Only two of us today - where have all the Muddybums gone? It's been ages since we had a good turnout.
I feared the worst when I saw the route we were doing - it was "the wrong direction", meaning that a lot of what are normally good downhills would become tough uphills. And so it proved.
Starting from Reeth we set off on the road to Helaugh. This was a lot faster and easier than the usual drag back from there to Reeth, usually done on tired legs, and we were there in no time.
Passing a couple of hundred m beyond the village we turned off up the private road to Thiernswood Hall (no mention at the gate of any right of way, but there is!), the pebble paved drive eventually giving way to some woodland then open moor. This was a new bit of track for us and would make an excellent downhill (the first of several excellent downhills we went up today), the steep grassy slope making it a difficult climb!
Eventually it levelled out and we followed the track on to Cringley Bottom where we were forced to make a detour. The bridleway went through a very narrow opening in a wall (bikes would have to be lifted over, impossible for horses to negotiate) and beyond that was an unrideable drop down to the stream. That probably explains the obstruction - you really wouldn't want to take a horse that way.
We cycled round it, rather than do the down and up push that would have been required, following the track north west to cross the stream by a ford, and then heading south on the road to rejoin our intended route.
Turning right at Surrender Bridge we climbed up to the Old Gang Smelting Mills where we stopped for a few photos and a bit of exploration. It was nice not to feel rushed by having other members with us today.
After 15 minutes or so we set off back up the track to Level House Bridge. Left here, over to Old Gang Mines and then on towards Bunton Hush. Last time we did this we went straight down the middle, but the actual bridleway on the map goes down the left hand side. We attempted to do that today but found that eventually it just seems to run out into an unrideable drop. We carried our bikes across huge boulders back into the centre of the hush and road the last section of it. With hindsight it's better to just go down the middle, but we had to have a look at the other route.
Left at the bottom of the hush, riding parallel to Gunnerside Gill down to our right. Eventually this bears left and climbs diagonally across the contours up to Winterings.This is quite an interesting (and not too difficult) climb that has quite a drop off to your right if you mis-place a wheel! We continued past Winterings on the track to Barf End, beyond which our intended route prived to be too boggy to be worth following, so we detoured for the second time, dropping through the gate to the right and following the wide, grassy track down to eventually drop sharp right down the concrete road to Low Row.
Right on the main road, then first left to cross the Swale and then turn left again towards Low Houses. Past the farm, where the road ends, a track starts to climb away at 45 degrees to the right. This is a right bugger! Steep, loose and damp it proved impossible to ride (firmer, dryer sections giving you false hope as they died out again after just a few meters).
Eventually we got to the top, coming out at a road where we turned right and rode as far as the next bend where we went offroad once more, sharp left through a gate taking us into a series of fields, all with gates between them. In the next 10 minutes I never wanted to see another gate! Eventually we ended up in a field full of thistles and had to track across to the far corner, a slog once more up soft ground that was akin to riding with the brakes on. The slog didn't end there, but thankfully the gates did, and we continued on up a quite indistinct moorland track (that would be a lovely, fast downhill) that eventually joined the main track up to Harker Hill.
Left here and on up to the top of Hight Harker Hill, where we began our search for the hidden bridleway that descends off to the left from there - this was the sole reason for doing this route backwards, so it had better be worth it!
There's absolutely nothing on the ground, so we did a bit of heather bashing until we eventually saw where the track must go. Heading off in that direction it eventually opened up before us, a lovely narrow singletrack over a couple of sets of crags that drops away towards the valley floor in a gully that's shared with a narrow bore pipeline that gives this route its colloquial name.
Some technically difficult sections are thankfully bordered by some lovely soft heather and all of our falling off was onto a nice soft blanket. Rumour has it that one fall was captured on video, though the evidence has yet to surface.
Eventually the steepness gives way to a more gentle traverse of the contours as the track heads towards the road to Grinton. Once at the road its a brisk blast back to Reeth, though en-route we stopped off at the Dales Bike Centre to check out their scones. They had none!
They did however promise to warm up some frozen ones for us (which didn't sound too appealing) so we decided to return there after packing away our bikes in Reeth.
The scones were decent enough, considering they'd been ice 10 minutes earlier, and the guy who runs the place is a nice bloke, and a keen biker who knows his stuff, especially about routes in the area. He seemed slightly miffed that we'd found "The Pipeline", perhaps he likes to think of it as his own little secret ;-)
Reeth - The Hush - The PipeLine:
19.5 miles in 4 hours 40, 1 hour 40 of which was spent exploring old smelting mills, snacking on go bars, rolling around in heather and sussing out scones. A tough but very enjoyable route with some lung-busting climbs, compensated for by some great views and a couple of decent downhills, especially the "secret" one at the end.