Skyreholme-Halton Gill-Malham-Hetton-Skyreholme 46 miles
Click here for a map of the route.
Time to try the big hill over from Halton Gill to Malham. It’s nearly a thousand feet of climbing, gently at first, but the last five hundred feet rise in about four miles, taking you up to some great views along the valley. It was raining slightly as we headed up through Burnsall, Threshfield, past the big caravan site at Long Ashes, and down towards the Tennants Arms at Kilnsey. That’s the pub made famous by the Calendar Girls first calendar launch. At the turn-off for Litton where we ‘wimped out’ last time, we turned towards Halton Gill, forgetting quite how sharp the turn was, and in completely the wrong gear to get up over the cattlegrid. Despite the display of flailing incompetence we managed to stay on, make the corner and find a better gear. Good job there were only sheep to witness it.
There was still a light drizzle, and a bit of a headwind, but we made good progress up the valley until the heavens opened and the hail started. Even quite small beads of ice are really painful when they are fired at high speed at your face. It’s not too bad for the stoker on the back who can shelter behind the captain, but if you’re on the front it’s difficult even to raise a hand to shield yourself. Passing the Queen’s Arms at Litton we contemplated stopping for a coffee in the hope that the weather would pass, but even as we were dismounting the hail just stopped suddenly, and the sun came out. No excuse for coffee, then, and we couldn’t put the hill off any longer.
It’s a long-ish climb but not so steep, and there’s plenty to look at as you wind slowly up. The moor in the middle section was teeming with plovers, and other birds we couldn’t identify. The Pennine Way crosses the road at one point, but there were no hardy walkers in evidence. It was still quite windy over the top, so we couldn’t quite coast on the downhill section towards the Malham turn-off. There was a steep drop-off on the Malham road, but we were out of the wind at last, which made the brief 20% uphill section the other side a bit easier. Then it was four miles of fairly undemanding road, with bits of limestone pavement starting to appear on either side, then the long sweeping road down past great views of Malham Cove, and finally into the village. We just made the pub in time for lunch – lucky we didn’t stop in Litton.
It was after lunch it all went wrong – suddenly no power from the captain, and it was a slow trip home through Winterburn, Hetton, past the quarry and on through Burnsall. What was the problem? Bidons (water bottles in cyclist-ese) caked in road muck, and other nasty substances, and four days to recover from a stomach upset. We thought we’d been careful, but obviously not careful enough. We’ve ordered new bottles now, with covered mouthpieces.