Thursday 15 March 2012

Over Kirkby Malzeard Moor to Pateley Bridge

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

I'm up in Pateley Bridge again, this time as the winter starts to disappear and spring feels like it's round the corner. I'm exploring the local ways and byways looking for good exciting road and offroad routes. And this time I'd thought I'd go back to a route I first tried to navigate last year but got stopped because they were shooting over it: Kirkby Malzeard Moor.

It's a 17-18 mile route (in Google) if you're based out of Pateley.

You get on the right start road by going towards the Police Station from the east side of the river bridge (so not up the High Street!).

Getting out of Pateley shows a bit of what you're in for as the gradient ramps up past the Police Station. I manage to miss this as I'm coming from a slightly different start point. Then a slightly less difficult section along the gorgeous valley side until the bottom of one of the serious challenges, Silver Hill (at 0m26s on clip below).

Silver Hill doesn't look too bad on the map, until you spot just how close the contours are and how many of them there are. With more accurate measurement welcome, I reckon it averages around 15% with topping out at over 19%. And that's for a not inconsiderable amount of time.

The slope consists of 3 sections. The first bit you see as soon as you turn off the Wath Road. It looks like a wall and a rapid descent through the gears ensues. My joy this time was being chased (very carefully, I might add!) by a reversing postal van. Even they don't try to go up here forward! Then a slight turn in the road leads to the steep section. This is where it really ramps up and it's difficult to keep the wheels moving forward. Finally, a slightly flatter section enables you to recover slightly. You've still at full pant but not actually having a heart attack.

I usually stop at the top.  Because of the view and nothing else, of course. No, I'm not done out by Silver Hill, no, it's just a pretty view to the south end of Gouthewaite Water. I'll just put my hands over the handlebars for a couple of minutes. *crash, wheeze*

Gouthewaite Water is a reservoir probably most famous for being in the opening credits of Emmerdale.

The remainder of getting up onto the moors is probably as far as Silver Hill. It's just the it has the decency to do it over a lot longer distance thus allowing a steady but unfazed peddle up the side of the valley. You'll notice in the clip (at 2m07s and a little later) I pull over for cars. I'm in no hurry to get anywhere and I'm doing around 5-6mph. I've got time to pull over and let them through. I have no need to assert my rights to the road here (unlike in other places of course!), and both drivers thanked me for letting them through. Smiles all round!

The final top of Bishopside comes quite a long way after, just as I drop down and turn left onto a slightly bigger unclassified road (at 3m23s on clip below). I lost a spoke here once. Anyone give me a reason why? This is slightly, very slightly downhill and usually has the wind behind me. Speeds of 30mph are very easy here, although I tend to hold at that, the road surface can suddenly throw up the odd obstacle.

Halfway across the moor there's another road junction just before dropping to cross Skell Gill (at 3m53s on clip below). I wish it could be done a little quicker, but the turn over the bridge takes all the speed out just before the uphill section. Skell Gill disappears off to the south, heading for Fountains Abbey where it provides the water for their wonderful water gardens.

Just after this the south edge of the moorland area comes to the road and there's a sign I find useful to check (for closures, before cycling another 5 miles just to return). It uses the name "Harper Hill" which I find strange. I'm not local but I can find no other references to this anywhere else other than the name of the farm opposite (online PDF version of sign).

I did have a good look through it and there seemed no hint of banning bikes on the tracks across the moorland. They do ban dogs at times due to nesting ground birds, but that's it. It'd be nice to find out a bit about the Right to Roam legislation, although I suspect there's very little about bikes in it. Well, with no direct instructions I think I should carry on. After all even cycling along a footpath is not illegal.

At the other side of the moor, I take the turning for the first bit of off-road exploration through Dallowgill (at 5m05s on clip below). This is a bridleway, so fully allowable for bikes. It is a little pretty valley even after dropping into the trees. There's a chance at a ford, although I'm always a bit wary after sliding 10 foot across one on my backside in Essex once. River slime is amazingly ungrippy!
And back out onto a small road for the ride back up to the bottom of Kirkby Malzeard Moor. A slow and steady slug again, getting back all the metres lost whilst dropping across the moor from Bishopside. I speed up the clip here as although gloriously beautiful to ride, it's a tad dull from the camera's perspective. A small check of the moors sign here to see if there any other notices attached (at 8m00s on clip below). No, so on!

At the end of the tarmac road, a small waterfall appears effectively marking the top of Dallowgill (at 8m24s on clip below). Having spent my entire time concentrating on getting up the moor, I've not noticed the land disappearing away behind me. Just here is where the gill sharply drops and turns into valley and not moorland. This marks the beginning of the top although I've still got a good 50 metres altitude to gain yet.

And finally I'm up onto the moor! The track is rough strewn with rocks around the size of my fist, with a few twice that size. Avoiding the former helps to keep the bike from jarring too much, avoiding the latter helps to keep the bike upright. I pick a route out carefully, eyes following the track concentrating hard. The odd gaze at the scenery allowed, but mostly eyes down for a full ride.

I top out at a gate and 386 metres altitude which is 240 metres above my start point (at 8m57s on clip below). This isn't a massive gain compared to some of the Alpine and Pyrenean climbs I've done, but it's still big for this country and on a much rougher surface. The air up here is cooler than the valley, and a lot cooler than my Cambridge home!

Now for the descent back into Nidderdale (at 9m26s on clip below). This side of the moor is much steeper, dropping 200 metres in less than a mile. Coming up, I did the same altitude gain in around 3 miles, so this is going to get wild.

"Rough descent" actually doesn't really get near the experience. A deeply rutted track with large water diverts (10 inch kerbs across the track) and boulders the size of my head mean I'm descending on full brakes, desparately picking my way and avoiding going head over heels into the rocks. Also, numerous gates make this quite an awkward place for cycling.

Finally, I get to a gentle bit and have a chance to look at the top end of Gouthewaite Water (at 10m35s on clip below). I'm just at the top end of Ramsgill, which is a slightly odd hamlet. A few pretty stone houses around a central green and a large building called "The Yorke Arms". In the middle of nowhere (and a rather nice place!) this is a One-Star Michelin restaurant. And, yes, I've eaten here. It was fantastic!

The road alongside Gouthewaite Water allows me glimspes (but not much for the camera at 11m37s on clip below) of the reservoir over the wall and through trees. Until dropping down and back onto the Wath Road to the bottom of Silver Hill again. This is also marked as steep, but as it's nothing like as long as the other part of Silver Hill it seems a last minute doddle before flying back into Pateley.

So, all in all, a fun ride. Would I do it again? Well, maybe, but all the gates and rocks on the descent leave me wanting to go elsewhere. I've done the Scar House reservoir route (Upper Nidderdale Two Lake Figure of Eight) many times and much prefer it. I was trying to find a route that might give me some variety. I think I'm still looking.

Play "Spot the Grouse"!

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