Friday, 21 June 2013

Bikepacking tour of the N Y Moors

Before the Dales/Kielder/Cheviot trip, we had what we thought would be our last training session for the Scottish C2C (now postponed until August), over the late May bank holiday weekend.  My blog posts are all out of synch now, as is my memory, so the following is likely to be a bit scrappy.  Will you notice any difference from normal, I wonder?

The plan was to leave the car in Rosedale Abbey on the NY Moors and cycle to Robin Hoods Bay on the Saturday, Dalby Forest on the Sunday and return to Rosedale Abbey on the Monday.  This measured up at around 65 miles in total, although (spoiler alert) I'd measured it short.

It was throwing all modes of wet stuff out of the skies on the Friday, so we stayed in Sheffield that night and set off for Rosedale Abbey early on Saturday morning.  As I found last year in Thornton-le-Dale, the NYM National Park authority don't allow overnight parking in their car parks, so we left the car by the village green. 

Day1: Rosedale Abbey to Fylingthorpe

Apart from the road south, all roads out of Rosedale Abbey are steep and the day started with a bit of a push.  Well quite a lot of a push actually.  But the previous day's rainclouds had cleared, to be replaced by blues skies and a light breeze and as we gasped for breath, we took in the views across Rosedale, towards our camp site from last month's visit.



The west side of Rosedale from the top of the hill

There was a few miles of road work to begin the day but at that time in the morning we saw very few cars or people, except for a Lyke Wake support team on Hamer Moor.  Eventually the tarmac was replaced by a Landrover track down the length of Glaisdale Rigg, dropping 500' into the pretty village of Glaisdale, where we took an especially devious shortcut down a stupidly steep and narrow lane, urged on by our trailers and brakes squealing with the pain.  Passing under the NYM Railway, we came upon an old packhorse bridge, which appears to have an interesting back story. 

The Beggars Bridge over the River Esk

According to Wikipedia, "At the eastern edge of the village lies Beggar's Bridge, built by Thomas Ferris in 1619. Ferris was a poor man who hoped to wed the daughter of a wealthy local squire. In order to win her hand, he planned to set sail from Whitby to make his fortune. On the night that he left, the [River] Esk was swollen with rainfall and he was unable to make a last visit to his intended. He eventually returned from his travels a rich man and, after marrying the squire's daughter, built Beggar's Bridge so that no other lovers would be separated as they were."

Just across the river is Limber Hill, which is oh so steep and gave rise to our second push of the day.  From there the riding was more sedate and after stopping in at one of the two pubs in Egton for a coffee, we made our way to Whitby.  Here we spent some time failing to find a cash machine that worked or the start of the Cinder Track, the route of the old Whitby - Scarborough line and now a 21 mile cycle route (it always was 21 miles long - it's just that now it's a cycle route.)  Eventually, we found the station and a very helpful chap there drew me a map.  Since then I have found a perfectly adequate description in one of the Moor To Sea route cards, which just goes to show I should have listened to my Dad more, who would frequently say, "If all else fails, read the handbook".  This of course has been superseded by the more pithy acronym, RTFM.

Start of the Cinder Track in Whitby - Where will it take us?

We pootled along the Cinder Track until we reached Trailways at Hawsker and called in for a brew.  Sadly, due to the actions of the NYM Park Authority (apparently), they were not able to serve hot drinks and we settled for an orange juice, which was fine as it was now unexpectedly sunny and hot.  I hope they can sort this out though because it is an excellent little enterprise and an ideal spot for a tea/coffee stop.

The final section of the day, took us through Robin Hoods Bay, throbbing with fractious children and parents coming back from the beach, and down to Middlewood Farm campsite at Fylingthorpe, whose back gate lies on the Cinder Track and where we put up the tents (very quickly)...





...and made a brew.

Stats of the day: 25 miles and 2,500' of up (not all pushed!)

Day 2: Fylingthorpe to Dalby

When I camped here last August, I discovered (but only after I'd had breakfast) that the campsite has a burger van that sells bacon buttiesand coffee in the morning. So fortified by one of each, we took on the 4 mile climb to Ravenscar.  The smell of coconut was overwhelming from the banks of gorse on either side of the trail.  Beyond Ravenscar, this was replaced by equally strong scents of wild garlic.  The track gets a bit rutted in places but we made rapid progress as far as Cloughton, where we sat in the beautifully tended back garden of the old station house and sampled some disappointingly dry cake and an indifferent cuppa.

