Spring has sprung, a little early…

Skyreholme-Buckden-Bishopdale-Coverdale-Kettlewell-Skyreholme. 57 miles.

Click here for a map of the route.

At last, a dry, clear, sunny day… It has been a frustrating couple of weeks since the end of our 5-day “training ride”, and the tandem had been restored (more or less) to cleanliness. So, to celebrate, a trip over into Wensleydale and back. As always, the first part of the ride is on familiar ground, the rolling hills through Appletreewick, Burnsall and Kilnsey towards Kettlewell, where the traffic virtually disappears. The quiet, narrow lane alongside the Wharfe brings us to Starbotton and Buckden where we have a quick halt for coffee, timed perfectly as within thirty seconds of stopping a phalanx of about thirty ‘proper’ cyclists heads past us up to Kidstones. You can tell they are serious cyclists, as they are chattering away loudly between themselves, whilst going at some pace uphill… The Buck Inn at Buckden (much improved recently under new ownership) provides coffee, tea and conversation, then we head up the first serious climb of the day, past Cray and up Kidstones Pass into Bishopdale.

It is so unusual (in our recent experience) to be cycling in dry weather that we can hardly believe our luck, and the initial climb is soon over, followed by an initially steep descent into Bishopdale. There then follows mile after mile of idyllic valley cycling, listening to the birds singing. The last time we cycled down here was between Christmas and New Year, when all of Bishopdale seemed to be under water. Today it is drier, although pools of water still lie in the adjacent fields. We arrive at West Burton and continue through towards Swinithwaite. There’s an intriguing track from West Burton round to Melmerby, but we’re not brave enough to try it as the O.S map indicates an unmetalled surface… Fine views of Castle Bolton guide us toward the main valley road, which is busy but not too bad. We contemplate turning right at West Witton, but the road is called “Witton Steeps”…

Just before Wensley we turn off onto the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway towards Coverdale. Jonathan did the Cycleway on his solo bike with some friends last summer, but claims to have suppressed the memory of the hill which greets us when we turn off the main road. It’s a fair climb, but lunch is calling, and then there’s the prospect of a more severe climb back over into Wharfedale. We eventually arrive at the Foresters Arms in Carlton, where a couple of pints of Daleside Blonde and and excellent light lunch provide fortification for the 23 remaining miles. Excellent service, too.

Inevitably we start somewhat slowly in the afternoon, but the initial stages of the climb up Coverdale are relatively gentle, through to Horsehouse and beyond. Then we cross over to the other side of the valley and the steeper section begins. By now there’s a head-wind to contend with, and a short, sharp climb takes us up from the valley floor, before a much longer steep section brings us wearily to the watershed between the Wharfe and Ure. We rest briefly at the top, watching two remote-controlled aircraft wheeling around the upper slopes of Great Whernside in the clear blue sky. Then it’s down to Park Rash, where two downhill sections of 25% gradient await us. By the time we get to the really steep corners the wheel rims and disc brake are worryingly hot to the touch, so we chicken out and walk for a couple of hundred yards. The descent to Kettlewell thereafter is relaxing and scenic, though.

From Kettlewell to home is a very familiar journey, on a little-frequented lane via Conistone to Grassington. The first spring lambs are tottering around in the fields between Kettlewell and Conistone, and although everything is still that ‘winter’ green colour rather than the lush green it will become in the summer, it really feels like spring has arrived today. At Conistone we stop for a drink of water, and are greeted by the ever-present dog who seems to be determined to welcome every visitor to this lovely hamlet. We continue down the valley to Grass Wood, where there alway seems to be a head-wind no matter which way the wind is blowing! The last six miles from Grassington to Skyreholme are a little hilly, but we know by now the exact amount of effort required to climb each hill, so it’s not long before we’re climbing up past the Craven Arms and New Inn into Appletreewick, then pedalling the last uphill half-mile to Skyreholme. We’re quite weary as we arrive home, but it has been a gloriously sunny day, perfect for tandeming.