Saturday 12th April 2014

Dunnerdale is one of the quieter parts of the Lake District and it has a fair share of classic bridleways to choose from.

I met Gary and Martin from Kendal for this ride at Torver, and we made our way to the woods on Broughton Moor, picking up the singletrack bridleway that cuts across the fireroads, steadily loosing height on some fun technical terrain. This gives way to a fireroad climb by the River Lickle to the edge of the woods at Natty Bridge where we picked up the bridleway that descends down the other side of the stream to Stephenson Ground. This track is classic Dunnerdale, well drained and plenty of technical sections to keep you on your toes.

From Stephenson Ground, we headed for Kiln Bank Cross on the bridleway that contours round by Jackson Ground. It's well worth opting for this bridleway, rather than the Long Mire option, which although cuts the corner, is pretty boggy and best avoided. At Kiln Bank Cross, the Park Head Road Bridleway is picked up, leading to the brilliant Newfield descent to Seathwaite, a full on boulder strewn bridleway that is far too easy to get carried away on.

At Seathwaite, we decided there was still plenty of time before making our way back to Coniston, so headed for Birks Bridge to add in an additional loop leading to the Wallowbarrow descent. Again there is a shorter bridleway option at Fickle Crag, which involves a precarious roped river crossing, followed by a muddy trudge, so the Birks bridge route, despite being further, is probably just as quick and more worthwhile.

The Wallowbarrow descent itself comes up on you all of a sudden if you aren't ready for it and is pretty full on, particularly at the bottom, packed with more often than not greasy, hard edged boulders. I don't think I've ever been down it when the rock has been grippy, but again it's classic Lakes bridleway material and you just want to loop round again to have another go at it.

Returning to Seathwaite, it was time for the big climb of the day, up the Walna Scar Road (no tarmac involved!) to get back over to Coniston. The climb is fairly relentless, but it is all rideable if you have the gears and legs for it. About two thirds of the way up, we hit the cloud level and from that point onwards it was a white out. Walna Scar is wide and well defined on both sides though, so there are no worries on going wrong in poor visibility.

The descent down to Coniston down Walna Scar has changed a fair bit of the years. The top section is great fun, with switchbacks and plenty of loose rock to contend with. The middle section however has now been given the steam roller treatment and is a mild affair, with little interest. We had a strong westerly wind behind us today though, so hit some fairly high speeds on this section, making up for the lack of technical content.

At the car park for the Walna Scar road, we deviated right for a short distance to pick up the bridleway that drops you down to Bowmanstead. This is a recommended option, rather than wasting the last 300 hundred or so feet of altitude on tarmac.

Once down to the A road, we picked up the disused railway line, recently opened up to bikes, to take us the 2 miles back to Torver.

Stats 'n that

Location info

How far and how long:

24.37 miles, 5 hours

Who was with me:

Gary Cotton, Martin Sharpe
The bridleway descending from Natty Bridge

The bridleway descending from Natty Bridge

Gary and Martin in a white out at the top of Walna Scar.

Gary and Martin in a white out at the top of Walna Scar.

Dropping down to Coniston off Walna Scar.

Dropping down to Coniston off Walna Scar.