Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

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Carry On Camping - Motorbike Style

Rally Date 11 - 13 August 2017

By Pocket Pete

Ren for some reason asked me to go on a camping weekend. It transpired Sharon has a previous engagement with zoo keeping.

He had been invited to a adhoc adventure bike meeting up at Haggs Bank in Alston. He thought perhaps someone who has never camped since scouts might be interested. Hmm might be fun, Yes hell why not.

I agree and immediately have doubts. What camping gear do I need? How do you actually pack for a bike camp? I point out to Ren I have no tent. "Dont worry I can lend you one, I have 4 at the moment". Right no getting away with it then, at least he won't have to put up with my snoring. I start by collecting together my current camping gear - oops I don't actually have any. My daughter does so I gather what bits she has on Ren's camping list. I have a sleeping bag, well sort of a sleeping bag. 

All of Pete's luggage spread out across the living room floor ready to be packed

A quick trip to Decathon to pick up a few extras I'm missing including a head torch. Not sure how I'm going to fit all this stuff into my panniers and top box. After much head scratching I manage to fit most of it in. I have found my tank bag so a few extras can fit in there. Still not enough room. Take it all out and start again. With the addition of one of my Oxford panniers lashed on the back seat and my camping chair its off to Ren's over at Horwich.

Ren's ready and packed. He has my tent on his bike as well as a mountain of gear which is expertly stacked and bungee strapped to the bike. We set off and Ren takes the M61 and M6 north bound. He pulls off at Lancaster and heads off through the country side towards Kirkby Lonsdale. The weather has turned and we are experiencing pretty heavy rain in patches. We arrive at Devils Bridge for a well earned cup of tea and a toilet stop. Its really raining down at this point as we shelter under the Butty Bar canopy. We meet a few bikers who are off to Scotland, it's a long way to Inverness folks especially in the rain.

After a Bacon Butty we set off. It's cleared a bit but my helmet is still letting in water, I should have left the insulation tape on it. Ren takes me through the windy country lanes and across to the A66, a very nice route much better than the motorway. Down the A66 a short distance where we meet with a bit of traffic then off on to the Eden Valley Road. I've been down here a few times, its raining again, looking pretty grim as we pass through Melmerby. We head up to the Hartside Top Cafe proudly showing the sign outside proclaiming the altitude of 1903 feet. 

Motorcycles outside the Hartside Top cafe, shrouded in mist and rain

A welcome cup of tea as the heavens open, no view to be seen and we are well and truly in the clouds. We stay for 40 minutes until the monsoon slowly disappears. We are joined by two soggy riders who we met at Devils Bridge on route to Inverness. "Didnt we meet you at Devils Bridge?" they say.

We head up to Alston and arrive at the campsite. There's already quite a few bikes in the car park. Ren asks where we are to put up the tents and I follow him on the bike up a really steep gravelly road. I hear someone shout "not up there, turn right!" I stop and see someone pointing to the other path on the right. Next thing my bike is slipping backwards on the gravel despite both brakes being on. I end up on my side with my bike on top. 

A couple of bikers help me get it upright as Ren returns downhill. There's a few marks on my pannier but the worse bit is my footpeg has just snapped straight off. Not to worry the very helpful campsite owner supplies us with a suitable bolt and Ren removes my rear footpeg and fixes it to the front spot. Not bad, seems to work ok. Good job Ren's here. 

The rear footpeg has been put into the front footpegs space to replace the broken peg

We drive up the correct path and find a nice if rather exposed spot on the terraces. Ren grabs my tent and before I can really assist he has the tent up and pegged out. Took him 12 minutes without me being more of a hinderance than a help. He puts his wigwam style tent up in 5 minutes.

Another shower commences and we retreat inside the tent for a cup of tea, much needed. We go down to the bunkhouse to see who we pay and join the other bikers sheltering from the rain in the warm conservatory. We are infromed to pay on Sunday and are we staying for tea? It's lasanga. Cool thats great and I am instructed on the method to obtain beer. You fill in an honesty book and help yourself. Very civilised. A couple of Speckled Hen's later the world looks a better place.

2 bottles of speckled hen beer with adventure motorcycles in the background

We chat until 10ish and I'm very tired so it's off to bed. My airbed is comfy and I fall asleep immediately. I wake at 12 worried the tents going to blow away. I sleep again and wake about every 2 hours. I'm fairly warm just my bald head is cold. Breakfast time and we make a cuppa. Ren's having porridge I am on sausages, Walls microwave ones. Simply heat them in a pan, slap on a slice of bread with brown sauce and away you go. I used to have these in my truck. Ren trys them and declares them to be delicious. They last for ages out of the the fridge. Yum.

We have a chat with the other riders. They are preparing for a pretty long ride out into the lakes taking in the Honnister pass, Hardnott pass and the Wrynose Pass. I think they wanted to do the Winlatter as well. Ren's already told me how hard group riding is so we decide to do our own thing.

Ren has not been to Hadrians Wall and wishes to head north so off we go through the Eden Valley which I always like then over to Lanercost Priory. Here there is a section of the wall and a mile marker tower which is worth looking at. The wall of course only exists in parts along is original path but I've seen most of it. Its pretty good in places and I like Vindelanda and Housesteads.
We look at the wall in the pouring rain and retreat quickly for a cup of tea to the nearby priory. Its stopped when we come out and we head over to Caldbeck to visit my brother John. He has a small farm with camping and Glamping spots as well as a couple of holiday homes.

Ren looks into the camera while stood on a section of Hadrian's Wall. IT's raining a lot

He's in and we grab a cup of tea and a biscuit. I've not seen him for a year and he shows me and Ren around the farm. It's looking good and he's fully booked up from now till christmas, looks like his investments are paying off. 

