A tour of the North West’s Reservoirs and Gates with the dragon looming

21 07 2010

Time seems to be running away with itself at the moment, what with work, meeting up with friends and family and the bike rides, there seems to be very little time left for anything else, especially writing blogposts. Priorities!

Anyway, for the past couple of years Simon and I have, from time to time, made time to go on some long off-road rides. For those of you who don’t know Simon, this is him in Wales:

We’ve ridden the South Downs Way and the Coast-to-Coast (that was my stag do). This year has been a bit hectic, new houses, new jobs, and we are now both married, so it’s taken a while to sort a ride out but we got it together and planed a trip up and around the Pennine Bridle Way from Sheffield taking in the Trans Pennine Trail, over three days. The best part is that apart from the route, we had done NO planning for this! Quite liberating really as a lot of trips get planned within an inch of death. So we set off last Friday with various bits of camping gear and very little else strapped to our bikes and backs with no real idea of where we were going to camp, eat or anything else really.

The Trans Pennine Trail follows an old railway line from Sheffield to Manchester and with the exception of one hill is essentially flat. It makes for a nice fast alternative to the A628 for getting across the Pennines to the real objective, the Pennine Bridalway which we picked up in Hadfield.

Heading North out of Hadfield the ride changes nature as you head up onto the moors and to the reservoirs and gates. The landscape is quite different from what I’m used to, the stone walls, the sheep, the mist are all very different to Warwickshire, and bring back fond memories of living and riding in and around Lancaster.

We dropped off the fells north of Hadfield and the cityscape of Greater Manchester unfolded in front of us before we headed up the Tame Valley and back onto the moors for more reservoirs and gates. As the evening drew on we went under the M62 and dropped down to Hollingworth Lake, which I can only describe as a little seaside town next to a lake in the hills. There we found a small campsite, pitched the tent and headed to the pub.

Despite its odd character, Hollingworth Lake was the perfect place to leave our gear on Saturday and ride the 47 mile Mary Towneley Loop section of the Pennine Bridleway, a nice easy day we thought. So getting up at the crack of dawn around 10am, and after finding breakfast and some food for the day it was 11.30am before we actually headed in to the hills for our easy day.

After 7 miles, lots of rain, gates and an animal sanctuary we finally made it to the loop an hour after setting off. We headed anti-clockwise so the Mary Towneley loop takes you into Calderdale which is a bit of a mountain bike haven in the UK and home to a great magazine and several notable mountain bikers and at least one designer. It was my first time there, and I can see why, apart from all the gates it’s so popular. I will go there again sometime so will leave it to then to write about the area. So we pushed on round the loop through more gates and past more reservoirs. Now our lack of planning was beginning to tell, we had not factored in where to pick up water, where to get food and we had no idea how hilly the route would be. Progress was slow and it became clear that maybe we should have left before we did. So before we finished the loop we had to get the map out and take roads back to Hollingworth Lake. What we did ride we enjoyed and shall be back to enjoy this area again, but next time a bit more prepared.

By now it’s Sunday and we have the task of backtracking to Sheffield. It’s amazing how the world can look so different when you turn around and come back the other way. Where had all these hills come from? We stopped at a pub in Hadfield for a sandwich before heading East back across the Pennines to Sheffield to arrive at the train station covered in mud.

It was a great unplanned little bike hiking adventure, and a first for both Simon and I. Looking at the maps we realised that there are literally years of off-road bike hiking adventures to be had in this country, and it makes such a change from touring on the road. We just need to figure out how to better pack the gear, I can feel an order being made to one of these guys, Epic Designs, Carousel Design Work.

Now, I had questioned the wisdom of actually doing this ride at all as next weekend is the 1000km Mille Cymru. I should have been taking it easy, making sure that I’m well rested. As it turns out the last couple of weekends have been good for my confidence. On the 10th July I rode 240 miles and kept an average speed of 17.6 mph, and this weekend despite the hills and the heavy rucksack my legs just ticked away for three days without getting tired.




3 responses

21 07 2010
Body Workout 101

A tour of the North West?s Reservoirs and Gates with the dragon looming…

I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

21 07 2010
Liz gillies

Sounds like fun James, love the pictures. X

22 07 2010

Sounds a great adventure!

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