There and back again: an Autumn bike ride to Stamford Bridge


Isabel Urding takes readers on a cycling route along the River Derwent and explains how escaping into nature can bring blissful joy

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Image by Isabel Urding

By Isabel Urding

On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, struck by the irrepressible desire to get out of the house, I found myself scrolling through a seemingly endless list of bicycle routes on an excellent website called Komoot. Eventually, I landed on the Stamford Bridge – Millennium Bridge loop from York, and having enlisted two friends, we set off from Osbaldwick.

It was a windy morning and with only a little difficulty we found our way through the twisting roads lined with trees to the long stretches that followed the edges of fields. I enjoyed the slightly strange, and even surreal, nature of this bicycle ride. It was soothing to escape the lively masses wandering the city of York, the flurries of students on campus and the warrens of suburbia. It was very quiet, and houses appeared far and few between. The three of us stopped at one point to observe a dead deer lying on the bank of the road. It was strange to see a deer so close, and one so still that it looked as though it was sleeping. Soon after this, we stopped in a little village called Warthill and sat by a pond under a stunted, and yet still leafy willow tree. Sharing a tube of pringles, we drew the curiosity of local dog walkers who went by. The peaceful nonchalance of the moment was not unlike the kind experienced at lunchtime on a school trip.

Finally, after many wrong turns, and an accidental expedition into a forest, we arrived at Stamford Bridge. However, we were soon filled with the desire to go exploring and so we set off again along the bank of the River Derwent to investigate what appeared to be an old railway bridge. It turned out to be the Stamford Bridge Viaduct, so, covered in nettle stings and having satisfied our curiosity, we returned to Stamford Bridge to peer through the village shop windows and eat lunch on a picnic bench. Ironically, we soon discovered we were next to the Viking Road, as my friend was sat wearing a Viking Raid t-shirt!

The bridge itself was marked by a hand painted sign marking the place of the famous Battle of Stamford Bridge. It recounts the story that as battle commenced “the narrow wooden bridge was defended by a giant Norseman who slaughtered all who tried to cross, until a crafty Englishman paddled under the bridge in a swine tub, poked a spear through the slats and, in the words of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle “brogged the giant from below”.”

After a quick drink at the pub, we cycled over the Stamford Bridge viaduct and watched the sun set through the trees that lined the bank of River Derwent. The cycle home was a little faster, yet still peaceful as dusk settled and the birds started singing. Arriving home, we firmly avowed to go out cycling again.

Whilst lucky with our access to bicycles and an abundance of free time, our little adventure there and back to Stamford Bridge was a rare moment of childish joy, and the perfect escape from the sometimes overstimulating world of university. It was a day that has stuck firmly in my mind, and this little bit of exploring is always something I would wholeheartedly recommend.