With a touch on the brake I avoided the large rock ahead and the deep rut on the left of the track; freewheeling at a pace that seemed a good balance between being exciting and avoiding injury, I followed the part of the trail that looked the easiest. A large sheep moved out of the way ahead with a surprising agility and bounded into the heather – it was important not to hit one of those – and the high moorland landscape slid swiftly past while my eyes focused on the path and anything that might cause me to fall off.
The mountain bike gives much more of a sensation of moving through the landscape than hiking does – I guess the speed’s the difference there though pedalling up the steeper hills can be a damn sight harder walking up them. Rarely too for the Lancashire Moors, the sun was shining today with temperatures of around 24C or mid seventies and the speed of my bike also gave a welcoming breeze that could be absent when walking. I was at long last doing a route that had been rained off a couple of times – a circuit of the modest height known as Winter Hill lasting 20.2km or a bit over 12 miles that turned out to be about 20 miles due to where I chose to start and getting completely lost in the area of Dunscar Golf Club.
Another notable feature of this post is the lack of photos; this was due to a since rectified camera malfunction – no not a high speed encounter with a puddle but the far less interesting case of a memory card needing formatting. Why it should choose this particular moment I have no idea.
The route though was well worth doing and not too hard; the hills being mostly steady ascents though one path – the one below Delph Reservoir – was so overgrown that shorts are not recommended (copious nettles). The getting lost incident – well the main one – happened just after this where you leave the road along the nature reserve path. You go through one gate and come to another by a small bridge; keep straight on. I went left over the stream and rode down through the golf course which though a nice enough ride was the wrong way and entailed riding all the way back up the hill again. The next bit of the path cheered me up though.
The climb on the road to the route’s high point of 370m is steady with ever expanding views to the south and when it is reached just below Crooked Edge an even better view to the west opens up so I had lunch here. The mast on Winter Hill up to the right dominates the skyline being just over 1000 feet or 300m tall – as high as the Shard or the Eiffel Tower – and it is from here that the TV pictures are beamed to much of North West England.
The last part is the best bit of the ride and begins with heading down and across below Rivington Pike and ends with a rough track that leads from what I am reliably told is “the pigeon tower” – a tall edifice just to the left of the main track – across wild hillsides to the Belmont road and a fast descent to the village of the same name. From near the top of this road (Hordern Stoops 324m) there’s another mountain bike trail that heads off to the left down to Belmont – I’ll do that next time as it looks better than the road though 40mph on a smooth surface is a joy after four over rocks and ruts!
The ride around Winter Hill can be started from anywhere on the route subject to where you can park. My start point for the circuit was the small (and free) car park 2.1km east of Belmont on the National Cycle Network Route 91 (Lancashire Cycleway) and the route from there starts along the path that runs initially parallel with the road before heading into a very pleasant forest – no hint yet of the nettles below the reservoir! My own start point for the ride though was the somehat larger (but also free) car park shown on the second map and I reached the main route along a 4.7km length of the path known as the Witton Weavers’ Way – an extremely enjoyable and not difficult mountain bike route on a bridleway. I can highly recommend starting here though it does mean riding back at the end of the route. Will post photos next time I do the ride.
Pete Buckley July 2014