Going: A mixture of tarmac road and off-road track. The first
section from Colton is quite short, and fairly easy. The second section from Oxen Park to
High Ickenthwaite is also fairly easy, with just one part where it becomes a bit rough.
The third section, after high Ickenthwaite towards Nibthwaite is harder, steeper and
rougher, with one section where you might need to push for a bit.
Total distance: 13 miles
With snippets of local history en-route, two sections of off-road tracks and the need to stare closely at the South East OS Map, theres more in the thirteen miles of this ride than first meets the eye. The former port of Greenodd makes the starting point, with an early turn down the hill to the River Crake at Pennybridge. Pause on the bridge itself, and notice the low slate wharf hiding under the trees on the upstream side. Iron ore from Furness was unloaded here in the 18th century, and replaced by cannon balls and chains made in the local foundry. There are far more sinister tales of its use in the slave trade too.
Fork right up the hill, on what was the busy 1761 turnpike route between Kendal and Ireleth, once the only good dry road north of the Leven Estuary, and now a quiet, forgotten back road. It ceased in importance when the New Road, now the A590, opened in 1829. Through the leafy woods, a right and left should have you pedalling towards Colton, and a right fork to the church at Greenhead Farm. The first off-road section begins at the gate, heading first ahead up the field, but soon dropping down to a line of trees; ignore various tracks leading off to the right.
Head left at the tarmac, and left again to Oxen Park, where a short return to the start could be made. To press on, look for the track diverging left just to the north of the village, which now leads pleasantly on to the little hamlet of High Ickenthwaite, and is rideable throughout.
The road is joined for a matter of yards, before a sign points the way to Nibthwaite, on a track which is distinctly steeper, rougher and more challenging in places. This finally flattens out, to replace loose stones with the biggest, deepest and muddiest potholes to be found for miles!
On surfaced road once more, a descent begins which is almost worthy of an Alpine Pass, a rapid plunge down a tree-lined hillside, on the marvellously named Bletherbarrow Lane. Now is not the time to find your brakes arent up to scratch. Partway down, and hopefully still in control, look out for a fine stone barn in a meadow below, built back into the bank behind, in traditional style.
Safely at the bottom, pass through the hamlet of Nibthwaite Grange, where the Cistercian monks of Furness Abbey established a farming enterprise in the 12th century.
Turn left at the T junction to follow the east bank of the Crake towards Sparkbridge, and then back to Greenodd.
Pubs at Oxen Park and Sparkbridge.
The view of the River Crake from the bridge at Pennybridge. Notice the slate wharf under the trees, referred to in the article.
The track from Oxen Park to High Ickenthwaite. It runs across the picture, passing the trees at their extreme left.
The traditional barn near Nibthwaite Grange. This is seen from a sharp left hand corner on the descent down Bletherbarrow Lane.
A couple of references to road development in Cumbria:
Link One; Link Two
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