The Yorkshire tourist group, Welcome to Yorkshire, concluded that the 2014 project of hosting Grand Depart of the Tour de France cycle race was a huge success. So much so that they organised a legacy event, the Tour de Yorkshire, from May 1 to 3.

The first two stages are taking place in Gazette & Herald territory, so the Editor suggested I might ride these two stages beforehand and use them as the basis for my monthly column.

I had to point out that day one and two were both of 174km (or 109 miles) in length. The professionals will cover that in just over four hours each day. Conversely, my own current state of fitness, and a predilection for coffee and toasted tea cakes along the way, would mean that darkness would descend before I reached the end of the course. So we compromised on the idea of taking a slice from the route of each day, where this coincided with our readership area of Ryedale.

Day one of the actual race will start in Bridlington, come up the coast to East Ayton then loop through Dalby Forest, emerging at Thornton-le-Dale. From there, along the A170 to Pickering, then north to Cropton, Rosedale, Danby and to Whitby, before turning south again to finish in Scarborough.

So for my ride this month I’ve chosen the section from East Ayton to Rosedale, which is about 30 per cent of the course. Even so, I thought it best to make a reasonably early start. I was also conscious that a pint or two of beer en-route may work against me. So for these reasons I chose to drive out the day before, stay in a B&B, and take the opportunity to investigate a local hostelry that evening. Purely for pre-event carbo loading you understand.

Which is how we, my team car driver and I, found ourselves at a B&B in Wykeham, known simply as “No.23”.

Gazette & Herald:

The B&B at Wykeham

Wykeham is only two miles off the race route, on the A170. It forms part of the Dawnay Estates. Uniformity in architectural styles is immediately apparent, and though different generations have left their mark over the years, it is clear that one family have been, and indeed remains, in control.

John Dawnay was knighted at the battle of Naseby and subsequently rewarded by King Charles II with the title of Viscount of Downe. The current (12th) Viscount continues to live at Wykeham Abbey. The family also owns land in Danby, a little further on in the race route.

The 8th Viscount, Hugh Richard Dawnay, became 1st Baron of Danby in 1897 and he was head of Queen Victoria’s personal bodyguards.

Which brings me back to the address of the B&B. With all the properties in Wykeham falling within the Estate, they are simply refered to numerically.

A short stroll from the B&B is the Downe Arms, a four-star hotel, with has the added advantage of a back bar to serve the needs of locals and cyclists alike. Facing the hotel with your back to the main road, take the small lane on the right, between the hotel and All Saints Church, where you’ll find the entrance to Tuckers Bar.

An early bird menu (5.30pm till 7pm) provides a choice of two main meals, starting from only £12 for the pair. We chose excellent haddock and chips, plus a gammon, egg and chips for £14. I had a pint of Wold Top Bitter (3.7 per cent ABV) from Wold Newton, near Driffield. A nice thirst quencher. Not on hand pump today, but Wold Top also produce Hello Velo (4.2 per cent ABV) which I remember enjoying at the start of the Tour de France.

Back to No.23 for an early night. We were the only guests (it being a Monday) so although the rooms are not en-suite, we had a choice of two bathrooms. Each of these only a single stride from our own room door.

We were both glad we skipped the cereals on offer the next morning, as when the full English arrived; it came on “magic plates”. By which I mean that after about 10 minutes of eating, my plate appeared just as full. Over breakfast, we also learned from our hostess, Jo Purdy, that she has secure cycle storage and washing facilities behind the house. At only £66 for double room and breakfast, No.23 will make an ideal stopover come May.

Departing Wykeham on the main A170 towards Scarborough, the traffic wasn’t too heavy and I quickly completed the first two miles to East Ayton. Here, the old humpback bridge carries the traffic east towards the coast, while the traffic in the opposite direction takes the more modern bridge adjoining. Immediately over the humpback bridge, watch for a left turn to Hackness. This is where we join the race route. Turn here into Castlegate and you climb out of East Ayton (north) up Forge Valley, with the River Derwent on your left, parallel to the road.

The road climbs gradually for about a mile and three-quarters to a viewpoint, on the left and just opposite a road junction on the right. A short walk off the road will take you to a panorama over the glaciated valley of the upper Derwent.

