Thursday 30 December 2010

Almost the Upper Nidderdale 2 Lakes Figure of Eight

North Nidderdale, Lakes and Ice

(UPDATE: More routes and maps on this later post or just scan for Nidderdale.)

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

This route is almost the same as my summer time route but has, unfortunately, to remove the off road sections. This seems a bit chicken, but actually would completely destroy the fun of the ride and make it a hard mud slog. This would be fine sometimes, but it simply would be just a bit too far for me to do on a slow, winter's day.

Pateley Bridge High Street to Swimming Pool & School. The main high street of Pateley Bridge has a classic Yorkshire Dales look. I've done a more complete view from my last winter visit here. As always a joy to be here, especially as the snow has gone affording a reasonable ride up the valley to take place.

Near Wath to Gouthewaite Water. This is the last little bit before the main section beside Gouthewaite water. The reservoir itself is vaguely famous for being in the opening titles of Emmerdale, Britain's third soap. Today's water is considerably colder than the body shown twice weekly on TV. The ducks are stood on the surface, albeit covered in pools of just defrosted water. Vast cracks stretch across and up the lake as if a playful giant has been tapping their finger in various points across the expanse. And a dull mist hangs over and up the valley, keeping the small amount of warmth in.

Ramsgill. This little hamlet comprises a few small houses, and church, and The Yorke Arms, a Michelin starred restaurant. Yes, I did say, Michelin starred restaurant. I've often wondered what it's doing in the middle of the moorland of the Yorkshire Dales, well past the last town in the valley. The only thing I can come up with is that it's a beautiful little place to be! I have had the good fortune to eat here once, courtesy of my friends. However, the bill is not for the fainthearted.

Into Lofthouse from South. Lofthouse is the last village i the valley floor. There isn't much of the valley left and the next village, Middlesmoor, is perched on a outcrop of the medial moraine between the last two remaining valleys.

After Lofthouse, I turn up a non-public road owned by Yorkshire water which acts as an access road to Scar House Reservoir. It's a perfectly fine unclassified road but may not have permanent public access. The first bit has an water extraction point for the valley below, but luckily has preserved the small waterfall above. A delightful small fall that sets one for the remainder of the route up to the Reservoir.

The route up is just a steady slog gaining around 170m elevation in about 3.8miles. This is only around 2.5%, but it feels a tad more! The rough surface of the road can't help. It's split into a northerly section, then a westerly section with the final half mile to the car park near the reservoir really taking up a lot of the strain.

The mountain tops on either side close in the first section and remnants of old mine workings can be seen on the top and along the valley. Turning the corner to the second section opens out again with the height gained giving access to the mountain tops themselves. Scar House Reservoir looks about as bleak as anything up here, with it's Victorian Dam and cracked ice surface.

In the summer, I happily start up the tracks here and cut back across the moorland to the high village of Middlesmoor. It's an unforgiving track that would clearly destroy bikes of lower standard build. Negotiating rocks as big as coffee mugs whilst hurtling downhill is not for the fainthearted. And not for winter for me. There are sections where if you don't look out, you're suddenly 6 foot above the proper track and with 6 foot to stop before a sheer drop to it.

Downhill from Scar House Reservoir. So winter time means a straight reversal of my previous route. This is no bad thing and allows me the opportunity to do the fastest 3.8 miles I've ever done in this country. (Sorry, the Alpes and the Pyrenees offer much longer and faster rides!) The top mile is the joy and comes in at an average, even at this time of year, of around 30mph. After that it's a steady push all the way down. Although hat this time of year, with legs getting very cold on the descent, it's hard to maintain 25mph.

Ramsgill and Gouthewaite Water. A last section alongside the lake, taking in misty views.

Wath to Pateley Bridge up Silver Hill. And finally the back road to east Pateley, avoiding the climb in the town centre but pulling up some pretty tough ones along the valley side. Silver Hill, the first one I do, is graded as a 14-20% climb. However, that's only half of Silver Hill. The turn to the left at the top of the shown Silver Hill, gets you to the second section. Although it's not graded, I reckon it's 20-25% in places. It's at the edge of my abilities certainly. Well, the hard work is all worth it to see some spectacular views from the roadside of the river below.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Blewbury to a Snowy Churn Knob

A New Year's Whatever

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After being up The Chalk Pit for the past 3 days, it was time to look for a new route. And I didn't have to think very hard to remember the more demanding Churb Knob path, passing the delightful Frying Pan Wood.

First a little wander round the village. The Churchyard, Play Close, and further Cob Walls before passing The Red Lion and heading up to the beginning of the path.

Then, the delight of up.

The views are worth the effort.

Finally, to release all that potential.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Blewbury Snowy Circuit, Added Anglo-Saxon Walls and Hills

A New Year's Challenge, Part Deux

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After sucessfully negotiating the challenge to video my bike ride yesterday by @russwillis, I thought I'd raise the stakes and add in some further hazards. Again, I do the honour of sharing such an adventure, albeit on the same level as navel gazing. (No, that's not boat spotting.)

Since yesterday, with a degree of ice melting and further passing traffic, the side roads have become a lot more awkward on two wheels. Paths seemed to be the way forward, so my route was carefully planned.

The first section took a gentle route through the village past one of our historic monuments. The thatched Cob wall (appearing at 35 seconds) were partly built in Anglo-Saxon times and are thus over 1000 years old. I do confess that for that period it's like the old "I've 'ad this broom for 20 years, 3 new handles and 4 new brushes" joke. But, they are pretty rare and majestic, and there are several sections in the village.

