“Roll-up! Roll-up! Calling all Knights. You are cordially welcome to take part in a jousting tournament at Castle Howard!” Given the nature of today’s route it should have said “Climb-up Roll-down”. Many Knights were obviously up for the challenge as we achieved our best turn out this year.
Having so many at Market Cross meant we split into four groups. “King Arthur” had preselected the groupings to set off in five minute intervals. The “Sir Lancelot” group consisting of James G, Michael, James M and Matthew P, led the way (you can argue amongst yourselves about who was “Lancelot”)
The “Sir Gawain” group followed promptly five minutes later consisting of Pugwash, Olivier, Paul, Iain & Colin. The “Sir Geraint” group consisted of Karl, Smithy, Chad, Matty & Brian. “King Arthur” led the rearguard action along with Lady Heather, Stephen, Lady Sharrin and Steve G.
The first part of the journey took us along familiar territory through Etton, Holme-on-the-Wolds, Middleton-on-the-Wolds, North Dalton and Huggate. Thereafter, we were treated to some spectacular scenery as we wound our way through Thixendale, Leavening and Barton-Le-Willow. The showers that were forecast fortunately came to naught. As the Sir Gawain group approached Barton Hill, we were held up waiting for a passing train.
Once across the dual carriageway, we had a brief “lull” before facing the climb up to the Monument to the 7th Earl of Carlisle. “Don’t push too hard too early” warned Sir Iain as we began the ascent. We soon realised what he meant as the terrain continued upwards and onwards. A final few rollercoaster hills and we arrived at the impressive gate leading into the grounds of Castle Howard.
Once everyone was suitably refuelled, we all set off in our various groups to face the return journey. A swift downhill saw us into Coneysthorpe with a steady climb (plus a few “lumps” thrown in for good measure) for the next couple of miles before a beautiful descent into Malton. I’m glad we had a good navigator on the front as we filtered our way through town to Norton.
Shortly after, we were presented with the “joy” of Settrington Bank with an average gradient of almost 8% and tipping up to 17% in places. The effort involved was really worth it (honest) as the views across the Wolds from the top were stunning. An additional benefit came in the long downward sweep to West Lutton.
Next challenge was the short 5.5% ramp heading towards Cowlam. As the Sir Gawain group waited at Cowlam for Pugwash to catch up, we suffered the ignominy of being “caught” by Chad from the Sir Geraint group. As he waited for the rest of his group, we set off again towards Driffield. Just as we approached Driffield on the descent, we were once more “caught”, this time by Smithy.
After Driffield though, Pugwash found a “second wind” and was able to maintain the pace as Olivier and Paul led the way through Skerne and Hutton Cranswick. Our trusty navigator left the group here while the rest opted to head directly down the main road back home. The Sir Lancelot group also took the “quick” route home while the Sir Geraint and King Arthur’s groups both returned via Bracken.
This was longer than our recent Sunday rides, however given the numbers in attendance it may become more regular as we seek out pastures new. Fabulous scenery, rolling hills and clement weather all helped to produce a wonderful ride experience. Many thanks to James M for suggesting the route.