There were six of us this week for this ride from Rosedale Abbey, our four regulars, one semi-regular and the return of a rider we haven't seen in a while. It was good to see him out with us again.
We set off from the car park behind The Milburn Arms, where another couple were also getting ready to ride. Tony spotted that they were using his guide book and struck up a conversation with them. I'm not sure if he was offering to autograph the book or not, but I didn't see any pens come out so either he didn't, or they declined!
We left Rosedale Abbey by the road, heading north west to Hill Cottages at which point we turn right to go off road. This track leads up to a farm where loads of chickens and ducks congregate near the gate and at which point there is a choice of tracks, bearing left to take to the old railway or going more-or-less straight on to continue up the hill. We take the latter - it's always up with us - and follow the fairly distinct track up to the road, about a mile on. The latter part of this track is not the bridleway as shown on a map, we've never managed to follow that and find it much easier to stick to the visible track.
At the road we turn left and continue on for about a mile and a quarter. You'll pass a bridleway post off to the left quite soon after starting along the road - this is the one we failed to come up - but at the next one, a mile further, we turn off to the left. You can go on another few hundred yards to a third left-pointing bridleway sign which will bring you out at the same end point as this one. Opinion is divided as to which is the more enjoyable way down, the second seems to flow better, but the first is more technically challenging (more hidden rocks in the heather) and has an unrideable stream crossing. We took this way today and mostly negotiated it without incident, though there were a couple of minor spills at the rear of the convoy caused by getting lodged in ruts.
Whichever way you decide to go, take the bridleway and follow it downhill until you reach the disused railway at the bottom. At this point there's another bridleway that continues on downhill just a little to the right. This is a fairly fast and fun bit of track, made all the better now that the large spike that used to protrude from the trail in a bikewards direction has gone. We always had fears of ending up impaled on this. Beware of walkers here, the track is narrow and there are signs placed to tempt them from the railway down to the tearoom at the end of the track!
At the bottom turn left onto the road, follow it for about 1/4 of a mile and then turn right onto a narrow lane. Follow this past Moorlands Farm and go through a gate. A signpost points to a footpath that goes up the moor, but we're going up the jeep track that zig zags its way up the hill. This is quite a challenge, some parts of it are so steep its hard to keep the nose of the bike down and we're not that far up before Neil has actually tipped his bike over backwards. I have to drop the seat to let me get my centre of gravity low enough to stop that happening to me, but the lower riding position isn't good for the knees on a climb like this! It's loose too, and regular losses of traction make for a stop-start ascent, but eventually we're all at the top where the track joins the disused railway, a good spot to stop for some carbs. One day I'll clean this climb. One day.
Last time out this way we went right here, today we're going left. This gives us a real opportunity to cover some ground as the slope in this direction is downward, though only at the gentle gradients afforded to railways. It's enough to have you bombing along at 20mph for most of the way, the 30mph crosswind adding a bit of fun here and there as it tries to blow you off the track and down into the valley. At some point along here I manage to get a pinch flat. How I managed it I've no idea, there's no major rocks or bumps and I don't recall hitting anything with any force, but the two "snake bite marks" on the tube confirm it's a pinch flat and the others take a breather while I get down to business. It'll be another visit to nextdaytyres.com when I get back to sort out a new rear tyre. The constant flats I get with this one are getting me down (and slowing me down).
After four miles of easy railway riding we reach the top of Chimney Bank. We laugh with contempt at the sign there that suggests that "Cyclists Dismount".
We cross the road and continue on, passing Ana Cross, and a quarter of a mile after that we turn off left onto something that's a bit more "singletrack". This track leads to Redman Cross and eventually becomes quite indistinct.
We got lost in this area last time out, the tracks on the ground don't really match the map. Best advice is to download the GPX of this route and just stick with it! We press on, bearing slightly left and eventually the track widens a bit and becomes more distinct again. It begins to drop too, quite steeply in places, especially one point where it drops right off onto a very steep, loose surface with a bend in it! A challenge. We take a look, Tim cleans it and Neil and I back track a bit to get clipped in before we go over the edge. We all clean it without incident and continue on down to the main bridleway which is running left-to-right below us.
We follow it left towards Hollins Farm and then turn sharp right to take the track towards Lastingham. This is a really fast, flowing section of what once was single track. Now it can at best be described as one-and-a-half track, but it's still fun. Twists and turns, gentle undulations and unexpected rock gardens all conspire to keep it fun, while its gentle downhill slope keeps it pretty fast. I'm baulked at one point by Tim, who was backtracking to attempt a rock garden again. I think I heard him say he tried it six times in all! Eventually the track comes out at a tarmac road, where we pause a while for more carb intake.
Setting off once again, we continue straight on along the road until it gets to Lower Askew where we turn left and then turn left again at Cropton Bridge. A mile after that we turn off right into the forest for a 2 1/2 mile gentle uphill drag along the main fire road. This fire road ends up at a junction with Sutherland Road, another track through the forest, at which point we turn almost back on ourselves to take another bridleway that disappears into the woods and heads down to Low Muffles. This is a lovely, steep woodland descent that ends with a left turn onto the road at Muffles Bridge.
All that downhill means there's now another climb.Initially this is on road, and very steep. At the junction at the top of the bank we turn right and head towards Rock House. Here the map and the signpost have a bridleway going off to the left just before a greenhouse. There's no sign of it. Farmworkers inform us that it's after the greenhouse, which indeed it is. Very strange that both map and signpost have got this wrong! Anyway, if we thought the road climb was hard, what faces us now is a very tough, steep woodland climb. Thankfully there's been no rain for a couple of months and the ground is dry and grippy, so we manage the climb without too much trouble, other than aching legs and lungs! I think we're all looking forward to the teashop now.
Emerging from the wood onto Hancow Road we cross it and go offroad once more just slightly to the right. There's a choice of tracks here, the one that's marked as a bridleway on the map or the one a bit more to the left that isn't. We take the latter. Three quarters of a mile later we're skirting round the outside of the house at Allotment Farm, hoping that all the baying hounds we can hear are well chained up. A woman comes out of the house and starts having a real go at me and Neil about how this "is not a right of way". A man comes out too and is altogether more pleasant in explaining to us that the right of way has been moved and now goes behind the house rather than around it. He shows us the way to rejoin the track (presumably the old right of way way) and we wait a while for Tony and the others to join us. They've stopped to check the map, which is inconclusive. We thought they were getting their ears chowed by the woman.
Anyway, with this out of the way we come to the last woodland plummet of the day. It's such good fun that Neil gets carried away and takes a tumble at the bottom by the gate. Through the gate we go, across the field of cows (giving them a good wide berth) and out onto the road near Yatts Farm. We're on the home run now, just a mile or so of road and we're back in Rosedale Abbey.
Rosedale Abbey - Blakey Ridge - Lastingham: 23 miles, 2900' of ascent in 4 hours 20, 1 hour 40 of which was spent taking photos, eating bananas, getting lost, (and in Neil's case checking MTBG on his phone!)