I’ve not written a ride write up for a while, mainly because I’ve only had a few quick blasts, here and there… nothing significant. But today I managed a quick ride, just for fun!
Another day’s weather, full of threat and promise; some of the clouds so heavy, you could imagine Miss Gluch circling on her bone shaker! And yet, broad columns of sunlight break through to checkerboard the ground below. A precious portion of time has landed squarely in my lap and I didn’t question it. Favourite old leather jacket and riding jeans are thrown on and I head north to check out a Lakeland classic.
So, up and over Kirkby fell, from Pennington… a steep local road, favoured by the more masochistic cyclists… but my 900 twin makes laughably easy work of it. As you crest the fellside, the Duddon estuary opens up before you; the land dropping away steeply to ensure you can measure yourself against the might of Black Combe, standing sentinel over Millom and Haverigg.
And as you roll over the saddle of the fell, Duddon valley promises a worthy companionship for the next hour or so.
Follow this river upstream and you will head northward towards the heart of the Lake District. So turning left at Grizebeck, I take the flowing road that skirts Broughton and leads to the Duddon bridge (famed for appearing on many traffic reports as impassable when the weather decided to remind us of our insignificance)
I take the Ulpha road here and climb quickly into another world… as you exit the trees, high on the eastern valley flank, you come across one of my favourite landmarks. Should this old unit be restored to health, I would miss its cheery, broken-eyed welcome into Dunnerdale.
A few sweeps downhill and you close in on the Duddon river itself, which will journey in an opposite direction as you progress. Ulpha is the first village to pop up… it’s bridge a collection point for the cool beck jumpers who get their kicks plummeting into the generous pool below (be wary though, it has claimed it’s fair share of hospitalised youths who overstretched their abilities)
The road here has been resurfaced, and as you swoop pass the church and post office, you barely can credit that people are fortunate enough to live in such a beautiful location.
The resurfacing runs out after a highly pleasurable mile or so and the road surface returns to “entertaining”. Being a good valley bottom route, you get glimpses of the river, and get to cross it now and again… but the valley makes itself known again as you reach Hall Dunnerdale… but with the snaggle-tooth rock in its maw known as Wallabarrow Crag.
Carry on up through Seathwaite (the Newfeild Inn has always been nice for me - check out the slate floor!!)
As you work up the valley, geological squeezepoints ensure a narrowing of the real estate and the roads tighten up. Only the fool hardy would attempt this place at speed, besides, this route breathes out as well as in and there are short sections better suited to judicious right hand actuation.
It seems to my personal musings that the roads here are weeping… as drought and hose pipe bans loom over the south of the country, the Lake District has soaked up the regular rains, showers and persistent inclemency, which have so water logged the ground that any weaknesses shown by the tarmacadam, teardrops of excess will find its way through and streak the road with rivulets.
All to soon, my intended destination is reached… Birks Bridge… a favourite swimming hole, with a long, deep pool that stretches under the bridge and up to a cascade. It’s totally fecking beautiful, I’m not swimming here today, rather checking out how busy the area is.
Parping around, taking photos, has eaten into my time. I can no longer do a high pass like Wrynose, so I turn around and retrace a while and grab the lower pass over to Broughton mills.
I must point out the high quality of the dry stone walling in this valley, big round cobbles pushed together in an unnatural formation by tough old souls who worked Dunnerdale for a living… but here, between Hall bridge and Kiln bank, the component parts of the wall are huge… fridge sized … and intimidating.
At the top of the pass, you say goodbye to Dunnerdale and work yourself over several folds in the earth back towards Ulverston. Small, gravelly roads entice small songbirds to dust-bath in the bowl-like distensions of the road surface, in pools of dirt… they flutter their cleansing rituals. Obviously less bothered by the dirt-bowl dance performance, pied wagtails bob in front of me, flying in a lazy, vertical sine-wave pattern; guiding me out of the course terrain and into the softer, farmed fieldscapes that grace the return to Ulverston… and there, finally, the Hoad monument signals all is well.
All in all, 42 miles of pleasure