Tuesday, 11 Dec 2018

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley

This ride is a like a good play; it holds your interest and there are plenty of scenery changes. The players are special too. The tall and muscular Howgill Fells are the hero; a delightful ride through the Eden Valley adds a soft feminine touch; and the wild and empty Shap Fells play the perfect villain, especially on a mucky, wet day. The Howgills have a distinctive look. They are a high, steep-sided mass of rock with deep folds and a gently undulating top. Their surface looks smooth, like hand-finished clay tinted with every shade from light ochre to dark brown. And the shades change through each day as the sun shifts across the sky.

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley - photo 1

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley

Sedbergh is the Howgill town, and your start point. It’s in Cumbria now, but was once part of Yorkshire, and is still a sort of halfway house between the two. It’s a book town, like Hay-on-Wye, with several independent retailers, and more importantly it’s the start of today’s first climb. Harter Fell is a long one, and it’s the main road through the hills into the upper Lune valley. From there you filter through to the Eden valley at Appleby-in-Westmorland. The town made do with Appleby as a name until 1974, when the government decided to do away with the county of Westmorland. It was incorporated with Cumberland and parts of Lancashire; Sedbergh was nicked from Yorkshire and the County Borough of Carlisle was dissolved; and the whole lot were rolled up together to form a new county called Cumbria.

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley - photo 2

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley

Howgill Fells. Appleby is famous for its annual gypsy gathering called the Horse Fair, and it is a really beautiful place. Surrounded by high hills, and in one of the prettiest valleys in Britain, Appleby stands on the River Eden, which flows through an incredible slash of red sandstone that was deposited 270 million years ago in desert conditions. After a brief loop out to the foot of Murton Fell, then back across the River Eden to leave it south of Penrith, you enter the third act of this ride, the wild and wonderful Shap Fells. This is where the direct Land’s End to John o’ Groats cycling route goes, and many a record attempt has foundered here. It’s a long climb up the old A6, mostly straight, and with company in the early stages from the M6 and the West Coast main line. They all go through this pass, where Lakeland fells touch the Pennines.

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley - photo 3

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley

You descend almost to Kendal, then veer off left for a lumpy ride that takes you through a string of tiny villages, across little-known rivers and eventually to the final climb, Grayrigg Common. The summit offers a spectacular view over the Lune valley, with the M6, the railway and the river running along it. The Lune leads you back towards Sedbergh as you descend into its valley as far as the A684, turn left and pass Ingmire Hall. Half castle, half house, it was built in the 16th century from rock rubble and since then has been added to a lot, creating a bewildering mix of homeliness and battlements.

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley - photo 4

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley

Howgill Fells. Head north-east out of Sedbergh on the A683 over Harter Fell, and turn left to Ravenstonedale. Turn left onto the A685 and right at Brownber. Go uphill, then turn left at the T-junction and descend to Raisbeck. Go through Raisbeck to Orton, and there turn right onto the B6260 to climb Orton Scar and continue to Appleby-in-Westmorland.  Turn right immediately after the River Eden and go left after the church, then right after passing under the A66. Continue to Hilton, where you turn left and ride through Murton and continue through Dufton and Knock. Turn left there, then right and left to Kirkby Thore. Turn right onto the A66 and first left off it, then go right, left, right, third left and left to Great Strickland. Turn right and right again onto the A6, then go left to Lowther and ride around the north side of Lowther Castle to Askham. There, turn left and follow this road to Shap.

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley - photo 5

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley

Turn right onto the A6 to climb Shap Fells and then descend to Garth Row. There, turn left, go up the steep hill and turn right to Patton Bridge. Turn left, second left and then right to Grayrigg. Turn left onto the A685 and climb to the top of Grayrigg Common. Turn right onto the B6257, then left onto the A684 and left again to Sedbergh.

Start + Finish. Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley: Sedbergh.

Getting There. Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley: Sedbergh is on the A684, four miles east of Junction 37 of the M6. The nearest mainline rail station is Oxenholme, near Kendal, about ten miles west of Sedbergh.

Bike Shop. Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley: Justin Kirk Cycles.

Cafe. Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley: The Sedbergh Cafe.

Local Delicacy. Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley: Sticky toffee pudding.

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley - photo 6

Howgill Fells and The Eden Valley

 

“Best 100-Mile Bike Routes”

Chris Sidwells

 

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