Going: Off-road tracks round Tilberthwaite and Hodge Close,
some a little rough here and there, but nothing too demanding. Surfaced cycleway from edge
of Coniston to Tilberthwaite turn-off, otherwise tarmac.
Total distance: 8.5 miles. An extra loop can be made around Tarn Hows on the return, adding about 3 miles. Go left on returning to the Ambleside road, past Yew Tree Farm, and turn right at the nearby parking area. Follow the bridleway at the right up to a tarmac road, and go left (for the record, push here, as it's one way, the other way. If you ride, it's not my fault!) At the Tarn Hows car park, you'll find a permitted bridleway sign pointing to Coniston. This is seriously steep in places.
The hills around Coniston have yielded millions of tons of slate since the 17th century, not least below the slopes of Wetherlam. Perhaps the most spectacular workings are at Hodge Close Quarry, set amongst the green woodland between Tilberthwaite and Little Langdale. This ride sets out from Coniston to explore this fascinating slice of industrial history, taking the Ambleside road past the Black Bull hotel.
A new path and cycleway now runs through the length of Yewdale, a smooth surface of slate chippings which starts after the sharp bends, where the road runs under the trees. This avoids the narrow, busy road, and runs at the base of the steep craggy edge of the Yewdale Fells. Bear left to Tilberthwaite, past silver-grey mountains of slate spoil, following the lane through to the farm at the end, and on to the bridleway at the right hand corner of the yard. This is rideable throughout, if a little rough here and there.
Just before this reaches the river, the tranquil site of both footbridge and ford, turn onto the track joining obliquely from the right. This soon becomes tarmac, and rises to provide a beautiful, chocolate-box outlook over Little Landgale to the long face of Lingmoor Fell.
At Stang End, by the little cluster of houses, another bridleway is signposted to Hodge Close, passing through gate after gate on a stony surface until the next buildings herald the approaching quarry workings. Keeping ahead on the surfaced road, the massive excavation in the light green coloured slate bed appears suddenly on the left, sheer-sided and completely unfenced. The breathtaking 300 feet deep opposite face is a favourite of abseilers, while the flooded workings which extend as far below the surface again are the haunt of divers. From the far end two huge openings are visible at water level, one containing the wrecked steel base of a crane, which lead into the neighbouring and equally impressive Parrock Quarry.
On the opposite side of the road, the extensive flat area is actually a vast mountain of rid, the slate waste, and a detour to its edge shows the height above the valley. This area contained sheds where the stone was rived to produce roofing slates, while a small operating quarry remains close by, although the main workings finally ceased production in 1964, after almost two hundred years.
Return to the road and press ahead past a row of attractive workers cottages for a downhill, twisting run, eventually dropping down to the tumbling Yewdale Beck. Turn right when the Ambleside road is reached, and back onto the Yewdale cycleway to return to Coniston.
Plenty in Coniston, none elsewhere.
Looking into Hodge Close Quarry from the neighbouring Parrock Quarry, through the high archway. OK, you won't get your bike down here, but I liked the picture anyway!
Parrock can be entered by walking down a steep, but practical, path, near the first buildings you met at Hodge Close, from the Langdale path. Go to the left near a couple of out-buildings, and look for concrete footings - that's where the path starts. Descend at your own risk!
This is the view of Hodge Close to be had at the top, at the south end. The tunnel entrances to Parrock Quarry can be seen at the far end.
And here they are in close-up - get the scale from the trees on the right, and the people by the steel remains.
A site specialising in Cumbrian industries, with a history of slate quarrying.
A rather more technical page, with output figures from Hodge Close.
Two sites with the divers' perspective of this place! 1; 2
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