Big Sky Cycling – a loop from Stamford Bridge near York


The big sky – Yorkshire Wolds, March 2011

On Saturday I joined up with Chris at Stamford Bridge near York to cycle another Big Skies bike ride in the Yorkshire Wolds: my second in about a month. By 'join up with' I mean I met him 40 miles into a ride of almost 130 miles, for him, that is. We cycled together for just short of 47 miles, then he rode another 40 miles home.

Stamford Bridge is a good place to start a ride for someone driving to the Wolds. My drive from Manchester was about 90 miles each way and I'd phoned the Town Clerk the day before to enquire about parking; he directed me to a large free one just by the bridge, and when I arrived, Chris was already there (having cycled 40 miles from home). A 90-mile drive for a 46-mile bike ride might seem a long way but on a Saturday the motorways are quiet with none of the weekday log jams of my previous trip. M62, M1, A64, A166 and I was there before ten after a drive of about 1 hr 40 mins, relieved to see he was still carrying *his usual pile of kit.

A clear blue sky was forecast – the forecasters on TV the day before were filled with pride at what was in store for us on this spring weekend. From Stamford Bridge the route goes north through woodland and winding lanes to the village of Crambe, passing over the York to Scarborough railway at a level crossing with a quaint country signal box. "Watch out," says Chris, "there might be a train today."


A signal box from my Hornby Dublo model train set

We stopped for a snack at the ruins of Kirkham Priory, founded in the 1120s by the river Derwent (photo), then turned east through Westow and Burythorpe where an old church sits strangely on a hillock before a couple of sharp climbs led up to higher ground (photo) past Birdsall. The lines of trees at the ridge of this higher ground had been visible on the blue horizon from miles away but as we rode over into open farmland the sky grew cloudy. What really makes a big sky is the distant ceiling of clouds in the few degrees of elevation above the horizontal (top photo). An empty sky has no roof and there are no shadows on the fields. Chris's camera, unfortunately, was now broken.


Serene hilltop church at Burythorpe

At Kirby Grindalythe we turned south east to Sledmere, south west for a cup of tea at a bikers' cafe near Fimber, and west through Thixendale where you are caught with no escape except a stiff climb in any direction. As we slogged uphill towards Uncleby, Chris's back was playing up and my stomach was puffed up with wind for some reason – eating nuts, I think, or the cucumber sandwich.


Rolling fields near Fimber


The view west from the top of Uncleby Hill

At the top of Uncleby hill we wondered what the fine view might be, then plunged downwards at speed to Kirbyunderdale, levelling out through Bugthorpe, Barthorpe and Buttercrambe, crossing the Derwent river again before returning to Stamford Bridge around three thirty. My stomach was still painfully bloated with wind and I hadn't relieved it in the usual manner. All I will say is I fixed it while Chris went off to buy aspirin for his back. Note to self: don't eat cucumber when cycling.

  • Distance: 46.45 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,277 ft
  • Moving time: 03:52:48
  • Average moving speed: 12.0 mph
  • Maximum speed: 33.6 mph

This is an excellent route (thanks Chris). The Yorkshire Wolds are less obviously picturesque than the Yorkshire Dales, being flatter (not flat) but this provides ideal recreational cycling that is not too physical. The land rolls gently and the occasional steep climbs are short. This agricultural region of England is sparsely populated but enjoys a labyrinth of lanes with virtually no motor traffic except farm machinery. And there's the gorgeous big sky and views to the far horizon. A place to ride lost in thought. For cyclists within striking distance of the M1/M62, you are just an hour or two's drive from the free car park at Stamford Bridge.

*I'd intended to do this ride on my Giant hybrid bike with 32mm wide slick tyres, but the night before, I noticed the gear cable outers had worn to the coils from rubbing on top of the suspension fork so I took my Ridgeback Panorama touring bike instead. It's slightly heavier and I'd just fitted it with Vittoria Cross XN Pro cyclocross tyres with a file pattern tread that I thought might be a bit slow. With Chris threatening to be ruthless in cutting down his kit I was worried I would be easily outpaced (which I would be on equal bikes). As it happens my tyres were fine, Chris brought his usual load, and anyway – he'd already cycled the 40 miles to the start of the route.

