Today I set off from Helmsley up Rical Dale's pleasant (and deserted) forest tracks (top image). They led eventually to Newgate Bank, from where the descent into Rye Dale was fun but muddy, so I played safe for the next section (I wanted to stay reasonably clean before a long journey) and took to the road to reach the top of Murton Bank.
Beyond Murton Grange an enticing bridleway saw me off road again, enjoying a slightly technical section down to Murton Wood. My troubles began here. A steep push through glutinous mud brought me to a bench, and a most welcome tea break. By now my wheels (bottom image) were moderately clogged with mud but the bike was just about pushable on the rare occasions when I could get my old trail shoes to provide traction up the steep, narrow path.
At the top of the hill I was relieved to see the ongoing grassy path head through some fields. That was before I realised that this 'grassy path' comprised a layer of straw covering an inch of gloopy clay.
The bike, with its now thoroughly seized up wheels, had to be carried, albeit the terrain was flat. It was very heavy. This was one of those occasions when one pauses for thought, the dominant emotion being 'it can only get better'.
And it did. I reached the tarmac of High Leir Lane and persuaded the wheels to rotate slowly in the direction of Old Byland, a pretty little hamlet. The mud mostly stayed attached to the bike. Attempts to remove it with sticks only resulted in pieces of broken stick being incorporated into the cement. Fingers worked better, but the icy wind decided to deliver some snow, which made this method of mud removal a tad unpleasant, especially when it came to putting my gloves back on.
So I proceeded through Old Byland and down the hill towards Rievaulx. The faster I went, the more complete became my covering of small flecks of mud. Light rain aided congealment...
Then, at Ashberry Farm, my luck changed. A tributary of the River Rye offered a good 'dunking point' where total immersion helped to remove some of the mud. A stronger current would have done a better job, but at least the remaining mud is so well attached to the bike that not a lot was transferred to the car on my return to Helmsley.
After managing about 40 miles in four hours on the previous couple of Sundays, today's hillier, rougher and muddier conditions saw me limited to little more than 20 miles in the four hours I was out, despite a fast descent to Helmsley.
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