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

Above is few of photos taken on the Saturday and Sunday rides by Ian Wood

The  Reeth Camping Weekend by Norman Butler

Having arrived at the Orchard Caravan and Camping Site in Reeth at midday on Friday I quickly pitched the tent and set out to get in an afternoon ride. After just 3km on the road I started up my first off-road of the afternoon (and weekend). Although a byway on the map it is actually a single track road to Marrick Priory. Once a Benedictine nunnery Marrick Priory is now an outdoor education and residential centre. The bridleway beyond Wood House up Nagshaw Bank to Marrick is where the rough stuff really starts. From gravel and mud it turns into a grass track between stone walls barely wide enough for a quad-bike. From Marrick it was a short road section to Nun Cote Nook from where I headed east through Low Oxque to emerge on the road again at Sour Nook. For those who like to know where the cafes are, Elaine is serving tea and cakes at Nun Cote Farm! This bridleway includes Shaw Bank from which the views are well worth the slippery grass climb to get to the top. The road section from Sour Nook was a little over a hundred metres before heading west on the bridleway to Hollins farm. The gates are numerous on this bridleway, all of which proved difficult to open and close – I was just glad I wasn't on horseback! After Hollins Farm it was a 1km road section west to the next bridleway north-east across Cleaburn Pasture, north to Moor House and on to the brim of Tellit Bank. I then continued west on the bridleway past High Greenas, through the spoil heaps of the disused Prys Lead Mine to meet the road to the east of Hurst. In Hurst, once a mining centre in the 19th century although apparently there is evidence that the Romans produced lead there, I turned south opposite Hall Farm and crossed Marrick Moor following the byway to the top of Fremington Edge (formed after the last ice age when melt from the retreating glaciers caused a landslip) before finally plunging back To High Fremington. Back at the campsite I was joined by Ian, the South Lakes Group Area Secretary.

Saturday started with a quick ride round to the Dales Bike Centre to meet Eileen and Nick and the group of four took to the hills. Just 1km of road took us to our first rough stuff of the day above High Fremington. Starting as a byway and then bridleway this track was effectively singletrack all the way north west to Heggs House. So good was the riding that we missed our turn at Heggs House and continued along the wall side for at least another half kilometre before realising our mistake. An about turn put us back on track crossing fields to Storthwaite Hall and then a farm track to Langthwaite. Having a good idea of what was to come it seemed rude not to have tea and ice cream at the Red Lion Inn! A short road section took us through Arkle Town which is not much of a town these days although it once had a parish church, inn and workhouse. On up Raw Bank brought us to the bridleway below Calver Hill. Calver Hill is a bole hill, a place where lead from the mines was smelted in an open air furnace which used the prevailing wind to increase the heat. Continuing round to the road at Fore Gill Gate we then headed south for less than 1km to the longest stretch of rough stuff of the day. From the road it was headwind and uphill all the way to Surrender Ground. Farmers share the moorland here, buying “stints” or “gates” that allow them to graze a certain number of sheep each year. At shearing and other times they work together to gather in the sheep before separating them out using the series of smaller enclosures within the pen. On reaching Great Pinseat we had a small detour on foot to find the trig point (583m). With no shelter from the wind we continued down Forefield Rake and into Flincher Gill to Level House Bridge. Despite the incessant wind there was no suggestion of a return to the valley floor so it was west through Old Gang Mines to drop down to Gunnerside Gill the site of intensive lead mining in the 18th and 19th centuries. The valley still contains much evidence of its industrial past. Here and elsewhere on our ride we saw resultant scars of “hushes” formed when water was released as a torrent to scour soil of the surface and reveal seams of lead ore. Now free from any headwind we flew down the bridleway on the east side of Gunnerside Beck to meet the small road to the north east of Gunnerside where we descended to the valley floor for a visit to the Ghyll Foot tea shop. On meeting the B6270 we were confronted by the novelty of an electrically operated gate. If all gates were like this we wouldn't need to dismount!

Crossing the River Swale via Gunnerside New Bridge we took the byway east through Hag Wood, along the side of the river and in to Dubbing Garth Lane. A short road section past Isles Bridge brought us to Low Houses. The farmhouse here, built in 1840, is unusual as it is an example of a farmhouse and dairy under one roof. From Low houses we rode along Low Lane to Low Whita. A couple of kilometers on the road brought us to our last rough stuff of the day, the bridleway past Stubbings Farm to Swale Hall. It was then a case of a beer at the Bridge Inn at Grinton after which Ian and I made the short ride round to the campsite leaving Nick and Eileen debating their evening eating options.

