Author Archives: Ian

C2C MTB Eastern section Kirkby Stephen to Robin Hood’s Bay

Our route from Kirkby Stephen to Robin Hood’s Bay

Kirkby Stephen is a small market town and lies in the Upper Eden Valley. It is surrounded by wild uplands. We left the town via Winton and rode to the end of the paved lane above Heggerscales.

The paved road continues with a promising track to Wrenside Farm.

After Wrenside the bridleway became indistinct.

The bridleway is straight on?

The bridleway degenerated so there was nothing visible on the ground. It became unrideable (for us) through peat hags, heather and patches of marsh – all gently rising. We resorted to a strenuous push for the last 2 kilometres before reaching the sanctuary of tarmac.

A hard push uphill across peaty moorland.

It was a further undulating 5 kilometres on the road before we reached Tan Hill. At the high point we crossed into the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Tan Hill Inn is the highest public house in Britain at 528 metres. (1,732 feet) The Inn dates back to the 17th Century. The isolated setting is high wild moors. The interior was immediately recognisable as the setting for the 2017 Christmas Waitrose TV commercial.

Tan Hill Inn.

The Pennine Way passes through here and it was this bridleway that we rode South for about 6km  to Keld in Swaledale.

Pennine Way Bridleway to Swaledale.

Bridleway down to Keld.

The next 20 kilometres of the route from Keld to Reeth followed the Swale Trail which officially opened in April 2018. It is a valley bottom trail which is mostly traffic free.

The start of the Swale Trail in Upper Swaledale.

Following the Swale Trail near Crackpot Hall

We crossed the river on a fine bridge at Gunnerside.

The well signed trail continued to Grinton near Reeth .

From Reeth to Richmond we were able to stay off road by following bridleways some of which coincided with the C2C walking route.

Some of the bridleways coincided with the walking route.

From Richmond to Osmotherley there is 40 kilometres of flat relatively uninteresting farmland to ride through before the Yorkshire Moors. We kept our route to quiet lanes and tracks and reached Ingleby Cross in a couple of hours.

From Ingleby Cross we climbed up the escarpment to Osmotherley through Arncliffe Wood on a fire road. This is the C2C walking route and it emerges onto the moor on the Cleveland Way footpath. It avoids using busy roads to get to Osmotherley.

Ooops a footpath.

From Osmotherley the ride picks up interest again with a great bridleway across Scarth Moor. We had far reaching views ahead as far as Roseberry Topping.

Roseberry Topping in the far distance.

Through Whorlton the route was a bit tricky to find but we eventually emerged on the Scugdale Lane which we followed to Scugdale Hall.

Our route choice from there was to head North up onto Bilsdale West Moor.

A steep climb to Barkers Crags.

The climb was worth it for the wonderful ride over the wild remote moor.

Bilsdale West Moor.

We carried onto the edge of the escarpment to reach Trig Point 6927 and its adjacent boundary stone.

We followed a permissive bridleway which was mainly through forest below the escarpment to Clay Bank where we once again joined the Cleveland Way.

Clay Bank. It’s a bridleway.

A very steep climb up Carr Ridge onto Urra Moor.

It was quite an effort pushing and sometimes carrying the bikes up the steep slope to Urra Moor Top but once there we enjoyed the gently ascending ride to Bloworth Crossing.

Great riding on Urra Moor.

Bloworth Crossing is the site of a crossroads on the former Rosedale Ironstone Railway in the North York Moors. What were once rail lines are now public bridleways, so Bloworth Crossing forms a major junction for many mountain bike routes. It also sits on the Cleveland Way and C2C long distance footpaths.

From Bloworth crossing we followed the eastern trail along an easy meandering dismantled railway across the moor to the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. On Blakey Ridge we kept to the road for a few kilometres to Rosedale Head and had a look at Ralph’s Cross. A cross has stood here since Anglo Saxon times and acted as a medieval highway marker.

Ralph’s Cross at Rosedale Head.

From Trough House the onward route follows a bridleway which is mainly downhill. It is called the Cut Road. It is an easy to follow track across Glaisdale High Moor.

