Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday Lakes Ride (Wray - Loughrigg Terrace - Elterwater - Little Langdale - Claife Heights)

I fancied a ride in the Lakes, I did think about it last week but decided to avoid it around the bank holiday particularly as I was looking at riding around Loughrigg which is a walker magnet. The final route plotted out to be just under 26 miles but I ended up doing closer to 29 after a couple of navigational snafus (again, not always my fault though!).

I've ridden all these bridleways before, some like Loughrigg and those out Elterwater way not for quite some time, the stuff around Hawkshead and Claife a lot more recently (and more often). I've pretty much always ridden them in the direction of the planned route, not sure why but after the ride I decided I needed to do the ride the opposite way soon.

Weather was still really windy but at least wasn't raining when I was packing the car up. I think I left home at about 8:30 and it felt great to head straight past the M55 turnoff. I parked up near Wray Castle which meant a road cruise to Ambleside at the start but an easy finish offroad along the edge of Windermere to finish. I figured it was best to get the Ambleside section done early.

I know a lot of the bridleways are fairly sheltered and it wasn't a full waterproof day, just felt too warm for the trousers. I set off in my waterproof jacket and rolled off down the road and was quickly turning off for below Loughrigg. I had planned to take the permissive bridleway up around the caves today, thought the waterlevel in Rydal water would be a bit high to attempt to ride through and I hate that rock step, its lethal in bike shoes.

I've never ridden the permissive track but it was really nice a few steep sections, a bit of rolling along some rock steps, some I had to have two goes at but it was a nice track. It joined back up with the other bridleway just in time for a steep loose climb (I had hoped it would miss that) that I spun out on and couldn't restart. A short push then back on eventually reaching the road.

I found the Garmin a lot more tricky to follow on this ride, mainly because there was often such a choice of tracks/roads heading roughly in the same direction. I had a lot of map checks using the Garmin to back it up if I got it wrong. Generally worked pretty well.

A fast road descent down to Chapel Stile where the waterproof came off then a spin along the road into Great Langdale for a bit before picking up the bridleway to Baysbrown. So far I had remembered a good deal of the ride but I didn't remember this bridleway though I knew I have done it before. It was pleasant riding too. Cloud level was pretty high so there was a good view of the hills. The water level in the stream I had just crossed over was very high too - there would be lots of water on this ride.

Some good riding on the bridleway to Baysbrown, I really enjoyed it, quite wet in places but any stream crossings were actually quite shallow. I actually decided against the bridleway up through the woods from Elterwater, I remembered it as steep an rooty and a bit of a push so I decided to take the road round thinking it would be more rideable and less steep, wrong on both counts!
It was quite steep in parts and very loose and rubbly, probably made worse by the fact it was a stream, a lot of water had come down it. I rode most of it, spun out a few times but managed to get going again until near the top where it got very rough and I just couldn't restart.

Joined back up with some rideable stuff then headed down to the ford at Little Langdale, waterproof had gone back on at some point prior as it was cold again. Zoomed down the road towards the ford, passed a couple of MTBers going the other way then approached the ford. No intention of riding it as I knew it would be very full today but I hadn't bargained on the depth of the puddles just before it. The first one was fine, deepish but not too bad. Second one was a lot deeper and I had to give a big push to the pedals to keep from stopping.

The bridge is looking somewhat rickety I have to say! Then off towards Hodge Close. I set off on what I thought was the way but the Garmin told me I was off course. Thinking I was being daft as usual I rode back to the ford as a known point and got the map out, checked it, sure I was correct so headed off the same way again. Garmin told me I was off course again.

Maybe I had plotted it in wrong (unlikely) so I set off on the other choice of track but it got to tarmac which I knew wasn't right and the Garmin said I was off course again. So I'm wrong whichever way I go? I was in some tree cover so headed back to the ford, set off on the original choice again. It said I was off course, I ignored it and about a minute later it told me I had found the course again! Think the tree cover was upsetting it.

I was approaching one of my favourite little climbs in the Lakes, a short push up a slate covered track where the slate is almost musical as you go over it. Except I couldn't clean it, no matter what line I chose. Bah. It was a stream, lots of water running down it so no tinkly slate as the water muffled it and it has washed lots of big chunks down which I kept getting bogged down it. Its normall like the foreground section here, lots of small slate with the odd slightly thicker piece:

But it was a lot rougher than that, especially up near the wall. After three attempts and knowing I still had two tough climbs to come I pushed. Not a happy bunny, lots of big bits of slate though and lots of water:

Next, the pig of a climb up Arnside Intake, not a favourite as it hurts a lot but I usually clear it. Like a lot of the other tracks today it has had a lot of loose stuff washed down it and annoyingly I managed to climb until about a bike length away from where it eases off when my rear wheel spun out and I couldn't get it back. Pah. In order to get a good go at it again I would have to go down a fair way so just scootered up a bit and got going again - I'm not that annoyed at not cleaning it.

I had a butty break at Iron Keld then down towards Hawkshead ready for the worst climb of the day. I was actually feeling a little disappointed as I knew that once the climb was out the way I wasn't that far away from the car. Another bit of navigational faff but I got to where I should be then almost at the bridleway up from Colthouse the Garmin said I was off course. I didn't think I'd missed it as I knew I was looking for a big deer gate but I rolled back anyway.

It was wrong (more tree problems possibly), I was right and I got back on the bridleway. I knew this one was going to hurt, I knew I wouldn't ride it all but I had a go at it all. It was quite wet and very loose and very steep in parts. I had a couple of "regroups" on flatter bits. Pushed up a few short bits where I couldn't keep pedalling. My legs were really starting to feel it, I was suddenly pleased the car wasn't too far away!

I got really worried for a guy descending it on an MTB purely because he was riding so slow and nervously. This bridleway is part of the Hawkshead trail race (both as an up and down). I ran all of it as an ascent at the start of that race and I now fully understand why my legs died on me at Far Sawrey! Ouch.

The top finally came, a bit of forestry track then onto one of my favourite parts of Claife Heights, the open area with the tarns, lovely, the sun was out too:

Fast down to Far Sawrey, past the pub then brace for the loose climb to the gate.....which has been sanitised. A bit of a reprieve for my tired legs but now very boring. Soon at the top of the last descent of the day, one of my favourites and the reason I chose to do the ride this way.

Saddle down as it can have its moments, some slippy sections at speed and rode it much faster that was really sensible on my own, hee hee. I didn't have any skaty moments at all for a change, excellent fun all the way down. From there it is an easy undulating spin back to the car.

The water level of Windermere was very, very high. On the last section of track before the climb (I always forget that little climb) back up to the car the lake eventually was high enough to pour onto the track. A couple of very deep puddles to wash the bike off:

So whilst I didn't ride in Rydal Water I technically rode in Windermere. Hope noone wants to get in here soon:

Pack up, hose bike off. The bloke parked up next to me was absolutely fascinated by the Dirt Worker. A quick trip into Ambleside to visit Lakes Runner before getting a slice of Bath bun from the Apple Pie Shop - decided a whole apple pie was excessive. Then drove home.


  1. Thats it. I don't mind admitting it, i'm increadably jealous!

    I'm booking some time off work and riding these things.

    I love that Tarn. I used to do a loop through Grizedale, up the road past one the many Beatrix Potter houses then up a farm track to it.

    Any chance of a map?

  2. There should be a linky to the route on BikeHike at the start of the blog. Hopefully.

  3. one day i will take my bike to the lakes, one day!