13 comments on “Big Sky Cycling – a loop from Stamford Bridge near York”

  1. Mary wrote:

    Wonderful ride out Patrick, sorry about your tummy problems. We had beautiful weather yesterday as well, and I managed a 65 miler, today I clocked up a further 80 on an Audax ride today and had a 'bonk' experience which is the first for many a year. Its not nice cycling when you feel rotten.

    Love all that stuff Chris brings, I have folk laughing at my extensive bag of gear, but you know when stuff is needed, its me that supplies it! 🙂

    The Wolds look like another Cycle Seven possible meet! You never know, it does look fab. Stamford Bridge I think is on the Way of the Roses route??

  2. Patrick wrote:

    Well done yourself Mary. Yes, the Wolds for another meet in 2012 maybe. We need to survive the 2011 one first though. 🙂

    You're right about the Way of the Roses. It does pass through Stamford Bridge.

  3. Chris wrote:

    Mary wrote: ...but you know when stuff is needed, its me that supplies it!

    Yeah, Mary. Who do you think sorted Patrick out when the rechargeable batteries in his Garmin were flat before we'd even started the ride? 😀

    That's right, I lent him my spare set of batteries. (Or were they my spare spares?)

    According to the Sustrans map Stamford Bridge comes at the 119-mile point if you are travelling west to east. Oh, a public service announcement. At the time of writing, the public lavatories in Stamford Bridge are closed on a Sunday. Luckily they were open yesterday :shock:. (Too much detail, says Mrs Bailey.)

    Thanks again for the eggs, Patrick. They all made it home intact in my rack bag, and were a lovely dark shade of yellow, scrambled, and on toast with two rashers of bacon this morning. Delicious.

    [Edit, August 2011: This ride wasn't one of the official Big Skies Bike Rides, but there appear to be plans to launch one from Stamford Bridge this summer.]

  4. Patrick wrote:

    Your spare spares I dare say, Chris. Thanks anyway! In my defence, anyone who cycles with me receives fresh free range eggs with yellow yokes, but you'll need a rack bag to carry them home.

  5. Kern wrote:

    I very much like the big sky picture – it could be the Canadian prairies except for the hills in the distance. The Wolds look like a grand place to ride.

    Did you bring those eggs in your son's chainsaw bowl, Patrick?

  6. Alan wrote:

    Great ride and pics.

    I didn't realise folk north of Watford Gap ate cucumber sandwiches. I'll beware of them when I come north.

  7. Hilary wrote:

    Well done to all. Unfortunately I was otherwise engaged this weekend and managed no cycling at all in this gorgeous weather 🙁

    I can't eat cucumber any time!

  8. Patrick wrote:

    Yes Kern, the chainsaw egg bowl is still in use. Well remembered. And of course here up north we eat cucumber butties with the crust on, preferably on Hovis.

  9. Mary wrote:

    And with English mustard, cos us northerners are 'hard'. 🙂

  10. Chris wrote:

    Patrick wrote: This is an excellent route

    Yes, it was rather good. I have to confess, however, that it was given to me by Roger England from the Hull & East Riding CTC. Last autumn he rode every significant hill in the Yorkshire Wolds (with the exception of one on a very busy road that's no fun to cycle) and catalogued them using a formula adapted from (I think – will edit later).

    I'd like to have a go at the toughest ones – they're not far from our loop – such as Acklam, Leavening, Hanging Grimston etc. That would force me to leave some kit behind. And maybe accept that offer of a lift home after all 😉

  11. Patrick wrote:

    Mustard? LOL – Cucumber is actually a fruit. Cucumber and cream sounds good.

    I'm game Chris. Lift included, weekends preferred, eggs thrown in.

  12. Paul Casson-Yardley wrote:

    Sounds great. I've just moved to Stamford Bridge, and am looking forward to doing this.

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