Askham Fell & Ullswater Mountain Bike Route
This is a fantastic route starting at Pooley Bridge in the Lake District. Despite relatively little climbing (for the Lake District!), this route delivers amazing scenery and one of the best natural descents in the country, from The Cockpit stone circle to Howtown, offering breathtaking views across Ullswater for its entirety.
The climb from Pooley Bridge onto Askham Fell is the toughest of the two climbs and is followed by a crossing of Moor Divock and a nice descent to the south through open moorland. A brief road section leads to Askham and the start of the second climb back on to Askham Fell, forming a figure-of-eight as you drop down onto the main descent from here to Howtown on some combination of loose rocks and singletrack all the way. Oh, and did I mention the incredible views?!
Start the ride at Roehead, south-east of Pooley Bridge in the Lake District. There's only limited parking here, so on busy days you may have to find alternative parking. There are laybys on the Howtown to Pooley Bridge road that can help here. Once on the bikes, go through the gate at the end of the road and jump straight into the climb ahead of you. This climbs around 100m or so over less than 2 miles and should pose no major worries.
As the gradient subsides, continue following the track across and Moor Divock, passing an area of shake-holes, some of which are fairly impressive gaping holes in the ground. The track will tend downhill across the moor and leads to minor road. Cross the road and pick up the track on the other side, heading downhill to a stone wall and a gate. Take the gate and continue on the walled track, which becomes a road, until you arrive at a T-junction.
This is the first road section of the ride. Turn left and stay on the road . You will pass through the village of Helton after less than a mile and reach Askham about a mile after that. Turn left in Askham up a dead end road that soon becomes a track. Where the track forks, keep to the right by the dry-stone wall and continue to climb across the field. Through the gate carry on climbing towards the left end of the copse of trees on the hill ahead of you. This is the second and last major climb of the ride.
Turn left and descend the fast grassy track away from the wooded area and take a right onto the doubletrack when you reach it. When this track meets a junction with another track, you will want to to continue straight on onto the less defined trail ahead. This will get you to The Cockpit stone circle, a nice spot for a sandwich break.
From here head west across relatively flat land at first towards the stone wall at Barton Park. This is where the descent to Howtown begins, flanking the steep side of Barton Fell. Remain on the same track as the gradient steepens. Make the most of this descent by dropping the saddle around about now and enjoy the ride, and the views!
The trail continues with mostly downhill, some level sections and some short, sharp climbs for the 2 or 3 miles to Howtown. This is an absolute blast of a descent. When you eventually arrive at a gate, go through it across the loose gravel into Howtown itself. After the usual whoops, high-fives, grins and giggles, all that is left is the road section by Ullswater which leads back to Pooley Bridge. Instead of turning left into Pooley bridge, take a right at the crossroads and head up the final short bank to the car at Roehead.
Points of Interest
I don't think many mountain bikers would say they don't like the idea of riding lakeside routes on their bike. The presence of a body of water adds an extra element to a ride, a feeling of adventure.
Ah, moorland! Vast swathes of the UK are open moorland and the majority of it is open for business for mountain bikes.
For me the scenery on a route is one of the major reasons for riding it. For this reason most if not all of our routes will be listed here in the scenic section.