#ColdDarkRides - Rich Wood (AKA @LakesGravel)
Everyone seems to love a bit of GRVL these days - but finding good routes and surfaces can be even harder than it is on the roads. That's where it helps to have a little (read: lot of!) local knowledge. We came across Rich a while back through his beautiful sets of photos and cracking GRVL routes. One to follow, for sure.
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.
Rich started out with a tip bike, then a racer and a BMX as a kid in the 70s/80s. However, in the early 90s he got big into football, clothes, music and going out, so buying that cool as **** Trek or Marin MTB in the window at Pedal Power Clitheroe ended up on the back burner.
Then in '97 after a bust left cruciate in a football match and 3 months ACL rehab started riding in earnest when football wasn't an option anymore. He thinks he's probably ridden a bike every week since.
In the early days he loved mapping out rides with a highlighter on a 1:25k OS Explorer and then he and a mate from work would ride their GT Zaskar and Karakoram MTBs around Bowland and the Dales when they could. In 2003 he moved to the Lakes - since then he's dabbled a bit in MTB races and got round the 3 Peaks CX on a good few occasions. A MTB'er at heart, he's been exploring by "gravel bike" for a few years now..
Chapel House Wood
Staveley in Cartmel
Located at the south east end of Windermere lake, I usually ride it as a climb from Staveley in Cartmel. The grade is pretty much spot on. You can ride the gravel on a road bike no problem unless the forestry have been in and left a mess. It was an option in Tour De Staveley sportive for a few years but I don't think they include it now, which is a shame...
As a climb the first part is a perfect meander up through the woods and then the view opens up of Windermere lake with the Lakeland fells in the distance. In the right light and weather, there is nowhere better to ride a gravel bike in the UK in my opinion.
Follow the fire road or 2 miles and you pop out on the Gummers How road, a quick road spin down towards Bowland Bridge and you can stop for quality beer and chips at the Masons Arms on Strawberry Bank. Tidy.
The ride by the numbers Climb 1.1miles 7.6% grade 443 feet vertical. Full section 2.2miles 4.6% grade 573feet vertical
Birkett Houses Allotment Winster Here be snakes!
This is a beauty of route through the common past Podnet Tarn, an awesome spot for stop in decent weather, especially in midsummer when it's alive with dragonflies and damselflies. If you're really lucky on a hot day you might spot a snake or lizard too. Buyer beware; there is a singletrack section where some minor off road skills are required at the Winster end, but easily achievable on any gravel tyre especially in the dry.
You can link this up from Chapel House quite easily and then on to Windermere town via Lindeth with a nice bonus gravel section at Cleabarrow. Treat yourself to a coffee at Homeground or similar when you get there.
Windermere Western Shoreline Low Wray This can be ridden heading north or south. There is a cafe at both ends at Wray Castle and Claife viewing station. You can catch the Bowness ferry to and from the route. It is ideally located to head into Claife/Grizedale or down to Chapel House Wood on the road, depending on your route choice.
You could ride this on a road bike if you really wanted, however a gravel bike is ideal and it makes a great link for some good mountain biking. Pretty flat with a few minor pulls. Enjoy the lakeshore and the views ,however bear in mind it is a popular spot with plenty of other trail users at busy times. The ride by the numbers 2.9 miles 0% grade 145 ft
Borrowdale Tebay Not to be confused with the valley of the same name near Keswick, this is a little gem of a dale. I normally ride east to west. Leave the Kendal to Tebay A685 road south of Tebay to the gated road. The valley follows Borrow Beck and passes through the rustic Low Borrowdale farmstead where you can often see the chickens and bantams basking on amongst other things, an old sofa! Instatastic.
The meadows in high summer are packed with wildflower with a predominance of yellow giving this ride a warm fuzzy feeling on those balmy summer days. Riding east to west pops you out on the road climb to Shap. Turn right to pick up some other great gravel sections and for a longer ride via the concrete road to Haweswater. The ride by the numbers 4.4miles 1.9% grade 447ft
Terrain Blacktop/UK Gravel/Mixed
The Cockpit & Moor Divock East of Ullswater Not to be confused with the awesome Ullswater singletrack between Sandwick and Patterdale, this is the section that climbs/descends Asham Fell from/to Howtown and is it's definitely worthy of inclusion and somewhere I am looking to get back to soon. I have only ridden as a climb on the gravel bike and took the first section from Swarth Beck which was a pull but then it becomes good solid rideable trail decent gravel tyres and in good weather, allowing awesome views over Ullswater.
The Moor Divock section is more UK Gravel than trail and cuts west to east which you can join with Pooley Bridge or head out towards the concrete road and Haweswater/Shap if you feel the need.
Plenty of pagan shenanigans to be had with stone circles up there, so bag it in midsummer to bring out your inner druid! I would encourage anybody to explore the east side of Ullswater as there are some other superb bits and pieces which I know have been well documented by the Cold Dark North collective in the past. Enjoy.
The ride by the numbers Don't have any. Just enjoy.
You can often find Rich on Instagram under his alias @LakesGravel where he compiles exquisite field notes of his adventures on road, track and trail!