Thursday, 21 April 2016

14-16 Apr: Riding The Way of the Roses

Mike P writes: I tackled my first long-distance touring ride last week when I joined my brother on one of the Sustrans-recommended coast to coast routes across the Pennines aptly named The Way of the Roses.

More information can be found on the main Sustrans website, on the "official" website and a useful commercial website

This particular coast-to-coast starts in Morecambe and winds its way up the attractive Lune valley to Settle some 35 miles inland. Thereafter, it’s a hard pull onto the Pennine moors where the countryside become a lot less hospitable before a lengthy and steep descent into Pateley Bridge. This is 63 miles of challenging terrain from the coast and, for most riders, (ourselves included) that’s plenty. Our ride time for this section was 5hr 40 mins averaging 11.2 mph. We started from the Eric Morecombe statue at 9.45am and arrived at Pateley Bridge at 5.45pm with three replenishment stops during the day.

This route can be downloaded from Sustrans here.

The Lune Valley

Pennine moors above Settle

On the second morning we climbed out of town to Brimham Rocks, a local beauty spot heading toward Ripon. The route continues through attractive rolling countryside gradually descending on to the Yorkshire plain. Beyond Ripon it’s flat to York – just like "home" territory. The route takes a meandering course through a series of well-kept and pretty villages before joining the cycle path system across York and its residential suburbs.

Boroughbridge market square

Beyond York the route heads out again to similar countryside. It’s largely flat although there’s a section of off road track from Dunnington to Stamford Bridge which might entail a bit of pushing on a road bike if the going is soft. We reached the small market town of Pocklington at the entrance to the Yorkshire Wolds where we had elected to stay for the second night. Cumulative mileage 128. Ride time, 4 hrs 55 mins. Average speed 13.0 mph. Departure from Pateley Bridge 9.00am arriving at 4.05pm. Two stops on the way.

At this stage the ride is largely “cracked” with only a relatively short section to complete the following morning. Heading out of Pocklington the route takes a detour through a very attractive section of the Wolds running along a largely uninhabited dry valley before a short ascent onto the open moorland followed by a leisurely 3 mile descent to Tibthorpe.

Yorkshire Wolds

Thereafter, the route detours South along a series of very minor roads before arriving at the market town of Driffield for a final coffee stop before the last leg into Bridlington. This section contains a last pull up to elevated ground to give wide views across the bay and associated wind farm before descending to the sea front for a fish and chip lunch. Unfortunately the Garmin stopped working at 158 miles by when our total saddle time was reading 12hrs 50 mins and an average of 12.4 mph. Nonetheless, the sign at the finish on the sea front when we arrived at 1.40pm was clear: Morecambe 170 miles!

Overall, the route barely touches classified roads and it well signed and planned throughout. A map is rarely required and coffee stops just seem to emerge just when you need a breather!

Cafe stop at Wray, the first stop heading up the Lune Valley.

The first stretch to Pateley Bridge is undoubtedly the most challenging although the rewards in terms of scenery and cycling enjoyment are ample assuming the weather is kind. Thereafter, the ride is much gentler and can be taken at a comfortable pace.
The weather was kind to us for what is a relatively early time in the year to be riding on exposed moorland lanes. Although cloudy for much of the time, the wind was light and the temperature around 10 degrees The section from Settle to Pateley Bridge in particular has several sections over 1000 feet and could easily become difficult and potentially dangerous in high winds or cold conditions. Indeed, overnight on Saturday a strong blast of artic air deposited snow on the moors which we had cycled through a couple of days earlier. Accordingly, have a careful look at the forecast if planning to do the trip out of the main season.

Cafe at Cracoe, a midway breather stop between Settle and Pateley Bridge.

In terms of difficulty I was a little nervous about tackling the Pennines being a “newbie” to this type of terrain whilst, for my brother it’s his back yard. Despite following him up most of the ascents I’m pleased to say I didn’t have to get off and push albeit a middle aged jogger did beat me up the climb out of Settle which is undoubtedly the most demanding of the ascents along the route. For those used to the flatlands of Cambridgeshire, the secret is fortitude and a slow but steady rhythm. It will level off eventually!

In summary, a thoroughly enjoyable route which presents a challenge but rewards with great scenery along quiet back roads along much of its length. If anybody is interested in riding the route this year and would like to have a chat about stop overs and such like please feel free to call me on 07836 229712. Mike Pearce

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