Barbondale Walk

A couple of months ago, my lovely wife and I went for a 9 mile walk around Barbondale. We both love this secluded valley and I’ve blogged about it a couple of times in the past (read about it here).

We parked up in the posh little village of Barbon and headed towards the church. A track meandered alongside Barbon Beck which was safe for Nelly to have a scamper.

She’s always a happy little pooch and today is her 10th birthday. Out of the trees we walked along the valley in the shadow of the incredibly steep Calf Top. We crossed over the road and continued gently up towards Bullpot farm.

At the farm we joined the road for half a mile before heading back onto the hills. With a distinct lake of sheep we could let Nelly free once again. She won’t chase sheep, but a farmer doesn’t know that so we always keep her on a lead when there are sheep about.

Another short section on the road brought us to a long bridleway, with land art sculptures created by Andrew Goldsworthy. The perfect place to have our lunch.

Further along the bridleway there were a collection of bright toadstools. Not for eating!

Back onto the road and past the magnificent Whelprigg, a huge Victorian mansion built in 1834. As we crossed the estate the footpath had a ‘bull in field’ warning sign, so we followed the road back into Barbon.

We finished off our walk with cake and coffee at the brilliant Churchmouse cafe. Definitely one of the best little walks we’ve done all summer, and you know that we’re getting fit when we call a 9 mile walk ‘little’. Helen enjoyed it so much that she returned to run it a fortnight later with a couple of friends. If you’re ever in the area, Barbondale is an absolute hidden gem of the north.


Barbondale Valley is quite probably one of the greatest roads to cycle on. Located in south Cumbria it climbs gently from the Village of Barbon with spectacular views until a steep drop down into Dentdale.


This photo of my lovely wife doesn’t really do it justice, especially as it was dull and overcast last weekend, but even then it was amazing. I’ve written about this valley a couple of times in the past, once on a 212km Audax, where the guys I was riding with had never been there (read about it here). The annual Coal Road challenge also uses this road, but in the other direction, with the steep climb out of Gawthorpe and the long gentle descent. This climb is mentioned in Simon Warren’s book ‘cycling climbs of the north-west’, although it only gets a 7/10, and is called Stone Rigg Outrake, which no one ever calls it. I’ve also blogged about the Coal Road challenge (read about it here).

If you are ever in the area there are so many great roads, but this is one that is often overlooked, which is a shame.

Coal Road Challenge 2017

The Coal Road Challenge (CRC) is an annual event organised by Lune Racing Cycling Club, one of the cycling clubs in Lancaster, and as can be seen by the photo below, a fair few COLTS were joining in the fun.


The Challenge is only £5 to enter, but it isn’t a sportive, or indeed a race. It’s a good old fashioned reliability ride. There are no fully stocked feed stations, no directional arrows (I spotted one), no mechanics to help out and no broom wagon. The onus is on yourself to ensure that you and your bike will be up to the Challenge.

This was only the second time that I had done the CRC, as I was ill in 2014 and living in Hull in 2015 and 2016.The photo below was from 2013, climbing up Gawthorpe out of Dent.


It was cold that year, so cold that the ride had to miss out the Coal Road because of snow and ice on the top. The beard has grown a bit since then.

The proper route, with the infamous Cola Road is approximately 64 miles, with another ten for most people riding from Lancaster, along with plenty of up.

There were loads of people riding who I knew, too many for me to chat to all of them. Some, like me, would be taking it easy, others, like Ian, who rocked up in his Rapha onesie, would be caning it all the way round.

I decided to set off with the first group, containing a good contingent of COLTs, including Danny, Richard, Hobbit, Brett, Craig, Rachel, Jenny and quite a few others. Sorry if I missed you. With Danny, Richard and Hobbit setting a good tempo, the COLT train was soon leading the charge to Ingleton, and the first climb of the day. (Looking good for Ironman Wales Danny).

As expected the short but steep climb split the pack, with myself in no mans land, unable to catch the guys up front. I didn’t ride on my own for long as Richard soon caught me up complaining that Hobbit was rubbish to draft behind. We worked together, setting a gentle pace, until we reached the farm at the top of Newby Head. The farm has a sign advertising homemade cakes, but the place never looks too welcoming. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s brilliant. Please tell me if you’ve stopped there as it’s not on Trip Advisor.

Richard soon disappeared towards Hawes, while I took it easier, only reaching 50mph a couple of times. Hawes = Headwind, so once I’d caught back up to Richard I tucked in behind him until we reached the checkpoint at Garsdale Head. (Photo from Neil Pryde Bikes and Sweeneypix.) This gave me chance to eat a flapjack that my wife had made. You should check out her cakes at the Spar shops in Cabus and Scorton.


It was now time for the Coal Road, and it is a beast. I’ve climbed it six times, and this was my slowest (did I mention that it was a bit windy), although my quickest time was less than a year ago.


The descent was almost as bad with the crosswinds. Half a dozen fast guys then flashed past me, including Beards of Bowland guest rider Mark, TT legend Phil, and the mighty Sibs. There was no way that I could keep up, but they re-grouped in Dent, so I waved as I pootled on by. At the bottom of Gawthorpe was an arrow with CRC on it. Overdoing it with the arrows I think.

The road through Barbondale is beauty beyond words. Ride it you must.

The fast boys chain gang then overtook me once again, and this time I stayed with them for maybe two or three minutes, which was more than enough. As I reached Devil’s Bridge it started to rain, and that was the last I saw of anyone until I was back at the Bull Beck car park. I stayed for a quick chat with various people, along with being handed a certificate and Cold Dark North patch from Deb. Sorry for not waiting to see the rest of the COLT’s home, but I wanted to head home before I got too cold.

The Coal Road Challenge is a brilliant event, so big thanks to Lune RCC, The Cold Dark North and The Edge Cycleworks. You should have a look at some of the photos from The Cold Dark North on their instagram and Facebook pages, very iconic, and I’ll see you all next year.