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Special Cycling Places

There are special places that we all have on our cycle lists. These are the roads and tracks that help us to chill out after a hard day, and those that we take our closest friends to, and, if we have kids, the ones that we take them along and secretly hope that one day they’ll take their own family there and tell them about your own trip. Got you thinking? I bet it has. 

We’re extremely lucky in the north of England, as there are so many picturesque and amazing routes to choose from – both on the roads and on the bridleways. My own list spreads from the Tarn Hows road and Hawkshead Hill in the Lake District, to High lane to West Scrafton in Coverdale in the Yorkshire Dales. In terms of the bridleways, Mastiles Lane and Great Pinseat have it in the Dales, whilst once again it’s the fells around Hawkshead and the western shores of Windermere that float my mtb boat, closely followed by the dark Peak – quite a list.

‘Which one is top?’ Now there’s a question. In order to answer it, I need to digress a little, but hey, I’m a writer, so it’s allowed.

In recent times, work has given me those sorts of issues that cause deep thinking. Those pencil twitching moments where you think that you know the answer, but you just need some reassurance due to the impact of the work that you’re undertaking. I needed some chill time to be able to think and open my mind. Okay then, bike into the boot, CD into the slot (London Grammar – great sound) and a 20 minute drive to Jervaulx, where I can mix second-work (pedalnorth) with pleasure – the pleasure of the ride and the pleasure of the cakes and coffee! First though I needed to turn the cranks a bit. 

Setting off towards Middleham, the twisting descent straightened up and flattened out, allowing me the opportunity to control some speed as I was whizzed through East Witton and down to the river. Turning left over the bridge and climbing to historic Middleham, the road passed the castle of Richard 3rd and rose in anger alongside the gallops where jockeys ply their trade for rich and famous owners that stable their horses in this special place. The road narrowed and curled its way into this small dale, offering me an opening on the left into the hidden tarmac of High Lane – yes, Coverdale’s secret gem. Trees shadowed me as the high walls guided me to the bridge, following which the lane reared right and upwards, snaking its way to the top of the dale before spitting me out and back down to the River Cover once more. 

A quick climb to Carlton, before turning for the tough ascent to Pen Hill and the scarily steep drop of Witton Steeps into Wensleydale, and a rapid dash along the A684 to Leyburn and onward to Jervaulx for some cake and coffee and conversation with the family that own this delightful oasis of calm in the Dales. My head was cured, my soul was enriched and my ideas flowed like red wine – I was assured and chilled out all in one short ride. 

I’ve used this route several times recently; for a meeting with Clement, a superb French cyclist , industry colleague and friend; with Garry, taking pics for a product review, and with Simon, our new technical editor, simply showing him the beauty of the north and the Yorkshire Dales. There are scenes here that literally wallop you in the face as you whip around the twisting lanes, stopping you in your tracks and forcing you into a frenzied search for your camera. These places differ for all of us, and each has their own special significance. 

However… and here it is guys – they all have one thing in common. For each and every one of us, they’re the place that we ride when we don’t have to but when we do want to. The place we take our close friends and family to, and where we seek the peace of cycling solitude. Yes, I truly love Coverdale’s High Lane, and I’ll be taking my youngest son there this summer, just so that he can start his own list…and who knows the future.