Cut Road across Glaisdale High Moor.

We left the Glaisdale Moor with a fast descent down Glaisdale Rigg.

Glaisdale Rigg.

From Glaisdale the route follows the Esk Valley through Egton Bridge to Grosmont. To avoid riding up the very steep (33%) road out of Grosmont we crossed Murk Esk on a very slippery ford which fortunately had very little water in it.

Crossing the Murk Esk at Grosmont.

After several kilometres of climbing out of the Esk Valley we emerged onto Whinstone Ridge and followed a great bridleway across Fylingdales Moor.

We reached Louven Howe barrow which is the highest of a chain of barrows thought to form part of a bronze age boundary. The barrow is home to a boundary stone and also the trig point at a height of 299 metres.

Louven Howe, with a distant view of the North Sea

We continued heading east towards the sea which we eventually reached at Bent Rigg Lane just South of Ravenscar.

The North Sea near Ravenscar.

All that remained was to follow the well surfaced old railway track above the coastal cliffs which gave us excellent views of our final destination Robin Hoods Bay.

Robin Hood’s Bay.

We finished at the Station Workshops car park where our Packhorse transport was waiting to return us and our bikes to Kirkby Stephen.

Our transport back to Kirkby Stephen.

Distance: 210km
Elevation: 3521m

The gpx files we created for this ride are all here. Please use them with caution as there are a few discrepancies. If you would like more info on the route just send a message.

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C2C MTB Western section St Bees to Kirkby Stephen

Our route to Kirkby Stephen

With a combined age of 125 years we decided to give ourselves the luxury of baggage transfer for our trail ride on mountain bikes from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hoods Bay in North Yorkshire. We were riding unsupported and had devised our own route which was based on the Tim Woodcock route, which itself is based on the walking route developed by A.W Wainwright.

We used the the Kirkby Stephen based company Packhorse for our transfers and baggage transport.

Readying the bikes for our Packhorse transfer to St Bees

We met the Packhorse team at Kirkby Stephen which is roughly half way across the C2C route. There were several other people there too but they were walkers. We left our car in their secure car park and were transported with our bikes to St Bees to start the ride.

At St Bees ready to Start

Posing at the official start of the C2C walk

We began by riding up the road to Sandwith and then joined the cycle track along the old railway at Moor Row. National Route 71 of the National Cycle Network makes up the western third of the C2C route which follows paved roads.

On Sustrans route 71

At Kirkland the more difficult of the Tim Woodcock routes heads onto Ennerdale. We had decided to take the easier option through the Lake District and kept going North. We were soon onto some very nice bridleways and headed down to the lakeside at Loweswater.

Loweswater

We continued to a bridleway which became a footpath alongside Crummock Water . At Buttermere we took the road over Newlands Hause.

The road climbs over 200 metres with gradients up to 18%.

Newlands Hause.

We then dropped down through the Newlands Valley, through Keswick and climbed up to Castlerigg Stone Circle. It was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC, during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages.

Castlerigg Stone Circle.

We continued east by following the Old Coach Road from St John’s Vale. It’s very steep and rough to begin with so we had to walk.

Walking up the Old Coach Road out of St john’s Vale.

Once up above the quarries it was really good and we had a great ride over to High Row.

Great riding on the Old Coach Road to High Row.

We followed undulating paved roads through Matterdale and down to Pooley Bridge.

The undulating paved roads reminded us of why we had opted to take an easier route through Lakeland.

Pooley Bridge is at the Northern End of Ulswater. From there we took a delightful bridleway across Askham Fell.

Askham Fell above Ulswater.

We stayed off road as much as possible and joined the main Tim Woodcock route at Shap.

Crossing the River Lowther en route to Shap.

Tim Woodcock does not explore the wonderful limestone scenery between Shap and Kirkby Stephen and cruises through this area on paved lanes. Once again we deviated from the route to stay off road.

From Oddendale we followed the course of a Roman Road across Cosby Ravensworth Fell and just before Orton we left Cumbria and entered the Yorkshire Dales.

