Over the top - Day ride

Published: 02:21PM Nov 4th, 2011
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A long day over the North York Moors, courtesy of IMTC – the International Motorcycle Tour Club.

Over the top - Day ride

From the top of Chimney Bank

Sunday morning often sees a group of us meeting up for a day’s ride out. This time we started at one of the IMTC’s favourite cafes for breakfast just outside Gainsborough. With full tanks, we headed off eastwards through Gainsborough on the A631, then turned left on to the B1398 and travelled along quiet B and unclassified roads through Kelsey and Melton Ross to Barton-upon-Humber, and over the spectacular bridge. The tide was out and the views down the estuary were superb, the weather dry and clear.

On the other side, we turned west, then north on unclassified roads to the quaint sounding Cherry Burton and the comical sounding Wetwang. Wetwang might sound like a joke, but it really does exist and Richard Whiteley, former host on Channel 4 show Countdown, was once mayor of this pretty little Wolds village. Instead of heading for the popular Seaways bikers’ cafe at Fridaythorpe, we turned north to Sledmere, which is famous for the Georgian Sledmere House and Gothic Sledmere Monument.

After lunch at Sledmere, we carried on north on more unclassified roads through West Lutton and Yedingham onto the main A170. Three of us (all riding BMW GSs, as it happens) decided to split off here, as we wanted to ride the forest road from Levisham. This starts from Levisham station on the North York Moors Railway – the public road stops, but you can carry on over the level crossing and along the private road. The surface is reasonable if it hasn’t rained – there’s 200 yards of unsurfaced dirt, followed by two miles of Tarmac and another two miles of graded forest road. All are passable with care (we saw an R1 coming the other way!) and we reached public Tarmac again without a problem.

We met up with the rest of our group at Rosedale Abbey, which has never actually been an abbey. In the 12th century, a group of Cistercian nuns built a priory here, though all that’s left of it now is the stone stair turret at the back of the Victorian church.

Back with the main group, we rode up Chimney Bank to Hutton-le-Hole. This hill is notoriously steep, believed to be one of the steepest surfaced roads in Britain, and said to be greater than 1-in-3. At the top, there’s a sign advising cyclists to dismount, which makes sense – could the average cycle brakes cope with 1-in-3? Chimney Bank has been used for hillclimb events in the past, which must have been spectacular. The view from the top over Spaunton Moor certainly is, the heather in full bloom when we were there, turning miles of moorland into a purple carpet as far as you could see.

Heading south now, we crossed the A170 at Keldholme and again followed unclassified roads, this time ending up at Barton-le-Street on the B1257. Turning right onto this road, then left, took us through the grounds of Castle Howard to join the A64. This 18th century stately pile (Castle Howard, not the A64) is one of the most famous landmarks in North Yorkshire, set in the Howardian Hills and surrounded by a large estate. Renowned as the location for both screen versions of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited.

We turned right onto the A64, then off again after about half a mile to Kirkham Priory, where the Augustinian priory ruins lie in a very peaceful spot by the River Derwent. Unclassified roads again through the village of Leavening onto the A166. Right then left to Great Givendale, Millington and Kilnwick Percy, where we finished the ride at the tearoom. Kilnwick Percy Hall is now the Madhyamaka Buddhist Centre, which also has a cafe, and we enjoyed excellent cake, sitting in the garden soaking up the sun.

About 280 miles (for me door to door) over a mixture of A, B and unclassified roads through some of Yorkshire’s best topography. A great day’s motorcycling.

Words & Pictures: Dave Audin

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