I’ve run fixed centre trips in Europe and in campsites for families all over the UK, but this was the first time using this format in the UK. With Brownber Hall booked, 15 of us assembled on the Monday during a very sunny period to explore the local area.
The first ride headed west and towards the Northern Lake District. Our first stop was at Shap, formerly on the main road north but now bypassed by the M6. We were heading for a rural area, so all stocked up at the local co-op before we temporarily divided into two groups, half to carry on, whilst a few of us wanted to explore Shap Abbey. Founded in the 12th century, it was dissolved by Henry 8th, leaving an impressive tower and the usual lines of stonework. Although quite a drop to get to it, it’s location next to the River Lowther was well worth it.
We re-assembled by the shores of Hawsewater. Starting as a small lake, in 1929 a dam was started and it continues to supply Manchester to this day. By its side the Hawsewater hotel had a bar with paninis and cold drinks.
Back to Shap along a concrete road built for the reservoir. Bumpy in places with notices saying closed for traffic, it was a quiet way back to Shap, before taking an amazing lane that runs between the two lanes of the M6.
Orton boasts Kenney’s chocolates and a café, so ice creams consumed before a final few miles back to the hall
Kirkby Stephen was the longest ride. Close to the hall is the A685 and a lovely section of cycleway has been built to avoid it, very German.
South towards Sedbergh descending a pretty valley, made better by using a quiet lane that gives grand views. We headed to Fairford Mill for a morning stop, set by the river and mostly used as an artist’s retreat with the coffee shop on the ground floor.
Out of Sedbergh, through the lanes, via Barbon and a local honey seller to cross Devils Bridge and into Kirkby Lonsdale, home of cafes and bakeries.
Ice Cream consumed as the heatwave continued, we split into 2 groups. A few did the ‘full fat’ version Garsdale Head, whilst the rest of us headed for Dent, a small village on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Returning to Sedbergh along the Dent Valley was delightful after which we returned via the way we had come
Tan Hill, a local word to strike fear into any touring cyclist. Home of England’s highest pub, it required a spot of climbing.
First though was a smaller climb heading east that led to an amazing view and a great descent with the spine of the Pennines dead ahead. Heading north we went through a series of high hedged lanes to finish in Brough, pronounced Bruff, as we had checked with a local farming family who were happily chewing the fat before being quizzed by a bunch of cyclists.
Brough has a lovely ice cream shop and café right by the local castle, so it seems rude not to have a look. Overlooking Stanmore Pass, it was originally a Roman Fort, and thanks to the marauding Scots a castle replaced that, and even though it was restored in the 17th Century, it’s now in ruins.
It was a steady climb to Tan Hill through a barren landscape before the rooftop appeared and the famous pub. A few went in to experience the never ending fire whilst the others descended through pretty countryside to Keld where a garden teashop awaited us.
More pretty countryside on the way to Nateby after which another ruined castle at Pendragon was explored before a climb over the hill and back to Newbiggin-on-Lune via a stop at the pub
Our last day was a trip around the Howgills, the hills we had spent a week admiring from the hall. They are roughly triangular and at 50km were a natural day out on the bike. We started along the Northern side heading towards Tebay, famous for its motorway services and we were to follow the valley parallel to the M6 as it headed towards Sedbergh along the Lune Valley. It sounds noisy especially as the railway runs through, but as the lane dipped and climbed through the valley with hedges, streams and wide open spaces, it turned into a lovely ride culminating in an ice cream shop on a farm where the farmers wife dutifully supplied 15 cones of delicious local product as we sat in the farmyard.
Back in Sedbergh (must get a loyalty card) we split into groups to sample the delights of the cafes, shops and supermarket after which it was back up the valley road to the hall and the end of the cycling.
So, another successful week. We shared the cooking, drank a few bottles of wine, ate a lot of cheese and thoroughly enjoyed Brownber Hall, quite some place. My thanks to all who came, but especially Martin whose local knowledge helped put 5 lovely routes together.