See God’s Own Country from two wheels with these Yorkshire cycling routes

Helen Skelton is urging families to use the new year to get outdoors and explore cycle routes.
Helen Skelton is urging families to use the new year to get outdoors and explore cycle routes.
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With fitness and wellbeing a New Year focus for many, British Cycling and HSBC highlight some of the best winter bike routes in Yorkshire. Laura Drysdale reports.

After a festive period of over-indulgence for many, the New Year often brings with it a fresh focus on wellness and fitness.

Whether it is taking part in Red January - a nationwide initiative that encourages people to support their mental and physical health by getting active every day - or working towards individual healthy living goals, up and down the country, exercise is high on the agenda.

In a year that will see the region play host to both the Tour de Yorkshire and UCI Road World Championships, British Cycling and HSBC UK have drawn up a list of some of the best winter cycling routes in God’s Own Country.

The first is the ‘Keighley Towpath Tootle’. The flat, five-mile route starts at the 17th century manor house of East Riddlesden Hall and follows the traffic-free Leeds and Liverpool Canal towpath all the way to Bingley. A cafe at the Five Rise Locks provides an opportunity to rest and refuel before heading along the canal once again, back to the hall and journey’s end.

‘Saddle Up to Saltaire’ offers a longer route, starting and finishing at Apperley Bridge in Shipley. The nine-mile cycle follows the Leeds and Liverpool west towards the World Heritage site of Saltaire, the model village and factory of philanthropic industrialist Titus Salt. En route, the ride passes Esholt, the location of ITV’s long running drama Emmerdale Farm.

Route three, ‘The Nidderdale Greenway’ “takes some beating” the organisations say, taking in Harrogate neighbourhoods along bridleways, cycle routes, tracks and little-used roads.

The fourth is ‘York’s solar system cycle ride’, an eleven-mile route from Rowntree Park in York to open countryside. It heads out of the city passing the Knavesmire and Naburn to the Uranus cycle path marker. The educational route teaches riders about the solar system, with a scale model of the planets and their distances from each other.

The final suggestion is Nostell Priory and Parkland. Starting in the grounds of the priory, near Wakefield, it is just over six miles long and makes use of cycle tracks to complete a circular route taking in the site’s upper and lower lake.

Television presenter Helen Skelton, who skied and ice-biked to the South Pole, has partnered with the two organisations. She is urging families to saddle up and get outdoors this January. “Winter is my favourite season and I can’t wait to explore beautiful winter wonderlands and discover magical creatures with my family,” the mother-of-two says.

“The suggested winter cycle rides from HSBC UK and British Cycling are the perfect way to get you and your family out on your bikes and spend some time together outside.

“It’s easy to spend more time inside during January and it can feel a little claustrophobic at times, so this is a fantastic way to get out and breathe some fresh air.”

Getting families out on bikes is at the core of a partnership between British Cycling and National Trust, which launched last summer. Supported by HSBC,it will see cycle hire schemes rolled out at National Trust properties in England and Wales, so that they can also be explored on two wheels.

“A growing number of National Trust sites have a bike borrowing scheme that includes balance bikes for children, which is an ideal way to keep the little ones entertained and active rather than staying inside,” Helen, who has also completed the Namibia Ultra Marathon, a 66m high wire walk and a kayak along the Amazon River, explains.

“So, even if Father Christmas didn’t bring a new bike to the house, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring your local National Trust place to create some memories with your loved ones.”