Category Archives: Cycling Climbs

Cycling Climbs: Painsthorpe Lane

Painsthorpe Lane out of Kirby Underdale doesn’t have the fearsome reputation of nearby Hanging Grimston, but is well worth seeking out if you are in the area around Thixendale and looking to put together a number of superb local cycling climbs. Certainly David Hockney was impressed enough with the view to plant his easel in a bit of a layby and capture what he called ‘Bugthorpe Valley’, one of his many interpretations of the Yorkshire Wolds that comprised his ‘A Bigger Picture’ exhibition at the Royal Academy some years ago. My most recent attempt to pull together Hockney’s locations in to some sort of themed ride took in this climb (Garmin link below) and marks the most westerly Wolds spot for the Hockney pilgrim.

After discussing Hanging Grimston and Uncleby Hill, Roger England, in his excellent Hill Climbs on the Yorkshire Wolds, goes on to describe Painsthorpe Lane:

The third climb is the popular Painsthorpe road which ascends from the church and quickly steepens to 17% as it passes the Hall before easing back to 10% approaching the hamlet of Painsthorpe. From here it is an easy 5% to the top of the wold. This route should be familiar to those who have completed the 70-mile version of the George Herbert Stancer standard ride.

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Cycling Climbs: Green Lane, Helperthorpe

I first glimpsed this climb when riding one of the Hockney-themed Big Skies Bike Rides: Sledmere County from Sledmere. At the bottom of the slope pictured below a left turn (along the actual Green Lane) takes the rider looking for a sub20-mile loop towards Havering and back to Sledmere. But there was something about the way the road disappeared in to the overhanging trees, shrouded by foliage like some lost horizon, that made me want to come back and seek out this modest, yet rewarding climb.

Green Lane, Helperthorpe
Approaching the Green Lane climb from Helperthorpe

And so I put together a few routes that first went right at the T junction that is ultimately arrived at on the way to Sherburn via the twisting descent of Sherburn Grits. From Sherburn I invariably head north to Snainton over the Vale of Pickering before returning to the Wolds via Yedingham and West Heslerton. However, I thought I’d try a left turn at that T junction and I wasn’t disappointed. Though it would make the ride much shorter, the descent of Whin Moor (given the name “Watch Out For The Cars?” by some Strava wag) is an absolute joy, with beautiful pastoral scenery that flashes by on the way back to West Lutton. (To be fair, you really should watch out for the cars on this twisting freefall.)

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Cycling Climbs: White Gate (West Heslerton Wold)

If, as I do with my ride buddies from time to time, you find yourself cycling over the North York Moors towards the Yorkshire Wolds, it is likely that you will have a hill to climb after passing through the Vale of Pickering. Usually we will ride up Leavening Brow, but most recently we have carried ourselves up West Heslerton Wold, also known as White Gate. This is not the stiffest hill in the area – and it isn’t on a par with the North York Moors roads out of Egton Bridge, or Murton Bank out of Hawnby – but with a fair few miles in the legs it is a testing climb.

I also like to climb this hill on longer rides from my home on the flatlands of East Yorkshire. A ride out to the foothills of the North York Moors is a rewarding return for a long day in the saddle, and White Gate is a deserved treat after those flat miles between the Moors and the Wolds. Pedal smartly away from the staggered crossing of the A64 and start to sort out your gears ready for slipping on to a larger rear sprocket. (I should point out that there appears to be a roadside cycle track along the A64 between Sherburn and West Heslerton, but I prefer the loop to Snainton rather than having my nerves shredded by the rumble of (fairly close) passing lorries and countless motorcars.)

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Cycling Climbs: Grimston Brow (Luddith Road)

My first recollection of this deceptively strength sapping climb was actually as a descent. I had ridden with a club to Malton and one of the newer members had wanted to complete his first 100-mile ride. So with a slight detour from the planned route we were able to incorporate the Thixendale Big Skies Bike Ride in to the day’s trip and tick both boxes. I typically approach this climb having passed through Settrington, heading south for a short stretch of the B1248 and popping over the little bridge with its unusually specific 25mph speed limit. Soon after there is a left hand bend and a junction on that corner. The signposted turnoff points to Birdsall, but we want the unsigned road along which a cottage and a utilities building can be glimpsed.

Beyond the buildings the road soon opens up a rather lovely view and a very satisfying sense of remoteness. Whenever I write about this hill I am at pains to point out that cows – and, we’re told, a bull – roam the open-gated fields between the cattle grids at the top and bottom of this climb. (The recent judicious use of a partly worn non-scratch scourer on the underside of my brake calipers is a reminder that the road is far from out of bounds for these roaming bovines.)

I’ve actually never turned around having seen loose cattle, but returning to that junction and following the signs to Birdsall – with the prospect of climbing Birdsall Brow – is a pleasant enough alternative, so it’s not the end of the world. One time on a solo descent, having passed the point of no return, I inadvertently triggered something of a stampede reminiscent of a scene from Jurassic Park, and was relieved to reach the sanctuary provided by rolling over the lower cattle grid. But I digress.

LuddithRoad_PaulRob
On a rainy ride from Sledmere with friends, in the days before the road was resurfaced

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A Yorkshire Wolds 200km Audax (ride report from 2016)

(On this day in 2016 I organised a series of Challenge Rides. Here is Graeme Holdsworth’s ride report on the 200km event. His report was originally published an a now deleted web site.)


Ignorance is bliss – but perhaps the warning signs were there on the start line. There was a 75% DNS (Did Not Start) rate on the longest of the four CTC Challenge Rides which meant I’d be doing this 200km route alone.

