Five of us today with the return for the first time in a while of Andy and the first time in a longer while of Mark. The weather promised to be “niceish” and started off sunny, deteriorated to a spot of light drizzle before returning to sunny. There having being no significant rain for quite a few days we were hoping to avoid mud. Well I only said “hoping”.
We set off from Sutton Bank visitor’s centre car park along the road to Dialstone Farm. From here a left turn takes us onto the bridleway that will take us to the escarpment edge. The track is well chewed over by tractor tyres but at least the mud is firm and rides quite well, hopefully a sign of things to come.
Reaching the escarpment we take a right and travel along it, good singletrack with stunning views onto Lake Gormire down below (Yorkshire’s only lake).
Dodging the walkers (always a problem in this area) we’re soon at the bridleway that angles down to the left towards the forest. Down the hillside we go to the gate into the woods, and all looks fine. Through the gate and into the tunnel of trees we go and… mud. Soft, claggy, deep rutted and largely unrideable. We slither and push our way over the worst sections and try a bit of through the trees, deviating a bit from the legal route just to try and keep riding. It gets no better further down but by hugging the tree line as closely as we can we can just about ride it. Breaking the cover of the trees we hit a good, un-muddy section across a field which turns back into a quagmire by the gate and has Darren and Mark having the first of many close-contacts as they slither into each other.
Stopping beyond the gate to try and bounce and rake as much mud off our bikes as we can, we set off once more into the trees. This is much more rideable than the last wooded section, and we eventually emerge onto the track that leads into Boltby village. There’s a good, deep, but easily rideable ford here, ideal for getting the wheels cleaned off!
Into Boltby village and a right turn at the junction to take us out of the village and onto the lower reaches of Sneck Yate Bank. We turn off before we have to face the worst of the bank, left into the forest by the first access road (signed “footpath” but legal for bikes) and climb our way gently up through the forest. Passing the reservoir we stop for a while for food and for me to change a puncture – second week running that’s happened. Not one but four punctures in this one tyre, courtesy of a whole bunch of thorns, each as tough as a tack.
We continue to wind our way up through the woods, via such nameplaces as Cracoe and Silver Nab, before eventually emerging at Gallow Hill. This last bit of climb out of the woods is on very steep single/double track (one and a half track?) which is rideable when dry but was the better of all of us this time while slightly damp.
Sharp right on reaching the top to head up over the moor towards The Drove Road, a steep diagonal climb that eventually levels out as The Drove Road approaches. Left here and along The Drove Road, ignoring the first right that leads down to Arden Hall & Hawnby and on a few hundred meters more to a wide grassy bridleway off to the right. This takes us down to Thorodale – if anywhere was going to be muddy, this was it, but having seen plenty of mud already we’re undeterred.
The descent into Thorodale is a delight, good singletrack with plenty of obstacles thrown in, including a couple of bikers who were coming up it. This would be a terrible time to come off, with strangers watching, and my nerves are jangling as I pass them, but it’s a clean smooth run so I’m happy. On now across open moorland, wet in places but not muddy, and easily rideable all the way. Eventually we enter the woods and there’s a little mud, but not enough to cause major problems. Except for Darren. Racing on ahead he hits a particularly soft spot and just beds in, bike stops instantly and he goes over into the mud. All I saw was the aftermath as he was picking himself out, thankful for once for being at the back as that mud could have caught any of us out.
On we go, eventually leaving the woods and skirting around Arden Hall to a T-junction, taking the track to the right that leads from Hawnby up to The Drove Road. This is a bloody steep and tough climb and I’m thankful when we turn off it, to the left just by the old quarry. No more really tough riding from now on, some gentle cross-moor riding eventually brings us to a crossroads of tracks. We take the right, which goes directly to The Drove Road, though we could equally have gone straight on to get to our ultimate destination.
Left on reaching The Drove Road and from here it’s a straight ride back to our start point, at first on track and then on tarmac. We toy briefly with the idea of dipping down to Goremire, but the prospect of having to ride back up Sutton Bank deters us. 4k of flat and easy roadwork has us back at the car park and the waiting café.
What a disappointment the café proves to be. Service is slow and the kitchen closes as we hit the front of the queue so there are only cakes to be had, and one solitary scone, which I nab from under Tim’s nose. The scone wasn’t really worth nabbing, but the chocolate cake was lovely and my milk & honey (still avoiding caffeine after last week’s palpitations) was good.
A very good ride, based on the Sneck Yate Bank route from Tony’s book but extended into Thorodale and with an alterative start/end point to give us the café.
Sutton Bank - Boltby - Thorodale - Arden Hall
17.6 mile,s 2200' of ascent in only 3 hours 41, rather faster than of late for some reason… It must have been the lack of mud!