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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…