A Coast to Coast cycle ride: Morecambe to Mappleton

There are a number of established coast-to-coast cycle rides, including the most recent "Way of the Roses" which was launched this month. That National Cycle Network route stretches between Morecambe and Bridlington, and covers some of the ground of a ride I attempted to complete in one day with another cyclist at the end of this summer. What follows is a short account of a coast-to-coast route that includes the Trough of Bowland, the Pennine Cycle Way, The Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way, the Howardian Hills and the Yorkshire Wolds: Morecambe to Mappleton.

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I had initially planned to ride this route east to west. Steve didn't have to try too hard to persuade me to change direction, prevailing winds and all that. Also, it's probably best to attack those hills with fresh legs. Click on the image for the route in full.

Last October I abandoned part of a short cycle tour that should have included the Forest of Bowland on the way to Morecambe. Perhaps because of this failure I started to plan another ride that would pass through a number of notable cycling routes and I set about linking them together in an attempt to come up with a coast-to-coast route that hadn't already been established.

Mappleton is a small Holderness village on the North Sea coastline and has a population of between two and three hundred people. Its beach is popular with families, dog walkers and fisherman. I chose Mappleton as the east coast destination only because it is somewhere we'd taken our dog and like Morecambe it begins with the letter M.

Morecambe to Settle (35 miles)

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Steve’s Trek and my Kinesis Racelight T2 at Morecambe. I had taken the radical decision to go light (only two inner tubes and no camera), but still had tools, spares, a complete change of clothes in my rack bag and a day’s worth of food in the bar bag).

Just after 6.00am Steve and I made the short journey from his sister's house to Morecambe's promenade. We didn't go on to the beach as I didn't want to get sand on my drive train. After a few photographs we set off at 6.15am and were blown along by a strong wind coming from the sea. I had printed a few screen dumps from MapMyRide/Google Maps because I expected to have difficulties finding the right route to the Trough of Bowland (no GPS yet for this old-school cyclist). The first moment of indecision came when the map and our actual route didn’t match. I had expected to follow the A589 as shown on the printed map, but the road we needed to follow was actually the A683. So having unnecessarily backtracked to two roundabouts we turned around and carried on. After further indecision we eventually found our way out of Lancaster and on to the Wyresdale Road. It had been raining a little, but it would get worse as we made our way through the Trough of Bowland and beyond.

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Me cycling through the Trough of Bowland.

My biggest problem was trying to keep to the right temperature. Some time after we reached Dunsop Bridge and cycled in a north-easterly direction the rain got heavier still. The zip fastener on my Pearl Izumi jacket was up and down as we tackled the uphill sections then whizzed down the descents. Unfortunately, when the rain was at its heaviest, the fastener broke and I had to put on my Gore-Tex Windstopper. Steve rode ahead to keep warm and the back of my long-sleeve T got wet immediately as I changed jackets. I find the Gore-Tex too warm, and it’s not waterproof, so the journey to Long Gill was quite uncomfortable and we leant over to our left as the north-westerly winds hit us from the side along with an awful lot of rain.

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Steve at the border of North Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Curiously, other than the warning to drivers of HGV drivers, there are no road signs at the crossroads in Tosside, here on the B6478, and we needed the left turn to take us north. Perhaps both local authorities feel the other should put up the signposts. Anyway, we cycled along the narrow road towards Rathmell and I was chased for about a hundred yards by a small, excitable brown dog of indeterminate breed. It ignored Steve as he breezed past moments later. At some point the rain stopped and we made it to Ye Olde Naked Man Café in Settle 45 minutes after my ambitious estimated time of arrival. Toasted teacakes and pots of tea all round.

