Standing at the top of Beda Fell being blasted by 50mph winds, I started to wonder whether we maybe should’ve missed out this section of the ride. Knowing that there were strong winds forecast and snow on higher ground, we’d already decided against including part of High Street in our route, which definitely seemed to have been a good idea.
I’d heard lots of good things about the techy singletrack around Ullswater, and given the conditions, it seemed like the perfect day to try it. I’d added on the section up and over Beda Fell into Martindale to make it a bit of a longer, more challenging loop, which it was certainly shaping up to be.
The gale force winds were a far cry from the almost spring-like conditions that we’d experienced on the way up from Patterdale, although the long, steep push up Boredale Hause may have skewed our perception of the temperature somewhat.
The wind had started to pick up as soon as we reached the plateau, making it even more difficult to navigate the vague traces of trail, but it wasn’t until we arrived at the start of the descent that we were hit with the full force of the gusts.
It was a narrow singletrack descent that clung to the hillside, leaving very little margin for error, and given that I was struggling to stay on my bike with both feet firmly planted on the ground, I didn’t feel too optimistic about not being blown off the edge of trail. After waiting a while for the wind to die down, it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen any time soon, so I decided to bite the bullet and take the plunge. Launching myself into a tight rocky bend, right into the wind was a little sketchy, but once round the corner, the wind was behind us, providing a little extra push down the mountain, not that it was needed.
After an awesome descent, we arrived at Dalehead, where we followed the road, and a short stretch of grassy bridleway for a few kilometres, before turning off just short of Sandwick, to join the rocky undulating bridleway that skirts the shores of Ullswater.
What starts as a gentle grassy trail soon starts to climb sharply over rocky terrain before descending some steep rocky steps. It continues in much the same vein along the banks of the lake, becoming increasingly more technical on both the climbs and descents. While I found all of the descents rideable, I was defeated by some of the trickier climbs, although I did surprise myself a few times by getting further than I expected to, and was reassured by the fact that even Dan, the former trials rider, didn’t manage to clean all of it.
It was an awesome stretch of trail that was great fun to ride, and challenging enough to keep you on your toes. The scenery is also stunning, although it’s hard to appreciate it fully when you’re trying to keep both eyes on the trail ahead. You can always use the “just pausing to enjoy the views” excuse for dabbing on some of the more difficult sections though.
Back down in the valley, it was mild, sunny and perfectly still once more, and it felt like we were on a completely different ride to less than half an hour previously.
The trail can be ridden in both directions and it seemed like it would be equally enjoyable each way. Unsurprisingly the route is popular with walkers, so is probably best avoided at busy times. However, fortunately for us, being a Monday in mid-February, it was relatively quiet. Once you reach the end of the lake, it’s less than a kilometre back to Patterdale, and not much further to Glenridding if you fancy a post-ride pint.
Although only 18km, the ride felt much longer, and we certainly didn’t feel shortchanged. I’d definitely be keen to ride it again, and even try it in reverse. When the weather improves and the days get a bit longer, I also look forward to tagging the Ullswater singletrack onto a longer loop that includes the top end of High Street instead of Beda Fell. And, seeing as the sun was still shining bright when we arrived back at the van around 4pm, it’s starting to feel like that may not be too far off.
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.
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