Three of us showed up for this, what turned out to be our longest and highest ride for quite some time - 27 miles with 3500ft of climbing. The weather had promised to be rubbish, cold & wet, but it turned out a lot better than that, though I'm not sure we saw any sun. As a consequence I was a bit overdressed for the ride in the full waterproof rig, which led to some overheating on some of those serious climbs!
The route is too long and too devoid of major incidents or pitfalls to describe in great detail.
We left Square Corner and headed north on the tarmac, leaving it to the right just past Chequers to take the track towards Sheepwash, turning left through the woods to cross Cod Beck Reservoir. Out the other side, left onto the road towards Osmotherley then sharp right up towards the transmitter station on the hill. Back down to the road at Sheepwash via the Cleveland Way (sticking to the bridleway), then left down the road a short way before ducking right into the woods.
Through the woods, going down the stepped descent by the scenic viewpoint, right at the bottom and along the field/wood edge (following The Cleveland Way once again) before turning left and descending across a field (we'd have been better going straight ahead, but didn't see that bit of track) to emerge once more onto a road. Right here to head towards Harfa Bank Farm, left at the junction of tracks at the end to go past Harfa House, following the farm track back out to the road.
Right here on the road to Raikes Farm and on to Scugdale Hall, passing beyond there on a deteriorating track and following the sign saying "Cycles" off to the left at the end and up a difficult ascent. It was made easier by the dry weather, it would have been totally impossible if the usual mud had been around. We got to the top with a few "dabs", mostly avoidable errors, and then turned right along Barker's Ridge. We followed that bridleway for a few km, bearing round to the right and passing Osmotherley Stones before coming to a T-junction of tracks.
Here we turned left and headed towards Head House where the sight of a downhill got the better of us (we should have stayed level) and took us well of route (and onto footpath). Realising our mistake we climbed back up the hill to Head House and got back on the bridleway. This was a quite gentle, but still tough, climb up to Cock Howe (not the only good descent that we cycled up on this route) where we turned right onto the track that would take us to Bilsdale transmitter, the first time I've been right up to this landmark that's visible from the whole of this section of the moors.
A sharp right from there takes us back down to Low Thwaites, a speedy descent down a good stone doubletrack, turning slight right just past there to pass Round Hill and Sunley Slack before emerging on a road once again.
Left onto the road all the way into Hawnby, turning right at the T-junction in the village and heading out towards Church Bridge. Just after the bridge we turned left onto a piece of bridleway that would take us round Coomb Hill. This is a lovely, and little used, section of bridleway but would be best enjoyed as a downhill! The bridleway ends by diving left to take an indistinct path across a field to rejoin a track/road. This would be really hard to spot coming in the other direction, without prior knowledge - one reason why the track is little used, perhaps.
Right on the road and follow it round past Arden Hall where it rejoins the road proper, though this road is an "unsuitables", the steep, steep climb up past the quarries that eventually emerges on the Drove Road after 3km.
Right onto the Drove Road and we're on the home leg, following it (and The Cleveland Way once again) back towards the top of Black Hambleton and "The Mad Mile".
The walkers at the top of the mad mile add a moment of nervousness - hoping that I won't come a cropper on the rocky steps right in front of them. No problems though (for now), and it's off down the steep track back towards Square Corner, honing my technique to suck up the drainage humps, getting some big air on a few of them.
A mistimed glance back leads to a moment of panic - while looking back, and doing about 35k, I hit a lump. The initial impact throws me forward a bit, then the rear wheel hits and unseats my already off-balance body. Feet come out of the pedals, arse comes well off the seat and the handlebars are my only point of contact with the bike. I don't even have time to crap myself before it all comes back together and I land squarely (and gently) on the saddle and continue as though nothing had happened. Feet back in the pedals and full attention from now on, that would have hurt big-style if I hadn't been so lucky!
More mirth at the end - arriving at the car park mine & Sam's bikes decide to try and mate, throwing us all into a pile on the grass. Luckily not too many walkers were around to witness this amateurish bit of riding skill!!
It had been a ride full of death and carnage. On the route I'd spotted a dead Jay, a dead hawk, 4 dead (Grouse?) chicks, 1 dead sheep and 400 dead rabbits. I was lucky not to have joined them.
No really suitable cafe here, so it's straight back off home for a hot bath to ease the aching limbs.
Square Corner - Scugdale - Bilsdale - Arden Hall
27 miles and 3500' of climb in just 4 1/2 hours was pretty good going and my legs know all about it!