Stats: 7.3 miles
Unless the kids are threatening to go hypoglycaemic, you probably won’t need replenishment on such a short spin. All the same, it would be a shame not to patronise the Hikers’ Rest at Beck Head – a rare, honesty-box café.
This miniature is a useful ride to know if the higher fells are rained off. Likewise if you have small children in tow or are short of time and need a spin that’s scarcely five minutes from Junction 36. It features some charming woodland, raven-croaking limestone cliffs, only the gentlest of climbs and a good, fast, rooty descent. Try it in autumn when the leaves rust and you can stuff your pockets with South Cumbria’s harvest of damsons.
1. Park on the old, cracked road near the entrance to Raven’s Lodge. Head up the farm access road and turn left through a gate. Climb gently through broad-leafed woods. Look out for an intriguing tufa waterfall on your right, caused by the slow precipitation of calcium carbonate from the stream. Go straight on, past highly desirable houses, to a short, fast descent to a road.
2. Double hard back to your right and follow this to the hamlet of Beck Head. Look out for the eponymous spring, emerging from under a small limestone crag. Pick up the Bridleway past the Hikers’ Rest, then follow it across fields until you join the road. Turn right and climb gently on tarmac past a school and a riding stables. Turn left and pick up another bridleway, turning left again when it forks. Follow this, possibly encountering some rare-breeds cattle on your way.
3. A gate heralds the return to woodland and a good kilometre’s-worth of twisty singletrack with damp roots grabbing at your tyres and low branches at your helmet.
4. Join the road at an acute angle and head south to the bend. Pick up the bridleway again and follow this down to the old road. Turn left and keep following the old road back to the car.