Returning to the road, and keeping left, there’s now a short descent into the valley. Across the valley floor for a couple of hundred yards and you come to a small humpback bridge across which the road jinks first right and then left.

If you look along this water course, you’ll notice it runs very straight and is indeed a man-made feature, known as the Sea Cut, taking flood waters from the River Derwent, east to the coast at Scalby, north of Scarborough. This acts as a safety valve, controlling the level of the Derwent in the vicinity of Malton, further downstream. Another ¾ mile (or 3 miles from East Ayton) and you come to the Everley Country House cafe on the left. Open 10 till 5, it was too early in my journey for a stop.


Gazette & Herald:

Continuing instead straight ahead along the valley road, I became aware that everywhere around was “up”; so a climb was becoming inevitable. At Hackness, there’s a T-junction, where turn left. The brown forestry signs will aid navigation from here. Pass Hackness Grange Hotel on the left and then ignore a descent on the left to Troutsdale, keeping right instead, and maintaining your height.

Next is a road off to the right signed to Broxa, which also ignore. Descend now to the river bridge at Langdale End, and climb up through the hamlet, passing the Moorcock Inn on the left. I remember this one from the 1970’s. It looked as though in a time warp then, and nothing appears to have changed with vintage enamel advertisements adorning the exterior.

Passing signs for a Monastery on the left; descend now with the road narrowing briefly to single track, so beware of vehicles coming up towards you. Another climb quickly follows. For me at least, that meant a walk, with fine views across to the escarpment on the right, beyond the River Derwent. To the rear, Wykeham Forest appears as a knoll. Passing Spring Farm on your left a profusion of gorse is in bloom at the top of the hill.


Gazette & Herald:

Back on the bike, the road now runs more or less straight and level for a mile or so, passing some cottages on the left, and to a junction at Blackwood Bungalow. Here a brown forestry sign indicates our route to the left.

A gentle descent follows, past Bickley Gate Farm. For motorists, this is the start of the Dalby Forest Scenic Drive. You’ll pass a pay and display meter. No charge for cyclists! However, all is not plain sailing as this is also the start of the Tour de Yorkshire King of the Mountains climb. One in six (16%) straight up for the next 500 yards. My enforced walk meant that I had time form a relationship with the gutter, and to notice that the road had recently been swept clean of all fallen twigs and leaves. Well done Forestry Commission, but if this is in preparation for the race, you might like to give it another go, late in April?

A car park on the left marks the top and I enjoyed a gentle mile and a half along the top of the escarpment, passing South Moor Farm on the left. Keep to the tarmac and don’t be tempted by many bridleways marked as cycle routes. At some 10 ½ miles into the day if you’ve started in East Ayton (or 12 ½ miles out of Wykeham) you’ll come to a point marked on maps as Red Dike, a crossroad in the middle of the forest. Ahead and to the left are both No Entry, so take the right, (indicated by a blue arrow) past a Forestry Commission office, and soon running very gently downhill.

The road now curves right and becomes steeper. Watch for a rough road surface as you emerge from the trees at the bottom. A sharp left and you’ll see a lake below to the left. Back into the trees now, for a gentle couple of miles (passing toilets at Bridestones car park) to Low Dalby Visitor Centre. This is a handy place for a break, but I was pressing on.

Passing the Centre car park on the right, watch out for three speed bumps starting as the road passes the far end of the car park and curves sharply right. We are now in Thornton Dale, so of course that means anoher climb! Haygate Bank. Not too long though and at about 1 in 7 (14%) I managed to grind up in bottom gear. This will be another good vantage point to watch the race on 1 May. Take time to pause at the top, where on the left you’ll see a sculpture of Lumberjills. That’s female Lumberjacks!


Gazette & Herald:

This commemorates the female forestry workers of WW2. A small plaque suggests their conversation as one tries to work, whilst the other wants to play.


Gazette & Herald:


A few hundred yards further on, the forest ends and we meet a minor road at a T junction. Turn left, signed Thornton le Dale, 1 ½ miles. Descend into the village, pretending to be a racer! Give way at the cross roads (A170) and straight over to the Lavender Tea Rooms, which face onto the village green. Plenty of iron railings to secure your bike.

