Central Wolds Challenge.

The section of the Bluestone Heath Road stretching from Tetford Hill north to the A631, along one of the highest Wold ridges, offers an unrivalled opportunity for hilly cycle routes on quiet roads. This is because, if you include Tetford Hill, along this section this road is crossed six times by other roads at a regular rate of one every two kilometres. The only break in this pattern is at Belchford Hill, which is only a T junction, rather than a crossroad. This however is compensated at the crossroad for Raithby as in the opposite westerly direction the road forks after a short distance to give the choice of dropping down into the Bain valley via either Redhill or Stenigot. The crossroad immediately to the south of this one is the only main road that needs crossing. This is not too much of a problem but if you want to take the road east to Tathwell with its small lake the busy road can be partially avoided by crossing it and taking the next right turn which will rejoin the main road for a shorter distance before leaving it to take the long straight lane down to Tathwell.

TATHWELL LAKE 3
Tathwell Lake and source of the River Lud.

All these easterly routes (right turns if you are heading north) off the Bluestone Heath Road make steady declines down the dip slope of the chalk escarpment and all eventually end up down in the valley of the River Lud or one of its tributaries. In places this drop is as much as 100 metres but over a distance of at least four kilometres, which is often mostly straight with no junctions to contend with. Once in the valley these parallel roads are conveniently linked by roads passing through it. 

The westerly turns off the Bluestone Heath Road by contrast have the steep scarp slope of the escarpment to deal with. As this is very steep in places the roads take it at an angle or with bends to lessen the gradient. As descents these roads can be technically challenging dropping up to 75 metres in just a kilometre but as climbs they are some of the best in the Wolds.

DONINGTON VALLEY 3
Looking across the Bain valley to Stenigot Mast.

Once down in the Bain valley the roads remain undulating connecting the many villages, which mainly stand on a ledge of dry sandstone and are separated by wet clay valleys in between feeding water into the River Bain. This grows steadily in size from a chalk stream at Biscathorpe to a river by the time it reaches Horncastle. As well as accommodation in this popular market town there is along the length of the Bain valley opportunities to linger longer at the many village pubs for lunch or overnight at a variety of different and interesting options for accommodation. On the eastern edge of the Wolds there is also the vibrant market town of Louth which has all the amenities you might need plus the attraction of its magnificent parish church whose soaring spire is a landmark for miles around.   

 Although the Viking Way passes right through this area of good walking country (See Gartree Hills and Tennyson Trail blogs.) it also provides arguably the best cycling in the county and placed in the centre of the Wolds and as described above there are so many routes from which to choose. There is not room here to cover them all but here are some possibilities and permutations to consider.

P1030640
Market Stainton Green.

A good place to start is Market Stainton, just east of the busy Caistor High Street (B 1225), which unusually for the Wolds is a hilltop village. It is a pleasant wooded spot but there is little else here apart from a number of quiet lanes heading off in different directions and is well away from any main roads. To start take the most northerly which turns east immediately out of the village and leads down to the River Bain. There are two main themes to this part of the ride in that it is, for the Wolds, well wooded and secondly from the river it is mostly uphill for the next three kilometres ascending 95 metres. This is the biggest possible ascent in the area and one of the biggest in the Wolds, although not one of the steepest, which allows the rider to enjoy their surroundings more.

RIDEMILL
Donington Water Mill.

After a short climb the road levels off for a time after emerging from the woods, which reveals the big climb ahead. To start this turn left at the T junction then immediately right after going over the hump of the long abandoned railway line. The serious climbing starts after passing Manor Farm when you re-enter the trees. The climb is called Manor Hill and eventually emerges from the wood at one of the highest points in the area with Stenigot Mast ahead and sweeping views to the right as you approach it. Beyond the mast is a crossroads over the Bluestone Heath Road and if you have reached this point and feel empowered after the climb then from it there are more challenges to be had if the legs are willing.

HAL20869
Hallington.

From here the options are many. Carrying straight on there is a possible eastern extension (Out of Gartree and into Louthesk wapentake.) down a long steady descent to Hallington. A tiny hamlet in the valley of the River Lud. From here there are options to return to the Bain valley either by turning left to make the steep climb up Hallington Hill offering views of Louth and its spire or through Raithby with its idyllic setting of springs and ponds by the church. 

LOUTH DISTANT
The view of Louth from Hallington Hill.

Back on top of the Wolds there are options of taking the Bluestone Heath Road either left or right to return to Market Stainton. Turning left and left again takes you on a more northerly route via Welsdale Bottom and Donington and is technically demanding. At Donington it can be straight back to Market Stainton along the Bain valley or take a longer option  by continuing west over the river passing the picturesque watermill and making a winding climb up past Belmont Transmitting Station to Caistor High Street. Turn left to return to Market Stainton along the High Street or continue straight across and make the long descent down to South Willingham. From this attractive village there is a straight forward return route via Benniworth.      

The southerly option by turning right onto the Bluestone Heath Road takes you across the A 153, Louth to Horncastle road, and after a further couple of kilometres to another crossroads. Here turn right to make the fast descent down Rowgate Hill into Scamblesby and back to the A 153. Here turn left and after a brief time on the main road turn right and navigate your way back to Market Stainton through Goulceby and back over the River Bain. 

SWILL2
The approach to South Willingham.

For those wanting a longer, more demanding ride there is always the option of somehow combining three of the routes or any other permutation that takes your fancy. If this is not enough on the northerly route when reaching South Willingham carry on through the village and take the left turn for East Barkwith at the end of a long and gradual descent. This village is on a main road (A 157) but before reaching it turn left to head south on the Panton Road and after two kilometres turn left to Sotby. This quiet narrow lane will take you through the village and back after a further couple of kilometres to the Caistor High Street, which you cross to return to Market Stainton. Adding the Hallington eastern extension will make the route 35 kilometres long, which should satisfy cyclists who want a challenge. Starting this challenge on the western edge of Louth (near Vanessa Road) and passing by the western end of Hubbards Hills to reach Hallington however would increase the ride to 40 kilometres or 25 miles and include over 500 metres of climbing over the widest part of the Wolds from east to west and back again without at any time having to cross a main road. 

For those not quite ready for this challenge the many options described above will allow you to build up to it. Then when you take on the challenge you will be familiar with the roads and confident at negotiating the hills.

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