The Station House, Cloughton

We left the Cinder Track at Scalby and rode on quiet roads through the leafy suburbs of Scarborough before heading into Raincliffe Woods.  We had a bit of bother locating the way into here and I was close to saying, "Oh let's just continue to Hackness on the road".  In fact I may have even said those very words.  But despite the extra bit of hill climb/push, it was worth the effort and made for a very pleasant ride through quiet, shady woodland on wide tracks

Raincliffe Woods 

And we bumped us into this character. 
.
Head in Raincliffe Woods

I do love 'big art' in wood, especially when you come across it in unexpected places.  Raincliffe Woods are also on a section of Moor to Sea, by the way.

The push up the road into Wykeham Forest was bloody desperate and very hot work.  I was expecting this to be the same push that I'd done last August bank holiday up to Highwood Brow but it turned out that that one was a bit further down the road.  They are both equally evil to do with a trailer.  This one is longer.

The signage of the Moor to Sea route from here across to Dalby Forest still ranges from inadequate to non-existent at all the critical junctions and gates, as it was last August, despite what I took to be positive responses from the Park Authority about this and other issues I reported after that trip.  In fact I'm leaning to the view that nothing  has changed other than the removal from the website, of the page which stated the network of routes was suitable for families.  I can feel another email coming on.

I'm starting to recognise parts of Dalby (the Great) Forest now and it was easy enough to locate the campsite at High Rigg Farm, which is an absolute gem of a place, hidden away and not marked on the map and which I'd only learnt about through some speculative googling.  We were given a very nice piece of flat grass away from the rest of the campers but next to one of the farm's two roosters who likes to call across to his mate on the other side of the farm, very loudly and at unsociable times of the day.

'Foghorn Leghorn' at High Rigg Farm, Dalby

It had just turned three in the afternoon and we thought we would ride down to the café at Low Dalby to pick up a cold drink and an ice cream.  It took hardly any time at all to drop the 400' to the café where the only cold drinks available were overly large bottles of sugary, fizzy stuff.  I never understand why places like this, which I assume are set up to encourage people to be active and healthy, only offer food and drink laden with sugars and fats.  It's the same in many of the hospitals I visit.

We rode back to the campsite along a few sections of the red grade trail, which we'd done at New Near when it was nithering.  This was much more enjoyable, as was cycling without the weight of the a trailer on the back.

Stats for the day: 33 miles and about 2800' of ascent

Day 3: Dalby to Rosedale Abbey

The day started with a couple of delicious bacon butties in fresh home cook rolls, assembled by the lady who runs the camp site.  This place just gets better and better and has absolutely got to be the place to stay if you want a weekend of tearing up the trails in Dalby.

Forest tracks and quiet roads led us north and east past Blakey Topping.  Legend has it that a giant who was cross with his wife, scooped out a handful of earth, creating the Hole of Horcum and threw it at her.  Either he was rubbish at throwing or the wind caught it because he missed and where it landed became Blakey Topping.  This is of course quite ridiculous.  You've only got to compare the volumes to see that the hole is much bigger than the hill. 

Blakey Topping

We took our lives in our hands crossing the Pickering - Whitby road, dodging the Bank Holiday Monday traffic, and then had a totally fabulous ride over Levisham Moor

Looking back along our route across Levisham Moor

There are two ways down to Levisham Station.  The direct route, which we did in late 2011, has a descent which isn't suitable for doing with the trailers.  The alternative is to drop 50m in height into Levisham Village and then climb up 40m out again.  Well, the map says it is only 40m but it felt much more.  This however is followed by a screaming descent down a 1 in 5 hill to the station.  I filmed it with the GoPro.  Note the hairy coos on the road just before the battery ran out. Oh and the music is Ska Cubano - just because I felt like it.