Leaving Cumbria behind

After Orton we headed North up onto Orton Scar.

We then entered the the Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve. This area was one of the highlights of the whole ride. We didn’t see anyone else until we dropped back down to Smardale Bridge.

Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve

Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve

Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve

From Asby we came back down across Crosby Garrett Fell following a bridleway.

Crosby Garrett Fell

We dropped down to Bents Farm, crossing the C2C walking route and rode a bridleway to Smardale Bridge. The onward route over Smardale Fell was great riding and we enjoyed the descent to Waitby and were on mainly paved lanes for the last few kilometres into Kirkby Stephen.

Distance: 144km
Elevation: 3037m

C2CMTB

The August bank holiday in Dorset is throwing some very unseasonable weather at us – torrential rain and high winds. So what do you do when it really is too filthy to be tempted outdoors? Plan the next adventure!

Stormy

We have been thinking about riding our mountain bikes on an epic trail ride, Coast to Coast across the North of England ever since we walked the route in 2016.

The start of the walk will also be the start of our MTB C2C

Tim Woodcock’s classic coast to coast route heads east from St Bees, through the Lake District, over the Pennines, through the Yorkshire Dales and across the North Yorkshire Moors where it ends at Robin Hoods Bay. The route we have planned is a distance of 340km with over 7,500m of elevation change. Most of this is on off road trails and follows the Tim Woodcock route closely, except on the first day through the Lake District.

The high bits of the Lake District will be too tricky for us to ride.

 

Smardale Bride in the Howgills

Robin Hoods Bay on the East Coast Journeys end!

We have been back up North to recce a few of the trail sections, particularly in the Lake District and reluctantly accepted that we were not going to be able to manage the Tim Woodcock MTB trail over the Black Sail Pass. There are not many couples in their sixties who ride mountain bikes let alone take on the C2C challenge. So we have planned a modified route to the North of the official route in the Lake District but from Shap onwards we are sticking closely to the Tim Woodcock route. We have done some research about what we might come across but we don’t know very much.

Half way at Kirkby Stephen

Every day we climb above the 400m contour where the weather will play a big part in how we cope with the conditions we encounter. It will be wet and filthy up there with arduous climbs and some long technical stony descents.

Steep climb out of Goathland on the North Yorks Moors

We plan to follow the official bridleway route mostly

Of course, there are nutters who have ridden it in less than 24 hours, but we are giving ourselves a week to enjoy the ride and explore some great trails along the way.

We are hoping it will be fun!

There are some paved sections but the majority of the time we will be trail riding. To add to our enjoyment we are not camping and we are having our baggage transferred every day by Packhorse. This is not actually a horse but a company who make it their business to look after people and their baggage on the Coast to Coast, whether they are walking running or cycling the route.

I will be riding my Giant Anthem and Ian his Marin Mount Vision. Both full suss.

The bikes

We will be carrying normal mountain safety stuff plus enough bits and bobs to keep the bikes rolling each day.

There are bound to be some mechs that will need fixing en route

One thing you can be assured of – there won’t be much air time. My preferred option will be both wheels on the ground.

Two wheels on the ground – not like James!

Tour de Manche: the English section

The official route

Just as in France the English Tour de Manche uses a combination of small roads and greenways. From the ferry port at Poole the route takes to a cycle path through Baiter park and then alongside Poole Harbour to Sandbanks.

Poole Harbour

The Sandbanks chain ferry crosses to Studland and then the route goes to Corfe Castle.

Cyclists on the Sandbanks chain ferry

The route is not flat and after Corfe Castle, Creech hill is climbed before a descent to join Cycle Route 2 just east of Wool.

Tour de Manche on Route 2 in Dorset

Flat riding through quiet lanes on Cycle Route 2 brings you to Dorchester and onto Martinstown. There now comes an unavoidable Cat 4 climb over Hardy’s Monument.

Hardy’s Monument

Hardy’s Monument

The lovely Bride valley follows, still following Route 2 to bypass Bridport and start a series of steep climbs to Axminster.