(After Steve had done the driving over to Morecambe the previous night, we had intended to meet Steve’s wife Marian only for lunch in Pateley Bridge as she drove back to the east coast. However, as she was passing at the time she, too, stopped in Settle. In fact, she met us at each subsequent stop. I wasn’t sure how I felt about having someone in a ‘support vehicle’, but as I was actually carrying quite a lot of gear I didn’t feel too much guilt about it. In any case, in Easingwold and Driffield there was nowhere to have a hot drink and keep the bikes safe, so Marian’s company and her flasks of tea were very much appreciated.)

Settle to Pateley Bridge (28/63 miles)

The road out of Settle towards Airton is very steep, probably the steepest of our journey. Even before we got to the bottom of the climb I took off my jacket and Steve went ahead. We didn’t meet up again until the junction that forks right to Airton and left to Hanlith. We then cycled along a short stretch of the B6265, a busy road, before taking a right turn on to the Dales Cycle Way sign-posted road between Threapland and Thorpe. A hand-painted sign later warned drivers that they cannot turn round on the walled road that follows. From the photograph below it is difficult to appreciate just how narrow this road is. It is very narrow with nowhere for any motor vehicles to pull over.

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Thorpe Lane. Very pretty, and very narrow.

The entire stretch between Settle and Thorpe is, coincidentally, identical to that of the Way of the Roses (and Settle to Airton is also part of the Pennine Cycle Way). Just after Thorpe there is a Dales Cycle Way sign directing cyclists to the right. We turned left towards Grassington. Steve’s suggestion on the day – which with hindsight was a good one – was to turn right on this junction with the B6160 and go through Appletreewick to avoid Grassington and some of the steeper sections of the potentially busy B6265. Steve’s idea also happens to follow the Way of the Roses, but last October I rode part of a very similar route from Barden, missing out Skyreholme along a Roman Road, and so, perhaps unwisely, I steered us towards Grassington because I fancied going a different way. (I had originally planned to skirt the north of Skipton and go through Embsay and Eastby. But I later thought that would have been just a bit too masochistic.)

After Grassington I began to struggle. On the steep section near Hebden I told Steve to go on at his own pace. The road wasn’t too busy on this Sunday before the August Bank Holiday, but I felt every vehicle go past me as I crawled along. As Steve got further away from me I began to have doubts about finishing. I hadn’t got to Pateley Bridge and we still had another 90 miles to go from there. I just kept telling myself that with every turn of the pedal I would be that much closer to the end and I eventually got to Greenhow Hill and the fast ride down to Pateley Bridge. The cross wind was so strong on the descent that every time I passed a wall (or was it a hedge?) with a gap for a gate the bike was thrown out towards the middle of the road. That was bad enough, but the descent was too steep and twisting to be enjoyable after all that climbing. We stopped for a cup of tea from a chip shop. I needed a coke and headache tablets and plenty of grub. I wasn’t feeling good with only two-fifths of the ride completed.

Pateley Bridge to Easingwold (31/94 miles)

Our ride out of Pateley Bridge was supposed to go through Willshill and Smelthouses avoiding the B6165 on our way to Burnt Yates. However, I didn’t feel strong enough at that time to tackle the hills we just happened to notice earlier in the week when looking at the OS map. So plan B and the B6165. I needn’t have worried about the traffic; what little there was gave us a wide berth. There wasn’t much enthusiasm for photographs on this section of the ride, although Steve took a picture of me eating a banana which I’ll spare you from. I felt better at this point – there were few hills and I was able to keep up a steady cadence – and we didn’t lose momentum checking the route as once we reached Markington I knew where we were going having ridden this part of the route last Easter. These were very quiet roads and, with Boroughbridge being the only significant town on the route, very pleasant to cycle along. We made up a little time to Easingwold.

