Sunday, 17 October 2010

Grosmont: The Cursed Route

Only four of us this week for this ride from Grosmont. Last time we did this ride we got 9 punctures and a snapped chain between the four of us and I fell into the icy cold river barely 100m after the ride had started. Hopefully it would be a bit better this time!

Parking proved to be somewhat difficult due to the WWII Weekend being held by the NYMR and we were forced to park at seperate locations. We regrouped in Grosmont and set off on our route. Down the lane just up the road from the level crossing to reach the first of three fords that we have to cross in quick succession. We all took it very easy this time around, no one wanting to repeat my early bath of last time.

We crossed the other two fords without incident too (they're all here in one spot, across a bend in the Murk Esk) and carried on up the lane on the opposite side. Quite a stiff climb it soon got us warmed up, and in the lovely autumn sunshine the high vantage point gave us great views back towards Grosmont.

We eventually reached the road at Green End and turned left onto it, following it for about a mile before heading offroad again to the right. This track is a permissive bridleway, meaning bikes are allowed on it. Last time out along here we were accosted by a "local councillor" (no idea if he really was) who insisted we had no right to be there. We were rather hoping to meet him again, but no such luck

In the dry this is a good fast track, but wet as it was today it was strangely slidey, the bike seeming to just behave very vaguely at speed! We reached the other end without incident or interruption and emerged on the road to turn right and descend down to the bridge over the river and the railway line.

Up in Goathland the WWII weekend was in full swing, and thankfully Goathland was in British hands, unlike Levisham further down the line.

We passed right through the village and at the fork at the far end, just past the Mallyan Spout Hotel, we took the right hand fork but almost immediately went offroad once more, on the left up onto the moor. The track here starts off OK but further on it becomes hard to stick to the bridleway. Footpaths are the more obvious trails, staying lower down the moor, but we stick to our GPS and climb the moor on quite indistinct tracks. Last time round we took the wrong track altogether, following a footpath almost all the way. We did better this time, getting higher up onto the moor than last and following a trail marked by cairns. Surely THIS was the right trail?

No, a study of our track after we returned showed that once again we followed  a footpath! Next time we might just get it right, if there ever is a next time for this route (see later). The track, albeit one we shouldn't have been riding, was interesting and challenging, having a fair few technical rock gardens along it's length.

Eventually we followed the footpath back down to the road at Hunt House where we turned right and followed the road for a few yards before darting offroad once more on the left. This dropped us down a steep bank to yet another ford, followed by a steep grassy climb out the other side.

It was at this point we realised that once more it was going to be "one of those rides". Tony had a rear wheel puncture, and having tubeless rims, tubed tyres and rubbish tyre levers is a bad combination. It took fully 22 (yes twenty two) minutes to change the tube, time I would have been advised to have used checking my own tyre.

We'd only got another 50 yards when it became apparent that I too had a puncture. 7 (yes only seven) minutes later we were finally off again, but for how long? We continued up the farm track, exiting at the road by Hollin House Farm. We followed the road past Julian Park and on to Randy Rigg, going offroad again just before Randy Mere Reservoir. At this point we saw the surreal sight of a group of Waffen SS officers getting out of a Mercedes, with their long leather trenchcoats and jackboots! Time for a sharp exit...

We dropped down the trail past the reservoir, slippery and wet as it always is.

The bottom of the hill is a total bog, probably the boggiest place we ever ride. In some places it was up to our knees (I kid you not) and there was no option but to push.

Eventually we got riding again on what seemed to be a firm track. Appearances were deceptive, the innocent looking puddle Tony rode through swallowed not just his wheel but almost his whole bike and pitched him over the bars, his head narrowly missing a jagged tree stump.

After that it genuinely was firmer going, though still soft enough to make riding uphill a real chore, and we all had brief spells of pushing when there just wasn't enough traction to keep going. Eventually we crested the hill and left the mire behind, following a very indistinct trail around the reservoir and back down towards the road, near Struntry Carr where we make a sharp left turn to follow a thin trail through the heather. This is more like it.

Or at least it would be if not for my "accident". Fiddling with a strap on my Camelback while riding one-handed, the wheel hit a little divot that would ordinarily have gone unnoticed, but one-handedly it managed to pitch me off the bike and I landed with my groin impaled on the bar-end. That knocked the wind out of me, I can tell you, and it also banged my knee up quite painfully too. So painful in fact I thought I might have to abandon the ride. As the moorland trail emerged onto a road I took a couple of Ibuprofen to get me through the rest of the ride.

We crossed the road onto another moorland trail which did a sharp right after a couple of hundred yards and became very indistinct and quite squidgy in places. We muddled through it (but actually kept to it pretty much spot-on) and eventually emerged at a road again. By now Neil had developed a puncture, but obviously a very slow one that would probably suffice with being topped up now and again rather than having the tube changed.

We turned left onto the road which becomes quite steep, too steep for Sam's chain which snapped clean in two. The curse of the punctures and snapped chains was staying with us on this route. Thankfully we had all the necessary gear and the chain was repaired quicker than any of Tony's punctures (7 minutes). We took the road as far as The Delves where we delved offroad once again to take the track through the woods and alongside the river Esk. This was a wet, slippery affair and the elevated flagstones were especially treacherous - we did our best to avoid them where possible. Somewhere within the woods my GPS decided to log my max speed as 58.5mph - no way I ever went that fast in there!

We emerged at The Beggar's Bridge near Glaisdale without incident - well, except that Tony had our 4th puncture of the day. He was becoming adept at getting the tyre off now, and it might have only taken 10 or 12 minutes had he not allowed the valve to slip back inside the rim while putting the tyre back on, meaning he had to start again. Still, two tyre changes in "only" 20 minutes was good going - practice really does make perfect.

Almost all road now back to Grosmont. Up the mighty Limber Hill then first right down Broom House Lane and then alongside the river at Egton Bridge. A quick left-right at the T-Junction takes us onto the private road (track) back past the toll house to Grosmont. Somewhere along this track a three-legged mutt hobbled up to a fully-limbed Labrador and proceeded to savage him. Plucky little bugger.

Back at the car park we said our farewells to Neil and the rest of us headed off for Beck View Tearoom in Lealholm. The scones were very nice, as was the service, and I got quite a bargain in getting two scones on one plate. That entitled me to some sort of discount that saw my pot of tea thrown in for free. Can't grumble, although I did try to insist on paying more!

Another biking couple were sitting there too, and were doing a route from Tony's book, which naturally meant we had to endure the embarrassment of another impromptu book-signing event and  him trying to flog them his up-coming walking book.

Grosmont - Goathland - Glaisdale: 17 miles, 2400' of climb, plenty of mud, plenty of punctures in 4 hours 11 minutes.

Riders: Neil, Steve, Tony, Sam.

Full stats and route download available from GarminConnect.

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