East Yorkshire Area Hill Climbs: Nunburnholme Hill

Location: Nunburnholme Hill
Length: 1.25km
Height Gain: 117m
Average Gradient: 9%
Max. Gradient: 14%
Difficulty Score: 48
Table Position: =7th

Date of Attempt: 21st July 2012 & 21st October 2012


Nunburnholme Hill has quite a reputation in local cycling circles and is one of East Yorkshire’s more difficult climbs, often used on local cycling club runs and for the East Yorkshire Classic Road Race. I first heard of the hill shortly after entering the 2012 Big G Cyclosportive, with Nunburnholme Hill being the main draw on the 60km & 100km routes – as a beginner carrying some excess weight (ahem) I was warned to be afraid…very afraid.

The hill is located, unsurprisingly, close to the village of Nunburnholme in East Yorkshire, situated between the towns of Pocklington and Market Weighton, but essentially hidden in a labyrinth of rural roads.

The climb starts at a small bridge as the road exits the village and, typical of many local hills, begins with a steep ramp, however this particular ramp is roughly 14%. The steep early section goes on for a leg sapping 250m before levelling slightly to a more respectable 10% for the majority of the long middle section, finally dropping to around 6% for the finish at the junction with Londesborough Hill.

Here is how I went with my first attempt, around 20 miles into the Big G Cyclosportive…

From the moment I entered the Big G Cyclosportive I have dreaded the thought of having to climb Nunburnholme Hill. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that we rode through the tiny village of Nunburnholme along Town Street and across a small road bridge. Then in front of us was the tree lined hill, or at least the start of it, and it certainly looks as bad as it sounds, it is steep.

Not having any delusions of grandeur at all, I put my bike in first gear and begin the climb. The first 250m are very steep, not quite Spout Hill standards, but I’ve ridden 20 miles at this point so I am feeling tired and my legs gave up the ghost back in Warter. As I slowly inch up the climb I try to help by snaking, but the road is too narrow and in any case I’m not convinced it helps that much.

As I continue, trying to keep my breathing in check, I can’t help but be put off by other cyclists whizzing past me like they are going down hill, very off putting, but I struggle on. I am now starting to see the incline get slightly less steep and spurred on I attempt to accelerate, but there is no gas in the tank. I gamely continue a bit further, but it’s no good I roll to a stop, out of breath and out of steam.

As I slump over my bike I could scream, but I don’t have the energy, I take a swig of my drink and hobble like John Wayne a few yards until I’m parallel with a ‘jolly’ spectator, who utters the phrase all ‘jolly’ spectators always say “Nearly at the top mate…” I politely thank him for his enthusiasm, climb back on my bike and head off up to the top of the hill, passing two equally enthusiastic photographers, the last of which asks for a smile!

I’m at the top, where Marvin has waited for me in the now blazing sunshine, I stop my bike and look back in disappointment. We rest for a good five to ten minutes as a number of Harley Davison Riders slowly snake past blocking our exit down Londesborough Hill. I look once again down the hill to see other cyclists proudly reach the top, but not me.

Although my first effort was a disaster, I did return to Nunburnholme Hill three months later while retracing the Big G 60km route, here is how I faired…

A couple of km’s later and as I approach the village of Nunburnholme, eerily the fog lifts to reveal the Hill in its full glory, with the bright sun shine and sudden change in temperature enough to make me stop to remove the sleeves from my Gore Phantom jacket. It’s not long before I set off again, knowing the next time I’d stop would be either to celebrate reaching the top of the climb or to throw my bike into a farmers field in disgust!

At the bottom of Nunburnholme hill I can’t help but feel intimidated, my previous attempt was in near perfect conditions, with plenty of road side support, yet I still failed. Now, three months later, the conditions are less than ideal, the weather is muggy and the fog is beginning to drop once again and the roads are greasy and covered in mud.

Cranking my bike into the lowest gear, I begin the climb, the first section is steep, about 14%, which lasts for around 250m, which doesn’t sound much, but it is, trust me. Before long I’m pushing with all my might to keep the wheels moving, so I change up a gear, before climbing out of my saddle to inject some impetus into the climb – This is a mistake, once my weight is off the rear wheel, the wheel spins on the muddy road and I quickly sit back down.

It appears that if I’m going to beat this hill it is going to be the hard way, with a bit of grit and determination, frankly I hadn’t cycled 30km in the cold wet fog, having had two punctures and riding on about 80psi, to just get off and walk… NO…B*****ks to Nunburnholme Hill, and I kept going! Half way up I’d even surprised myself, I was tired, but hardly blowing, I just looked at the road and kept turning the peddles, before long the gradient softens to around 9%, but then it a long hard slog to the summit.

The final section of the climb is long and drab, especially in the fog, so I just focused on each telegraph pole, counting them down one by one, before finally seeing the junction with Londesborough Road and also the welcome sight of the three cyclists who had helped out with my first puncture. Finally I’d done it, on my second attempt and in crappy conditions, I punched the air with more vitriol than Mark Cavendish, this was like a stage victory for me and to say I was chuffed with myself would be an understatement!

If Trundlegate is a tiny pig of a climb, then Nurnburnholme Hill is a big fat sow of a climb, never easy even for the pros and most definitely one of East Yorkshire’s more difficult climbs.

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4 Responses to East Yorkshire Area Hill Climbs: Nunburnholme Hill

  1. Michelle says:

    That is indeed a ‘Pig of a Hill’ my first time up today…. pritty much faired the same as your first attempt, I was cursing in between gasped breaths of much needed oxygen! Perfect conditions again, just no gas left in the tank to reach the final summit..slightly disappointed, but I gave it a go…I’ve been, I’ve peddled ..I didn’t conquer but will keep the wheels turning. This blog made me reflect and smile after my efforts.

    • Michelle,

      Thank you for leaving a comment, I’m glad that you liked the blog post.

      Nunburnholme is a nasty hill and has a tough steep start which saps your energy, the long drag from Totterdown Farm is no easier and seems to go on for ever.

      Don’t give up on the hill, as it’s a great sense of achievement when you reach the junction with Londesborough Road.

      Best of luck with your cycling adventures!

  2. Simon says:

    I read the post with interest, as cycled up it during the summer when on holiday near Selby. I just looked on Strava for the biggest hill in the surroundings. If halfway up and struggling I hadn’t seen someone on the crest completing the hill I think I’d have packed it in and had a little cry. Well done for completing on the second attempt. Simon

    • Michelle says:

      I have been up twice since first post here, again fair conditions in my favour with a little tail-wing and not too hot a sun bearing down to grind me down. I had moments of weakness but really wanted to reach the top which I managed to do with a PB time! Toughie but has to be done annually to prove to oneself ‘you’ve still got it’ well done everyone who attempts this one 👏🏼

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