Ever felt you were destined to meet someone?
Day two of our winter C2C tour took us along Lorton Vale, up the Whinlatter Pass and down into the popular North Lakes town of Keswick. After refuelling on fish and chips, we headed into the descending gloom of a winters night to search for our hotel; bumping into a number of old and new friends on the way…
You can’t beat a bag of chips in the open air
There’s nothing quite like a Northern bag of fish and chips consumed outdoors, especially after a wintery day’s riding. But these chips come with an unexpected surprise. As we sit devouring fish suppers outside Keswick’s Moot Hall we are tapped on the shoulder by a new old friend, Graham. Just 24 hours before, Graham was a stranger to us, someone we’d only ever tweeted with. Since then, we’d visited his house in Cockermouth, eaten his homemade flapjack and learnt all about his job as a John Muir Award assessor.
“Hello again. You made it then,” says Graham, as though bumping into us is no surprise to him. It’s great to see an unexpectedly familiar face on a cold night.
“We did. Powered by flapjack all the way,” grins Stuart, while fixing lights onto bikes for the ride to the hotel.
Supper over, we press on again into the dusk, and stop at a junction on the outskirts of town en-route to the hotel. A van pulls up beside us and the owner asks us where we got the kiddie cranks for our tandem, telling us he has a daughter about Hannah’s age.
Coincidence or meant to be?
“I know you,” I say, but can’t place him. Stuart can; he taps a keyword into his iPhone and brings up a picture on our blog of Ed Roberts, a guy we met five years ago while riding from Lands End to John O Groats. As Stuart passes around the phone, the memories come flooding back. “You gave us money for Children in Need. And a bottle of wine to help us on our way,” I laugh. Coincidence or meant to be? I don’t know.
Ed departs and we cycle on. Darkness spins through our wheels. “Mum can you see your nose? I can’t see mine,” says Hannah in a small voice. I can hear her wondering if it’s still there. We’re used to Cumbrian winter evenings, but this is a particular kind of darkness that we don’t get in the south of the county. There are few street lights once you leave Keswick, and tonight, no moon. Consequently we can’t see a thing and I start to wonder if my own nose is still there. Attempting to keep a tandem on a straight path around winding roads through Applethwaite and Millbeck, I’m trying not to panic. Behind me in the stoker’s position, Hannah audibly shivers. Together it feels like we are heading into the thundercloud of doom on a rollercoaster. But the boys are loving it; I can hear their squeals of excitement.
Stumbling around in the dark
Darkness is something we previously avoided on cycling trips. As signs of it approached we would scurry away into the safety of a campsite. But doing the C2C means doing bigger distances, with pre-booked accommodation, and the available light can’t even begin to stretch as far as we need it to. So each day we soldier on in the dwindling daylight; hoping for quiet roads or shafts of moonlight to help us navigate.
One thing we aren’t hoping for is a puncture, but we get one anyway. When Matthew’s tyre blows out, he comes to an abrupt halt. We all pile up like dominoes behind him. The darkness and the cold suddenly become magnified and we all wonder if our noses are still there. “The hotel should be somewhere around here, says Stuart consulting his GPS. “Let’s wheel the bikes.”
The warmest of welcomes at Lyzzick Hall
It’s an understatement to say we are pleased to see the lights of Lyzzick Hall Hotel. Set on the lower banks of Skiddaw, I suspect it’s a hotel with a view, if only we could see it. I bundle the younger children into the building, leaving Matthew and Stuart fixing a puncture on the doorstep. Lyzzick Hall falls somewhere between country house and stately home. Newly opened after its winter refurbishment, it’s warm and inviting, and the staff can’t do enough to help us settle in. Tyre sorted, we pile into the glass fronted swimming pool, warming up freezing toes and hands. I’m in the sauna when I hear someone enthusiastically introducing herself.
“You must be Cameron, splashing about over there. And you are definitely Hannah.”
I pull a towel around my swimming costume, and head to the hot tub, where Dorothy Fernandez, the co-owner of Lyzzick Hall gives me a huge hug. “Welcome to you all. Well done for getting here. You must be starving. Come to dinner as soon as you are dressed. Or would the children prefer a sandwich?”
I’ve already noticed that warmth and welcome seem to be the trademark of this hotel. But Dorothy and I have another connection. “I always hoped we’d meet,” she says. “I followed all your columns in Cumbria Life, and feel like I know you all.” Soon I feel like I’ve known Dorothy forever, as we settle down in front of a real fire in the wood panelled lounge over a glass of wine while the children play Monopoly.
Children are part of things at Lyzzick Hall
We aren’t the only family enjoying themselves; two teenage girls have retired to a corner to get away from their parents. “A lot of families come here,” Dorothy says, “my husband Alfredo is Spanish and very family orientated; children are part of things here.”
I’m not surprised to discover that their marriage was made in a hotel. Dorothy had bagged herself a holiday job between school exams when she met Alfredo, who had come to The Lakes from Spain to work in a hotel and practice his English. Four decades later the business has also embraced their daughter and son-in- law, and most of the staff have worked here for years. “They are part of the family and our guests can tell that they care for each other. Tell me off if I sound schmaltzy..,” Dorothy laughs. The building also lends itself to a family atmosphere. “It’s not grandiose; there’s a familiarity to it.”
But the history is grand; dating back as far as the Doomsday book and involving several changes of ownership. And under Dorothy and Alfredo’s stewardship, it’s been attracting repeat guests, who come for the locally sourced food, the view and the atmosphere.
Suddenly a row breaks out in the corner. Not the teenage girls but our own kids, “You stole money from the bank,” says Matthew, pulling the board from Cameron to reveal a stash of pastel coloured banknotes. It’s not quite the family atmosphere Lyzzick Hall is known for.
Perhaps all these meetings were meant to be
As Dorothy and I part she gives me another hug. “I’m really glad we met,” I tell her.
“I am too,” she replies, “but then I always believed we’d meet eventually.” As she leaves I wonder if all of today’s meetings were destined to be.
Over a breakfast fit for royalty, we meet Alfredo; the other half of the partnership. He works the room with a fatherly presence, checking all of his extended family are enjoying their breakfast. Cameron glowers into his silver pot of hot chocolate as the row rumbles on over the great Monopoly fraud. The rest of us eat more than we decently should, and attempt to motivate ourselves for the day ahead. First stop is Keswick Climbing Wall.
The doorstep, which last night hosted a puncture repair operation, now offers up a view of snow-capped fells and heart-stoppingly sheer climbs. Matthew tentatively tries his bike, checking that the tyre has healed. And this time when we ride, the Keswick winter sunshine spins gently in our wheels and we all wonder what fate has in store for us today.
Ever felt like you were destined to meet someone? Leave us a comment and tell us about it.
See more of our Winter Coast to Coast (C2C) Photo Journals
- Are you a purist or not bothered?
- Day 1: Setting Out: Workington to Cockermouth
- Day 2: Northern Lakes: Over Whinlatter and into Keswick
- Day 3: In the Shadow of Blencathra: Keswick to Penrith
- Day 4: Goodbye Lakes, Hello Pennines: Penrith to Hartside Summit and Alston
- Day 5: Over the Pennines: Nenthead to Allenhead and onto Consett
- Day 6: Welcome to the North East: Consett to Beamish & Sunderland
- Day 7: The end of the ride: Along the Wear in Sunderland
We did this C2C ride across England, from Workington to Sunderland, as part of our Family Adventure Capital Season. We’re exploring different ways families can adventure together in and around Cumbria, sharing ideas and inspiration to encourage families to get out, get active and adventure together.
Got some ideas for things we should try? Let us know.