Going: Gradual easy ascent on tarmac through Kentdale.
The off-road section starts with an easy climb, on a fairly good surface, which continues
on the top flat. The descent to Longsleddale just gets steeper and steeper, and rougher
and rougher. It eventually eases to a rideable section. The rest is tarmac, with some
short hills after Garnett Bridge.
Total distance: 16 miles
We forget in this electricity-dominated era just how important water power once was. Nowhere was this was more so than around the course of the River Kent, where ninety mills flourished in the first part of the 19th century. The Kent drops 1000ft in twenty-five miles, reputedly making it the swiftest river in the country.
This ride sets out from Staveley to follow its waters up the valley to Kentmere, a scattered collection of dwellings over-shadowed by a ring of high fells. Kentmere Tarn, now little more than a widening of the river, but once much larger, lies across the meadows. Bear right towards Green Quarter, and continue up the rising lane towards Overend.
In the distance the waters of Kentmere reservoir can be glimpsed, built to even out the water flow for the mill owners. A County Byway on the right is signed to Sadgill, our next destination, in neighbouring Longsleddale.
This unsurfaced track over a low fell is easily rideable, that is until the descent to Sadgill begins. It then becomes a very steep jumble of loose stones, where progress is slow and painful. A party of cyclists were struggling up, and reduced to carrying their bikes on their shoulders, plaintively enquired "Are we nearly at the top?"
Longsleddale is worth the battle however; to the left, the track winds away below towering crags towards the wilds of Gatescarth Pass, a 2000ft route into flooded Mardale. Our route turns to the right however to follow the tarmac road down the valley, which is home to a few farms and little more. There are no ice cream vans, shops or pubs here, the long lane putting off most casual visitors.
This quiet valley provided the inspiration for John Cunliffes Postman Pat stories, set in the fictional village of Greendale, and animated for TV in the 1980s. Near the church, Ubarrow Farm contains the remains of a 14th century pele tower, unusual in the secluded Lake District valleys.
The bubbling River Sprint shares the journey down the dale until Garnett Bridge is reached, site of a former bobbin mill. Cross to the right here to follow a pleasant leafy lane, with the river far below now. Turn right at the next two junctions along this undulating section of the ride, which offers a panoramic view over Kendal at one point.
The weir at Barley Bridge in Staveley is finally reached, where a 19th century mill stands grey and grim over the River Kent. Strange to think that this fell-backed corner of Cumbria once boasted an industrial mill for every 315 inhabitants, against one per 1000 people in Birmingham!
None en route.
Kentmere village, with the church to the right. The dale is almost divided here by the significant rocky bar seen behind the village.
The upper section of Kentdale, seen from the turn-off onto the county road to Longsleddale. The surrounding hills form a complete horseshoe.
The final part of the descent into Longsleddale, at Sadgill, looking north. A rideable section at last after the painful preceding descent!
The River Sprint at Garnett Bridge.
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.
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