Way back last October, following an audax from Richmond, I penned in a RSF cycling trip to Swaledale to explore the area a bit more. The danger of booking anything so far in advance of March is weather risky - this time last year we had plenty of snow and ice, thankfully the long weekend this time turned out weather wonderful.
The hostel had filled up pretty fast (with what turned out to be a school party, not of little ones exploring the outdoors, but six formers on a mathematics residential weekend!), so some of the group stopped elsewhere - inns, tea shops, tents & campers!
The Friday morning started out chilly, but bright as fifteen of us zoomed down the steep hill to join Route 71, which happily had been closed to motor traffic whilst some road repairs took place. The cracks in the road were minimal for a rough-stuff rider, but we had been duly warned to take care. The lack of traffic made a lovely carefree start to the ride and we enjoyed views across the River Swale valley as we sped along in the morning sunshine.
Our first bit of rough by How Hill was accompanied by the echos of gunfire from the military ranges and we popped out at the quaint hamlet of Downholme.
The gusty wind helped us up to the top of Downholme Moor. We admired the views from atop as Phil fettled with his bike.
We lunched in sunny, blue skied Richmond. Sadly the ancient centre resembles a carpark whenever the market isn't on - the church and monument become the centre of essentially a big cobbled roundabout - I always think it's such a shame letting cars into this beautiful ancient town centre.
The climb towards Whitcliffe Scar through the woods was delightful; you're up above the town in no time and from this side of the valley the views are magical...
At Marske we headed for the hills for an additional loop around the side of Skelton Moor, then back towards the river, although despite the path following the river course, it was far from flat as it climbed up to Marrick.
The evening sun was closing in and there was now a certain chill to the air as we waded our tyres through farm muck, which is where I picked up a massive thorn and pfffft, I had a puncture so close to the end of the ride (only the second of the day for the whole group). Stephen came to my rescue and we were heading back up the hill to the hostel in no time, which certainly warmed us up.
To say I'd not had time to head up here to try the routes out, this one turned out to be perfect.
A map and gpx can be viewed here
In the evening some new guests had arrived at base, so we spent a good few hours chatting over drinks in the hostel.
Day 1 was a fantastic start to the trip!!