TV presenter Helen Skelton, of Blue Peter fame, has become one of the first people to experience an innovative new cycling initiative in the the Lake District.
The initiative aims to encourage people to experience the Lake District in a healthier, greener way
The event was the first in a series of 30 free guided group bike rides led by British Cycling trained Ride Leaders planned for the Lake District this summer.
Aimed at all age groups and experience levels, the Sky Ride Local rides encourage people to experience the Lake District in a healthier, greener way.
It is the first time Sky Ride Local has come to a National Park, and the GoLakes Travel programme has teamed up with British Cycling to bring the initiative to the region.
Between now and the end of September, Sky Ride Local rides will also take place around scenic spots such as Hawkshead, Coniston Bowness, Elterwater and Ambleside.
Starting points for the routes will also make the most of traffic-free cycle routes being enhanced through the GoLakes Travel programme, with many getting underway close to bike hire points. For some routes, there is even the option of hiring an electric bike.
Helen Skelton said: “I’m delighted to be one of the first to experience this new cycling initiative in what is probably one of the most perfect locations in the country to cycle. I love to leave the car at home and get out on my bike. Cycling is such an important sport for all ages to get involved in and this ride will bring cycling fans together from all different backgrounds and abilities to enjoy riding in such a stunning landscape”.
Claire Maclaine, GoLakes Travel Programme Manager added: “Sky Ride Local rides are a really exciting, way for people of all ages and abilities to explore experience and enjoy cycling in a unique natural setting. Go Lakes Travel is proud to be part of a fantastic year for cycling in Cumbria, with the county hosting the longest leg of the Tour of Britain in September. As part of this, we want to show that cycling is for everyone and what’s great about Sky Ride Local is that it’s free, accessible and genuinely aimed at building people’s confidence whether they’re a regular cyclist or not.”
To see the full list of Sky Ride Local rides in the Lake District, or to book a free place, visit: www.goskyride.com/lakes
LIFE as a new parent can be tough. Sleepless nights, 24-hour responsibility and a whole new identity as ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ can leave your head spinning.
EASY GOING The buggy-friendly walk from Skelwith Bridge submitted
NEW mum NICOLA PARK shares her passion for exploring the outdoors with her daughter in a monthly column detailing baby-friendly walks.
When my daughter Rowan was born six months ago I quickly realised one of the most restful and refreshing things to do with her was head out for a walk.
Even a tiny baby can be wrapped up well and tucked in a sling or pram to enjoy a breath of fresh air. At only a few days old Rowan had already explored the ‘twin peaks’ of Ulverston – Flan Fell and the Hoad, safely strapped to daddy’s chest.
At a couple of months old she even made a winter ascent of Wansfell in Ambleside, though we were questioned on our parenting skills by walkers on the way up.
But as long as the route is well within your own capabilities and baby is well protected from the elements, walking is beneficial to the whole family.
In fact, a study carried out by Liverpool John Moores University in 2004 found babies exposed to plenty of daylight are more likely to sleep better at night.
As a fell runner and climber, an unexpected bonus of parenthood has been that I am now exploring areas of South Cumbria I had previously overlooked.
Valley walks previously shunned as dull have opened up new vistas, and even the smallest hill becomes a soaring mountain when viewed through the eyes of a child.
To share my passion for exploring the outdoors with Rowan I have launched a blog – adventureswithbaby.com. I will be writing about our exploits and sharing my tips and routes for others to try.
To start with, why not try this easy yet stunning walk in Langdale, which is suitable for pushchairs?
Pushchair walk: Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater 2.5 miles
A flat, easy walk by the River Brathay on a largely metalled track with no obstacles.
This walk is out-and-back, so can either be started in Skelwith Bridge or Elterwater. Some on-road parking is available just by the Skelwith Bridge Hotel, or park in the car park around 200m further up the road.
Cross the road and head through the trees to the track that runs by the river. Turn right to follow the track towards Elterwater. The track follows the river, before opening up into a field with stunning views of Elterwater and the Langdale fells. The path at this point can be wet and boggy, so be prepared to get your buggy wheels wet.
The path then meets the lake, an ideal picnic spot and photo opportunity. It then continues into the village of Elterwater.
I stopped for a drink at the Britannia Inn, a friendly pub that serves an excellent range of real ales and food. There was room to change baby in the ladies.
Simply reverse your steps to return to Skelwith Bridge.
National park and ride: Low-carbon breaks in the Lakes
Nigel Thompson uses an electric train, car and bike on a green trip to the Lake District
Wordsworth may well have wandered lonely as a cloud. But if the Cumbrian poet had done his misty meanderings around the Lake District in the early 21st century rather than 200 years previously, it might have been a cloud of petrol fumes the daffodil-dabbler encountered.