The East Yorkshire CTC run a series of Challenge Rides: 70km, 130km and 170km. This year, however, the organiser (Chris) had added a 200km route which could be ridden as an entry level Randonneur event. New rules from Audax UK allow for routes which can be both planned and validated by GPS devices. Traditionally, Randonneur events [Audax in the UK], are ‘allure libre’; meaning you can take any route you like between control points. I like this approach but if you want a more convoluted route it can be difficult finding appropriate controls. The “Mandatory DIY by GPS” rule meant that I could take Chris’ route and submit it as my DIY 200km Audax.

My ride had actually started by leaving Welton and climbing Welton Wold to reach Cottingham, it was promising to be a beautiful day for this 210km route. In Cottingham I met other riders who’d travelled from as far as Harrogate to take part, and everyone turning up early in the morning was given a warm welcome by Chris and treated to some delicious coffee he’d prepared for us the evening before.

Although I was the only 200km rider on the start line, there was a good turnout for the 170km route and Chris set us off together at 8am. In the enthusiasm of group riding we did set off at a cracking speed, keeping the pressure on over the first early climbs through Little Weighton to High Hunsley. There was great communication in the group, pointing out surface hazards and calling out junctions. We took a sharp right on a steep downhill into North Newbald and stretched out a little on the climb of Newbald Wold. The views opened out before us and we had a brief respite rolling along fast together towards Etton and into South Dalton.

I was beginning to think about dropping off the back of the group now as I had an extra 40km to ride and some locally infamous hills to experience. These riders were all strong, but when *the fairy who shall not be named* deflated Richard’s rear tyre we all pulled up to wait. I made my apologies – they were on a different ride to me – and I just carried on. I had a feeling they’d be passing me before long anyway.

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The Big J Sportive 2022

‘Big J’ is Joel Wainman, a highly regarded former member of Hull Thursday Road Club who has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. Joel has two young sons, and a friend of his has set up a Just Giving page to help during this terminal illness. Sunday 21st August 2022, is the date of the Big J Sportive, organised by Hull Thursday Road Club.

I’ve ridden two Hull Thursday Road Club sportives and I hope to ride this one next month. So I revisited the now defunct web pages I blogged back in 2013 and 2016 to remind myself of both events. I reproduce them below in case they might be vaguely useful to anyone thinking of entering any of the 2022 distances. I understand that the routes for the Big J will follow those of the Big G, but they don’t appear to be detailed as yet on the events pages. So I’ve included my Garmin Connect and Strava activities should anyone wish to view either the 100km or 150km routes. (Note that my ride from 2013 was from the old event headquarters in Molescroft; subsequent rides set out from Bishop Burton.)

100km Big G Cyclosportive 2013

Big G 2013 polo shirt 100km

Yesterday, I finally managed to take part in the Big G Cyclosportive after illness, holidays, a wedding and other distractions prevented me from giving it a go in previous years. This was only my second sportive after completing the Heart of the Wolds back in April. Once again I was unprepared and carrying a bit too much weight, but I enjoyed a dash around the Yorkshire Wolds with some faster, younger cyclists.

I quickly latched on to a group of riders from the Beverley Knights and Hull Thursday clubs. As with my previous sportive, the help of others in sharing the work would prove invaluable; I was rather optimistically hoping for ‘Gold’ in this event. Thankfully, the weather provided a break from the recent heat wave; a few minutes after I had applied sun cream we found ourselves getting rained on as we left Molescroft.

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Cycling Climbs: Bailey Lane, Warter

Bailey Lane out of Warter has gradually become something of a recent favourite of mine. It is included in one of the shorter loops, ‘A Yorkshire Wolds Red Kite Bike Ride‘, and is best approached along Cold Wold from Huggate or Back Lane from Nunburnholme. At the bottom of Totterdown Hill (the proper name for the locally famous ‘Nunburnholme Hill’) it used to feel as though I was wimping out when I took the gravelly turn east towards Warter instead of grinding my way up to the top. No more. ‘Nunburnholme’ has lost its sparkle for me. Too narrow, too busy, no nice views. The opposite, in fact, of Bailey Lane.

There are arguably stiffer climbs out of Warter – Cobdale Lane (pictured in the distance in the photgraph above) and Cold Moor may well be more challenging – but they lack the views while Bailey Lane still offers significant resistance. To be clear, this is no killer climb – it doesn’t get a ranking in Roger England’s Hill Climbs of the Yorkshire Wolds – but is sufficiently testing that the folds of Bailey Dale down and to the left perhaps provide a welcome psychological distraction that lessens the impact on the tired rider’s legs. You are also more likely to see Red Kite gliding overhead. Which is nice.

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Hill Climbs on the Yorkshire Wolds

With the increased popularity of cyclo-sportives there have been numerous articles in the national magazines covering some of the country‚Äôs toughest climbs. Also we now have a book describing the UK’s ’100 Greatest Climbs’. Not surprisingly none of our local climbs feature in any of these publications. Our local roads do not have the severe gradients or the length to match those on the Moors or Dales and tend to be overlooked, but there are times when returning home from a ride Trundlegate feels like my personal ‘Killer Climb’.

Burdale 2
Burdale: a short, sharp climb but is it long enough to be amongst the toughest climbs on the Wolds?

In addition to the various articles there are a number of web sites devoted to cataloguing climbs, and one site, climbbybike.com does list one of our local climbs, Staxton Brow. This site is different in that it gives each climb a ‘Difficulty Score’ in an attempt to provide a comparison between different climbs. Staxton scores 44 compared with Blakey Bank on the Moors at 70, and the Lake District’s Hardknott Pass (West) which tops the English climbs with a score of 106. These scores show why climbs on the Wolds do not figure in national surveys. Nevertheless some of the climbs can offer tough challenges to a tired rider.

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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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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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