Going: Not long in miles, but quite demanding in places,
with a substantial amount of off-road tracks and hills. The track past Oxen Fell is eroded
in places, as is the track below Iron Keld. The final permitted bridleway descent from
Tarn Hows is seriously steep towards the end, on the edge of a steep bank.
Total distance: 10.25 miles
Tarn Hows is a well-known Lakes beauty spot, visited by thousands every year. Yet how many realise it is not entirely natural, but was created by raising the level of three separate tarns? It was the creation of James Marshall, a wealthy Victorian industrialist, and part of his extensive Monk Coniston estate. Beatrix Potter eventually bought the estate, finally bequeathing it to the National Trust in 1943.
Here is an obvious target for a cycle ride, but lying at 700 feet above sea level, this isnt going to be without a few hills along the way. The route Ive chosen uses the roads as little as possible, instead following some interesting tracks. Use the OL7 map to pick out my route, which starts in Coniston, and ducks onto the new bridleway through Yewdale.
At the end of the new surface, cross the Tilberthwaite road, and take the lane up to Hodge Close quarry, pausing to admire this vast excavation. Pass between the cottages, and turn off on to a rising track on the right, with a gate ahead. Rough in parts, this rises to provide some good views over Little Langdale.
After High Oxen Fell farm, keep right at the fork, and descend to cross the A593 diagonally to a minor road, which soon becomes a dirt track. This is your route for the next 1.5 miles, mainly rideable, but sure to defeat you here and there! There is a foot path off to Tarn Hows just before a climb - don't go this way!
Look out for a National Trust board on the left at Iron Keld plantation, which has recently been cleared of a dense spruce forest to restore the former open fell. Having previously walked through what was a dark and gloomy place, this really does make for a dramatic change.
A new open aspect takes in Windermere and Esthwaite Water, before a steep descent leads to a surfaced road. Keep right here, and turn right again at the Tarn Hows sign. A steady flog uphill ensues now, finally ending at a lovely terrace overlooking Marshalls masterpiece, a reward youve worked harder for than most others there! Note there is no bike access around the tarn, which is circumnavigated by footpaths only.
If youve had enough off-road riding for now, the smooth tarmac will take you easily back to Coniston. Those still with the spirit of adventure however should look for a permitted bridleway in the top left corner of the main car park. This starts gently enough, but a sign warning cyclists of a steep descent is definitely not exaggerating, particularly towards the end. Keep right at the two forks encountered.
Safely at the bottom, a cycleway and footpath can be used to avoid the road, for the thankfully flat return to Coniston.
None, apart from an ice-cream van at Tarn Hows, presumably only at busy times.
A selection of views around Tarn Hows follows. This is a place best visited early in the day, before the crowds arrive!
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