All Cyclists Great And Small
It began with a stunning forecast - probably the perfect cycling temperature for me - and the gentle breeze was following me round all day, turning at about the moment I'd be turning for home.
That's if I turned for home. Always have options on a long ride is my rule.
However, when I reached Littondale, on the side of the river, multiple cars and vans were parked (a little early for tourists - I'd set off just before seven.) As I approached, I spotted on the back of a truck, a vintage black car. The All Creatures Great And Small car! They were filming today!
I so wanted to pause and tell them where I was heading but, with a long way ahead, I didn't even stop for a photo. Instead, I sang the old theme tune, for I was on my way to find the ford from the original series' title sequence. I can't quite put into words how happy I was feeling and spotting them here might just give me the incentive to cycle all the way home and see whether they were still here after my hours in the saddle.
Well, you can see I made it! The car comes down the hill the same way as I'm doing. The question is, would I cycle it and, with wet tyres, then get across the cattle grid?
Get a grip, I said. My bike is made for cobbles!
I wouldn't normally stop for a photo on the uphill but this was a definite dip in the long ascent and sometimes you just have to make exceptions. This was an epic outing for me and a momentous view. I loved All Creatures Great And Small and still can't quite believe how good the new version is. It helps when the views are your favourite cycling routes too.
The other first, I'm fairly certain, is arriving into Swaledale to fluffy clouds in blue sky. Even on good weather days, I've arrived to an overcast valley. I've skipped over Wensleydale because I couldn't wait to get here but it was a stunning ride over Kidstones. The Crackpot hill is unquestionably a little steep and continuous at times but the views as you reach the top are sublime. I paused for a while up there to try and pick out this hill which, eventually, I spotted a little further on my descent into Swaledale.
Once I was through the ford, I dropped out on the back of the Tan Hill road and here was my decision - left for the train at Kirkby Stephen or right for a cafe and the long way home? I was feeling good and Garsdale Head was still a possibility. I also only had half a litre of water left and wasn't sure if that was enough. I had the pitstop I'd been hoping for a couple of months ago when I'd cycled in the cold. In my quest for limited fat, I asked for no mozzarella and to make up for the lack of moisture, I think they added an extra tablespoon of English mustard. After a spiking forehead, I removed the excess and wolfed the rest as it cleared the airways.
It was then a glorious meander home - up and over to Castle Bolton and through Bishopdale to reverse my route over Kidstones and down the valley home. I persuaded myself that I had lots of free miles downhill on this route and I could make the journey just fine.
Following a quick stop in Kettlewell for more fuel, I was a touch disappointed to see no film crew a mile or so on. However, not much further down the road, a set of business vans and a minibus passed me. Bringing up the rear was none other than a vintage car on the back of a truck. I don't know that this was from the filming as it looked a different vehicle but I imagined it was, all the same.
I sang the tune for the twentieth time and I trundled on home.