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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
I’ve never been one for racing, although in a funny sort of way I seem to be living my cycling life in reverse. I started off pottering about the Yorkshire Wolds with the Cyclists’ Touring Club at the age of twelve but now – four decades older, and perhaps as many stones heavier – find myself riding my carbon road bike on a wheelset with precisely half the spoke count of my touring bike from the 1980s.
Thankfully, my road bike has a relatively forgiving 30T largest sprocket on the cassette. In the 80s, however, I spent the not inconsiderable sum of £375 on a Raleigh Road Ace from Cliff Pratt’s in Hull. What was I thinking? The bike came with the then standard 52/42 chainset and at the back was a six-speed 13 to 21 cassette. It was a blip, perhaps even an expensive fad; the 52 chainring is still in virtually pristine condition. I bring up all of this cycling nostalgia as the no-compromise gearing and de rigueur stainless steel toe clips and tightly fastened Sturmey Archer toe straps combined to bring about my only defeat so far on a Yorkshire Wolds hill climb: Trundlegate.
In 2010 a series of eight Big Skies Bike Rides was launched that were designed to encourage cyclists to discover the varied and interesting terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. ‘North Newbald and back from Beverley’ was the first that I rode. Since then the East Riding of Yorkshire Council developed and expanded upon rides from Beverley, Pocklington and Bridlington amongst others. One of the ERoYC rides from Beverley closely follows the route of the Big Skies Bike Ride – only in reverse. Instead of doing the route clockwise, the notes accompanying the newer variant suggests it should be ridden anti- clockwise “for safety reasons” – it tackles Trundlegate uphill rather than as a descent.
Writing in Cycling Active, Maria David rode a variation of the original route that avoided backtracking on Middlehow Road to Walkington instead returning to Beverley along Walkington Heads to make a loop of it.
So, that’s three versions of a ride from Beverley to North Newbald and back. Here’s a fourth – with a twist…