and ate some pasta. If only I’d remembered my Alphalight Spork! The lighthouse flickered with reassuring periodicity in the distance, and my dynamo front light illuminated my dinner.

Wold Farm Campsite

One thing I must remember next time I go camping is to lay on the ground and find which way is ‘uphill’ and most comfortable to sleep before I pitch the tent – I had, in my hurry, camped with my head slightly downhill; so during the night ended up swapping the roll mat round and sleeping the wrong way round in the tent. However, the use of a home comfort, full size pillow helped me to rest my head and neck comfortably.

Morning has broken

Not only had I not packed a Spork, I hadn’t packed my Trangia or any means of making coffee. Or any coffee. Or a cup. I was awake again for the dawn and after a good wash I packed the tent away and sat looking out to sea to pray. I love the routine that Morning Prayer brings: the Psalms and their frequent sorrow or pain, the repeated cycles of estrangement and reconciliation from the Old Testament (the Jewish Scriptures), and the inspirational love and encouragement from the New Testament’s multiple witnesses and letters of hope. I love the intentionality of praying for the day ahead and asking for God’s blessing on the world each morning. I particularly enjoy the Benedictus, the Song of Zechariah:

Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel,
who has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets God promised of old
to save us from our enemies, from the hands of all that hate us,
To show mercy to our ancestors,
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath God swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of all their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

There is so much ‘Good Morning-ness’ about this song; it is a song of freedom, of fearlessness, of travelling and of new beginnings. Morning Prayer includes a time to pray for the busy-ness of the day ahead, for the needs of the whole world and then for the life of the people of God.

The dusty highway

The track to Wold Farm Camping is rough, dry and dusty, and I took care riding my bike with its full load because I didn’t want to ping any spokes. Once back to a metalled highway, I cycled with minimal effort: North through quiet and deserted country lanes because it was too early for commuters and too remote for lorries. I rode through Bempton and Reighton until my legs woke up, and by the time I joined the A165 I was feeling stronger. I reached Filey and found the lovely Coffee Shed serving freshly ground coffee and piping hot bacon rolls.

I thought about the day ahead; where I would go and what I would like to do. This mini-adventure was impromptu enough that I had no firm plans; I decided to continue to Scarborough so I could sit on the beach for a bit, but I also thought it would be nice to catch the Scarborough to York train as it passes through some gorgeous countryside and I’d love to see Kirkham Abbey from the railway line. My Humber Bridge 200 event takes cyclists through Kirkham Abbey where there is an appealing view of the valley, river and railway line snaking through the trees and fields. It gave me a sense of satisfaction to picture myself from both perspectives. The only potential problem would be the new cycle-policy of TransPennine Express trains and the absurd requirement to book a bicycle at least 24 hours beforehand.

Scarborough North Beach

A delightful highlight of this adventure was the approach to Scarborough: the rolling hills overlapping each other in a quilt of farmland, coastal cliffs and nestled houses. Then, rising up into the distance, the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors climbing away from the far side of the seaside town. The landscape couldn’t have been more essentially Yorkshire.

I descended along a mixed bus-lane-cum-cyclepath: to the town and down to South Bay, along the arcades and amusements lining the seafront, then round the cobbled headland to North Bay’s multi-coloured bathing-boxes and golden sandy beach. People were already paddling in the sea as I stopped for a cold drink and to sit on the seawall. I rested. I paused for a long period. I just sat and looked out to sea. I was, in essence: at peace with the world.Route

At Scarborough railway station, I agreed with the station staff that a bicycle without wheels was basically ‘awkward luggage’. They let me on the train with the wheels attached because it made sense; rather than carrying the panniers, the tent, the frame and then the wheels on to the train separately. However, I was seriously prepared to separate the bike if they planned to be unreasonable.

Combining this train journey with cycle camping generated freedom in a way I hadn’t expected. Not only did I enjoy cycling to Scarborough, I had a scenic ride through the Howardian Hills to York. Cycling back to Hull was also easy, as the wind was to my back and the lanes were flat.

I arrived home at around 3pm – less than 24 hours after leaving but feeling as though I’d been on a mini-adventure. If you are a cyclist who enjoys an unencumbered one or two hour blast in the evening, but have never experienced the freedom of going away on your bike with luggage: may I urge you to give it a try. Bicycles can carry you away. There is liberation in dropping off the grid, going wherever you please, stopping where takes your fancy. I would love to see more people cycling further and slower: experiencing ‘being set free’.

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