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 17.5-mile route starts in Sledmere and passes through Helperthorpe, West Lutton, Duggleby and Kirby Grindalythe. There is also an alternative start from Wintringham.
From point 7 on the official route guide, overlooking West Lutton
This is the only one of the eight routes to start on the high Wolds, the others being from Wolds-edge towns or villages. I must confess that I drove to this ride after a delayed start to the day and then a puncture before I’d even left the house. Despite the constant threat of heavy rain from the angry clouds that hung about throughout the afternoon this ride was worth making the effort for. After struggling for motivation – and time – lately, this was just the job and a very enjoyable ride.
The route goes north from Sledmere and straight away there is a well-surfaced, pleasantly undulating road that rolls towards Helperthorpe. Each time I’ve cycled along this road I have wanted to press harder on the pedals and make the most of the momentum given by the slightly downhill sections along the way. I enjoyed the four or so miles so much that I just didn’t want to stop to take any photographs. In Helperthorpe I think the VHEY booklet could be more helpful (at point 4) and simply state that cyclists should take the road sign-posted “E. Heslerton Wold”.
Dark clouds above the road to East Heslerton Wold. The route goes left at the bottom of this slope
The road to point 5 on the map is narrow and rutted, but easily passable. At point 5 you turn left towards West Lutton, but on the day I added a few more miles by turning right and visiting Wintringham, a tiny village that seems to have seen some development in recent years, but has no pub. The booklet suggest that Wintringham could be used as an alternative starting point. There is room opposite the church for three or four cars and a notice advising Yorkshire Wolds Way walkers to park there.
The church at Wintringham. Parking nearby for an alternative start
Fiddling with my new camera I went all wide screen here just before point 6 and West Lutton. This bendy field looked so appealing I had to stop in the rain and take a picture
There is a short cut after West Lutton that goes to Kirby Grindalythe which is taken by bearing left at a bend. For the longer, and more enjoyable, ride take the High Mowthorpe road (sign-posted Settrington). It is a gentle climb and feels strangely like a North York Moors road. After the High Mowthorpe Plantations the route takes you left towards Duggleby Wold.
Shortly after point 7 on the map along the High Mowlthorpe road (sign-posted Settrington)
Still on the High Mowthorpe road looking north just before point 8. I wondered if the view is of the North Yorks Moors, but perhaps in the distance is just Deepdale and Scardale plantations near Wintringham
Pressed that widescreen button again
Enjoy that descent in to Duggleby
Duggleby Howe, one of the largest round barrows in Britain, if you like that sort of thing
The Norman church in Kirby Grindalythe, with its distinctly non-Norman roof
Almost back at Sledmere. There is a road amongst the trees, and the only Ordnance Survey chevron to face you on this pleasant ride
As with virtually all of the roads taken on the Big Skies Bike Rides, there is little traffic encountered. Some motorists occasionally picnic on the road between Kirby Grindalythe and Sledmere, but I have been mostly bothered by the slight climb out of Kirby Grindalythe. It appears harmless enough, but the first few hundred yards always put a sting in the legs. Another, and final, short climb awaits through the wooded lane midway between Kirby Grindalythe and Sledmere. After this it’s all downhill towards Sledmere House and the popular café there.
This is a slightly circuitous route, with no obvious reason to include Helperthorpe. However, according to the booklet there is at least one pub in West Lutton and two in Weaverthorpe, just a mile or so to the east of Helperthorpe. Cyclists arriving by car and requiring a crafty shandy at the end of their ride might want to start in West Lutton or Weaverthorpe, but Sledmere is a fine and logical starting point, especially if the café is open at the time of the year you visit. The ride is classed as ‘moderate’, but leisure or occasional cyclists may find the High Mowthorpe road, and the route between Kirby Grindalythe and Sledmere, a little testing.
As usual, I still had loads of grub left after this ride, but I was tempted by a cherry scone with jam and cream, and cafetière coffee and more cream, at Sledmere House café
[edit: this Big Skies Bike Ride features in the November 2011 edition of Cycling Active, albeit without the Helperthorpe and Wintringham sections, ridden in a clockwise direction.]
Other Big Skies Bike Rides: