Going: Wide dirt track throughout, fairly good surface, but
lots of loose gravel in places. Long constant ¾ mile climb from start, then one or two
much shorter ascents. Long fast descent, with sharp bends at the end. Some seriously steep
edges to the track for a while.
Total distance: 6 miles
Grizedale Forest Park consists of over 6000 acres of commercially-worked woodland, which is managed by the Forestry Commission, and stretches from Coniston Water almost to Esthwaite Water. Theres a busy visitor centre with plenty of attractions, while a network of footpaths and logging trails in the forest is marked out with a series of walks and five cycle routes. A map is available from the Grizedale Visitor Centre detailing these, and although the trails can be readily followed using the colour-coded marker posts, Im always happier to have a map with me as well.
The Grizedale Tarn ride starts at the Bogle Crag Car Park, which is a half-mile beyond Satterthwaite, before the main Visitor Centre itself. The official map grades the five routes as either demanding, or moderate, like this one, which it says is suitable for people with average fitness. Grizedale Forest is also unique in providing a meeting-place between logging and the visual arts, in the form of almost a hundred sculptures scattered throughout the woods. There are around a dozen on, or near, this ride, although some are quite hard to spot, hidden amongst the dark conifer masses Bogle means ghost by the way, so stray into the forest at your peril!.
I tackled the trail in the anti-clockwise direction, winding slowly up the wooded slopes for an unremitting ¾ mile, before finally reaching a flatter section. Designed for logging traffic, the dirt tracks are fairly wide, and reasonably pot-hole free. The surface is frequently gravel-strewn, and with some steep edges to the track, a little restraint is needed. Cleared areas of the forest allow some extensive views, and one stretch suddenly reveals a dramatic panorama, extending from Walna Scar, to Coniston Old Man, to Helvellyn and High Street.
Following the black marker posts, the little Grizedale Tarn is passed midway on this ride, the only natural tarn in Grizedale Forest. The most prominent sculpture encountered is the larger-than-life Red Sandstone Fox, standing vigilant on a corner. Just beyond is the beginning of a long, fast descent from the 650 feet height achieved on this circuit. This is what makes the hard climb worthwhile, a straight, thrilling run for over a mile, before the final sharp curves lead back to the car park.
Most cyclists will cover the Bogle Crag route within 1½ hours, and on the day I tried it, there was a wide range of ages represented. These forest trails certainly offer a cycling experience quite different from, and far more exhilarating than, riding along a tarmac road, and I think Ill be tempted back to try the other routes.
Shop and cafe at the Grizedale Forest Park Visitor Centre, another half-mile up the road.
The Red Sandstone Fox by Gordon Young, 1991.
A carved waymarker, one of many found throughout the forest. This one stands by the hidden entrance to Wild Boar Clearing, a 1987 sculpture by Sally Matthews.
A typical Grizedale Forest outlook - a panoramic background view of the fells over a foreground of conifers.
Home page of the Grizedale Arts organisation.
The Forestry Commission's Grizedale page.
The Forestry Commission's North-West England page, including news of a new cycle route to be opened at Grizedale forest this year.
Any comments on the cycling pages would be gratefully received!
Copyright J Chambers 2005. Unauthorised reproduction not allowed. May be printed for personal use only.
Open Country Prints, Main Street, Baycliff, Ulverston, Cumbria
LA12 9RN, England