Descent to Levisham Station

After all that speed we were in need of tea and cake and as we sat by the side of the platform, we noted a degree of excited anticipation in the air, which was followed by Sir Nigel Gresley pulling into the station.  Not the man you understand - he's been dead a while - but his eponymous A4 Pacific.  Disappointingly, it was done out in its British Railways livery, which is almost the same as the original LNER one but with the number 60007 not the original 4498 (and you never suspected I was a train nerd, did you?).  In a scene pregnant with nostalgia and temps perdu, I took a lot of pictures and put on the new green Rab soft-shell (pictured earlier in the tent video), which was the closest thing I had to an anorak.

A4 Pacific, Sir Nigel Gresley
 
 
Sir Nigel Gresley pulling out of Levisham Station
 
The road beyond the level crossing said it was closed to all traffic but we assumed that just mean cars and went along it anyway.  The plan had been to grind our way up into the northern end of Cropton Forest by a long tedious hill that climbs out of Newtondale and which we had ridden previously without trailers.  However, not far after the level crossing I spotted a Moor to Sea sign pointing into the trees and from a quick inspection, it looked do-able.  So we did it.  This was probably a mistake as we'd landed ourselves with an horrendous push up what became a stupidly steep and narrow gulley with a loose stony floor.  It was fortunate we didn't meet anyone coming down it.

Near the top of the Moor to Sea 'gulley' route out of Newtondale

All that pushing had soon used up the cake calories and we paused for an energy fix of tuna and Jelly Babies before continuing by back lanes into Cropton Forest, where for a change it wasn't cold and raining (but then it wasn't January either.)  We considered calling in at High Muffles for a viewing.  It's for sale and gorgeous and far enough from other human beings to suit the curmudgeonly old git I'm becoming but close enough to a road to still get Ocado deliveries.  It's also very expensive.  So to mange our disappointment at not being able to afford it, we rode on by, via yet another Moor to Sea short cut, to Low Muffles.  This isn't for sale, as far as I know, and in any case doesn't have the same sought after location as its namesake up the hill. Beyond it, the track nosedives into a compact, shady, tree covered valley, which to escape from required another push up six of those pesky contours.  At the top of the climb we met a family of cyclists from West Yorkshire in matching cycling club shirts.  We chatted to them for a while about bike frames and trailers and campsites and cycle to work schemes and eventually ran out of things to talk about and went our separate ways. 

From here it was roads back to Rosedale Abbey.  The car was where we had left it by the village green, which had been taken over by the most miserable (Hilary says I should say 'understated') 'fete' I have ever seen: a few tables selling bric a brac, sweets and cakes and a band comprising 4 or 5 asthmatic horn players and an arthritic drummer, all in their eighties.  Full marks for effort and determination but really someone needs to tell them that their gigging days are over.  The music lacked any power and pace but I suspect that was because none of them could afford to raise their blood pressure.  A car parked next to them displayed a bumper sticking saying 'Keep Music Live'.  I hope this was an intentional piece of irony but in any case keeping the musicians alive seem the over-riding priority at that moment.  All this seems uncharitable, given that we had just parked on their village lawn all weekend, although that wouldn't have been necessary if the National Park Authority had allowed overnight parking in its otherwise empty car park.

We packed up the bikes and trailers and headed for the tea shop farthest away from the band, where we consumed pasties and tea before driving home.

Stats for the day: 25miles and about 2100' of ascent

Postscript

At the end of the weekend, we felt we were ready for Scotland.  Now that we weren't doing the Corrieyairack anymore, none of the hills on the route will be as fearsome as the ones we'd met on the Moors and the daily distances of 25-30 miles seem achievable unless the terrain gets very rough or we encounter any tricky river crossings, which may happen in Glens Roy and Feshie if there has been some rain.  The current plan is to go up sometime in August now, which isn't ideal in terms of either midgies or longest days or family holidaymakers but is the best we can do without moving it to next year.  And we've go other plans for 2014...


The cumulative stats

Total distance: about 83 miles
Total Ascent: about 7,500'
Number of hill pushes: 6 (least said about that the better)
Tea shops stops: 6 (2 per day, which I consider to be an optimum number)
Highland Cattle: one small herd
Trees: too many to count
Raindrops: 0 (woohoo)
Moor to Sea signage/route grumbles: somewhere between 5 and 10


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