October 18, 2019
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Mountain biking in the Lake District: Gamblesmire loop

Starting just outside the Lake District National Park in the centre of the market town of Kendal, this mountain bike ride enjoys a mixture of mostly quiet roads and a variety of off-road terrain. We tackled the route on the robust Ridgeback MX4, an entry level mountain bike fitted with Shimano gearing and capable of taking on a variety of different terrain.

A hilly road climb to the west of Kendal (the same hill that is used for finish for the Gateshead to Kendal stage of the Tour of Britain cycle race) eventually sees you leave the road at Gamblesmire Lane and move on to a stoney track with most of the first of the two most significant climbs of this route completed.

Here you are between the limestone escarpments of Cunswick Scar and Scout Scar and the landscape opens out with some lovely views of rolling South Lakeland fells.

In places further on, the track becomes quite narrow – brace yourself for a few nettle stings and the occasional bramble scratch!

It was a warm, sunny day and we had just returned from Switzerland so were a little oblivious to what the recent weather had been like in the north of England. We soon discovered that there must have been rain as the path went into a shaded area and we encountered some wet and boggy stretches.

The highlight of the ride was the ford we went through as we took the loop around Bell Hill. Again, this suggested there had been plenty of rain as there was no getting through this without getting a little wet…

…unless, of course, you took the footbridge instead, but where’s the fun in that?!

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After a short climb, I enjoyed the descent that followed until we finally returned to some sense of civilisation – a few houses initially, soon followed by Underbarrow church and Underbarrow itself.

It was a hot day and by this time our water supplies were getting quite low; we knew we could get refills at one of the pubs on the route so were not too concerned, but the blackberries in the hedgerows were starting to ripen and provided us with a little sustenance to keep us going.

There are two pubs in quick succession where you can stop for refreshment. The first is the Black Labrador at Underbarrow, formlerly known as The Punchbowl but presumably its name change was in part down to the fact that there is another Punchbowl in the neighbouring village of Crosthwaite.

The second, about a mile further on, is The Wheatsheaf at Brigsteer, which proudly displays a large ‘cyclists welcome’ sign.

This is Lyth Valley territory – an area famous for its damsons. Keep your eyes peeled and you may just see some. Or visit in April and you could attend the Damson Day country fair which takes place annually and celebrates all things damsons, including damson gin and damson jelly, as well as various other Cumbrian traditions.

A final climb up to the church of St. John’s at Helsington is soon followed by a bridleway and a farm road, before taking you back into Kendal along the A6 where you can finish at the starting point of Kendal Town Hall.

If you would like to follow this route for yourself, you can find written directions as well as a GPX file that you can download to your smartphone, by visiting this link at pedalnorth.com.

Disclosure: The bikes were kindly supplied to us by Ridgeback who introduced mountain biking to the UK in the early 1980s.

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