Weekender: Postman Pat’s round trip

Ride level Regular cyclist
Distance 19 mi / 31 km
Type of bicycle Gravel or adventure bike
Traffic free
Circular route
Five cyclists ride along a gravel road weaving its way through a valley, they are cycling over a cattle grid
Longsleddale is the Cumbrian valley that gave us the postie of children’s TV fame. Julie Rand is your guide to a lanes-and-bridleways ride up and down it

Route name: Postman Pat’s round trip. 
Start/finish: Kendal railway station, Station Road, Kendal, LA9 6BT. 
Maps/guides: OL7 Windermere, Kendal & Silverdale (1:25k), or OS Landrangers 97 Kendal & Morecambe, and 90 Penrith & Keswick (both 1:50k). 
Ride length: 30km/19 miles. 
Climbing: 392m. 
Bike type: Lane on the eastern side of the valley suitable for most bikes. Gravel or MTB for the bridleway. 
Ride level: Beginner or regular.

Along with the post office at the end of writer John Cunliffe’s street in Kendal, Longsleddale was the inspiration for Greendale, home to Postman Pat (and his black and white cat). Riding here, you may spot a real-life post van beetling along to the isolated farmhouses. But, by and large, you’ll have only sheep, birds and the babbling River Sprint for company – even if you’re not there just as day is dawning.

While the Lake District gets jammed with tourists, the only hold-up you’re likely to encounter in Longsleddale is a flock of sheep being herded by a farmer and their black and white dog. It can feel like you’re in an Arcadian idyll, with stunning, soaring views of fells on all sides. Longsleddale provides dramatic Lakeland scenery without the grind of the steeper climbs, and a rural beauty largely untouched by the modern world.

A woman cycles towards the camera along a road lined with daffodils

This route is an out-and-back amble from Kendal railway station that could easily be tackled in a morning or afternoon. However, it does link into more challenging gravel and mountain biking routes over the Gatescarth Pass to Haweswater, or a fairly steep but short hike-a-bike over Cocklaw Fell into Kentmere Valley for a return leg. There are pubs and cafés in Staveley, plus a station if you want to take the train back.

Most of the ride described here is a gentle roller coaster that gradually climbs to around 189 metres at the tiny hamlet of Sadgill, the furthest point that can be reached on tarmac. It’s a nice ride down the other side of the valley on bridleways but you can retrace your route on road if it’s too muddy or your bike isn’t suitable.

1 Kendal station

Northern trains from Windermere and Manchester Airport stop here. Change at (or cycle from) Oxenholme Lake District to get here from the West Coast Mainline. There are only two bike spaces per Northern train; a reservation is advised. Kendal itself is a historic market town with a decent amount of cycle infrastructure, so is worth a visit before or after your ride.

2 Gilthwaiteregg Lane

Turn off the A6 down this quiet lane, which leads through an industrial estate but soon turns into open fields and proper countryside. Stock up on snacks at the retail parks that you pass as there are no shops or cafés en route from here on. All you’ll have is what you carry with you.

3 Saul Hill

Stop at the bench near the junction with Potter Fell Road – and just before the blue ‘narrow bridge ahead’ sign. Take a breather and enjoy the views back south towards Kendal and Morecambe Bay; you might even spot Blackpool Tower on a clear day. The Howgills are to the east.

4 St Mary’s church

There’s an award-winning, open-all-hours public toilet and information board here. Find out the origins of local place names and learn about the wildlife in the valley. Explore St Mary’s church, built in 1864 and now available for ‘champing’ (camping in a church). There’s a handily situated bench for enjoying your picnic while your soul is restored by the tranquil surroundings.

5 Sadgill

The turning point, unless you’re making your own off-road diversion. The valley was once an important route for packhorse trains travelling between Scotland and the south and west. A petition for the bridge at Sadgill – which you’ll cross for the bridleway return – was made in 1717 to allow the river to be negotiated when flooded.

6 Garnett Bridge

If you’re returning by road, be careful not to miss this turning over the bridge – the picturesque, whitewashed mill cottages hide the sharp right-hand turning that takes you back towards Kendal on quiet lanes rather than the A6. If you’re on the bridleway, keep right and rejoin Garnett Bridge Road south of the hamlet.