Cumbria - The Back of Skiddaw
by Pat Lloyd
We left Bella, the motorhome, parked at the campsite at Millhouse and took the minor road to Caldbeck passing through the pretty village of Hesketh Newmarket. The pub here belongs to a village cooperative and has its own brewery, and Prince Charles has been known to frequent it.
It was not far to Caldbeck where the huntsman John Peel is buried in the churchyard. There are two cafes, the old watermill down by the river and the Smithy tearoom opposite the clogmakers shop. We patronised the Smithy and after stocking up with their Fairtrade dark chocolate we took the lane to the left which climbed by Fell Side and Branthwaite passing the bench where many years ago the family had lunch after staying at Carrock Fell youth hostel, sadly no longer a hostel.
The road turned right but we kept to the left past the farm of Howburn and onto the start of the track across Uldale Common. We were pleased to find that since we were last here, when the Easter Meet was at Penrith, that where the path fords the stream a plantation of young trees had been planted along the beckside. It was fenced to keep out the sheep but had stiles so that walkers could go in.
We were able to ride quite long stretches of the track to the farm of Longlands, where we were back on tarmac as far as Peter House farm, and the left turn to the road along the Dash Beck. A grassy bank provided a suitable lunch spot before tackling the climb past the Whitewater Dash waterfall. The tarmac ended at the turn off for Dash farm but we were able to ride parts of the track before having to walk the steep climb past the waterfall. A group of walkers stopped to chat and told us about the mountain biker who had missed the sharp bend above the waterfall and gone over the edge to her death. The path surface had been good as far as this corner and then became rather rocky with a climb up after crossing the stream. Once the track levelled out we were able to ride most of the way to Skiddaw House.
The infant River Caldew had a plank bridge alongside the ford so we reached Skiddaw House dry footed The hostel is back in business with an open bunkhouse round the back for wet weather use. A large group of mature walkers were gathered outside in the midst of walking the Cumbria Way which goes from Ulveston to Carlisle. They were based at Buttermere and had a coach, which took them to the start of each days walk and picked them up and took them back to their hotel in the evening.
The track down Mosedale was very rutted and looked as if motorbikes had been using it. Another bridge crossed the River Caldew but after that it was hopping over rocks for the rest of the streams, which luckily for us had not much water after the dry spell. This ride was before the summer monsoon.
We did not ride very much until we reached the place where there seemed to have been a small quarry higher up the stream to the left. From here the track widened and although it was rather lumpy in parts we were able to ride.
The tarmac was reached where the track to the disused mines went off to the left. The Cumbria Way follows that so the coach for the walkers was waiting here sitting in the middle of the bridge so he had to move while we got past.
We had a grand free wheel down to Mosedale village where we turned left along the fellside to cross the river at Haltcliff Bridge and back to Millhouse after a great day out and the hope of the Dockray Coach Road the next day.
We were pleased with the way our Airnimal folding bikes had performed on the rough-stuff. Perhaps on a wet surface the narrow tyres would be inclined to slip but we had been blessed with dry tracks.