As we drove up the M6 with sun streaming through the windscreen, it seemed we’d lucked out with the weather for our latest Lake District adventure; not that we knew exactly where that adventure would take us yet. I’d intended to plan a route on the journey up, although I hadn’t accounted for the fact that I might need sunglasses in order to do so. Not that I was complaining, of course. After what seemed like weeks of greyness and crap weather, the presence of sun was very welcome indeed.
After squinting at the map and some route recommendations for a while, I decided on a 21km loop from Broughton Moor, near Coniston, over Dunnerdale Fells to Seathwaite and back.
We’d ridden the first part of the route, through Broughton Moor forest, a couple of months previously, en route to Walna Scar, and it was just as wet and muddy this time as it was then. After coming out of the forest, we followed the road up a steep climb to Stephenson Ground farm, where we rejoined the bridleway. Instead of turning right towards Walna Scar, we followed the trail to the left, which ran parallel to a dry stone wall. After following the trail for a kilometre or so over the open moorland of Dunnerdale Fells, we started to descend.
It started by blasting over the grassy open hillside before joining up with a much more technical, rocky trail, where the proper descent began. With loads of big boulders, slabs and loose rock to negotiate, it was my favourite kind of descent, although it certainly wasn’t one that you’d want to come off on, so I tried to zone out the niggling pains from last week’s spill and focus on keeping it rubber side down. The fun continued for a couple of kilometres, and by the time we arrived at Seathwaite, we were absolutely buzzing.
From there we followed a nice little road through the valley for a few kilometres until it started to climb steeply, at which point we turned off onto a muddy stretch of bridleway down to Birks Wood. After climbing through the trees for a while, we took a sharp left turn onto a steep rocky track that we had to push up. At the top, the trail petered out and the route became much more difficult follow, posing a bit of a challenge to the navigation skills. There were traces of a few different trails heading in slightly different directions, so we used the geographical features to work out which way to go. The ground was also pretty boggy, which didn’t make things any easier, but eventually we made it up and over the crags, where we met up with the road again. It was a bit of a tedious detour and we both agreed that we’d probably miss it out next time.
The bridleway continued on the other side of the road along very similar terrain, with rocky outcrops and boggy areas, although the trail did eventually become a bit easier to follow. The sky had been getting progressively duller for a while and there was a definite threat of rain in the air, so we quickened our pace in an attempt to get back to the van before the heavens opened. Unfortunately it deteriorated pretty quickly and it wasn’t long before we were battling rain and strong winds, which hindered our enjoyment of the final stretch somewhat.
Fortunately most of it was downhill so it wasn’t too long before we found ourselves back at Stephenson Ground farm, where it was just a sharp road descent back to Broughton Moor forest. At this point Dan made the executive decision to follow the road back to where we’d parked rather than retrace our tracks through the muddy woodland. Personally, I think I’d have preferred to brave the mud, as the road was a bit of a tedious slog, but sometimes it’s best not to argue with a cold, wet Scouser. By the time we got back to the van, conditions were very different to when we left. It was a reminder that, even though we’d had an extra hour’s daylight, spring was still a very long way off.
Despite not ending quite the way I’d planned, it was a great ride that I’d definitely be keen to do again, albeit with a couple of alterations to the route. The highlight was undoubtedly the epic descent to Seathwaite, but I’d probably miss out the detour to Birks Wood, which, although good navigation practice, didn’t really seem worthwhile. Next time I’d like to combine the route with the Walna Scar loop from Coniston that we rode a few months ago. At around 35km with some steep climbs, it’d be a big, but fantastic ride, with two awesome descents to enjoy. As soon as the weather starts to get a bit more reliable and the days a little longer, it’s most definitely going to be on the cards.
Fancy riding it yourself? Head over to Singletrack Minds to book a day out riding some of the Lake District’s finest mountain bike trails with an experienced local guide.