Steele Roads & Woolly Hills 400

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Entries here: http://www.aukweb.net/events/detail/20-589/

Steele Roads are lead miners’ roads. The lead ore fell off the wagons and was beaten into the tracks by boots and hooves over the course of years. It glittered in the trod, like forged steel.

Woolly Hills – well, you’ll find out about those.

This will be a ride of lead miners’ trails, Roman roads, shootin’ tracks, and hills. You can dodge most of the offroad if you really want to (though why would you enter a ride promising offroad and then dodge it), but you cannot dodge the Coldberry End track, the highest through road in England.

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It’s 400 km, to be completed under AUK rules, and that gives you* just over 28 hours to complete it. Have no doubt, this will be tough, but I love these hills. I want you all to survive and as many as possible to complete within the time limit, so only about 10-15% is offroad. But I suspect that’s the 10-15% you’ll remember.

A gentle start takes you along the Tees Valley, before the hills and the offroad start to kick in as you climb over the Stang to Arkengarthdale, over Surrender Bridge and the first stretch of lead mining country into Swaledale, then up Summerlodge Dene via the Crackpot shootin’ track to Wensleydale. In the early days of satnavs, the farmer made a roaring trade out rescuing stranded drivers up here.

Out of Wensleydale, the route follows Cam High Road, the Roman Road from Bainbridge to the first checkpoint in Ribblesdale. You could imagine some deranged Roman sergeant, here on the fringes of the Empire, standing on the tops of the fells and commanding that the road go Straight Up There. Which is pretty much what it does.

There’s a roady section up to Newby Head and down through beautiful Dentdale to Sedbergh and around the Howgills to the next control at Tebay J38 services. If you’re really keen, then the Dales High Way is a well-marked offroad route, but I’d not recommend it. I’ve tried to choose tracks that are ridable on your tourers-with-28mm-tyres.

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Dent Viaduct. Roads!

The lovely farmtrack-y valley trail up Borrowdale (no, not that one, this one is in the Shap Fells) is the last bit of offroad for a while. There are no offroad sections in the Lakes, partly cos nearly all the trails are just too rocky, but mainly cos you may be getting there in the dark, and I didn’t want anyone offroading in the dark. So the route through the Lakes is all on-road. A mix of lanes and main roads, plus a ferry.

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Borrowdale

The control at Greystoke will offer food, drinks, a bag drop and possibly the chance to sleep, but that’s up to you.

It’s a simple route through Penrith and over Hartside to what will be the late-night or early-morning control in Hexham. All roads, and hills, and more of the same until you climb up out of Weardale and up to Coldberry End. I hope you enjoy it, I spotted a lenticular cloud lurking over Cross Fell the last time I rode it.

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Coldberry End – you can just make out the radar station on Great Dun Fell

You’ll probably stop in Middleton for breakfast, to gird yourself for the last bit of offroad along the old miners’ trail from Eggleston to Copley. Last time I rode this it was February, I’m sure it’s even more gorgeous in June.

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Steele Road out of Eggleston

And that’d get you back to base. The ride starts in Darlo, which is dead easy to get to by train, and it comes with an 11 am start to make transport to the start easier.

The route is here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/29657320

Hopefully I’ll see you there. If you don’t fancy it, there’s also the 600, and on the Sunday, a 200 and a 100. These are all on-road, and by definition, much less interesting.

*Yes, you, if you’re reading this

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