Going: Tarmac road throughout. Gradual ascent from Ulverston to
Woodland turn-off, never really steep. Gated road around Great Burney, gravel-strewn in
Total Distance: 16 miles
Just a few miles north of Ulverstons bustling centre lies the habitat of toad, damselfly and dragonfly, in a tranquil area of mosses below a shapely hill, Great Burney. This ride sets off up Soutergate, and then takes Old Hall Road to leave the houses behind, climbing gradually between green pastures towards the remote hamlet of Netherhouses on a pleasant lane.
Bear right, then left by the farm to reach a T junction, and continue below the wind turbines to the right. The Coniston Hills soon become visible, where the Grizebeck road is joined. The ascent towards Gawthwaite continues, until the old slate workings are passed, when a height of 630 feet has been achieved. The main road here marks a distinct boundary between the rolling, heather-covered Kirkby Moor, and the miniature fell country to the north, where the bracken holds sway.
Look out now for the turn to Woodland, and the beginning of five glorious miles of twisting curves and fast descents, first crossing the lonely peat bogs of Subberthwaite Common. There are grand views to be enjoyed from here, to the Duddon Estuary, overlooked by Black Combe and the long tract of moorland behind, to Dow Crag and the Old Man in the background, and to the small fells of Blawith Knott and Tottlebank Heghts in the foreground.
The seasonal pools here provide a breeding ground for the yellow-striped Natterjack Toad in spring, while several species of damselflies, delicate, brightly coloured insects are also found in this little-visited corner of Cumbria. Hawker dragonflies appear later in the summer, having hatched in the pools, darting restlessly to and fro. Essentially tropical insects, they have been around for over 300 million years.
Resist the temptation to burn across this common, a large hollow in the Lakeland foothills and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and take a few minutes to absorb the silence, broken only by bird-song. It seemed perfectly natural to come across an artist sat by the roadside here recently, easel set up and a landscape in oils in progress!
Take the first turn right, keeping right again towards Crooked Birch, and the first of a series of gates to be opened and closed. The outlook changes now to overlook the Crake Valley, and apart from one wickedly sharp rise up a bank, some good downhill runs follow, finally ending by a burbling stream under a peaceful glade at the Lowick road.
Head right here, crossing the main road again, for a steady, but never trying, ascent back to the Broughton Beck road, and an easy ride up and down the dips back into Ulverston.
A detour to Lowick would allow the Red Lion to be visited.
The road towards Subberthwaite Common, soon after leaving the main A5092 road. The slopes of great Burney are to the right, and the distant fells overlook the Duddon Valley.
A little further on, Subberthwaite Common lies in the foreground, overlooked by Blawith Knott. The hills in the background are, from left to right, the flat shelf of Walna Scar, the sharp peak of Dow Crag, and Coniston Old Man. The ride follows the road in the picture, making an unseen right turn around the centre of the view.
As Burney is rounded, the Crake Valley, running between Coniston Water and Greenodd, comes into view.
All about Cumbria's amphibians!
And all about dragonflies in Cumbria!
Both links are on the same interesting site, with lots on wildlife in Cumbria.
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