Route 2 near Bridport

The route continues West along the Jurassic coast of Dorset and into Devon.

We found a lovely traffic free route through the city of Exeter emerging at Haldon, well on our way to Moretonhampstead and Dartmoor

Now we were in Devon who could resist a cream tea?

Cream tea

We chose to go across the middle of Dartmoor on the B3212. There are a few steep ramps on the climb onto the moor out of Moretonhampstead but it was very scenic and memorable.

The B3212 across Dartmoor

Beautiful view from Dartmoor down to the coast at Plymouth

On arrival at Plymouth there was time for a small celebration before catching the ferry to Roscoff.

Well deserved.

Tour de Manche: St Malo to Cherbourg

The official route

We arrived at St Malo on a boat from Dinard. St Malo is a busy ferry port and we enjoyed cycling past the fortifications to the sea front. It was immediately evident that we had left the undulations of Northern Brittany behind us and we were now in flatlands. We detoured off the official route to visit the oyster capital of Cancale which was lined with busy cafes full of people swallowing down oysters.

Voie Verte in the Bay of the Mont St Michel

Ahead we could see the spectacular bay of the Mont St Michel stretching out in front of us. The character of the route changed now and we were to be on off-road gravel cycle-tracks for the majority of the route to Cherbourg.

Early morning mist at the Mont St Michel

Although the idea of cycling on traffic free Voie Vert sounds quite appealing, the reality is actually quite tedious after the first couple of hours. The cycle track follows an old railway line and for hour after hour we had only brief glimpses of any scenery beyond the tree lined route. The route was very flat but cycling on gravel requires a lot of energy,even on slick 28mm tyres, so progress was no quicker than on the hilly paved roads of Northern Brittany.

The endless Voie Vert gravel tracks around Sourdeval on the Contentin Penisular Normandy.

The route tracks up the middle of the peninsular largely following the River Vire and does not go to the coasts.

We had not expected the Voie Verts to be so rough and had only one spare inner tube each so we were delighted on the 7th day in France to came across a bike shop in Vire.

stocking up on spares at Vire

As it turned out we didn’t have any punctures in the 1200km tour. A vote for Continental 4 seasons tyres.

A point of interest to break the tedium of the Voie Vert was a dismantled Viaduct at Souleuvre. It was built in 1891 by Gustav Eiffel as a railway bridge. It has been dismantled leaving 6 pillars to leave a ‘unique work of art’. You can see that this area of Nomandy is short on tourist attractions! Anyway, apparently 10,000 people a year use it for bungee jumping. We didn’t make it 10,002. We did enjoy the steep descent into the valley and the climb out made a change from flat gravel Voie Vert.

The viaduct at Souleuvre

We followed the River Vire towards St Lo and there were some beautiful sections along the River but we also enjoyed a 10km stretch on little lanes with 3 really steep hills between Conde sur Vire and Pont Farcy.

Pont Farcy

We were making great progress up the Contentin Peninsular and the warm sunny weather helped a lot.

Cherbourg 179km

As we approached St Lo, still cycling along the River Vire, we enjoyed several sculptures.

Art along the River Vire

North of St Lo we were very aware that the area saw ferocious action in the Second World war and was close to the Normandy Beaches. We were crossing the marshes on our approach to Carentan and stopped on a bridge dedicated to the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army. The Battle of Carentan was an engagement which took place between 10 – 15 June 1944 to consolidate the beachheads (Utah beach and Omaha Beach) which had been taken during the Normandy Landings on 6th June 1944. 74 years later there was not much evidence of the carnage from the war.

Dedication on the bridge near Carentan

We continued across the marshes enjoying some excellent single track on our approach to Carentan.

Approaching Carentan across the marshes which had seen fierce fighting in 1944.

Carentan was quiet and peaceful.

After Carentan there was more Voie Vert as we headed west to La Haye du Puits.

Voie Vert near La Haye du Puits

As we got closer to Cherbourg the Voie Vert gave way to paved roads. We enjoyed the downhill run into the city where we easily found the ferry port. We boarded Barfleur in the late afternoon and enjoyed a smooth crossing to Poole.