If you’ve been riding without mudguards, or if in any way less than clean, I’d suggest you make use of the outside seating. I’d enjoyed a sunny morning, plus the benefit of ‘guards, so was welcome in the gentile interior. £3.35 bought me a “special” of filter coffee and toasted teacake. An extra 20p upgrades you to real cake. This was also my rendezvous with my support driver, to confirm our meeting later in the day.

To this point, I’d seen only a handful of cars since leaving the A170 at East Ayton. So now it was welcome back to the real world and a climb out of Thornton le Dale on the A170, west, in the direction of Pickering. Once out of the village however, the road drops back down, and if you stop here, you’ll see the start of a shared path for cyclists and pedestrians, over on the right of the road. Cross with care, and this gives you a safe run, all the way to Pickering.

In Pickering, you have two choices. Continue through on the main A170 road (being the race route) or take a right just after the Forest and Vale Hotel (just over the roundabout) into Market Place, to avail yourself of local amenities. This detour adds nothing to the distance, but can give you a more peaceful trip through town.

Assuming you do this, climb up towards the church spire just showing above the rooftops. Onto Smiddy Hill, pass the Black Swan, and down through Market Place (in reality the High Street). Reaching a junction (with HSBC on your left) you’ll see Beckside tea room over on the far side. Cross with care, and take the road to the right of the tea room. This is Bridge Street. Keep straight on and the name changes to Potter Hill. Keep right where the road splits, then curving left, becoming Middleton Road. This will take you to rejoin the A170 just beyond town.

Through the villages of Middleton and Aislaby in quick succession, but as you get to the end of Aislaby look out once more for a path on the opposite side of the road. Cross here and keep right to rejoin a minor road where it turns off for Wrelton. Resist the temptation to follow a clear sign for Wrelton, Cropton & Rosedale, but instead keep right again, following Local Traffic Only. A nice bench, with views over Ryedale, awaits you on a raised verge to the right. In Wrelton, take a right at T junction, now heading for our final destination of Rosedale. A steady climb follows.

At Cropton village, you’ll pass the New Inn, then take care on the steep descent out of the village, down to a bridge across Cropton Beck, by which time you’ll be doing about 25mph. Keep straight ahead and onto a gentle climb up. Ahead, you are back into trees again, entering Cropton Forest, also Forestry Commission land.

Fortunately not as hilly as the earlier Dalby Forest. Descending again to cross a tributary of the River Seven, which is to the left and heading down to Ryedale. A short climb follows, up to the hotel at Hartoft End. Continuing up more gradually, views over the valley of Rosedale start to open out on your left. Watch out for Rosedale Chimney Bank across on the opposite side of the valley. You’ll be able to spot a hairpin bend in the tarmac.

A feared climb in the old Milk Race, (Tour of Britain) in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s. The Tour de Yorkshire organisers have apparently deemed the climb too difficult for inclusion in their race, which instead will leave Rosedale, due north, to Rosedale Moor, Ralph’s Cross and Castleton beyond.

But first, we have a fast, straight descent down into the village of Rosedale Abbey. On the edge of the village, the road appears to give you three choices. Keep to the middle course, and this will bring you conveniently to the Abbey Tea Rooms (weekends only – see link to website).

That concludes today’s ride. The actual race will continue to Whitby, before returning south to finish in Scarborough.

Next month I’ll be looking at day two of the race. Particularly the second half of the day’s racing. I’ll pick up the route on top of the Wolds, head north to Malton, and on to the day’s finish in York.


The Maps - Ordnance Survey Landranger. Numbers 100 Malton & Pickering, and 101Scarborough Or, (showing virtually the whole route, and making more sense of Dalby Forest) Explorer OL27 North York Moors – Eastern Area

The Accommodation - Jo Purdy, 23 Wykeham, Scarborough YO13 9QP Tel. 01723 863216

The Pub - Downe Arms Hotel, Main Road, Wykeham YO13 9QB Tel. 01723 862471

The Bike-  1976 Jack Taylor, Tour of Britain model. Hand built in Stockton on Tees

The End - Rosedale Abbey, village shop & Tearooms, Pickering YO18 8SA Tel. 01751 417475

Distance - 33 miles (or 31miles if starting from East Ayton)