The Caldew Valley
Start: Dalston Village Centre
Grid Reference: 369501
Distance: 27km / 17 miles
Time Allowed: 4-5 hours
Off-Road Riding: 55%
Gradient Difficulty: Moderate
Track Surface / Roads: Predominantly good tracks characterise this lovely route around the Caldew Valley. The Buckabank-Gaitsgill track is a little bumpy and prone to nettles in the summer but this is not a major problem. The excellent track away from Thistlewood Farms leads to an easy and rideable field section. The only other field section, from Hawksdale Hall to Bridge End, follows a well-defined, firm farm track. After Churchtown the routes follows an off-road section of the long distance Reivers routes and so all the tracks are of a reasonable quality (but beware the carry up short steps and over the footbridge at Bog Bridge after descending from Borrans Hill). All minor roads used are very quiet.
OS Maps: 1:50,000 Landranger 85 Carlisle and Solway Firth
Access: The railway station at Dalston is on the Cumbrian coastal line between Carlisle and Barrow in Furness. You may have to hail the train if returning by rail from Dalston. At the time of writing there were around 15 trains stopping daily at Dalston, Monday to Friday, but only 3 a day on Sundays!
ALONG THE WAY
- Dalston is now a compact village but during the industrial revolution it possessed four cotton mills and a flax mill. The heart of the village is the square, surrounded by the church, the Bluebell Inn (food), a cafe and village shop. It is well worth stocking up on snacks here as there are no food outlets directly on the route.
- Sebergham and Churchtown once had a greater population than Penrith but today are little more than hamlets.
- The River Caldew provides much of the scenic interest on this ride, along with its tributary, Roe Beck. The Caldew starts life high up in the Skiddaw region of the Lake District and flows south through this lovely wooded, rolling countryside before passing through Carlisle to join the Eden. There are many scenic highlights by the river, such as Bog Bridge after the descent from Borrans Hill. The distant outline of the Caldbeck and Uldale Fells is a frequent companion on this ride whilst the stunning green pasture in front of Hawksdale Hall provides a fitting climax to the trip.
A - B Start in Dalston centre by the church and the Bluebell Inn. Head south, away from the church, on the B5299. In about 60m, opposite the service station, go L, marked as a dead end for cars. Immediately over the River Caldew turn R to come alongside a small watercourse on the R. Follow this tarmac track past the chimney and workings to a T-junction. Go L to immediately come to another T-Junction and L again to start climbing. Take the next R, signed 'Gaitsgill 2 1/4. Raughtonhead 2 1/4'. Take the first turning on the R, an unmarked minor road which ends at a track junction with Brackenhow Farm down to the R. Jink L then R here, onto the farm track. The track deteriorates slightly then improves again and about 2km after Brackenhow Farm the track emerges into the hamlet of Gaitsgill.
Head straight on, over the bridge, signed 'Raughtonhead / Stockdalewath'. Follow the road for about 0.5km, as it climbs then drops towards Roe Beck. Don't cross Roe Beck but turn L just before the bridge (easy to miss), signed for Skiprigg. Climb and bend R passing a couple of farms then descend to a T-junction. Go R and descend into Stockdalewath to turn L, just before the river, signed 'Highbridge 1'. This lovely, quiet, flat road parallels Roe Beck and enters the hamlet of Highbridge.
B - C In Highbridge bend R to cross the bridge and immediate L to follow the track up to Thistlewood Farm. Go R between the main house and large storage sheds (waymarked with blue arrow on telegraph pole but easy to miss). Shortly the track splits and you follow the L-hand option to cross the Roe Beck over a bridge of solid wooden timbers. A very good, straight track now climbs steadily for about 0.5km and ends abruptly in front of a field. Carry on in a straight line, down the R-side of the field and through the gate in the far corner to pick up a lovely grassy lane, eclosed by hedges.
Meet a road T-junction opposite Intack House and go R. Descend steeply to cross Roe Beck and climb before the road levels out towards a T-junction. Go R, signed 'Sebergham 3 / Raughtonhead 2 1/2'. Follow this road, woth great views either side, to a T-junction and go L signed for Sebergham and Heskett Newmarket. In just over 1km go R and descend into Churchtown. Go R at the T-junction and follow the narrow road that leads to a church. Go R, just past the cemetary, signed as a bridleway to Bell Bridge. Follow the good track for just over 1km down to Bell Bridge and L to cross the road bridge. Go R at the T-junction over the bridge and climb steeply. Take the first R, signed for Barras Hill. Pass Lanehead Farm on the R.
C - A The road bends L by the cluster of buildings that is Borrans Hill. Turn R here and at the immediate split go R, past a farm on the L. Descend the steep, rocky track and pass through a gate into a field. Pass the stone ruins on the R and curve R to come alongside the River Caldew. Go L over Bog Bridge (narrow footbridge with small carry). Go R onto the track over the footbridge, which then bends L and climbs to meet the road at Breconhill. Go L onto the road and at the next fork go L to come to a T-junction by the church in Raughtonhead. Go L, then take the next R, marked for Raughtonhead Hill. Bend L in front of the next set of buildings and the road becomes a track. Bear R at a split just after this and descend to a track T-junction. Go L signed for Hawksdale Hall and Bridge End. Cross over the River on an impressive iron bridge.
Ascend and follow the track over the tarmac road in front of Lime House school. Follow the grass track and bend L onto a better track to meet a T-junction with a road. Go R, signed for Bridge End, and in about 250m meet the white facade of Hawksdale Hall on the L. Go R here, into gorgeous green pasture and follow the line of the grass track along the L-hand side of this huge field. The track continues through two smaller fields and bends L to meet a tarmac access road for houses. Follow this to the T-junction with the B5299 and go R to descend to the Bridge End Inn. Go R here, over the bridge and take the first L turn. At the T-junction by a bridge on the L turn R and then turn L down the tarmac track on which you left to Dalston, to retrace your steps to the centre.