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Still plenty of daylight as we reach Easingwold just after 4.00pm

Easingwold to Driffield (39/133 miles)

Not far to the east of Easingwold is Crayke and the beginning of the Howardian Hills. Again I changed an earlier plan and went through Brandsby, thinking that a short steep hill was preferable to the long drag to Yearsley. We turned off the B1363 (signposted Stearsby if I remember correctly) by going right rather than taking the suggested road to Malton – I made that mistake at Easter. The Howardian Hills are pretty, if lumpy, with quiet roads that pass through Terrington and Coneysthorpe, and much preferable to the B1257 that thunders into Malton. After a short stretch on the B1248 we turned off towards Settrington. I knew that the climb out of Settrington was a steep one having gone in the opposite direction last October. I just didn’t remember how long this 16 or 17% hill lasted. Ages, as it turned out – although it doesn’t look much on the map – and it was Steve’s turn to feel a little tired. I knew there was another climb to come after West Lutton, but with the wind at our backs we were carried along at a decent pace as it started to get dark. Steve would have been faster, but had punctured and hadn’t realised – perhaps it was a slow one – and we stopped at the intersection with the B1253 just north of Cowlam. Steve replaced his inner tube whilst sheltering from the wind in a very convenient hut he shared with two enormous piles of bird droppings. Nice. After that a fast descent into Driffield with only one uphill stretch to slow us down. No more than 20 miles to go.

Driffield to Mappleton (19/152 miles)

We sat in the car drinking tea and eating stodge. Marian had brought Steve a warm top and a decent front light. I had two Raleigh LCDs, but only one worked. I’d been fiddling about with my Altura Orkney handlebar bag all day after the detachable pocket rubbed on the front wheel. (I had angled the bag down lower than before because I wanted as much of the beam to show rather than just light up my map case.) After a bit of faffing, I had to ride slightly behind Steve as a shadow was cast by the bar bag. Steve had a second wind (or about his twelfth I think he said) and I had to ask him to slow down as I couldn’t see far enough in front of me to feel safe. After more indecision in Brandesburton we headed towards Catwick, later turning left onto a road that wasn’t on my AA North of England map (I had to draw it on with a ballpoint pen earlier) and some more guesswork to take us to Great Hatfield and the final few miles to Mappleton.

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The one photograph that was taken on my mobile phone camera. It’s a bit rubbish I know.

Arriving at Mappleton was something of an anti-climax. If we had done the Way of the Roses we would have fetched up somewhere in Bridlington as the pubs were about to start kicking out. Instead, Mappleton was deserted and as we rode on to the beach I nearly fell off when I hit the sand. It had taken us two hours or so longer than we had imagined, but with an average moving speed of 13.0mph over 159 miles (we had a few detours) and although I didn’t think we did too badly it would have been a lot harder without a bit of help, prevailing winds and all that.

I doubt whether I could have gained the confidence and got myself fit enough for this ride without the support and encouragement from Roger, Jeffery, Liz and others from the Hull & East Riding CTC. Special thanks to Marian for keeping up our spirits – and topping up our tea – and to Steve’s sister and brother-in-law for their hospitality. A big thank-you, of course, to Steve for taking up the challenge and keeping on going when it got tough. For next summer, the 170-mile Morecambe to Bridlington Way of the Roses has been suggested. Watch this space… :)

10 comments on “A Coast to Coast cycle ride: Morecambe to Mappleton”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Well done Chris. That's quite an achievement, especially with all the climbing. Do you know the total ascent of your ride? It must be considerable, and well over 10,000 feet. And did you enjoy it?

    There are two bits of kit that I think make a difference on long rides. As you can probably guess, they are a GPS and a Páramo jacket.

    Morecambe to Mappleton has a good ring to it. Even better than Blackpool to Bridlington! Perhaps we can add your route to our cycle routes page.

  2. Mary wrote:

    Fantastic Chris, what a brilliant ride... Tough going too. You both have my deepest respect for tackling such a long ride in poor conditions and doing the lot in one hit. I have been keeping a careful eye on the opening of 'The Way of the Roses' and the map from Sustrans flopped onto my door mat the other day.

