Tuesday 6th March – South of Reeth onto Harkerside Moor

After taking the small people to school, unashamedly dressed ready to ride, I dashed home to gather my biking belongings into the car but not forgetting a healthy dose of Soreen of course and a newly ripped drum and base CD for company. I grabbed the map for the Yorkshire Dales,North and Central area, OL 6 and with a highlighter quickly traced the route. The sky was a promising blue and set the scene for a perfect day out for a ride out from Reeth. Today was a school day, so I was going solo.

The test of Fremington Edge and Marrick Moor from the village green in Reeth, I'm not going up there today though.

Reeth is where I normally think of when I have a bit more time than a quick blast out from the doors. A bit further to go than Hamsterly but not as far as the Lakes. I was thinking I could have a blast around the moors to the south of Reeth and still be home in time to get to work? It would be tight but doable. Still there was no need to worry about time constraints today. I was taking day off and going to make the most of the quiet trails, devoid of any weekend city folk. I arrived at Reeth with 3 tracks still unplayed. Not bad time despite the diversion at Richmond sending me north up on the moors. I wasn’t complaining though, it’s a great drive.

All you need and moor!

Reeth is a perfect spot to start a ride. It has every thing in proportion. 1 church, 1 post office, 1 newsagent, 1 craft shop, 2 tea shops, 3 pubs and an ice cream parlour all carefully laid out around a well kept village green and the smell of coal fires  and old ladies filled the air, adding to that country village ambiance. I was in two minds whether to take some tunes with me. I did and set off down to Grinton Bridge passing over the Swale at 10:45 aiming for the right hander just past the church sign posted Harkerside. I wanted to pick up the trail that runs alongside the River Swale.

I’d not ridden this part and figured it would make a nice meandering warm up for the ridiculously steep climb later.

You have to go through a medley of gates before the trail opens out and steers you close to the river past the mini suspension bridge across an open plain.

Parts of the trail near the river are obviously liable to be submerged after heavy rain so to keep from being washed away it’s been cobbled. I think I was following in the tire tracks of those weekend warriors long go now, I hadn’t seen another biker or walker or anyone for that matter. I was relishing the peace, bar the drum and base tunage in my ears. I know some will think I should have been happy enough to ride along to natures song, but sometimes I find I can keep a more upbeat pace with 127BPM. Try it!

Cobbled path, River Swale

At Stubbin farm the route climbs steep to the Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way and very quickly you begin to get some view of the Healaugh and Calver Hill across the valley. From here the trail swaps from narrow and muddy to wide and grassy as it turns to Low lane just past Scabba Wath Bridge. You gotta love the names that come out of Yorkshire. Wath means Ford, I have no idea what Scabba means.

Scabba Wath Bridge, a superb 3 arched construction let down buy a crazy name.

The Low Lane track takes you along a tree shaded trail that has your back end fish tailing all over the place ending at Low Houses and literally into Hollin’s Farm.

Low Lane to Low Houses

There’s a gorgeous Georgian house there with its own water falls.

Hollins Farm and Low Houses

From here I’d start a climb directly away from the river crossing the closest of contour lines on the map. I figured it would be steep but wasn’t counting on the climb being G.O.A.P (get off and push) steep and to make matters even more impossible the ground was soaking and bombed with mole hills. I was getting no purchase from either bike or shoes and resorted to side stepping  up the bank. I’d ridden down here years ago and don’t remember it being quite so steep. In fact I’m surprised I managed to ride down it in one piece without crashing into the farm.

Birks Gill Waterfalls

There must have been some sort of drainage problem here. Birks Gill is just yards away so all this water should have been in there. It took ages to get onto the tarmac of High Lane.  I was in a right state. I picked the mud from my SPD’s with a stick and scraped about 2 kilos of mud from the down tube.

On the slippery slope from Low Houses to Birks end. Felt like a birk for trying to push up it.

After the push to Birks End I felt a Soreen break was in order. From here you get a great view down through Gunnerside. There’s more great trails to ride there too. I was pleased to know that I’d be back over here an a couple of weeks with the some some pals and was sure they’d enjoy this area which I’ve always considered to be a mountain biking playground that offers good all year round riding.  From Birks end turn right along the lane for about 500m then a left where the trail opens up wide. It’s a steep granny ring grind, but this was sweet resistance compared to the earlier mud-fest.

This is going in the car!

I was about to hook up onto the balcony track at Whitaside Moor. Craig and I rode this excellent trail last May in ferosous wind. It was one of the best rides of the year and couldn’t wait to have another shot at it on the Santa Cruz, with the advantage of knowing what’s ahead should let me go for it and hope to leave off the brakes. At least that’s the intention.

Birks End

This portion of the ride is really why you would choose this route. Sure the river section is a nice relaxed affair and I dare say if you chose to you could just take your time along the skyline section too, but it’s a track that begs to be ridden fast so I gave it my best and immediately found myself grinning  at the first sign of a ‘downy bit’. I really nice kicker in the trail to compress off and clear about 12ft, it felt great and the Santa Cruz felt very at home too. This is what it was about and peddled as hard as I could to keep the speed high. The view up here is fantastic and as much as I was enjoying the blast I had to grab a shot for you the readers.

Gunnerside from somewhere between Whitaside Moor and Harkerside Moor

Then I remembered I had the Go Pro out so set that away. There’s a tidy Bothy along the trail on the left that’s got an overnight stay written all over it for a long epic weekend’s riding at some point. It’s well equipped too.

