EDIT: I now run a cycle company that offers the chance to ride the whole Pennine Bridleway as a four day tour. Have a look!
No work, a good weather forecast and a rest day on the Tour de France – the obvious thing to do was to grab the mountain bike and head out on an adventure! From the list of rides to do this summer, a test ride of the recently opened northern section of the Pennine Bridleway seemed to fit the bill nicely. I’m a big fan of these long distance route type things and the Pennine Bridleway’s a incredible route. Though originally inspired and initiated by the horsey brigade, UK rights of way laws also make this a prime mountain bike route. I know the southern section that runs through the Peak District to the South Pennines where it meets the 47 mile Mary Towneley Loop, which I know particularly well. And until fairly recently, that was it. Last year though, the next instalment opened, from the top of the MTL right up through the South Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales into Cumbria. If they get people out on their bikes and help bring a bit of money into rural areas then it’s a win/win situation.
I like the idea of a mountain bike route that goes from A to B, but it also makes for a complicated day ride. You could get crafty with a riding partner and leave one of your cars down trail and then use it to get back to the other car at the start…. or you could use the train! One advantage of living in Manchester is that it has train routes heading out in all directions. I’m moving out of town a little way next week, so it made sense to utilise these stations to tackle this point to point route.
The railway strategy today was to get a train to Mytholmroyd in the South Pennines and then ride 12 miles of trails to get to the start of the new PBW section, then slog north on the trail 22 miles to near Gisburn, at which point I’d veer off and ride 8 miles of country lanes to the station at Clitheroe. I was tempted to carry on to Long Preston on the edge of the Dales, but the train journey times and price doubled so I’ll have to continue this particular adventure another day. Here’s the ride data on Strava if you want to pinch the route.
The South Pennines are often overlooked as an area of countryside, which is a real shame. Admittedly, it’s not a designated National Park and there are a few creepy farms to occasionally pass through, but to this rider at least, its dramatic rolling moorlands make it well worth a visit. Even the guide book I’d read was dismissive of the area, stating that it was the Yorkshire Dales section that would appeal to people, which is doing the area a massive disservice. One thing to be wary of on such a PBW mission, is that the route manages to sidestep every village and shop where you might have planned to stock up on water. I did an hour without water in rare British summer heat and eventually had to get the map out to plan a diversion to a local pub to rehydrate. The symbol on the OS map is a pint of beer, but I was was just happy for them to fill my camelbak with water.
So anyway, what’s the route like then? Really, really good! As ever, it’s a mix of existing bridleways, reassigned (and re-gated…) paths, along with some totally new bridleways. I’m pleased to report that the new bridleways have been tastefully and sensibly constructed – a rock/gravel base planted with grass seed that should drain well and is already settling in to a trail that looks as old as the some of the other bridleways.
I know some people might dismiss this type of route, claiming that it’s not technical enough, but I’d disagree. The climbs are all rideable and the descents are usually fast and fun enough that a lapse in concentration would mean trouble. Admittedly, it’s not the technical challenge of the Nan Bield pass, but it you carve yourself a decent chunk off, then you’ll know about it by the end of the day. I’m already studying the train timetables for an assault on the next section…
Cows enjoying the brand new bridleway
On the way to the PBW from Mytholmroyd
The start of the new section