Liz and her folks were off to Saltaire for the arts festival, so I had a whole day to do what I pleased. Why not ride down to Swaledale and back?
I set off from home and went down the back road in Howdon-le-Wear. This start was a bit Paris-Roubaix-esque, where the mud has been reinforced with dumped bricks and such-like. Over the Wear, and onwards south of Hamsterley Forest towards Barnard Castle, with fantastic weather and beautiful views to the south.
By the time I arrived at Barnard Castle, I’d considered I’d be ready for a café stop. However, I was going well, so straight through town, and down to the River Tees.
After negotiating a few hundred metres of the A66 dual carriageway, I’m onto the back road to Arkengarthdale via The Stang, a notorious climb. En-route to the climb there are amazing views.
The climb up the Stang is tough, but done without a pause. You can’t really see the true nature of it looking back once at the top (so you’ll have to go and try it for yourself).
We’re then in “proper” Yorkshire Dales country, and the scenery is amazing. Maybe it’s helped because it’s pretty much downhill all the way to Reeth.
After leaving Rich’s place, I head down to The Dales Bike Centre for lunch.
There’s no escaping the fact, I’m now half way around the route and it’s time to head home. I’ve chosen the back road via Marske, which avoids the traffic, is extremely scenic, but also extremely hilly.
Just shy of Richmond it’s time to turn north, over ground I’ve not cycled before. Beautiful country lanes between Richmond and the A66, and military ranges. Eventually the A66 is crossed (phew), and its back onto familiar territory. At Whorlton I stop to eat the pork pie I had been given by Liz. I was expecting just a good pork pie, but this was a spicy concoction from Knitsley Farm Shop, and a pleasant surprise.
The sustrans route continues up towards Evenwood, where there is a dirt track to Bishop Auckland. If the ride started with a flavor of Paris-Roubaix, it was now Strada Bianchi. In my tired state I was just gently cruising around the many potholes. The second half of the road is effectively singletrack, and thankfully the nettles weren’t in full bloom yet!
From Bishop Auckland I decided on a direct route home, as the legs were tired. This meant a few busy roads, but also the chance for a photo from the high level bridge over the Wear.
Three major rivers in a day, perfect weather, and calling in on good friends half-way round. A good day.
* Phone camera seemed to be on a mission to capture low resolution pictures – apologies.