It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a good couple of years now; call up the appropriate OS maps, print off a bundle of them and then go exploring the North York Moors over several days. So I did just that, roped in a friend (Malcolm on this occasion) and took 3 days out to go ride.
What better way to explore a region like this than by bike, carrying your camping gear and pitching up at will. So bivi bags and wildcamping became the order of the day!
In the NYM you can get almost anywhere without riding on any major roads and the off-road tracks, trails and bridleways go on for miles and miles. There are lots of tracks on top of the moors that would have long since become a surfaced road in many other parts of the country, they’re not exactly exciting singletrack but equally you wouldn’t ride them on a road bike so they make a good staple diet for the mountain biker wanting to cover a good distance.
After a toilet break and stop for supplies on the outskirts of York we made our way to the planned car drop off point on the main road in Cropton. Abandoning the car for 3 days we attached our Alpkit handlebar bags and rucksacks on backs, we headed up the road towards Levisham. There’s a steam railway at Levisham and to cross the track you need to drop down to Levisham Station, which we did on a fast & fun ‘singletrack’ bridleway; it drops quickly through a wooded area with a nice variety of rocks to keep you focused.
The routes on all three days had a decent mix of exciting singletrack and wide open trails for quick mile munching; we passed through Dalby Forest on the fire roads and although we saw the Dalby red trail disappear into the trees on several occasions we held our eagerness to follow in favour of knowing where we were! Langdale Forest held no such promises of swooping berms though and was just a punishing slog on a gradual upward gradient for mile after mile; you wouldn’t spot it as a hill on the map and it doesn’t even appear to be so when you’re there but it’s 200 m gain over 5 km and the post-apocalyptic feel of a recently harvested forest takes it toll on even the brightest of spirits.
Of course it wasn’t all forest riding on the first day, joining Levisham Station to Dalby Forest was achieved by riding around the Hole of Horcum, a picturesque depression with a well surfaced trail around the northern rim and after the Langdale Forest slog we got back out into moorland briefly for an enjoyable ride across Goathland Moor before dropping down to May Beck.
May Beck is one of those nice picnic spots with a little Brook and here we saw the first people since leaving Dalby Forest. The road up out of May Beck connects to the B1416 which although B in name is more A in nature, so it was a nice relief to only have to ride a short distance along it to connect up with Raikes’ Lane and ride on to Sneatonthorpe. At Sneatonthorpe there was a good bit of map checking to confirm that the bridleway really did go down the side of someone’s driveway before we headed off on the final off-road section to arriving in Whitby.
We made decent time for Day 1 and even though we had to include the drive up to Cropton in our schedule we still made it into Whitby in plenty of time for tea. And what else can you have on arrival into Whitby except for Fish & Chips!
This being a bike-camping trek meant that the day wasn’t over with our arrival and fish & chip eating. We still needed to find a place to lay our heads for the evening and so after a quick pint at the pub (Hobgoblin @ Middle Earth) we set off up the Cleveland Way. On the Google maps satellite view it seemed like there’d be lots of possibilities along the cliff tops heading south from Whitby but what was not obvious until down on the ground was the proliferation of fences, keeping us off the land we’d ideally like to access. So we kept trekking until just beyond the lighthouse where we finally laid eyes on our ideal spot.
Near to the cliff edge in a sheltered spot with a small rock face behind us we found a small patch of reasonably level grassy land; this would be our camp for the night. Malcolm had decided on a hooped bivi, whereas I’d gone for the more lightweight and compact standard type of bivi and so I needed a shelter from the rain too, just in case. My shelter came in the form of a lightweight tarpaulin strung up between the two bikes, this worked well and indeed we did get a short light shower overnight.
Morning soon arrived and wanting to be packed up before the dog walkers came through we disassembled camp before 7:00 and headed off for breakfast, extra supplies and last but certainly not least, Day Two!