South Lakes Group

Your Local off-road cycle touring club

For cyclists who love off-road leisure cycling in the South Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales

Part of the ‘Where’s the Brew stop? The off-road cycle touring website’ The site about off-road cycle touring routes, cyclist’s cafes, local group events, the South Lakes Group and good photos

30th March 2013: A ride over Salter Fell to Slaidburn

The cake photo at the Bridge House Farm Tearoom where the ride started from.

The school in Wray.

A snow drift at side road on the climb out of Wray.

A view of start of the climb from Barkin Bridge.

The view looking back down the road to Barkin Bridge.

At start of the Salter Fell Road.

A bit further along the Salter Fell Road.

Looking back down the Salter Fell Road in to Roeburn Valley.

The view from Alderstone Bank looking towards Guide Hill.

The view looking back down the track from Guide Hill.

A view of the track as we head towards Hard Hill Top.

The view looking down into Whitendale from Salter Fell Road.

Another view looking down into Whitendale.

Heading along the Salter Fell Road towards Croasdale Fell.

Following the track down into Croasdale

Regrouping at the New Bridge.

Looking back along Salter Fell Road down into Croasdale.

A view of the Youth Hostel in Slaidburn.

A view of the River Hodder in Slaidburn.

A lunch time view.

After lunch brew at the Riverbank Tearoom in Slaidburn.

On the climb up Merrybent Hill from Slaidburn.

The view ahead of the climb up to Cross of Greet.

Looking back into the Hodder Valley from near top of the climb.

Regroup at summit of the Cross of Greet.

Heading down the road to Botton Head.

Following the public byway down to Botton Bridge.

Norman heading down to Botton Bridge.

Crossing over Botton Bridge.

Looking back towards Botton Head from the end of the track.

Following the road over White Moss down to Wray.

Ride Report by John Gilbert

Wainwright referred to the 9-mile crossing of Salter Fell as ‘The finest high moorland walk in England’ and so I was looking forward to combining this outing with my first RSF ride leadership experience.

Tucked up by the woodstove in the café at Wray, I was unconcerned by the little snowfall pattering outside because, as all South Lakes members know, we have our own weather fairy who make every ride day a fine day.

Simeon and Norman appeared at the glass door of the cafe, both having ridden from home, which made me feel a little inadequate having braved the  snow flurries in my Land Rover. Coffee, cakes and half an hour later, we mounted the bikes and pedalled away over the river, through Wray village and started up the long series of tarmac rises to High Salter Farm. The farm is where the metalled road ends and the old Roman road begins. It’s a bleak place, where wind-bent tress pressed to the grey stone walls bear testimony to raw elemental exposure.


Our fairy was at work and as we moved onto the western edge of the high moorland track, blue patches of sky began to appear between grey battleship clouds. The East wind was cold and keen – at this elevation it seems to come uninterrupted from the Ural mountains in Russia. We literally bent to the task and ground steadily upwards to the high point of the crossing near Wolf-hole crag before descending to the track’s Eastern edge at House of Croasdale.

After the climb, the descent was welcome, though tempered by increasing roughness of the track and, curiously, snow drifts up to several feet in places. I found these drifts comforting as I attempted to negotiate some of the rockier tracts on my fixed-gear and a couple of minor spills had pleasant snow-cushioned landings reminiscent of childhood games.

Safely across the brooding traverse, we dropped quickly into Slaidburn towards a packed lunch beside the river – I imagined myself comical on the descents, legs desperately trying to keep pace with pedals. It’s cold into the wind and watery eyes squeeze out freezing tears to be whipped behind into the slipstream.

The weather continued to improve as we ate our sandwiches though that East wind nibbled as our stationary bodies rapidly cooled. We needed some fortification for the looming climb, so we crowded into the café for a brew. The Riverside café at Slaidburn is so small that three is a crowd – but none the worse for that, it being a tiny haven of warmth and companionship, not to mention a postponement of the Tatham Fell journey.

We lingered as long as intrepid roughstuffers decently can before eventually engaging the endless tarmac staircase up to Tatham. The three of us abreast, the sun high in the sky, we faced the climb like Wyatt Earp & Co., a man’s gotta do…

Three very different styles: Norman, super-fit from a recent bike tour of the Andes, effortlessly spinning skyward like Pantani on Tourmalet. He has the light build of the natural climber. Simeon, upright and stately in ascent, taking the time to enjoy the rising road and little stops for photographs. I pedal till I can’t push the fixed gear, then walk, then remount when the gradient allows, then walk again, it’s strangely satisfying.

It’s now that our South lakes weather fairy really spreads her wings as a great burst of sunshine sends clouds scudding to the corners of the sky, makes us hot on the climb, and throws our shadows black upon the road. We rise steadily and summit exultant in the warm spring sunshine, hot breath balloon-clouding the air.

A detour suggested by Norman and approved by Simeon is an interesting departure from the route I’d planned. We turn down off the road onto a farm track and playfully descend a snow filled gulley leading to Botton bridge. It’s a Magical place, incongruously in the shadow of Mean Garth Wood (Who, I can’t help wondering, was Mean Garth?)  Here we stop, not by design, but spontaneously and unanimously, to enjoy the trees and the river and the birdsong.  It’s a natural resting place and has probably been so for millennia. I wonder how many groups of three have paused here across time? Maybe to rest, or to drink from the stream, or perhaps just to be – rare now in our modern world. Nobody speaks because nobody wants to break the spell.

Less than half an hour from here sees us back at the café and, utterly exhausted from the hills and the relentless ride on fixed, I don’t have the energy to hold a cup of coffee. The others are unfazed as they spin off for home. “Bye” says Simeon, “Ciao” says Norman.    

You can click here to download  GPS route files of the route. To find out where we going next checkout forthcoming events page and don’t forget to post comment on our forum. Also checkout the What’s New Page to see what’s new on the site and you can also signup for site’s free weekly newsletter. You may find more photos taken on this ride by other members posted up on the South Lakes Flickr Group.

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Click here to see photos of the 1st April ride of the South Lakes Group up the Lune to Sedbergh or click here to check out other photo galleries on the ‘Where’s the Brew Stop?’ Websites.

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