    I fancy running this ride in one go as well, to mark a 300km Audax ride. (273km from Morecambe), but if I cycle it from Silverdale it pretty much fits the distance. Maybe in late summer next year?? Who knows. Like you – watch this space...

    I can vouch for the Paramo jacket too. ROde mine for the first time in a strong gale (force 8) in a monsoon and got to work warm (not sweaty) and dry. Sadly they dont do leggings or over trousers to match that are light weight enough to cycle in. (Maybe one day though). Its cool enough to be used as a light weight sweater, light enough that you can wear a base beneath to give it extra warmth, and very water proof indeed, with bags of ventalation. Pricy though, but if you saw how many jackets I now have and dont wear...

    Yep, def. one for the Cycle Routes Page.

    Well done to everyone involved with your ride. :)

  3. Garry wrote:

    A mighty ride. A comment, "toasted teacakes" are not the best thing to eat on a marathon ride like this. You'll get sugar spikes. A cheese sandwich or "proper food" will help you go better! That's a mighty ride. I've not done one like it. I once did 215 miles in a day (Ring of Kerry from Cork) but that did not have the gradients which one meets as a matter of course in England. England is brutal on its back roads.
    I have had a Paramo jacket for years. It's a bulky one and I sometimes use it for winter cycling. It's took bulky to take on tour, but it's my "anorak" and looks like new after maybe 10 years. Nothing breathes like them.
    As they say nowadays, Respect!

  4. Chris wrote:

    Thanks for the kind words, folks.

    Patrick wrote: And did you enjoy it? That's the thing.

    Yes, I did enjoy this ride. Very much. We kept away from busier roads where possible, and it's difficult to avoid delightful views of the countryside when taking quiet routes through the Yorkshire Dales and Wolds, and areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Forest of Bowland and Howardian Hills. Apart from my wobble on the way to Pateley Bridge it only hurt on the climb out of Settrington when my thighs started to tighten up. I've never been into racing, or time trials which always seemed to take place on 'A' roads. For me it's as much about the scenery as the cycling.

    Mary wrote: I fancy running this ride ['The Way of the Roses'] in one go as well... Maybe in late summer next year??

    If I was to to something like this again I would try to do it earlier in the summer (as we had originally planned), when the days are longer, and the weather possibly better. 300k is a fair way to do, but why not? :D

    Garry wrote: A mighty ride. A comment, "toasted teacakes" are not the best thing to eat on a marathon ride like this. You'll get sugar spikes.

    Of course you know your stuff, Garry, but if I couldn't have a toasted teacake (to supplement my bananas, fig rolls, flap jacks, granola bars, cashew nuts and fun-sized Mars Bars) I'd give it up tomorrow. :wink:

  5. Patrick wrote:

    Toasted teacakes and tea sounds fine to me. Eat and drink only what you enjoy, I reckon. There are as many opinions on the right type of food as there are types of food. I'd take lots of peanuts, some banana, choccy biscuits, an egg (maybe), apple pie, and the cheese sandwich sounds good with pickle – washed down with Vimto. But that's just me. The early explorers of New Zealand went for days with nothing to eat at all. It's in the mind.

    Chapeau.

  6. Hilary wrote:

    Thats a monster ride in such hilly country. That hill out of Settle is a beast on a short ride, on a ride of that length it doesn't bear thinking about!

    As Patrick said, 'Chapeau!'

  7. Andy wrote:

    Paramo jacket!

    Hello – I'm a friend of Mary (and her hubby) and came here to read her Blog on the IOM e2e which I also rode. I note the enthusiasm for the Paramo product amongst you guys but which one(s) do you use?

    Cheers

    Andy

  8. Patrick wrote:

    Mine is a Páramo Quito jacket. Fully waterproof, breathable, etc. Mary's is a lighter one and I think she's very pleased with it too – not sure which model.

  9. Andy wrote:

    Cool – thanks for that – have to go to That London soon and see they have a shop in Covent Garden so will take a look...

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