Sunday, 28 December 2008

Rosedale Abbey - Newton-On-Rawcliffe - Cropton

6 of us today on a fairly pleasant winter's morning.

This route was a voyage of discovery. Obviously with Volume II of his best-selling mountain bike guide book in mind, Tony was taking us on a lot of untried sections of bridleway. I quite like exploring these untried sections, it adds a little bit of adventure to things, though not knowing what it’s going to be like also means you can’t gauge how good, bad or tough the route is going to be. This route uncovered a nice bit of downhill, a great bit of cross-moor single track and a lot of unrideable mud! This was easily the muddiest ride I’ve ever been on, with some of the most prolonged sections of shoe-swallowing clag that I’ve ever waded through.

Starting with a left turn out of the Milburn Arms car park we went just a couple of hundred meters down the road before turning left into Heygate Farm where a mad farm dog immediately grabbed me by the foot. Lucky for me it wasn’t by some fleshy, unprotected part. (Every time I’m attacked by a mad farm dog I wonder if I’m within my rights to have it put down. If a farmer can shoot dogs for “worrying” sheep can’t I have one destroyed for scaring the crap out of me?)

Once past the mad dog – who came after us for second helpings too – we were into the first mudfest of the day. A field that looked like it should be rideable but wasn’t. It looked so rideable that it kept tempting us back onto our bikes, but just a few pedals on and the wheels would be up to their centres in mud again. At one point Dave went for the world track stand record without even having to use his powers of balance – his bike was stuck fast as if parked on a bike rack! Much pushing and wading through the mud brought us to a stream crossing and then into more mud. At this point we were doing about 2kph and the ride was set to take two weeks.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

Respite came in the form of a short road section, up beyond Northdale Farm, where we almost doubled back on ourselves and did a steep climb across the face of Brown Hill. Naturally, my chain now using mud in place of the oil that I’d so lovingly administered earlier that morning, I was stricken by chain-suck and was doomed to ride this and every other hill on the middle cog instead of the granny ring. A trip to Westbrook’s is looking very likely, but in the meantime I’m just developing ever bigger thighs!

At the top of the climb we crossed straight over the road and onto a delightful section of typical moorland single-track. Little used by the look of it, it was no more than a few inches wide as it cut through the overgrowing heather which served to obscure one or two nasty little wheel-catcher holes! Looking at the GPS log we went a bit off the actual right-of-way, but we did follow the track as it exists on the ground, which eventually brought us back to the road. Something of a miracle was that none of us ripped our rear mechs off in the heather. Usually we only have to say the word "heather" and someone's off to Westbrook's for a new mech.

Excellent moorland singletrack

A left turn just past the trees took us onto Hartoft Rigg and a gentle descent down to the road again near Low Wind Hill. An hour and a half gone and only 7k covered. We were going to need tents and sleeping bags at this rate.

A bit more road work took us to Pinewood View and a sharp left back towards Muffles Bridge where we crossed the river and went on to Low Muffles. At this point I have marked “shit” on my GPS log, so I presume we’d just passed through mud once again, though it’s faded from my memory already. A slow climb up 100m of ascent took us onto Muffle Rigg and a bit of easy (and clean) riding on the forest trails eventually brought us to High Muffles. From there 170m of descent down forest tracks, road and bridleways eventually brings us to Taylor Hill. From here another section of mud-laden track brings us out at Middle Farm and a section of very satisfying downhill, the only technical descent on the route. Going across Stony Moor it’s a bit muddy, a bit rocky, has the odd tree thrown in here and there and ends up, after 70m of descent, with a stream crossing. So nice you could almost go back and do it again.

As has been said before here, what comes down must go up, and in this case the up proved to be an unrideable slog up Newton Banks to bring us out in Newton Under Rawcliffe. It would possibly have been rideable, given the luxury of a granny ring, if not for the churned mess that had been made of it by horses. Who says that Mountain Bikes destroy the terrain?

Half way round now in three hours (our usual total ride time) – those tents were looking more and more likely. Salvation came in the form of a brisk 6k of road work, covered in barely 20 minutes. Great stuff this tarmac.
After that it was just a meandering route through the forest, exiting at Hartoft Bridge, and a 5k road ride back to Rosedale.

Highlights: the mud, which was so bad in places that it really was funny, the cross-moor singletrack and the descent off Stony Moor.
Lowlights: The route took too long for us to be able to go for scones! Sacrilege.

All in all it was 24 miles and the first half took 3 hours, the second only an hour and a half, due to it being mostly on road & forest track. A good route with some bits that are definitely worth doing again and some other bits that would hopefully be good riding in the summer.

Rosedale Abbey - Newton-On-Rawcliffe - Cropton
24miles, 2500' of ascent
, 4 1/2 hours.

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