Eight of us this time on this bright and sunny morning, including two newcomers.
The expected snow hadn’t arrived but it was cold enough to be frosty with a bit of ice here and there, though unfortunately not quite cold enough to freeze all of the mud that would plague us through the early part of this ride.
Starting from the car park at the village hall in Kepwick we set off through the gate a few yards down the lane and immediately hit the claggy stuff. We followed the track around the contours of Atlay Bank, sliding in the mud, dodging the odd downed tree and being generally thankful that we weren’t trying to go upwards – for now.
Arriving in Cowesby there was then a bit of road work before turning back onto the mud once more near Kirby Knowle. This time there was some uphill, steep at first necessitating a bit of hike-a-bike and slackening off later, but still requiring a bit of pushing now and then. We eventually emerged from the mudfest at Boltby and headed for Sneck Yate Bank.
Our lessons from last week had been learned and it was just as well, as this week’s straggler was hit with a puncture just past Boltby village. A quick repair and we caught the main group waiting for us at the point where we turn left off Sneck Yate Bank and into Boltby Forest. A long but simple climb up through the forest tracks brought us out on Hambleton Road, the main track between Osmotherley and Sutton Bank.
Crossing this we headed for Dale Town on good, and generally downhill, track that ended with a flourish just past Noddle End. At this point the track dives steeply down a drop of 40m with some twisty bits and some rocks to keep it interesting. Heads down and elbows out for some of us, brakes on and take it easy for the rest!
A bit of “make it up as you go” after that as we struggled to find our way onto the right track. A bit of off-piste across some muddy field, followed by a slightly illegal trek along a footpath eventually brought us onto the right track, past an abandoned and very picturesque farmhouse and on to Dale Town.
Another few hundred meters of track brought us to yet another hike-a-bike as we pushed, pulled or carried the bikes up the slippery slope just past Sunnybank Farm. Muddybank Farm would have been a more appropriate name. We had our lunch just after this, by the bizarre Land Rover Graveyard and the sign saying “alternative clean route”. Clean route? Don’t they know we’re mad for mud? Or are we just mad?
Shortly after setting off again (on the dirty route, of course) our straggler had his second mechanical of the day when his chain snapped. Thank heavens for the world’s greatest invention – SRAM Power Links. A mere five minutes later and we were on the move again, climbing gently towards Dale Town Common and the 2½k slog across the moor into the icy breeze, amusing ourselves by cracking through the ice on the frozen puddles.
One of our newcomers was getting a bit fatigued at this point so the proposed off-road route back was abandoned in favour of the direct and exceedingly fast tarmac route. Most of us topped 70k on the way down, though one of us fell off before we’d barely begun, wrecking his saddle, his jacket and his pride. The route ends with a section of cowshit covered road which ensured we all ended up with rather fragrant cars, vans and garages, despite the best efforts of the jet wash.
It was a good route that had a bit of everything – open moors, forest track, tough climbs, exhilarating descents, plenty of mud and stunning views. We even finished without losing anyone! I imagine it would be a real cracker of a route in summer when the mud is (perhaps) less muddy.
No suitable tea shops in this area, so we went home hungry.
Kepwick - Boltby - Noddle End - Drove Road
17 miles, 2519' of ascent in 4 1/4 hours