Traveling down from Edinburgh many people would take a well advised break during the trip. It is 6 hours of driving after all, so stopping at Leeming Bar services for a Big Mac and fries is popular. I however, prefer to stop elsewhere and get in a few hills. Numbers 59 and 62 have now been added to my list!
County Durham has never particularly been high on my list of places to ride and the North Pennines only comes up as an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) on maps, rather than a fully fledged National Park. But that I guess has been one of the benefits of working through the 100 UK Climbs; it has sent me to roads, hills and whole areas that I wouldn’t have otherwise visited.
So I picked climbs number 59 and 62 because they were fairly close together and also easily accessible from the A68. In fact I was able to plan my route from Derwent Reservoir which is only 2 miles off the A68 and provided a perfect place to park up, prep the bike and leave my car.
The route I had planned was not a short ‘up and down the hill and go home’ type of route and so the first of the two named hills wasn’t due until around 30 km into the ride. This gave me plenty of time to warm up. Of course just because I was there to ride 2 specific hills doesn’t mean that there weren’t other hills around and so I had already done three decent ascents by the time I arrived in the little village of St John’s Chapel. At one point I did think that I was already riding up Chapel Fell and I recall feeling a little disappointed in it; an ‘is that all you’ve got’ moment, followed by the realisation that it wasn’t the climb I was looking for! The scenery was good though so I still stopped at the top for pictures.
By the time I rolled down the road that passes through St John’s Chapel I had already decided that I wouldn’t have time to complete my full route as planned on Strava. It was 81 km and would have meant returning home an extra hour later. So at this point I turned off and headed up the Chapel Fell climb having decided to get to the top in order to turn around and come straight back down again. I’m certainly glad that I took the time to complete the climb rather than missing it out completely. The descent back down gave me the opportunity to break my fastest ever maximum speed, reaching 81.4 km/h (50.6 mph). I even got some photos in the snow at the top too and as my wife pointed out, I always seem to find the snow my rides these days.
After coming back down Chapel Fell at speed, I turned right back onto the main road and flew down to Stanhope. This section is a slight downhill pretty much all the way, so I was able to make up some time and push my average speed back up toward the 20 km/h that I’d hoped to make. Coming the other way from Stanhope continually uphill and then turning off up Chapel Fell must be quite a challenge, I haven’t measured the total ascent of that but it must be over 400 m of climbing at least. Note to self: add that into a loop sometime!
This just left me with a final climb up and over Crawleyside Bank and then the run down from there back to the reservoir car park. I would say Crawleyside is probably a little steeper at times than Chapel Fell but once you’ve climbed the initial steep section out of Stanhope then it settles down and isn’t very steep at all. Once at the top the run back down to the reservoir is great fun; fast, downhill and long, with great scenery stetching out before you. A really fantastic way to finish a ride, a chance to spin those hills out of the legs.