England’s biggest National Park – some 885 square miles of utter joy – has a problem. Too many cars. In short, it’s a victim of its own success.
The creation of the National Park in 1951 has, of course, inspired millions of visitors over the years, drawn by the timeless beauty of the fells and lakes.
And around 87% of the 16 million tourists a year arrive by car, choking the narrow roads and bringing the risk of pollution from exhaust fumes.
So, in a £6.9million, four-year initiative, the GoLakes tourist board has started a scheme to get the visitors out of their cars, into a low-emission vehicle, or on to public transport and bikes.
Not ordinary bikes, mind… but electric bikes that give the part-time pedal pusher some much-needed help up the hills. So, to join in the eco enterprise, I headed to the Lake District last autumn with the firm intention of steering clear of a car powered by the internal combustion engine.
That journey from my home in Essex began with a walk to the station, an electric train into London, the Tube to Euston station, and an electric train out of London to the Lakes.
And that Virgin Trains Pendolino service to Oxenholme is especially green too, as it is equipped with regenerative braking, which means that every time the driver applies the brakes, electricity is returned to the national grid.
Consequently, Virgin Pendolino trains generate enough electricity each year to charge 4.5 million mobile phones.
On arriving in Oxenholme, there would of course be no using a taxi to get to my accommodation in Windermere. A short train ride – diesel, but still public transport – saw me to the Cumbrian town’s station then a 20-minute walk brought me to the delightful Rum Doodle B&B. The bed part was a lovely four-poster and the breakfast part was good too. It was named and styled after a 1950s spoof mountaineering book, The Ascent of Rum Doodle, which I bought on Amazon and it is indeed very amusing.
It was a glorious autumn day and the lake was mirror calm as we chugged past various sights including the unusual, circular house on Belle Isle. It was £7.20 very enjoyably spent.
But the purpose of my trip was to test the GoLakes options, so the next morning I made an early start to catch a bus to Ambleside – where there was time for a quick wander around a very pleasant town – and then another bus on to Grasmere. Here, I headed to the Wordsworth Hotel and Spa, having reserved an electric bike.
The Giant machine is a sturdy beast and comes with two battery packs so you would probably be good for at least 30 miles. There are three settings – economy, normal or sport – which offer 25%, 50% and 75% power assistance.
So basically on the lowest, most frugal setting you do 75% of the work and the motor chips in with 25%. On the steeper roads of the Lake District – and there are plenty of those! – you really do need the highest setting.
I had reserved an electric Renault Twizy car for £10 an hour at the Langdale Estate Hotel and Spa in Elterwater and the direct route there meant tackling the Red Bank road with its brutal 25% incline.
Even with the battery going with the full 75% assistance it was eventually more than I could manage and I had to get off and push. Still, coasting on the other side of the hill to Elterwater soothed my thighs, as the bikes are heavy and even pushing one up a 25% slope is hard work.
At the Langdale, I met Andy Dawson, the grounds manager who was getting my car ready, and Dan Visser, the marketing boss who is on the GoLakes committee and is one of the driving forces behind the electric car initiative.
The Twizy is a small two-seater – one behind the other – and there’s no glass in the side windows, so you need a coat on a cool day. The range between charges is about 60 miles and, as with the electric bikes, GoLakes has created a network of charging points around the National Park.
In an emergency you could simply stop at someone’s house and ask for a plug. Some people have been known to do that.
So what’s the £6,690 Twizy like to drive? In short, fantastic fun. It is light, manoeuvrable, surprisingly nippy and virtually silent, which is very strange at first. But that silence means that as you are whizzing around the lakes and fells you hear the sound of sheep, birds and sometimes just the sound of silence. It’s wonderful.
I pushed the Twizy hard, tackling a steep, hairpin pass with no problem at all.
On the instrument panel there is an indicator which shows how much you are draining the battery and, conversely, when you are coasting downhill it displays the charge which is then being returned to it. After zipping around for an hour and a half I still had plenty of charge and if time had permitted I’d have whizzed about for another 90 minutes.
But it would soon be getting dark and I did not want to tackle Red Bank at night – a wise decision as the damp hill was tricky to descend even in diminishing daylight as I gingerly inched down.
Back at Grasmere, as I neared the Wordsworth Hotel to return the bike, I notched up a GoLakes electric bike first – a puncture.
Luckily it was only 200 yards from the hotel, as wheeling the bike with a flat tyre was a real effort. Once the staff at the Wordsworth had worked out how to process the flat-tyre paperwork, I headed back to Ambleside on an open-top service bus, which really blew away the cobwebs. At Ambleside there was time for a couple of locally brewed beers before catching my bus back to Windermere, packing my kit ready for the morning train back home and having a pleasant pub meal at the Elleray.
In the spirit of an ecofriendly trip to the Lake District I had a salad… plenty of greens, you see.