Review from The Lake District in Books


“Some years back I dragged my 60+ year-old bones back onto a bike to get some healthy exercise. Fine, but that was in the relatively flat lands bordering Lincolnshire. Would I do it in the Lake District? Not likely! But then, Mike Carden’s a good few years younger than me.

I’m full of admiration for Mike who decided to cycle from Brockhole to Bowness … it’s only about three miles … but he went the long way round!

‘A Lake District Grand Tour‘, subtitled ‘Pedalling Through Lakeland: The Challenge, The History, The Wildlife, The Scones’, is a great read. My review copy this week caused me a degree of sleep-deprivation, but I’m not complaining; definitely un-put-downable.

As he takes us along with him on a nine-day ride around the Lake District, constantly embarrassed at the difference in cycling performance between himself and his riding companion, a 20-year-old son, Mike introduces us to places both familiar and less so.

I like the way that he feels in no way obliged to gush over popular tourist spots and is happy to be mildly irreverent. Children’s author Beatrix Potter’s ‘Hill Top’, for example, is “not a pretty-pretty house at all” and definitely “from the Mrs. Heelis side of Beatrix’s life, rather than the Miss Potter side”. Plus I do admire his courage in confessing that he’d rather have a life-size model of Renée Zellweger, the ‘Miss Potter‘ actress, than of Mrs Tiggy-winkle – a quite serious heresy here in Cumbria.

As we pedal (or he pedals!) from place to place fascinating tidbits of information are scattered through the pages. Having lived for many year’s within sight of Lancashire’s Pendle Hill the world famous treacle mines of Sabden were familiar territory. I was, however, completely unaware that in addition to the lead, copper, silver and other important minerals that were extracted from Lakeland mountains over many centuries the sweet black stuff was also mined, near Kendal. (A subsequent trawl of the web told me of the top secret treacle mine of Natland, its location rigorously reserved to the village elders – but they’re all dead, so no-one knows where it is, or was, or maybe was!)