Much to my surprise John has a bike and says he will ride out with us. He gets changed and leads the way on his 1000cc Vstrom. Nice bike. He takes us over the back of the hills on some lovely sweeping roads across the moors at the back of Caldbeck. We drop in the back of Bassenthwaite lake via Mirehouse and drive over to Keswick where the Sun comes out and we stop at The Filling Station in keswick. 

John eats a hearty meal and we can see Pete's burger in the front of shot

After a much needed burger and mug of tea we set off down the A66 and turn off toward Ullswater down through Pooley Bridge. I know this area quite well and take the lead. I turn off to a little village called "Celleron" which leads over some nice lanes to Askham with its open air village swimming pool. Then I take the lovely brampton road which leads over to Haweswater. Rather than go all the way to the dam which is a lovely road I turn off onto the old Concrete Construction Road. It's a little rough path but it leads over some very remote fells. We have the right bikes for the job and I pull off towards Keld which has the smallest national trust building, a small Medieval Chapel. We dont visit but if you feel the need the key is hung up in the doorway of the house opposite lol.

We turn towards Shap Abbey past the Goggleby Stone and park up in the visitors car park. We have not visited the ruined abbey for many years. Ren's impressed with its remote location. We head back up the A6 and stop at a cafe which is closed oops we have not realised its gone 5pm. We depart at the Penrith roundabout and John heads home we head back to camp.

Shap Abbey, a ruin with only a part of the original tower still standing

We stop at Hartside Top which is closed by now but at least we can take in the view now and it is pretty spectacular. On arrival at the camp we decide to miss the BBQ and eat al fresco. I brought some pasta and tomato sauce along with hotdog sausages. This recipe was specially promoted by Sharon and Ren on a previous trip. It tastes pretty good. I use Dolmio fresh packet pasta and sauce along with some cheap olde oak hotdogs. Hmm. Sometimes junk food is just what you need. Ren munches a few chocolate digestives with his cup of tea to wash it all down with. We retire to the bunkhouse where I pop the top off a few more Speckled Hens and Ren consumes yet more tea. It seems everyone has had a good ride out along with a couple of minor breakdowns off road. Some very dirty looking adventure bikes. It's dark and at 10pm I'm ready for bed but Ren convinces me to stay a little longer. 

Pete's stirring a pan of pasta and hot dog sausages in the tent

At 11 I retire and my god its a cold clear sky, I can see the breath hanging in the air as I breath out. Rather a cold interrupted sleep, I am well wrapped up but my sleeping bag zip slowly comes undone. I was bloody freezing. Eventually I put my bike jacket over my head and get a bit of rest. Pretty good view of the meteor shower in the clear mountain air though.

I sleep in till around 7. I had woken up about every 2 hours, the bloody owl was noisy again. Breakfast was more sausages and a bit of bacon. Not bad. We start loading the bikes and I look over towards Ren's tent which has gone - packed away and he appears to be virtually ready. I get packed by which time Ren is hovering around my tent. I remove the last of my stuff and 4 minutes later the tents gone. Hmm he really does have this camping thing off to a fine art.

We say our goodbyes and head off. Ren's taking a new route home via Nenthead across the moors down to Middleton in Teesdale. OMG the best biking road I have been on in ages, virtually deserted apart from bikes and the odd sheep, stunning views. Then over to Brough and along the road to Hawes, wow all three of these roads are brilliant. Total biker roads like The Cat and Fiddle without traffic, trucks or speed cameras. More tea then down to Kettlewell where the traffic is pretty heavy. Skipton and down to the M65. We stop for a brew at Sainsburys. I am dropping over the the A56 to head home Ren's carrying on towards Bolton then to his mums. We wave goodbye at the A56 and I peel off uphill and head home. I get back very tired and very dirty but I've had a great time. Even better Paula's made tea, Roast chicken yum.

A delightful road twists past some stone houses in the Dales countryside

Had a great time, thanks Ren. Would I go camping again? Its cold, uncomfortable but was quite a challenge and rather fun. The roads in The Lake District and Yorkshire Dales are staggeringly good and make the effort of camping totally worthwhile. Paula would not have like the distance we covered but may have liked a more sedate trip with more shopping.

We'd like to publish your own adventures be they great or small here at Bikes And Travels. Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Marky M said :-
You're first experience of motorcycle camping was far more successful than mine.Rain constantly electic stuff failing and them old canvas tents that leak. Put me right off. It was my daughter who finally put me right with modern stuff much better now.
Nice read thanks.
23/8/2017 5:50:21 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Many many years ago our holidays used to consist of piling ancient camping gear on an even more ancient Norton single and heading off to the wettest places in Britain - the Lakes, Western Scotland etc.

After one particularly sodden week in a campsite at the south end of Ullswater, where it rained all day every single day and every single item of clothing we had was soaked through, my wife told me "never again". The high point of the holiday was lying in the tent (whose groundsheet had sprung a leak) feeding the local birds by throwing little chunks of soggy bread out of the tent doorway.

That was our last motorcycle-based camping trip. I have to say I don't miss it.

However, I do understand that others enjoy the experience and good luck to them.
23/8/2017 9:12:32 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I have to agree with Marky M - while the British weather still leaves a great deal to be desired the modern tents and waterproofs etc do at least move UK camping from being thoroughly miserable up to manageable and sometimes great.

I am finding those campsites where there's a common room of some description makes the whole experience even better. By common room I mean somewhere, anywhere that campers can go to sit in the dry and possibly even the warm. It might be akin to a canteen with hard tables and chairs or perhaps like a doctor's waiting room. Some places we've been to recently have several settees and plush chairs. It's really nice to have that option to escape the weather even for an hour or two in the evening.
23/8/2017 11:08:24 AM UTC

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