Barfleur

Sunset in Poole harbour

Tour de Manche: Roscoff to St Malo

The official route

The overnight ferry from Plymouth brought us to Roscoff on the North coast of Brittany.

We had planned the route we were intending to follow in advance. There is a Tour de Manche website which provided some information but generally it wasn’t very helpful. One of the main problems was that we were riding it backwards, in that we had decided to ride the French section of the TDM with the prevailing wind and the route is described on the website from Cherbourg to Roscoff, which is against the wind. The downside of this idea was we would have the wind against us in Southern England.

The route is mostly well signed. However, the signs did tend to peter out just when we needed them most.

Signage on the Tour de Manche

We were riding our normal touring bikes which have sturdy steel frames with 28mm Continental 4 season tyres. We carried the small amount of stuff we needed in panniers.

Our trusty steeds

We were not camping or applying heat to any food and that meant we were travelling light.

Travelling light (on the gravel tracks)

We expected to be riding on good surfaced roads the whole time and had only brought one spare inner-tube each. We expected to pass plenty of bike shops in France if we did need help with any mechs.

As it turned out the route alternated between tarmac and off road sections some of which we would have been more at home on our mountain bikes.

Nice bit of single track!

There were no bike shops! Luckily the Continental 4 seasons did not let us down and we did not have a single puncture despite the rough tracks we were riding on.

The route along the coast of Northern Brittany was very scenic but constantly undulating with some challenging hills. We took time to enjoy the scenery and points of local interest.

Paimpol

Near Cap Frehel

On the fifth day we decided to take the waterbus across the Rance from Dinard to St Malo rather than riding up to Dinan on the Voie Vert where the official route went. We did this because a boat trip was more interesting than a city!

Ticket office for the Water bus from Dinard

On reflection  the first five days of the TDM from Roscoff to St Malo was the best bit for us. The cycling was interesting and the coastal scenery spectacular.

After St Malo we detoured to Concale and then we started the ‘Petit Tour de Manche’ which is much flatter with long sections of Voie Verte – the green roads.

Our introduction to Voie Verte near Le Mont St Michel. Beautiful.

 

An introduction to the Tour de Manche

The official route

The Tour de Manche is a 1200km cycling adventure which links the coasts of Brittany, Normandy and the Jurassic coasts of Dorset and Devon. We live a few metres from the route as it goes through Dorset, so we thought it would be a good plan to ride from home to home over a couple of weeks.

The Tour de Manche passes close to home.

The English section of the Tour de Manche goes from Poole to Plymouth. The route follows quiet roads and lanes.

Arriving at Plymouth for the overnight ferry to Roscoff

West of Weymouth the English section of the Tour de Manche follows a route suitable for more experienced cyclists, with some challenging hills.

The Tour de Manche in France has 2 distinct sections. From Roscoff the route follows the coast to the crossing of the Rance to St Malo and is very scenic but constantly undulating with some steep ramps.

Scenic coastal roads in Brittany

From St Malo to Cherbourg the route is less challenging with long sections of Voie Verts which are gravel tracks along disused railway lines.

Flat straight gravel tracks in Normandy

On the face of it this sounds quite attractive, but it is actually quite slow and tiring pedalling along the rough gravel and, when enclosed in a cutting for long stretches, much less interesting than the hilly, open, scenic roads along the coast of Brittany. The Cherbourg to St Malo section is a stand alone route called Petit Tour de Manche and is more suitable for families – with just the occasional hilly bit to catch the unwary.

The route is signed throughout. We didn’t follow the prescribed route religiously and occasionally went off route to visit places of interest. We carried maps and had the bones of the route on the GPS.

Just off the ferry we were pleased to find the tour de Manche on the sign posts.

We used Brittany Ferries for the channel crossings. We went overnight from Plymouth to Roscoff on the Pont Avent.

Bicycles secured for the overnight crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff

After cycling through Brittany and Normandy we came back from Cherbourg to Poole on Barfleur.

Returning to Poole on Barfleur