After the wall, turning up a side road to the pub. Ah, many a happy teenage hour spent in there. Rarely get there now, just one day a year usually: Boxing Day (see Walk).

One last slow corner into Watery Lane. Why, did I choose to come down here? Lethally slippery mud and ice combo with the added attaction of falling off into freezing water. And on a sharp bend! What was I thinking? Then, I clearly lost sight of my marbles and rode across a two-plank wide bridge with very little to stop a slide to either side. Megatastic, not 'arf!

Well, that's where my camera decided it was too cold to work. Having charged the battery so I could get some of the fantastic off-road experience down, the card refused to get any acknowledgement from the machine. What did you miss? Well, quite a bit of fun.

After discovering the joys (and surprising ease) of offroading in the snow yesterday, I thought I'd up the ante. I thought I'd try the hill path to the chalk pit. Having seen the cob walls (and a lot of the cottages) are made of chalk, I'm now going to the place where they dug that chalk out of the ground. This is a haven for adventurous children. I spent many a happy hour (prior to the pub being an interest) performing stupid stunts down the steep sides of this place and up and down the path that goes there. I still venture there now in the summer, but tend to head onwards as it's not that far and coming off a bike brings a lot more bruises and pain than it did aged 10.

The path itself is a bit of a madness. It's just about as steep as you want it both going up and down. As it's in chalk and having had 100s of tons of chalk taken down it, the path is worn into the hillside up to about 10 foot deep. That means for much of the route, visibility is restricted to up and down only. Additionally, as a nice, out of the wind place, it's a great spot for small trees and shrubs to grow. This means the actual path is barely 2 foot across with a lot of scrub around and above. In a couple of places the small path makes it's way up the side of the scar leaving a nice drop into a muddy gully in case of lost footage. Of course, when ending the path and reaching the top of the chalk pit, the view across the Vale of the White Horse is the massive 180 degree view, unfortunately including the "delightful" Didcot Power Station.

Anyway, back to biking in the snow. Needless to say a lot of the path was a case of "push down on pedal, back wheel turns round full cycle, bike goes 1mm further foward, rider topples to left or right ranting mercilessly about the futility of it all". See, told you it was fun!

Actually, it was worth the ride up. I did manage to ride some of it but it was pretty hardpacked by the hundreds of children's feet who'd made the pilgrimage I used to make, with sledges. And also, it was worth seeing the incredulity on a sledging family's face as I made the past the last corner pedalling away in bottom gear!

Getting round the pit really didn't happen in the saddle, but from the top it was onto leather (well, modern plastic, I'm sure) and slide downhill with the brakes full on. Weee! A drop of 20 foot on one side and a barbed wire fence on the other. What could possibly go wrong? Actually it was the straight ahead that went wrong and a nice sideways slide with a flurry of snow as I hurtled towards the sledging family trying to get our of the pit. I dismounted gracefully* and let them have their right of way (* possibly read "shrieking"). The offered me the path for the entirely sane reason that they didn't want me behind them.

The path was a similar joy. A foot off a pedal pretty much all the time with the option of just putting the bike on the side and me ending up sliding down on my feet. The normal dip and tuck around the bushes and ditch that I'm used to down that path replaced with a plough and slip-slide just avoiding* the bushes on either side (* possibly read as "going through").

After that it was back to the normal flat path along crunchy snow until home arrived in view. But with a feeling that a hearty gin might just sort me out for nerves.

From Christmas Eve. I managed to get the camera to work for the trip up and down. Here they are.

The fun of up, including just a bit of walking.

The view is great, even if not sunny.

Then the joy of down. Feet did touch the ground but not entirely in a walking sense.

Then, the short path home.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Blewbury Snowy Circuit

A New Year's Challenge

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After being challenged to video my bike ride today by @russwillis, I thought I'd share it with all. A very short but challenging route based on the tricky surface, jumping between lumpy soft slush and rock hard crevatous ice without visible warning, and a complete lack of snow tyres!

Anyway, here's the map. Looks very simple, doesn't it?

Well, here are some videos of me slipping and sliding around until confidence slips in!

First of all up Church Road. The first section, a few corners and people to nod to and assuage them of my good purpose. All at the death defying speed of 5mph. I tell you, modern roller coasters have nothing on me!

Followed by South Street. A few twists and turns to quicken the heart rate, but now it all seemed a bit easy. However, pride comes before a fall. Or in my case, startlement, as a Post Office van skids out of a side track just in front of me! It wasn't as near as it looks though.

Then Berry Lane. A level of mastery starts to pervade my mind. "Ha, I've got this" I thought. Then a group of girls in front slip over without the slightest provocation. Instant karma as my confidence disappears in a flash!

Then, at 1:42 and 1:50 along Westbrook Street, what you all wanted to happen to me. Only I didn't go too far from off the saddle! Of course, I had to put up with the lads early on wanting to pelt me with snowballs. They did have the decency to ask if I minded. And people worry about the youth of today.

Unfortunately, the camera ran out of battery (and I couldn't be bothered) before I got to the completely offroad bit. It looked utterly treacherous, and I did question my sanity. However, once going, it was considerable easier than any of the road sections. The lack of compacted snow meant the underlying surface offered much more grip as the tyre mould sank into the powder. Fantastic! A good speed was achievable. I'm not saying over 10mph of course, but certainly more than the 5mph the road had offered.