Not Quite The Cake District
A Yorkshire Dales Microadventure
I never know where my next microadventure idea is going to come from. Last weekend while eating cake on a day out in The Lake District, Hannah laughed and said she thought we should do a tour of the Cake District. While the rest of the family laughed along, I took her seriously. Two days later Hannah and I set off on our bikes, not quite knowing exactly where we were going but clear that our mission would involve cycling, camping out and eating cake. Lots of cake. And that we had to be back home in time for a friend’s party in less than forty eight hours. Perfect microadventure madness.
Made for sharing?
Our first stop is somewhere familiar, Kirkby Lonsdale, just a few kilometres ride from home, up and over the fell. We know the place well but standing in the square wondering where the Cake District begins we realise we’re not that familiar with the Crossing Point Cafe, which is a good enough reason to choose it as our first stop.
We order an English Royal Tea and cake. The tea comes with a tiny homemade shortbread, balanced delicately on a teaspoon. The biscuit is so small it’s clearly not made for sharing. But I do. You see Hannah has the Chocolate & Oreo cake and I know she understands the law of reciprocity. The cake looks great; chocolate sponge, creamy chocolate filling and half an Oreo on top. Made for sharing. Except the half an Oreo apparently.
Blown off course
We study the map and decide to head into the Yorkshire Dales, aiming for a tea shop in Dent. But sixty minutes of Barbon hill later our first cake has worn off and a strong headwind makes it a struggle to top out on Barbondale. As energy levels drop we stop to take a break. We need a snack and find a kit kat in my bar bag. There’s only two fingers but it’s enough to get us on our way.
Too late for tea
We arrive in Dent too late for afternoon tea (the tea room is already shut) yet too early for a pudding off the evening menu in The George and Dragon (not available until after six). What are we to do? Our Cake District plan is falling apart. We order the sweetest thing we can find, a hot chocolate. Luckily it comes with two little biscuits. They don’t last long. As we wait for the kitchen to open we study the map and decide to head up Dent Dale for the best camping options.
The lush toilet
With bellies full of steak and ayle pie we find we have no room for pudding. This is a disaster. The plan was for 5 cakes a day and our cake count for day one is a miserable one. We are full of energy though, and with the wind dropping and sun shining we head up Dent Dale in search of camping.
The map suggests Ewegales Farm as an option. The sign outside boasts a lush toilet and hower. But at £5 per person per night we have to decide: should we spend £10 to camp in an empty field or head further up Dent Head to sleep in another empty field for free? Hannah points out that one option adds £10 to the day 2 cake budget.
Towards the top of Dent Head we nearly crash into Dent Head Viaduct. It looks nice and flat underneath at least one of the ten arches, in the quarry where the old road used to run. As the sun sets we pitch our bivys and build defences to keep marauding sheep at bay. We snuggle into our sleeping bags, count up the money we have saved on camping, imagine how much cake that will buy and wonder where we will ever find another cake shop in this wild, wild place.
Wheres my breakfast?
We wake early and leave no trace as we quickly hit the road again. Cake is a great motivator. We have a new relationship with viaducts now and they keep on coming, getting bigger and better as we pass Ribblehead on a mission to get beyond Ingleborough and into Ingleton for breakfast. It’s downhill now, so much so that we stop pedalling at White Scar Caves and freewheel all the way to Inglesport cafe where the breakfasts are said to be big enough to fill your wellies and the cakes are all home-made and wrapped in cellophane ready to be taken on adventures. It’s not what we have in mind for them.
A caver’s breakfast
We are not cavers but feel we deserve a caver’s breakfast. After all we slept underneath rock arches and have cycled over an hour to reach Ingleton, one of the area’s caving capitals. The question is do we go mini, regular or welly filler? We contemplate sharing a welly filler. It’s the same price as two mini cavers but we think we’d just fight over the third sausage. So two mini cavers it is. They don’t last long.
After so much breakfast we feel the need to exercise once more. Beyond Ingleton as we begin to loop back towards home, we find fields of buttercups and daisies that are just too dreamlike and inviting to pass by. We know we’re not bunnies but still we hop, skip and jump until we have worked up an appetite for cake. Then we head for the Cowan Bridge Tea Room with its impressive selection of knitted tea cosies.
Inside the tea room it’s sunny and bright but there are signs of lemon drizzle. We decide to embrace it. It’s a little dry but with lashings of lemon tang on top. We take a freshly baked flapjack and glass of dandelion and burdock with it. Tea comes in a pot dressed in a woollen tea cosy embroidered with cup cakes. There are sugar tongs, cake forks and everything comes served on Grandma’s china. It’s a delight. And then it’s back out into the sunshine, towards the river Lune to see if we can make our way home by crossing the River Lune on an old ford we notice marked on the map.
The ford dilemma
Of course a bridge would be easier, but from where we are they don’t look so convenient while investigating the ford seems much more in the spirit of microadventure. Heading down towards the river at Nether Burrow, signs warn there is no official ford, that crossing is not recommended and that the water can be deep and fast flowing.
We follow a bridleway through someone’s garden to reach the river banks and assess things for ourselves. The level is very low and the flow weak. It looks fordable. But not in bare feet. We’d have to soak our shoes. To ford or not to ford, that is the question. We stop, explore and try to make up our minds. Wet feet on a hot day might not be such a bad thing.
The great scone debacle
We decide against fording as there appears to be no viable way to get the fully laden tandem down to the river. Besides we have seen signs for the Hornby Tea Room just 5 miles away.
In the tea room no deliberation is required. We know straight away we have to order a freshly baked scone. It comes in a make your own kit with scone, butter and little bowls of jam and cream. But there are no instructions. What is Hornby scone protocol? Jam first, then cream? Or the other way around? We decide to phone a friend for advice but there is no signal, so proceed with an experiment with the two halves of the scone. One is prepared with jam and then cream while the other is loaded with cream and then jam. The two halves are then cut in half again so we can both do the great scone taste test.
Spot the difference
The differences are subtle. The tang of jam is stronger with the jam on top. And there’s definitely a creamier texture to the cream on top. Or did we just put more jam on one than the other? In the end we decide the most significant difference is whether you get jam or cream on your nose.
Losing our way
Homeward bound we head downhill reaching a top speed of over 65 km/hour. The map can’t keep up and flies off the barbag. We make an emergency stop but it’s a 300 metre run back to retrieve it. Hannah doesn’t seem to mind. She’s so full of energy I wonder if she’s actually been pedalling on the back. Or is that pure scone power?
Checking the map she spots a way to extend our adventure on a section of the Northern Reaches Lancaster Canal. She tells me it has several advantages. It’s more interesting than the road. It takes us to a local pub for evening refreshments. And it adds kilometres. I totally buy the first two but am surprised to hear she wants to add distance. But who am I to argue?
The icing on the cake
We stop at The Longlands for a last drink and review our tour performance. It’s disappointing. Only three cakes. That is most definitely not a Cake District.
We agree we’ll have to try again. We talk about researching the five best afternoon teas in the Lake District, then planning a route to hike, paddle or cycle between them to officially create a Cake District route. It sounds a good challenge for another time. But right now we have to get home as there’s a party to get to. Hopefully with cake.
As we arrive back home, there’s a squeal from my stoker, “We’ve done it Dad! My plan actually worked.” She shows me the milometer. It says we’ve just topped 100km rounding things off nicely. That’s what I call the icing on the cake.
Check the route
If you want to check out and follow our Not Quite the Cake District Tour, we’ve uploaded it to Strava and you can see it here.