East Yorkshire Area Hill Climbs: Birdsall Brow

Location: Birdsall Brow
Length: 1.46km
Height Gain: 96m
Average Gradient: 7%
Max. Gradient: 10%
Difficulty Score: 33
Table Position: 18th

Date of Attempt: 4th July 2013

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Birdsall Brow lays on the opposite side of the Roman Road ridge to the tougher climbs of North Acklam and Hanging Grimston, but will approaching from a different valley make this hill any easier to climb? There was only one way to find out…

The climb is located south of the village of Birdsall and follows Toftings Lane, beginning at the Estates Office on the junction with Salents Lane. The route cuts across the Valley side, rather than the usual local tradition of taking the shortest steepest route to the ridge, ending approximately one mile later with a cross roads junction, leading to either Roman Road or Thixendale.

On paper this is a relatively easy climb, standing a lowly 18th on the hill climb list, with the maximum gradient of 10% and averaging at 7%, this hasn’t exactly got me quaking in my cleats. Having said that, I hadn’t reckoned on the route that Elmo would plot out for our training ride, I touched on this in an earlier blog post about Painsthorpe Lane, but essentially it was a hard, hot hack in the hills.

Setting off from Fimber in the early evening heat on 4th July 2013, by the time we reached the beginning of Birdsall Brow, I had already struggled up Burdale, conspicuous by its absence on the hill climb list, so the old legs were on their way and what should be little more than a false flat suddenly looks like an Italian mountain pass.

We approached the start from Salents Lane, you can’t miss this road as it’s as wide as the main runway at Yeadon! Making a left hand turn onto Toftings Lane, the route initially takes you along side a farm leading to a tree lined road, flanked to the left with a limestone wall. Then once out of the tree line, the road moves from the rural industry of the farm to what looks like a private estate, with the road lined with cast iron post & rail fencing, with well kept pastures stretching either side of the lane, all the while keeping a nice 3 to 5% incline on a decent road surface.

There is no mistaking that this is an idillic part of the Yorkshire Wolds, slightly different to the typical arable landscapes that I am used to riding amongst in East Yorkshire, if it only wasn’t so hot I’d almost say I was enjoying myself!

Once the landscape opens out, the heat begins to take it’s toll and before long both Marvin and Elmo have left me for dust – I’m not having a good day. The climb is now beginning to get a bit tasty, rising to between 5 and 10% I am dropping further back. I just can’t get going, rounding a right handed crest, the gradient, although relatively shallow, is beating me, it’s relentless in its consistency. Head down, I trudge on, but if anything I’m getting slower and my legs are almost gone.

The road continues to ebb and flow, sometimes it seems almost flat, other times I’d swear it was well over a 10% gradient, but honestly, it really is nothing of a climb, I just happen to be making a meal out of it and the more I try the more frustrated I become, all the while the sun is beating down on me.

The road soon takes a shallow left hand turn, before straightening up as I ride past what must be old estate workers cottages on the outskirts of the village, an area lined with large trees, barely offering any worthwhile shade. The gradient doesn’t seem to let up either, it’s a very odd cycling situation in that it looks easier than it evidently is and I liken it to the drag between North Dalton and Huggate.

As tree lined route opens up slightly, in the distance I see three things:

1. Elmo
2. Marvin
3. An Oasis

The oasis in my case was in the form of a small copse, something to give me desperately needed shade, this alone gave me enough adrenaline to slightly up my pace, I even begin to reel in Marvin, but not Elmo, he’s like a mountain goat.

Momentarily I lose sight of the copse as the road moves right and again kicks up, not for any great distance, but enough to slow my pace again. Once again the gradient settles down to between 5 and 10%, straightening then bearing left to point like and arrow to my salvation. Before long I actually begin to tap out a rhythm, nothing spectacular, but enough to get me going at a steady pace.

As I approach the copse, the road bites me by kicking slightly, but by now I’m going at a decent speed so it doesn’t affect me too much as I cycle into the shade and a small plateau before the final kick up to the finish at the cross roads.

The cool shade of the tree canopy gives some welcome relief from the summer sun, but soon I exit and quickly the road kicks up for a final time, with a short sharp climb to the junction, it must be over the claimed 10% maximum, not for long, but it’s enough for me to get out of my saddle and it’s with absolute relief to unclip at the top having chalked off another East Yorkshire Hill Climb.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I look back at Birdsall Brow and conclude it wasn’t a particularly tough climb, I know that is contrary to my write up, but I didn’t ride well at all that day and I know the weather and lack of form contributed to a very poor effort more than anything else – maybe that’s an unfair assessment, so I’ll go back again in 2014 and see how I get on.

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