Big Skies Bike Rides: Burton Agnes and Kilham from Driffield
Big Skies Bike Rides is the name given to eight cycle loop rides 'launched' in 2010. They take their name from the phrase used by David Hockney when he compared the sky over the Yorkshire Wolds to 'the big sky' he experienced in the American West. This 24-mile route starts in the centre of Driffield and passes through Skerne, Wansford, Lowthorpe and Nafferton.
I rode almost all of this route a couple of months ago. It was one of my first rides this year, and I've been trying to think of something positive to say about it. To be honest there isn't a lot. In fact, the best part of the day's journey was getting to the start, such as riding along the lovely road near Bracken.
I hadn't planned to do this ride, but only one other cyclist turned up on this Sunday in the middle of January. I showed him the route and we set off from Cottingham. After something to eat and drink in Bell Mills cafe (we didn't go in to the centre of Driffield) we returned to Skerne and followed the map. There is little that I remember about the ride to these locked railway gates. Cyclists and pedestrians can get through, obviously, but I'm not sure how long the road has been closed to motor vehicles. Unlike the pretty signal box and the lovely view at Howsham I passed by last weekend, there was nothing nice to look at here.
We rode through Lowthorpe (NCN 1 bypasses this little village) then Harpham before fiinding the next crossing shown below. This was a more pleasant part of the route, but my companion for the day – despite riding a mountain bike – wasn't impressed by the amount of mud and standing water on the road. (He was thinking of the other residents in his block of flats and didn't want to leave muck on the stairs.) I had that same sinking feeling you get when you invite someone to see a film or play and slowly realise that they are not enjoying it. There's not a lot of room to squirm on a Brooks B17 Standard saddle, but I managed somehow.
Tom actually carried his bike after we crossed the tracks before we cycled off towards Burton Agnes and the A614. If that main road wasn't so busy the competing cycle way signs you can see there would be rather amusing. You can cross over immediately and follow the National Byway route (which I would recommend) along a road marked as a dead end. The National Cycle Network route sends you to the left and the brow of a short climb before you cross the road. Either way you head towards Rudston Beacon. Soon after it started to rain Tom and I went our separate ways at Kilham. (Although it was early in the afternoon it was dark already, and Tom had no lights – he wanted to get home.)
The road out of Kilham was a little too busy for my liking and I was glad to get off it. I turned left and cycled towards Nafferton Wold (not signposted, I think, but there is a house at this junction). This steady climb should have been the best part of the route – it was the only hill. Unfortunately, visibility was poor and I couldn't even take a decent photograph. I crossed the A614 once again and then cycled in to Nafferton. That crossing is marked on the Big Skies Bike Rides booklet with the fourth of five red triangular warning signs. I didn't fancy ticking off the last of them, so I took a more direct route home and called it a day.
This ride came as a disappoinment after the three previous Big Skies Bike Rides I had done. I think the problem is that the eight rides were conceived to promote cycling from the various towns in and around the Wolds. Driffield fancies itself as the 'Capital of the Wolds', so couldn't be missed off. All of the other rides I've ridden so far have better scenery and more challenging terrain. And nowhere near as many warning triangles. There was also the uncomfortable feeling of riding with someone else who didn't care for the route. And then there was the rough weather to prejudice my view all the more. If you are tempted to do this route I would suggest trying another one instead, unless flat, quiet lanes interrupted by busy main roads and railway crossings are your thing.
Other Big Skies Bike Rides:
Visit Hull and East Yorkshire Big Skies Bike Rides & Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route.