GREEN ‘EASYISH’ ROUTE
RED ‘MEDIUM’ ROUTE
BLUE ‘EPIC’ ROUTE
Swaledale is the most northern, most remote, wildest, and least visited of the Yorkshire Dales, bridleways cover the map like a spider’s web, mobile reception is sporadic at best and there are no cheesy tourist shops on every corner. Could we recommend it more highly? We’d been planning this route guide for a while, so when an emailed invite from Stu Price at Dales Mountain Biking arrived at the office we swung into action. Bikes and beer loaded, we were off, headed up the A1 for a weekend of quality assured riding. Or so we planned. What we didn’t know was that a low pressure heading in off the Atlantic had other plans, delivering the worst riding conditions of the winter with 50mph winds,70mph gusts and horizontal rain. With the spring Polaris based just over in the next valley, finding accommodation was the first challenge, Stu came up trumps booking us a six bedded bunkroom in Grinton Lodge Youth Hostel. Grinton Lodge is a former shooting lodge high on the side of Swaledale with arguably one of the best views in valley and with trails starting from the doorstep it’s perfect for a weekend’s riding. The hostel has recently undergone a mutli-million pound refurbishment making it more like a family hotel, shrugging off the old Youth Hostel image, and for those who don’t fancy the 20 minute walk to the pub, it serves food and bottled beers too. Our host for the weekend, Stu Price is a self confessed mountain biking addict and has been a professional mountain bike guide and instructor for over eight years. Stu runs Dales Mountain Biking from his base below Fremington Edge, planning, preparing and leading rides throughout the year. It’s an ideal situation given the quantity and quality of trails in the area.
Stu arrived early on a blustery Saturday morning and patiently waited while our group faffed and fettled. We were secretly hoping the weather would improve, but knew it was unlikely to happen. Opening the Cycle Store door revealed the first two Polaris casualties of the day sheltering from the rain, they were desperately trying to straighten a bent rear triangle sustained in a gust induced stack. Heading up Cogden Moor it was easy to understand how it happened, we were being blown into the ditch regularly as the wind picked up the higher we climbed. We dropped down into the valley on a bridleway that was doing its best impression of being a stream and 15 minutes into the ride we were already soaked from the combination of wheel spray and rain. As we headed through Reeth every available shelter; toilets, bus stops, cafés and pubs had bikes piled outside them, full of Polaris competitors trying to get dry and warm. The ride up Arkengartdale was grim – actually it was the grimmest I’ve experienced in 17 years of mountain biking. One hour into the ride and we called it quits, it was impossible to control the bike even on the road and there was no chance of completing the planned ride on higher ground safely. Back at the Youth Hostel’s Cycle Store it was now standing room only as it was full of competitors deciding whether to try and book a local B&B or brave the exposed moorland crossing over Redmire back to Leyburn. We snuck inside to enjoy a guilty hot shower and three course meal instead. Sometimes not being rugged has its benefits.
Sunday rewarded us with blue skies, sun and lower wind speeds. So we were straight out and into the climb up Fremington Edge. Fremington is one of those special climbs that rewards height gained by becoming steeper and rockier the nearer to the summit you get. Line choice is important and only two riders cleaned the whole climb, needless to say local boy Stu was one of them. A quick blast on moorland tracks got us to the top of Fell End lead mine then it was straight down the switchbacks to Langthwaite via a ford, losing all the height gained in one fell swoop. Fantastic. The second climb of the day came, typically, straight after lunch, it was eased by the fact the wind was now behind us and was worth at least two extra gears.
We were heading for our goal of the weekend, having been obsessed by this trail since the words were uttered, accentuated by Stuart’s Geordie twang. ‘Schoolmaster Pasture’ – a name just beckoning to be ridden. And apparently at its best ridden with a south westerly, we were in luck. The trail headed up Little Windeg on old mining tracks, a legacy of Swaledale’s industrial past. As we topped out onto Low Moor the wind kicked in behind us and we were soon surfing the gusts down Moresdale Road at speeds close to thirty miles an hour. The return route headed into the wind and our legs started to register the distance and climbing we’d covered. Our efforts were rewarded by the view from the top of Fremington Edge before dropping down the escarpment back into Grinton. One last climb to the Youth Hostel and the weekend was complete. We’d managed to salvage a good weekend on the bikes out of what looked like being a disaster. Obviously, by the time the magazine appears and you get round to riding these choice Swaledale routes, the wind will have eased, the sun will have dried the trails and you’ll be able to savour it at its best. You’ll probably bump into us too as we return for a warmer visit…
We stayed at the Grinton Lodge
Youth Hostel, Grinton, Richmond,
North Yorkshire DL11 6HS
Phone: 0870 770 5844
Room only: £11.80 per person
For other places to stay
Tourist Information Centre
Tel: 01748 850252
Local Bike Shop
Arthur Caygill Cycles
Richmond Tel: 01748 825469
Fancy a guided weekend?
We recommend booking with Stu Price at Dales Mountain Biking. A weekend break with two days’ riding, two nights’
accommodation and one evening meal costs £109.00. Included in the price is Stu’s extensive local knowledge. If you
ask him really nicely he’ll show you some quality singletrack too. Dales Mountain Biking,
PHONE 01748 884356