All posts by Chris

Shorter Loops: Pocklington Big Skies Bike Ride

In 2010 a series of eight Big Skies Bike Rides was launched with the aim of encouraging cyclists to discover the varied and interesting terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. ‘Millington Dale and Warter from Pocklington’ is a ride of less than twenty miles that includes the delightful Millington Dale; Huggate, with the highest pub on the Yorkshire Wolds; and an enjoyable descent in to Warter before the quiet and scenic Back Lane to Nunburnholme.

The B1246 east out of Pocklington is not the most pleasant way to start a bike ride, but the sightlines are good until the bend just before the turn off to Kilnwick Percy. (I’ll get this bit out of the way now: there is only one downside to this ride – but don’t let it put you off – as the road surface later between Burnby and Pocklington – at the time of writing – is not great.) With the KP golf course to your left and the Kilnwick Percy Hall meditation centre to your right there is a steady incline before dropping down and then climbing gently to the pretty village of Millington. In normal times the Gate Inn and Ramblers’ Rest are recommended stops, and shared with the Western Wolds from Stamford Bridge Big Skies Bike Ride, a later addition to the series of rides, at this overlapping point.

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A Yorkshire Wolds Red Kite Bike Ride

I was a member of the Young Ornithologists’ Club before I joined the Cyclists’ Touring Club as a schoolboy and for me the experience of appreciating Yorkshire Wolds wildlife has been a vital part of cycling in and around the area. Back then I collected the full Orbis publication ‘The Encyclopedia Of Birds’. Week by week the collection would build up in to a pile of magazines that went in a cardboard box to be stored in the loft for the next three decades. Yes, you can find all the up-to-date information you need – and more – on the Internet these days, but when I wanted to carry out some research about the UK distribution of Red Kite I was interested to read a contemporary account from the time when I was a child. A map confirmed that areas where Red Kite could be found all year round were limited to Wales.

Red Kite distribution 1980s

Compare that to the map on the Yorkshire Red Kites web site that also details the reintroduction programme of 1999 at Harewood Estate in West Yorkshire.

Over the past few years I have noticed these magnificent birds more frequently whilst cycling around particular parts of the Yorkshire Wolds. So I thought I’d put together a ride that takes in most of the places where I’ve spotted Red Kite. The route is a little under forty miles long.

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Cycling Climbs: Birdsall Brow

Of the three climbs that meet at the top of the hills out of Thixendale and Leavening, it is Birdsall Brow that can be relied upon to defeat me most of the time. Water Dale from Thixendale is a long drag – although not at all in the tedious sense of the word – and Leavening Bank offers the respite with the early dog leg bend to spread out the uphill exertion. Birdsall Brow, on the other hand, offers none of that; after an almost imperceptible rise from the Birdsall Manor road there is no momentum left before the short ramp at the bottom of the climb triggers an adrenaline dump that has me clicking through the low gears on my road bike until no more options remain.

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Shorter loops: Market Weighton Big Skies Bike Ride

In 2010 a series of eight Big Skies Bike Rides was launched with the aim of encouraging cyclists to discover the varied and interesting terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. The first time I rode “South Dalton, Lockington & Lund from Market Weighton” I had already been to Pocklington with ride buddies and stopped at Market Weighton to see the wooden statue to local legend William ‘Giant’ Bradley. (In the olden days when I would breezily cycle from Beverley to York along the length of the A1079 the road went through the centre of Market Weighton. Since then the town has been bypassed by the main road: Giant Bradley Way.)

On subsequent undertakings of this route I have parked in Goodmanham and ridden from there. Crossing the busy B1248 – twice – and having to spring open the Dalton Park gate at the Pipe and Glass means that the route is not exactly suited to being a time trial course, but when time is short – or fitness levels low – I have used the gently undulating road to test my fitness – or confirm the lack of it. But the main purpose of this and the other Big Skies Bike Rides is to explore the wonderful Yorkshire Wolds by bike – and for the Market Weighton ride there is something of a pub theme going on…

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Cycling Climbs: Leavening Bank

Of all the Yorkshire Wolds hills Leavening Bank is the one that I always seem to approach via a leg-sapping loosener. In the case of Leavening Bank it is usually the arrow-straight roller coaster Castle Howard road. Perhaps we should be grateful that this lengthy drag has an early dog leg to get up the first stiff yards as a more direct line up the escarpment would surely be too punishing to bear.

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Shorter Loops: Sledmere and Thixendale from Pocklington

This wonderful 50-mile loop takes in elements of two Big Skies Bike Rides, but is different enough from both to be worth our consideration here. Heading out east from Pocklington you’re not on the B1246 long before taking the left turn at Kilnwick Percy. There follows six miles of glorious Yorkshire Wolds countryside through Millington Dale shared with the Way of the Roses and Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route up to the outskirts of Huggate, before carrying on with the coast to coast route through Tibthorpe – described by Dixe Wills in the Guardian as his favourite road on the Way of the Roses – and as far as Kilburn (National Cycle Network Route 164).

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Cycling Climbs: Stoneknowle Hill

I should acknowledge straight away that this little dink of a rolling road out of North Newbald towards the A1079 is no killer climb. However, it is one of the few hills to test the legs of the fully laden traveller attempting to ride the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route in a clockwise direction. And on short rides around the southern Wolds Stoneknowle Hill provides a few minutes of uphill resistance – perhaps coupled with Kiplingcotes Lane to get the heart pumping on a loop taking in Kiplingcotes Valley and back over the A1079.

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Cycling Climbs of Yorkshire: A Road Cyclist’s Guide (Review)

A recurring theme in reviews for the original 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs went something like “Why wasn’t such-and-such hill included?” Fans of Scottish hill climbs in particular took offence at the ratio of their favourites to those in Wales (7:14) – and the inclusion of some lesser climbs in the South East especially. Back in 2010 my two penneth worth was about the road between Grinton and Askrigg…

Cycling Climbs of Yorkshire - A Road Cyclist's Guide Simon Warren review

Cycling Climbs of Yorkshire – A Road Cyclist’s Guide, by Simon Warren

Simon Warren describes a ride towards Askrigg (# 46 Oxnop Scar) that I haven’t done, but would like to. According to Warren this climb has a height gain of 243 metres. The Harkerside road from Grinton goes from about 186 metres to 541 at its peak. Even if you start counting at Low Witta (about 220 metres) the climb to the top, and the cattle grid shown below, is well over 300 metres of height gained, with more false summits than I can remember, and no fewer than seven Ordnance Survey chevrons pointing at the wearying cyclist. The chap in the B&B in Askrigg told me that drivers’ Sat Nav systems sometimes send them along this narrow road. I wouldn’t fancy driving it, but how long will we have to wait before 100 More Greatest Cycling Climbs I wonder…?

Well I got the follow-up title wrong (the sequel was to be ‘Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs‘) and the climb didn’t make the cut, but that oversight is remedied in ‘Cycling Climbs of Yorkshire: A Road Cyclist’s Guide‘, the latest publication in this popular series.

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Cycling Climbs: Burdale

What’s the best moment so far from all the TV coverage of the Tour de Yorkshire? Thomas Voeckler gurning his way to victory along the Scarborough sea front? The cheering crowds on Sutton Bank as the riders winched their way up to the stunning edge-of-the-Moors viewpoint? Jadan-Weldtite/Vive le Velo-sponsored 17-year-old Georgi Pfeiffer claiming the queen of the mountains on the Côte de Baggaby Hill between Warter and Pocklington? Admittedly these are all excellent moments, but the answer, of course, is Brian Mussen cycling around Thixendale and Millington, and having a nice cuppa outside the Ramblers’ Rest in the Yorkshire Wolds. (I’m going all misty-eyed thinking about that video again.) Brian is the secretary of Scarborough Paragon Cycling Club, based in the seaside resort that borders on to the North York Moors. But when location shooting took place to promote the 2017 edition of the Tour de Yorkshire it was to the empty lanes and quietly testing climbs of the Yorkshire Wolds that Brian and the camera crew headed.

Burdale - Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Hill Climbs having a rest

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Cycling Climbs: Brantingham Dale

Cottingham in East Yorkshire is the meeting point for a number of road cycling groups. My former club meets in the bus shelter on the ‘green’, but further along the road a more sports-orientated group has its start point. One Sunday morning three riders turned up on lightweight road bikes and came over to the shelter. My old ride buddy, Jeffery, tried to shoo them away in the direction of the racier set. No, they definitely were there to come out with us. Still unconvinced, Jeffery set of with the trio for a jaunt around the southern Yorkshire Wolds.

I wasn’t there later on, but towards the end of the ride – along the twisting, tree-lined ascent of Brantingham Dale – it turned out no-one was responding to Jeffery’s chit-chat as he tapped away along Dale Road. He looked around. Jeffery was genuinely surprised that his new-found companions were nowhere to be seen. I do hope those cyclists weren’t disheartened, but Jeffery had overlooked just how fit the grizzled cycle tourist can be compared to the beginner cyclist. Although it is no alpine climb Brantingham Dale can be a bit of a shock for the unprepared cyclist.

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