Going: The ride around the lake is on tarmac, apart from the described
alternatives between Torver and Coniston. Hilly on the road near Brantwood. The lakeside
detour is easy. The detour via Banishead involves a very steep tarmac hill to climb out of
Coniston, then a steep off-road descent to Torver, which is rough and broken in places.
Total distance: 14 miles.
I described the popular bike ride around Coniston Water back in March, travelling up the east side of the lake, and returning on the A-road to the west. If only the whole circuit was as pleasant as that tranquil eastern shore, with its broad-leaved woodland and little beaches at the waterside.
By contrast, the road from Blawith to Coniston is busier with holiday traffic, although still with its scenic treats. At least part of that section can be avoided however, so Im going to concentrate on describing two alternatives between Torver and Coniston.
I tried the first last week, heading out past Water Yeat and on up Sunny Bank towards Torver. After the garage, look for a narrow lane to the right, on a sharp corner. Follow this until a signpost indicates a footpath and cycleway to Coniston. This surfaced track offers a gentle glide down to the lake shore, with a fine view of Brantwood over the water.
Just after the second gate is passed, by the shore, a large flattened mound can be seen to the left of the path. Although apparently unremarkable, this is actually a mediaeval bloomery, a charcoal-fired furnace which produced wrought iron from Furness haematite.
Drifting through the campsite, the massive chimneys of Coniston Hall are soon seen ahead. Although its history goes back to 1270, the present building dates from 1580, being built by William Le Fleming. Currently a working farm, the Hall is owned by the National Trust. The attached barn is the earliest dated example of the bank style, with a ramp to reach the upper storey. Coniston lies not much further on from the Hall.
The second diversionary route is altogether different, a much more red-blooded affair! I tackled this a month or two ago, in the reverse direction, from Coniston to Torver. The village is left by the road climbing past the car park on the former station site. At this point, the gradient becomes severe, and several hundred yards of hard pushing follow.
As this finally eases, Coniston Old Man looms near. Passing through the fell gate, the way becomes a broad dusty track the Walna Scar Road. This eventually climbs to 2000ft before descending into Dunnerdale, although our route drops off long before to the left.
It can be tricky finding the grassy bridleway, but if you are still on the main track where it really steepens, youve missed it! Drop down now past the great flooded pit of Bannishead quarry, then between huge slate spoil heaps, and on to Torver. Often thrilling, difficult to ride in parts, this off-road detour isnt for the faint-hearted!
Plenty of pubs and cafes in Coniston, and pubs at Torver.
The mound that was the mediaeval bloomery - come on, use your imagination!
Coniston Hall - the size of one's chimneys were a 16th century status symbol, apparently!
The great flooded pit of Banishead quarry, above Torver, on the High Common.
Any comments on the cycling pages would be gratefully received!
Copyright J Chambers 2005. Unauthorised reproduction not allowed. May be printed
for personal use only.
Open Country Prints, Main Street, Baycliff, Ulverston, Cumbria
LA12 9RN, England