Riding the river Yarrow.

Many years ago my mates and I rode with someone who’d never joined us before, for a Tuesday evening ride. We tried some trails I’d found to the west of town and our new companion suggested some additions along the side of the river Yarrow which, I for one, had never seen before. I’ve wondered recently if I could concoct a route to follow the river from it’s source at Horden Stoops to where it joins the river Douglas near the serious sounding village of Sollom. (I mean it’s a homophone of solemn, in case I’m being too vague.) I’ve looked at Google Earth trying to find trails along the riverside but along most of the way the river just seems to run through fields. Today I decided to ride to the source of the Yarrow at Horden Stoops at over 1,000 feet above sea level and ride close to the river until I reached home. The river is crossed by a road bridge about 400 meters from our house.

First I walked my dog, Freddie, and found that the ground in the woods was still very wet despite several dry, sunny days with a high pressure system over Britain. Then I went to a bike shop, the Bike Cabin, in town. I’d left my rear wheel for new bearings to be fitted. The job was not complete when I arrived so I said I’d leave it until later and resolved to ride my Whyte JW4, instead. This is the bike I intend to use for the 47 mile ride I have planned for April and I need to be sure the bike is up to the challenge as well as myself.

I fitted my pedals. I only use one set of pedals which my shoes clip into. The cleats on the shoes and clips on the pedals wear together so you need to always use the same shoe and pedal combination. I inflated the tyres and set off. I took a road route to Limbrick and on to the dam at the end of the Anglezarke reservoir. After this I climbed steeply to the Yarrow reservoir. The river now flows through both of these man made lakes but unless the bottom body of water is full nothing overflows into the remainder of the river. Today some water was running so I stopped to take some pictures.


The Yarrow reservoir overflowing into the Anglezarke.


The view down to the Anglezarke about 50 feet lower, I’d estimate.

This climb is a good downhill and I’ve ridden it in that direction several times in the last year. Strava has me as 123rd fastest out of a massive 2,520 riders. I honestly didn’t make a big effort at this. After this I headed to Lead Mines Valley. A gravel road runs up the valley then turns steeply to the right to a gate. Then there’s a long, gentle gradient on a gravel road before a final single track climb to the tarmac. Strava tells me that my 30 minutes 12 seconds was the fastest time achieved this year! The only other fool to have ridden it took 32 seconds longer though I did stop to take a picture. From this point it’s only a few hundred yards to the saddle point of Horden Stoops and the source of the Yarrow. A firm dirt trail turns to a path of stone slabs which were dropped by helicopter, running all the way to Great Hill a couple of miles north. I started on the trail and stopped at the source of the river. There is a path running close to the river but it’s so vague and bumpy that I realised after a short distance that it may never be rideable and definitely isn’t in wet conditions like we have now. I rode a little further to a more defined path which goes back down parallel to the river.


The plaque is from the Friends of the River Yarrow! The path here was impassable.

The trail was very wet but the soil is thin on the moor so the stoney surface is surprisingly firm. I did stop a few times at the muddiest parts. I didn’t want the front wheel to dig in and catapult me over the bars. In dry weather this could have been fun but today it was hard work. I’d made a loop and rejoined the gravel road which I climbed up by.


I rejoined the outbound route at the ruins of a farm. Living here would have been truly remote with your nearest neighbour at least 2 miles away. 

I picked up some good speed on the way back to Lead Mines Valley. Tragically a gate breaks the rhythm just before 2 downhill corners. I put the bike over the gate, went through a stile and round the corners, I really let it go. The sensation of speed on the slippery gravel was exhilarating. I rode around the Yarrow reservoir and down to the dam I’d crossed on the way out. After this I stuck to the road but do know of a fairly long section which closely follows the river but it always needed dry conditions to be worthwhile.

I have to conclude that it’s difficult to follow my local river, though in drier conditions there would have been a few ways to stick closer to it’s course. I covered 13.72 miles with 1,326 feet of ascent and despite the very wet moorland I averaged 7.9 mph. When I ride the Mary Towneley Loop in April this average would allow me to cover the 47 miles in just under 6 hours which is about where I want to be. Conditions will then be drier though the amount of climbing per mile ridden will be a little more. As for the bike I realised today that I will need to replace the transmission. The sprockets are very worn, the chain stretched and the freehub is also occasionally not engaging properly. I had a chat at the Bike Cabin when I picked up the wheel from my other bike, got some advice on the sprockets and hope to be able to acquire a replacement rear wheel. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.



1 Comment

  1. Barry says:

    Nice to see you out on the Jw, must get mine out soon and get some miles in. Not had a good winter what with too much work and illness so I’m really looking forward to getting out on the bikes again.


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