Cycling round Appleby

I have an Ordnance Survey book with bike routes in Cumbria in, and looking through it I thought that perhaps one day when I was taking the kids down to Penrith I could then go a bit further and meet up with Penny for a bike ride.

We met at Dufton, where we’d previously met to run up High Cup Nick. It’s a lovely village in the Eden Valley and has a small car park and public toilets (always useful to know…). The cycling route took us along a small road in a southerly direction at the foot of the hills, and through the Warcop MOD training area. At this point an Army helicopter was circling overhead, and we met some Army officers who asked if we’d seen anyone… there was obviously some sort of exercise going on, and being followed quite closely by the helicopter was amusing if not a little unnerving.

We crossed the A66 without mishap (not a good road for cyclists) into Warcop village and then into Great Musgrave. Rather than turning to go to Brough – which would have meant then cycling down another busy road, the A685 – we cut straight down to Kirkby Stephen, where we turned inland to Soulby. I was quite excited at this point as I saw a signpost indicating Crosby Garrett – where the Crosby Garrett Roman helmet was discovered a few years ago, an amazing Roman artefact.

Undulating roads then took us back to Appleby, with a intriguing brown sign indicating Rutter Waterfall – somewhere to discover another time… We bowled downhill into Appleby, past the Castle (worth a visit when it’s open – once owned by Lady Anne Clifford) and down the main street, a lovely old street which slopes downhill itself. A butcher’s was still (just) open and we stopped for a quick coffee before cycling uphill back to Dufton.

The great thing about this ride was that it opened up a whole host of possibilities for other rides in that area, as it’s not far from Penny and Tim’s house, so they know the area quite well. Despite wet and cold weather, I suggested we cycled on Mothering Sunday, 14th March. I drove to Penny’s house and we cycled from there to the outskirts of Appleby, retracing some of our route from the weekend before, stopping at Coulby for a quick photo of the Andy Goldsworthy sculpture.

After Appleby we turned towards Great Asby with a quick diversion to Rutter Force, a gorgeous spot on a beck which joins the Eden, with an old mill and a house which was pretty but which I’m sure must flood. It was well worth the brief diversion and the hill back to our route.

Great Asby was a village with a stream through the middle, which seemed to be a theme for the day. We headed up hill and then up an even longer hill over Asby Winderwath Common, where the landscape was limestone rather than the sandstone common to the more north-eastern parts of Cumbria. The views from the cattle grid at Hollin Stump were well worth the climb, and it looked as if there could be ample opportunity for some good running routes. This was followed by a fantastic downhill before some more uphill in the direction of Orton.

We didn’t go as far as Orton, where some lovely homemade chocolates come from – I WILL visit Kennedys in Orton sometime – but instead turned in a northerly direction back towards Crosby Ravensworth and Maulds Meaburn. This was a gorgeous bit of road, again undulating and passing lovely houses and more streams. We finally arrived in Morland, where we would have stopped at the Mill Yard Cafe, which is one of the best in Cumbria, if it hadn’t been for the fact that by then we were both freezing cold.

Some small hills on the last few miles were actually welcome as they helped me warm up a bit before the end of the ride; my toes were like blocks of ice, my hands were painful (and red, when I got them out of my gloves) and my bottom was wet. However this was a fantastic route and I look forward to doing it again one day when the weather is warmer, drier and less windy!

I drove home with the heating on full blast in the car, ran a bath and soaked in the warm water with a piece of chocolate cake.