MTB ride – Lower Gorple, Blackshaw Head

I'd promised myself a little MTB ride today, but I was dithering about earlier when it was sunny. By the time I finally set off it had clouded over and the sun only showed itself for a few minutes at a time. It was really humid and I thought that there was a chance of thunderstorms but somehow they didn't develop. They have been threatening for a few days now but have missed this area.

I'd decided to do my favourite short local MTB ride – Keighley Road, Midgehole Road, Hardcastle Crags, right at the car parks, climb up through the woods, left turn halfway up, Walshaw, Widdop Road, Lower Gorple, Edge Lane, Jack Bridge, Blackshaw Head, Bridleway (Marsh Lane, Turret Hall Lane) down to Oakville road, A646 back into Hebden Bridge. I haven't done many MTB rides for the past year or so, and I was looking forward to getting up on those bridleways again.

It was very muggy. As soon as I started to climb up the Keighley Road, the sweat started pouring off me. It was a right pain when I eventually headed up through the woods above the Crags. Flies were buzzing all around me and I nearly swallowed a couple of the buggers. After that, it was deep breathing through clenched teeth…

The flies became even more attentive when I stopped to take some photographs looking up the valley to Crimsworth Dean, so I didn't hang about long…

Looking towards Crimsworth Dean
Looking towards Crimsworth Dean

I remounted and headed up to my left through the woods on the way over to Walshaw and as I cleared the woods, a strange sound filled the air. At first I didn't realise what it was but as I approached a farm, the source of the racket became obvious. ‘Silence of the Lambs' it certainly wasn't! The fields were full of sheep and lambs and they weren't happy. I'd never heard so much simultaneous Baaing before. Perhaps they had been gathered together ready for taking to market?

Silence of the Lambs - not!
Silence of the Lambs – not!

The lane I was riding along used to be mainly dirt track but much of it has now been resurfaced with poor quality tarmac. I don't think that it will be too many months before it starts to break up again. While the tarmac lasts, the lane is more accessible to road bikes. I did once ride my Basso up there before they laid the tarmac but it was a bit rough for its skinny slick tyres.

I passed through Walshaw (a tiny hamlet of 5 or 6 buildings) and stopped again to take a few more pictures. I'm still having trouble getting the exposures right with my Fuji camera – most of them on this ride were unusable. This one was pretty poor but I've managed to brighten it up enough to show you the view towards Blake Dean…

Blake Dean from Walshaw
Blake Dean from Walshaw

My route took me round to Widdop Road where I turned left and then immediately right onto the Pennine Bridleway (PBW)/Mary Towneley Loop (MTL) which climbs up past Lower Gorple reservoir. I spotted a group of ramblers ahead of me walking on the path along the top of the dam. As usual, some had sensitive hearing and were diving for cover when I was still 100 yards behind them. Others appeared to be stone deaf and were oblivious to the sound of my tyres on the gravel surface as I approached, and also the repeated ringing of my bell. Yes – I have a (tiny) bell on my MTB! I kept getting told off by ramblers for not having one. Now they complain about it not being loud enough! If I got a loud bell, they'd be telling me off for making them jump when I rang it… 😉

Lower Gorple Reservoir
Lower Gorple Reservoir

I descended to the end of Edge Lane – at that end it is no more than a dirt road to a farm, and access to the bridleway I'd just come down. An elderly couple in a 4-wheel drive flagged me down and asked me if they were “allowed” to drive there! I told them that it was “allowed”, but since it only went another 100 yards to a farm, they might as well turn round and go back the way they'd come!

I bombed along Edge Lane, then turned right down past Colden School to Jack Bridge. I didn't fancy the steep bridleway over the hillside so I followed the zigzag road to Blackshaw Head, turned left there, and soon after that took a right back onto the PBW/MTL for a short distance before turning left then right down Turret Hall Lane – a bridleway which is more to my taste than the MTL's steeper, more technical descent. It comes out on Oakvile Road which takes you back to the A646 (either towards Todmorden or towards Hebden Bridge).

If any of you take this alternative bridleway, please be careful! It's a good descent but you may well encounter cars, children, animals, ramblers and other cyclists – don't go crazy!

Incidentally – Turret Hall Lane is a great way of getting up to Blackshaw Head by MTB. It is fairly steep in places but zigzags up the hillside so it is possible to really attack the climb if you are fit. I can't do that at the moment, but when I was slimmer and fitter I could power my way up it pretty quickly.

My Hope C2 disk brakes always start to cook on that descent but this time they locked on at the bottom! I have to back the brakes off using the thumb controls as the brake fluid expands with the heat of braking. This time, I ran out of adjustment. That's probably because I weigh more and was having to brake harder to scrub off speed. It took a few seconds for them to cool off enough to let me continue on my way home.

Not a bad little (mainly) offroad run. I'll be doing that one again fairly frequently, sometimes in the opposite direction.

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