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.
At this point I divert my attention from the effort by seeking out the scenery over to the left towards Swinham Wood to pass the ever lengthening time as I make my way towards the tree line that promises – but doesn’t quite deliver – an end to the climb. Cycling event organisers that take the rider up this brow sometimes place encouraging signs – or should that be gently mocking ones? – to let you know that you’re not quite there yet. Satisfying views over to the right now beyond Mount Ferrant Farm towards Leavening provide a very welcome distraction.
At the crossroads that mark the end of the climb you may carry on towards Garrowby Hill or turn right to drop in to Leavening. My preference – in part because when it’s open on a Sunday there is the excellent Village Hall cafe – is to turn left for a well-deserved reward that offers plenty of time to forget about the pain of climbing Birdsall Brow as I coast along the sublime Water Dale road in to Thixendale.
Fantastic area for cycling! That climb out of Birdsall never gets any easier.
— Paul Cromack (@CromackPaul) June 15, 2020