Tandem Ride around Rutland Water (Empingham Reservoir)
Thursday 2 September 2010, Filed in: General
We hired our tandem from the Whitwell cycle hire shop, however, you can also hire a tandem from the Normanton site, which can be found on the south side of the dam.
The route is a circuit of 17 miles unless you ride around the peninsula, which adds on another 6 miles, however, it is well worth the extra ride. If you get bored of the ride around the reservoir you can also take a small diversion and visit the Rutland town of Oakham, which is on the edge of the reservoir.
We have ridden the route at all times of the year, however, for those who like lambs, birds, etc, spring is the best time to experience the ride around the reservoir.
The route starts, anticlockwise, from Whitwell on a tarmac path that climbs up and down some reasonable hills, for approximately 1 mile, after which you enter the local woods, which is full of birds in the spring and summer. You leave the woods and climb up to the local Barnsdale car park where there are toilets, Barnsdale is the site where Geoff Hamilton used to film Gardeners world.
On leaving Barnsdale the route, which is tarmac again, drops down and then up and down to the edge of the reservoir and onto a limestone path, at this point there are good views across the reservoir to the peninsula, the route does have a lot of gates to keep the sheep in their fields.
On completion of the limestone path along the reservoir edge, approximately 1 mile, you exit the field onto a tarmac path which runs along the side of the main Oakham to Empingham road for approximately 2 miles, the views in this area are limited to fields, trees and loads of insects.
On completion of this section you have a choice of routes, you can follow the A606 into Oakham, or turn left on to the peninsula road and then right to continue around the Reservoir or continue straight on around the peninsula.
We take the peninsula road and follow the cycle path around the peninsula and then back onto the peninsula road and finally following the route back around the reservoir.
In spring time parts of the peninsula can be closed due to lambing, information can be obtained on the status of the peninsula at either Whitwell or Normanton cycle shops before starting your ride.
The peninsula is well worth the ride, should it be open, as it passes through several wooded areas which have high numbers of different coloured birds, insects, sheep and lambs and hornets (these need to be treated with a little respect).
The ride around the peninsula is quite easy, the track is made of limestone, unfortunately after winter it does get a little rough in areas. The ride is mainly level, although there are one or two challenging hills which come out of the blue on the peninsula north side.
The south side of the peninsula is mainly flat, with stunning views across the reservoir, however, it does run through woods so the path does tend to be a little slippery as it does not dry out so well. There are several cattle grids on the peninsula route which need to be crossed with care, there are gates that can be used for those unsure about using the cattle grids.
On leaving the peninsula you head towards Egleton where the main bird watching centre is located, care needs to be taken in this area especially during the spring as there are large numbers of bird watchers coming and going.
The cycle path heads away from Egleton and back on to the lime stone path, again with limited views of the reservoir, however, this is compensated by the birds in the trees.
The route finally comes out onto the A6003, where you can either use the cycle path, the path goes under a railway bridge at this point which is very narrow and is quite difficult to get a tandem through the space between the bridge and safety rail. We got onto the main road at this point and cycled up the A6003 hill and then turned left into Manton. The cycle path joins the road at this point, however, it is a very quiet road through the village. On leaving the village you have the opportunity to use a very good and fast cycle path, which runs along the side of the road and finally down a very steep hill to the side of the reservoir (very good views from this point).
The cycle path becomes enclosed by trees again at this point before opening out at the side of the reservoir heading towards Gibbets Cove. When entering the woods at Gibbets Cover, which are accessed by crossing a cattle grid, the cycle path climbs very steeply, the climb is challenging as you do not get a run due to the cattle gird, we have seen several come a cropper coming down the hill.
When you exit the woods at Gibbets Cove there are good views up the reservoir towards the dam and the sailing club, the route at this point is still limestone, however, when arriving at the sailing club the cycle path is made up of tarmac.
At this point you enter the car park at Normanton, we find it very useful as we have a drink and cake at the café at the Normanton site, very nice, there are toilets for Kate as she likes to try them all.
The route can tend to get a bit busy now, as a lot of people park on either side of the dam, walk across it and then back to their respective car park. The cycle path becomes a cycle /pedestrian path with dogs, walkers, and children all using it together. However, it is still an enjoyable ride along the tarmac path along the side of the reservoir passing the old Normanton Church Museum as you head towards the dam.
The dam has very nice views up the reservoir and down the valley towards Empingham village, unfortunately as I am the pilot I have to concentrate on those coming towards us rather than the views.
The ride now enters the car parks at Whitwell and then back to the hire shop where you can get another drink, use the toilets or just generally sit and watch the world go by.
The ride does have some challenging climbs in places, however, nothing too strenuous, the route is generally quite with plenty of passing room for bikes, walkers, etc. The main problem areas, which have high concentrations of pedestrians, are the 2 main car parks and the footpath across the dam. The surface can be slippery and in need of repair at the end of winter, early spring, so caution needs to exercised in places.
The ride has some fantastic scenery, wildlife and is a fun ride, don’t let the numbers of visitors put you off as most are very good and will share the paths willingly.
Kate and Andy
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