March

Seven Rides for Seven Brothers

What I thought was going to be a unique route was a bit off the mark as we did this a year ago on 15th February! For some reason I’d forgotten about that one completely (your own idea of the reason will probably be correct). Anyway I had made some revisions the night before to try and cut out some of the barren land crossing and meadow bog hiking we suffered last time and it did, in fact, turn out to be half decent.

Nice to see Colin Davison and Mark Ramsey out again although when the sun shone that Trek of Colin’s was a bit blinding! Yet again, as is almost compulsory, Mark not only kept me right with my DIY printed map but also spotted several other opportunities for exploration along the way. Mark Sweeting (pix are his) and John Rivers seem to catch most of the rides I can manage on a weekend these days while Adam Tuff and Lee Harrison are also getting out on Sundays fairly regularly now. I apologise to these two who maybe aren’t aware of my reputation for finding rough ground to ride on, although there was a bit less of it than even I expected this time.

Starting point was the centre of little Hartburn Village and we set off somewhere near 10:00 am following Mark after a group discussion on what was actually anticlockwise, having revised the route based on gradient versus wind strength and direction. That worked pretty well overall, most of our ultimate route very well shielded from the tail of Storm Linda.

We headed out of the village on tarmac northwards before dropping down to the Burn and the first ford of the day, fortunately with less than about 8 inches of gently flowing water running across it. We rode steadily northward until we reached Longwitton 2 ½ miles out in fine sunshine and turned south to another ford leading into the Dene bridleway. That was a long, sandy dual track for half of its length before disappearing. We chose to continue on what looked like a worn path straight ahead, and that led to an unexpected confrontation with a local resident, who wandered down some distance from his house to “advise” us that we weren’t in fact on a bridleway and should have turned again some way back. In fact he was wrong about the absence of its continuation although we couldn’t see it on the other side of the adjacent fence and gully. The bloke wasn’t the least bit angry or intimidating and did his best to stay pleasant, directing us up to his front garden and hence onto another bridleway to the road beyond. Seems a pity he had nowt else to do but sit at his remote window looking out for strays!

We got properly bogged down before reaching said road but the route we created on the way out would be well worthy of a fast, twisty downhill singletrack if we could get the lower end cleared. We did it the wrong way around this time. Maybe when Dan comes back from America?

Another short road stretch had us off-road again and searching for a sheltered bait stop which we found easily on Broomfield Fell and rested for 10 minutes for a bite and a few laughs in a cosy under-tree clearing. Colin led us back out through the trees on a tricky whoopy edge with a bone dry bed of fern and pine needles which allowed an eerie silence from our tyres. We were then on the main gravel drive through the forest and looking for one of the obvious fractures in the trees that were shown on Google Earth and spotted by both Mark and myself. The one we eventually chose, and rightly judging by the landscape beyond it, was by no means easy to ride but not as unpleasant as some heavy grasses are and strangely dry, unlike similar ground here a year ago. The highlight was the forestry spotter tower which of course just begged to be climbed, the excuse being to use it as an exit locator – oh yeah! Unfortunately there was no smiley payback as the only possible path through the deep, undulating grass spat us out on the main drag again. We headed for the road to continue our trek across to Rothley.

Off-road again and probably the worst ground conditions of all as we traversed a bog only slightly less of a heave than last time, while the far side of the soggy tundra presented a different problem – those hard-to-manoeuvre clumps of tall grass that can easily topple you at any time.

Had I not mistaken the ruins of Codger Fort for Rothley Castle  I may well have stopped Mark from dragging us further away from home,  but he was simply following the route I’d plotted. I could well have done without that climb on the B6342 but at least I managed to blitz the first crest before my lungs exploded. Thanks to the other Mark (S) for waiting on me and making sure I wasn’t a hospital case.

The next long stretch of bridleway saw us on the east side of Rothley heading south now with another shallow ford crossing at the Lodge before popping out onto the road just this side of Scots’ Gap where we made good use of the tailwind to get us back along towards Hartburn. Once again Mark had us leaving the comfort of tarmac for one single reason – to tease the bloke who’d stopped us earlier – we were headed for his front room window again, just for spite! We did find a lovely steep drop to another narrow footbridge though, well worth discovering although the far side was a proper steep pull out of the Burn’s bank side.

A relatively short time later we were on fully legal bridleway (aren’t we always?) and waving at the windows as this time we stayed right side of the fence although the farmer had done his best (not very unusually) to blend the bridle path into his ploughed field. We crossed a stream gully and were then back on the sandy stretch we’d used as an exit earlier, trotting along fairly briskly and enjoying a bit of freewheeling with wind assistance. That just left the drop back down into Hartburn again on the opposite side of the Burn this time, plus a short return to the Glebe to show those who hadn’t seen it the cave at the riverside.

There was a bit of deep digging to do on this ride but nowhere near as painful as the previous similar route proved and somehow the minimal few bursts of rain we had didn’t interfere at all, the only hiccup being the puncture Adam got in one of his giant cartwheels just prior to the final off-road section on the B6343. Oh, that and the nicely handwritten letter we found stuck to my windscreen on return to the village, chastising us for using Holy ground (the Church car park) for devil worship!

Thanks for turning out when you said you would boys, it would have been soul destroying to find no-one at the meeting place, one of the drawbacks of un-shared travel. Hence the Title.

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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.

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