The balcony ride, – don’t mind the tunes, it’s what was listening to at the time and is in no way in keeping with the pace of the ride but merely added to drown out the sound of me wheezing on the ‘uppy bits’. So click here to watch in HD. It gets faster later at about 10 mins in.

At the road you do a steep right for about 500 yards to pick up another grassy single track has a really good mound in the trail. One that would be fitting on a BMX track. If you can see it early enough at hit it a speed you’ll get some airtime, I never knew it was there because Craig and I never rode this next section  on Hirst Ridge to Gogden the last time we came. As I rode away, it was hard to believe that jump was natural, a nice surprise. They don’t make them that good in the trail parks. I was going to go back do it again. I had the Go Pro turned off so missed it. I wish I had gone back now. I drop down to Gogden Gill then climb for a bit looking for a BW on the left to take be back to Grinton. I was just a head of this old guy out for the day on his bicycle. He took a breather on the Bridge and looked up the road with a face that said “I should have stayed home and sat in the garden an dosed off”. I paused at the gate and let him catch me just so I could give him some words of encouragement but could only say, ” you picked a good day to come out, he agreed the weather was fine but I think he wished he’d retired to Norfolk where it’s devoid of hills and valleys. Personally I couldn’t think of a worse place to live. Sorry if you are from there, but from a mountain bikers perspective I think I’d end up chucking myself in the Norfolk Broads, or take up kayaking or something.

Click here: On a broad track fast all the way back to Grinton with a nice ‘hold the line’ sweeping right through a gate which is a test of nerve as well as relief to find the gate open, otherwise I think I might have quartered myself. Then turn sharp left on a muddy track then through the farm at Cogden Hall. I short road ride in Grinton and a chance to stop at the

Dales Bike Centre to give my bike a bit of wash down because it was not fit to throw in the car and was smelling a bit nasty too. As old folk often say about their Grandkids, ” if they come home dirty then they’ve had a good time.” It was certainly true in my case, but the bike was dirtier than I was. I had a natter with a bloke at the Dales Bike Centre who had the best and most exaggerated Yorkshire accent I’ve ever heard. I actually thought he was doing an impression of someone from Yorkshire, you know how people do when they do accents? He kindly enquired as to where I’d been. I told him about the shitty push/ride up from Low Houses.

There are so many sheep around here, you just have to put them where you can. The roof of the Bridge Inn at Grinton.

His response was a screwed up face and sucking teeth. “Arrgh we don’t do it that way, we only come down that bit. It’s good fun coming down when it’s slippy”. But he agreed with the ride and knew of course where I’d been and could tell I was buzzing off it. He was living the dream of course, because his job is taking groups of mountain bikers on guided tours around the dales. But today he had to work, by that he meant he had to cut the grass. Nightmare!

Back into Reeth I did my bit for the local economy by taking a seat outside the King’s Head with a Theakstons trying to count how many school days were left until Christmas. I was home by 3pm. Bonus!

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November 26th 2011 – Pen-y-ghent

Only the Brave S.M.A.S.H. Pen-y-ghent

As winter tightens it’s grip on the outdoors, those looking to head to the hills must frequent the forecast websites before hand. On Friday night the outlook for the Lake District alerted to fog at 200m. It was enough to shelve the trip to Ambleside or quickly consider an alternative walk.  The weather looked more promising according to the Met Office the Yorkshire Dales were clear of fog and visibility was good. Good was good enough. The 3 peaks of Whernside, Inglebrough and Pen-y-ghent form part of the Pennine range and now this weekend in an effort to avoid the worst of weather we agreed to SMASH one; Pen-y-ghent. The 3 peaks have a collective height of 1,600 meters so little wonder that some people see it as a challenge so much so that it is a well recognized race, most aiming to complete all three in under 12 hours, though as Alfred Wainwright says in his book Wainwright in the Yorkshire Dales “Some people have chosen to regard the walk as a race, and this is to be greatly regretted, walking is a pleasure to be enjoyed in comfort”.

Abs, Dean and Anth snacking at the trig point on Pen-y-ghent summit

We set away from the small town of Horton-in-Ribblesdale and aimed for the obvious nose of Pen-y-ghent wearing a cloud cap which didn’t look too concerning. We had company today despite the grey and wind. It’s a popular walk. This peak takes it’s curious name from the cumbrian language. ‘Pen’ presumably meant hill or head, but ‘ghent’ is more obscure. It could be taken to be edge or border. The name “Pen-y-ghent” could therefore mean Hill on the border. Alternatively, it could be mean ‘wind’ or ‘winds’ – from the closest Welsh language translation as ‘gwynt’. Thus it might mean simply ‘Head of the Winds’. By the time Abs , Anth and I reached the wall signalling the beginning of a steep climb of massive stone steps to the summit there’s was no arguing over it’s translation. The winds were reaching speeds over 80mph, the wall gave us much needed protection as we  muscled our way toward thickening cloud. The waterproof trousers got another outing. After a tricky and precarious climb over wet stone we unexpectedly stepped onto a clear broad trail and gently walked to the trig on the summit. With absolutely no view we admired only our commitment to be out in such crazy weather. After a quick snack and hot drink we  wrapped up tight and faced the strengthening wind . The rain felt like needles on our faces or some type of masochistic spa treatment. Somewhere would be a tea shop,  beckoning us to come quickly. Wet through we began running down, the Pennine Way; but not racing. After 3.5 hours, wind battered and soaked, we knew we had faced worse than the weather we had set out to avoid. Though in true SMASH spirit it’s all part of the fun and nothing a hot pot of tea couldn’t fix.