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#ColdDarkRides - Mary Wilkinson

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

#ColdDarkRides are here to inspire your winter planning and give you an insight into the roads that our friends in the Cold Dark North love to call their favourites.

The brief for some of our favourite local riders, brands and photographers remains the same: give us 5 photos and descriptions of the places you love to ride and a bit of blurb on yourself. Over the coming months we'll be sharing their secret climbs, epic rides and favourite spots here in the Road Gauge and on Instagram.

A former GB standard runner, Mary Wilkinson only started cycling 5 years ago after finally accepting she wasn’t going to win the battle with an injury that stopped her running. She picks up her story...

Once I committed to cycling in 2017 my initial focus was on Hill Climbs and I subsequently braved the world of Road Racing the following year at the legendary Cold Dark North Oakenclough event and even dabbled with cyclocross last year. With 3 seasons under my belt I guess I’m now officially a cyclist?

I’m incredibly lucky to live where I do, right on the border of the Yorkshire Dales and the Forest of Bowland, with the Lake District only a 30minute drive away too. I’m surrounded by the most amazing scenery and brilliant climbs. It is virtually impossible to go for a ride without at least one substantial ascent or continually rolling roads, it’s easy to see why northern (and especially Yorkshire) riders are so strong! Luckily, I love hills!

Halton Gill || 1.6km @7.7%

The stretch of road that traverses the base of the Penyghent from Halton Gill to Stainforth is probably my all-time favourite (or at least within a 10-mile radius of my house!). Ridden in either direction it is simply stunning and never fails to put a smile on my face.

I’ve chosen the ascent from the tiny hamlet of Halton Gill which snakes its way up the hillside with views all the way down the Wharfedale Valley but it’s once you’ve crossed the 3rd (!) cattle grid that the real beauty is revealed as the road hugs the valley side and all the way around the base of the imposing shadow of Penyghent.

It really is hard to take your eyes off the majestic mountain and valley to your left. The character of this road is always special whatever the weather; amazingly beautiful in the sun and dramatically moody in the wet. Once you reach Dalehead you can enjoy the long sweeping descent towards Stainforth but don’t forget to look back as you because the views are equally as special behind you (or you could just ride it both ways!).

Darnbrook, Arncliffe || 0.8km @9.9%

I was going to choose the Brootes lane climb from Arncliffe but this way you get to descend that (and it’s a great descent) and then go on to climb Halton Gill (plus Brootes Lane is an absolute beast!).

Rolling over the moor from Malham Tarn you’ll get to ride on what is perhaps Yorkshires best road surface and enjoy the long, gradual descent to a Robinson’s Pot Farm and a gate (if you’re lucky it will be open, if not make sure you’re in a climbing gear before you stop!) which signals an abrupt upturn in the road and the start of the ascent up the switchback of Darnbrook. A steep start is accompanied by beautiful views back across the Malham Moor you’ve just crossed and more often than not a lamb sat in the road salt container(!). This is followed by a more gradual grind to a cattle grid and the top which reveals the stunning geography of the Wharfedale valley and views down to the village of Arncliffe. Enjoy the descent it’s a cracker!

Hawthorns Lane, Malham || 1.4km @9.9%

Compared to the better-known climbs around Malham this little piece of road looks pretty insignificant, a strip of tarmac to a farm and on a road bike this is a dead-end but it’s well worth the effort of ascending. But, on a gravel, MTB or cross bike it opens up a whole expanse of tracks and trails on Malham Moor and Weets Top.

This is one of my go to hills for rep sessions thanks to the very limited traffic (be warned though if there are any vehicles, they are generally not expecting to meet you so keep alert!). It is also incredibly beautiful. Leaving the village of Malham behind you, ride out along Gordale Lane towards Goredale Scar. Hawthorn Lane reveals itself winding its way up the opposite hill side to the right of the Scar as you crest the hill before a small descent to Janet’s Foss (worth a walk down to if you have time). You then ride past the path to Gordale Scar and beauty that holds.

Once at the top the views on the return leg are equally as spectacular looking back across towards Malham and beyond. On a road bike make the most of Malham and the many brutal climbs that leave from the village.

Black Park, Barden || 1.4km @10.2%

Connecting the Wharfedale valley to the market town of Skipton the road that rises from Barden is looks pretty imposing but once you start climbing it’s nowhere near as hard as it appears. As you climb the expanse of Barden Moor to your right reveals its self together with the multiple reservoirs that occupy it.

Once over the cattle grid at the top a glance over your shoulder reveals the extensive beauty of the Bolton Abbey Estate with the peak of Simons Seat in the background. Continue over the final kick to the summit and you are rewarded with yet more views this time on your right towards Ilkley and ahead of you towards Embsay and your ultimate destination of Skipton.

Knotts Lane, Tosside || 3.1km @3.7%

My final choice is a less known road that connects Pendle with the Forest of Bowland usually going unnoticed in comparison to the better-known roads of Waddington Fell and Grindleton Fell but it’s a little gem. Pretty much marking the boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire the climb starts as you turn off the Wigglesworth to Bolton by Bowland road at Forest Becks.

Early on you’re treated to sweeping views of Pendle Hill to you left and as you continue towards your destination of Tosside the Yorkshire 3 Peaks reveal themselves in the distance. One of the. Combining this with the many quiet lanes that criss-cross this area you can easily accumulate serious amounts of ascent without traveling miles. This is my local go to area to ride when I need to stay relatively close to home but want to cram in as much climbing as possible.

By day, Mary is either tending to her lambs or out breaking hearts on Strava segments - but at the weekends, you can find her taking part in Hill Climbs and Road Races or even racing on Zwift (#upyoursindoors!). She's on Instagram here and you'll want to follow just for the lamb stories if nothing else!

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