Going: An easy start on the road is followed by a long steady climb on
dirt track. Plenty of shorter ups and downs to follow. Strenuous mainly by virtue of its
length. The trails are rideable throughout, but pot-holed and bumpy here and there, with
gravel build-up in places.
Total distance: 14 miles
If you fancy a bike ride that will leave you shaken, and possibly even stirred, then head for one of the off-road trails in Grizedale Forest! Back in February when I last sampled one of the five way-marked routes here, snow flakes were drifting in the freezing air, in complete contrast to the balmy sunshine on offer last weekend.
The Silurian Trail (its a geological term) is the longest, at 14 miles, and described on the Cycling at Grizedale leaflet as demanding. Colour-coded orange, each of the many junctions and turnings has a trail indicator, avoiding the need for constant referral to the map. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, as the long curves and twists and turns of the logging trails make it difficult to keep track of precisely which direction you are heading.
So if you stray off the route, getting your bearings again could be tricky, and for this reason I take the OS Map (OL7) with me as well. Whats this demanding ride like then? It starts easily enough at the main visitor centre at Grizedale, heading south down the road along the valley bottom for a couple of miles, passing through the pretty village of Satterthwaite. Soon after a sharp drop downhill to Force Mills, the off-road trail is joined at Blind Lane.
Although there are frequent ups and downs throughout, this first climb is by far the longest, twisting back and forth until finally flattening out high above the valley floor. The trail meanders up the east side of the forest, passing several of the famous sculptures along the way, finally crossing the Hawkshead road at Moor Top. The picnic area here makes a good rest point.
The route now swings across to the west side of the forest, where the views are more open compared to the tree-shrouded east. The Coniston hills are revealed initially, the broad shoulder of Wetherlam giving way via the long ridge to the slate scars on the Old Man.
The vista becomes truly impressive however below the slopes of Carron Crag, a stunning panorama stretching from Ingleborough in the east, round to the Howgills, over the eastern fells, and all the way round to the western escarpment of Helvellyn.
A long, long descent back to the start begins soon after, which is as hard in its own way as the climbs which have gone before. Although the dirt track surface is generally good, total concentration is needed to avoid the odd pothole, and to keep the speed in check on the tight corners, where loose gravel inevitably accumulates.
Cafe at the Grizedale visitor centre. Pub at Satterthwaite.
Part of the panoramic view from close to Carron Crag, looking down on the valley.
You have to be sharp-eyed to spot some of the sculptures. They are quite often lurking in the trees!
Coniston Old Man, from the Silurian Trail. The sharp point is the summit, and the ridge runs to the right on to Brim Fell.
Home page of the Grizedale Arts organisation.
The Forestry Commission's Grizedale page.
The Forestry Commission's North-West England page, including news of a new cycle route to be opened at Grizedale forest this year.
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