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A Little Day Off

A last ride for 2023 with a small group day off riding in the beautiful North Lakes - we called it a Little Day Off, but it was still a pretty tough ride in December conditions!

It had been a little tooooo long since we'd been up adventuring in the North Lakes and with one final day off in the work holiday bank, just before Christmas seemed the perfect time to get up there for a quick smash around those Northern Monster hills...

So we did the usual things: planned a bike ride, took the day off and checked on socials to see if anyone fancied it. We weren't expecting many, but a group of 5 formed and we had a lovely day out in the North Lakes!

The Route was a combination of a familiar lap of Honister, Newlands and Whinlatter - starting and finishing at the summit of the last of those three climbs where there is an excellent Forestry Trail Centre, caf and car park - but we wanted to explore the lanes around Wild Ennerdale too - so we added a second loop out into this glorious empty land that time forgot beyond the North West reaches of the Lake District. And we weren't disappointed!


Out in to the Wild [Ennerdale]

Starting from Whinlatter we had a cold roll mostly downhill into Lorton and then following part of the Fred Whitton route's lanes that take you out West and South towards Cold Fell but quickly we turned off onto unfamiliar roads through Pardshaw and Ullock before the familiar sight of Ennerdale Bridge.

From this pretty outpost village we rejoined the (now old) Fred route in reverse back up to the stabby climb of Cauda Brow - the low winter sunshine sparkling as a backdrop each time we turned to see the beauty of Wild Ennerdale Lake behind us. This was a day where thick scary-looking cloud hung low on the hill top peaks in every direction but we were lucky all day long. Never more so than on this part of the western loop.

From Ennerdale we took the quiet roads to Fangs Brow and Loweswater before rounding Scale Hill and being faced with the utterly breathtaking views of first Crummock Water and then Buttermere. The extra loop starter was so very worth it. Now for the main course!

Some photos from the first half here:


The Northern Monsters Loop

After a very brief stop at Sykes Farm to refill water bottles and check that they'd be open for our return past later on the route, we decided to press on whilst the light was with us and the wind at our backs. It was the right choice at the time, although we'd realise later quite how strong that wind was!

We climbed Honister from the hard(er) North side, unfamiliar to Fred riders who know it only as a gnarly fast descent into the stunning valley. From this side it's a steady long climb until the hateful ramps by the Gates of Mordor (the Slate Mine) and then it's a purgatory of pain.

From the summit we rolled down into Seatoller (a descent that leaves you with cramp in the hands and burning brakes - crikey that bottom section is steep!) and then around the prettier side of Derwent Water back toward Keswick before making the left turn at Stair into the previously trailed HEADWIND.

Newlands Valley is one of our favourite places, it's a gorgeous quiet lane leading Westwards back to Newlands Hause and Buttermere beyond. It is normally into a bit of a funneled headwind, but on this day we faced a serious challenge to get to the single steep ramp at the head of the valley. Normally far and away the "easy" side of the Hause, on this day it was almost as challenging as the famous Fred side!

The feed that followed the descent back to Sykes was magnificent - only 5 hungry cyclists would roll into a Lakeland caf at 2pm in mid-December and each order coffee, cake, coke and a full pie and gravy to chase it down with. It was sensational!

After the caf we limped back along the balcony road at Crummock Water and over the lanes below Lorton to the cars. It was still light and we could still get home for the school run. Perfect. What a day!

95km / 2,100m^. Stabby.

Here's a gallery of the second half of the day's ride:

You can find the Route here:

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