Although forecast to be overcast the sun greeted us again on Sunday morning and the four of us set out from the Dales Bike Centre through Grinton and up to Grinton lodge youth hostel. The bridleway opposite the hostel was our first off-road of the day followed by a short section of road before we began the rough stuff climb up Harkerside Moor to High Harker Hill. As yesterday the wind was again blowing into our faces as we continued on round Beldow Hill and Green Hills to Morley's Folly. At this point we turned onto Apedale Road to our lunch stop in the shelter of the bothy marked as Dent's Houses (formerly Pattinson's House) on the map. We reached the road after 1.5km from our lunch stop and paused to contemplate having to ride nearly 1km on a road but it was downhill and possible to traverse without pedaling! Off-road again and we were soon amongst the ruins of Cobscar Mill from where we ventured into the spoil heaps that form Cranehow Bottom and Preston Moor. A navigational error on this section put us in the middle of a shooting range. Fortunately there was nobody actually shooting! Heading north west along Candle House Rigg brought us to Snowden Man. From here it was all downhill! First into Glead Gill, then fork to the right to skirt Sharrow Hill, before which we stopped to look at the remains of the flue from Grinton Smelting Mill. The fumes from the smelting process were carried up this flue and on its way upwards the smoke clung to the interior of the flue and solidified. Apparently small boys were later employed to climb inside and scrape away the deposits which could then be reprocessed. After passing the three lime kilns at Sharrow Hill we crossed the road and continued quickly down grass bridleway to Cogden Hall. The B6270 then took us back to the Dales Bike Centre for late afternoon tea. Eileen and Nick prepared to travel home while Ian and I rode on to the campsite from where Ian broke camp and I considered options for my Monday ride.

Rain was forecast for Monday but there was no sign of it as I left the campsite to ride the 3km west along the B6270 to Healaugh. Healaugh has no amenities except a stone trough fed by a hillside stream and a telephone box. Although I didn't actually visit the telephone box I understand that it is, or was, unusually endowed with a carpet, waste paper bin and fresh flowers! My first off-road section started as the “private road” of Thiernswood Hall but I was soon into woodland and up on the lower slopes of Calver Hill. Navigating this bridleway was easy until nearing Cringley Bottom where my map shows the bridleway skirting the walls inside a series of fields but the way is actually along the outer edge of the field walls. Cringley Bottom itself is unrideable (even on my other bike, Nick!) being a steep grass descent to a bridge across the beck and then a climb so steep that wooden steps have been installed. Crossing Novel Houses Hill brought me to Surrender Bridge and the ruins of Surrender Lead Smelt Mill a Grade 2 listed building. After a quick look round and a few photos I was then on my way west alongside Old Gang Beck. After another short halt at Old Gang Smelting Mills I eventually arrived once again at Level House Bridge. The start of the bridleway that I intended to follow south turned out to be illusive. So rather than venture onto open moorland in ground bird nesting season I opted to repeat part of Saturdays route for just less than 1km and turn south at Moor House. On reaching a series of grouse butts I was on the lookout for the bridleway heading down to Low Row Pasture but once again I had to change the plan and I headed down a vehicle track towards White Hill which brought me to the bridleway at Barf End Gate. A bumpy ride east along this bridleway took me across the top of Stoops Rigg where I was able to pick up my intended way down Low Row Pasture to Smarber and then the B6270 at Low Row. Crossing the River Swale via Isles Bridge I turned east to Low Houses where I was undecided on how to reach High Lane. Rather than take the bridleway which was a push up the fields to Birks End I elected to take the byway which would bring me out closer to my next bridleway east. This wasn't my best decision! A steep track which could best be described as a recently blasted quarry confronted me! As I expected the top half of this track to be an access road to Hollins Farm I thought it reasonable to persevere and started scrambling. I was correct in the access road theory but the going was still so steep and loose that I had to continue pushing. South along High Lane for less than 1km and I reached the bridleway that would take me east across several fields to the lower slopes of High Harker Hill. I was fortunate on this section as a farmer busy repairing his stone walls had left all the gates open. I reached the road (close to the iron age Maiden Castle fort) and rode this for around 1.5km to my last bridleway of the day (and weekend). With plenty of bridleways to choose from here my route skirted south of Deer Park to John Moss Chair and then down to Grinton to meet the road at Vicarage Bridge. The short ride back to the campsite was filled with thoughts of an excellent weekends rough stuff riding. Over the four days I rode 116km, not a huge distance but only 27km was on the road.

Thanks to Ian for suggesting and arranging the weekend. Maybe a repeat visit will see more RSF members joining in as this is a fantastic area for the rough stuff fan with an abundance of bridleway and byway and Reeth, boasting a campsite, youth hostel, cyclists’ bunkhouse and numerous B&B, is the ideal base from which to explore it.

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