MTB ride – Watergrove Reservoir, Summit

It was once again time for my annual mountain bike weekend with some old mates. They bring their MTBs with them to Hebden Bridge and we go out for a tour of local hilly bridleways on the Saturday. Last year's ride took place in very poor conditions and I wore full winter cycling kit – in June! This time, we once again had a chilly northerly wind but we were expecting some good sunny spells and hoping to avoid rain. The weather didn't let us down…

Each year, I try to think up a new route to show off a different part of the area. We don't want to drive out to do our ride, so we are limited to what we can do in about 5 hours or so from our Hebden Bridge base. Pals Martin and Nick are pretty fit and could cope with more, but Paul isn't really a cyclist so we have to keep the difficulty and length of the route down to what he can handle. I'm actually always amazed by what he can cope with, given how little exercise he gets at other times of the year. He used to do some roller-blading but this time round he told me that he had neither bladed nor biked since our last get-together. The only significant exercise he has is 30 minutes a day walking his dog!

The sun was shining when we set off and it pretty much stayed like that all day. Once or twice it clouded over and I thought I felt a few spots of rain, but it all blew over and stayed nice for us.

I had decided to take in some stretches of the Pennine Bridleway/Mary Towneley Loop that we hadn't done together before, including a couple that even I hadn't ridden.

We started off riding up past Weasal Hall from the foot of Horsehold Road, past Old Chamber and up onto Kilnshaw Lane which was being dug up by some Geordie workmen who were laying new pipes. They chastised us for ignoring the road closed signs. To be honest, we hadn't even bothered to read them – it is almost always possible to get by on a bike!

We squeezed past their lorry and continued down the London Road bridleway to Mankinholes. Being a scaredy-cat and remembering a different Martin's crash on the cobbled bridleway down to Lumbutts last September, I took us along the short stretch of road up to the Shepherd's Rest instead. We followed the PBW/MTL round the brow of the hill to North Hollingworth farm where we descended to Walsden, crossed the A6033, and immediately attacked the steep climb of Inchfield Road on the opposite side of the valley.

Martin and Nick rode on ahead of me and Paul ended up walking the climb. When I got to the top of the steep part of the climb, Martin and Nick were fiddling with one of Martin's shoes. He had lost a bolt from one of his SPD cleats. They realligned the cleat and did the remaining bolt up as tight as they could to stop the cleat moving and it seemed to do the trick because Martin didn't have any further problems with the shoe. I wouldn't have been happy with it though – I once had a cleat come loose and I crashed when I was unable to unclip my foot on a technical descent. I think it would make sense to carry a spare cleat bolt or two in my spares pack, just-in-case.

There was a bench at the side of the road and we sat there for a while eating chocolate and swigging drinks, then we noticed that there was a huge drop just behind the undergrowth in front of us. It was pretty dodgy really – if you weren't paying attention, you could easily wander off the edge and fall 60 or 70 feet down into the woods. It was on a bend in the road and any driver overshooting it – for example, sliding on ice – could easily end up down there in a mangled heap. In these health-and-safety-conscious days I'm amazed that nobody has demanded the erection of a barrier. If you are ever up there, watch out!

We continued up along the lane and left it by a farm to follow a bridleway over Rough Hill to Watergrove Reservoir but we ended up doing a diversion over Hades Hill when I failed to spot a fork in the bridleway (I was busy chatting and forgot to keep an eye on my GPS!).

Hades hill
Hades hill

We rejoined our original route on the far side of Rough Hill, with panoramic views of Greater Manchester in the distance behind Watergrove reservoir.

Watergrove Reservoir and Greater Manchester
Watergrove Reservoir and Greater Manchester

A quick descent took us towards the reservoir, and we decided to stop at ‘Little Town' to have a bite to eat and lie around in the sunshine for a while. I wasn't sure what Little Town actually was but having searched the Internet when I got home, I found out some of the history of the area…

Apparently, Watergrove used to be a thriving little community consisting of 50 dwellings and farms, 2 pubs, a chapel, and a small mill. Farmers kept sheep on the hills above the village and their wool was processed in the mill. Then in 1930, the authorities demolished the village and built the reservoir over the top of the ruins. The original cobbled road still exists and goes down into the waters of the reservoir. Some time later, the lower parts of the walls of the farm known as ‘Little Town' were rebuilt as a reminder that people once lived there. Now, it is a visitor's picnic area and this was where we had our lunch stop and a spot of sun-bathing.

Sunbathers at Little Town, Watergrove
Sunbathers at Little Town, Watergrove

After about 30 minutes of lazing about we decided to get back on our bikes. A chilly northerly wind was still blowing. Sometimes it helped us, and sometimes we turned into it and felt its force. All in all though, it was turning out to be a fine day out on the hills. Nick told me later that this was his favourite ride so far in this area.

We followed the PBW round to Summit, crossed the A6033 again, and began the climb up behind Lower and Upper Chelburn Reservoirs which are feeders for the Rochdale canal below. (For some reason, some OS maps refer to the lower reservoir as Chelharp but this appears to be a mistake!)

Nick was romping on ahead and was climbing a lot of technical stuff that had the rest of us walking. Paul was starting to suffer. He has a bad neck and a pinched nerve in his shoulder so it was surprising that he'd even lasted that long. I decided that I'd cut a few miles off the route to try and get him home in one piece!

Chelburn Reservoir, Summit
Chelburn Reservoir, Summit

We crested the hill, then followed the bridleway round to the A58 at the Blackstone Edge Old Road. A couple of hundred yards up the A58, we turned off onto the bridleway going up to the White House. It used to be a bit of a peat bog but it has been resurfaced and is now packed hardcore with chippings on the top – not my favourite surface, but it is better than it was. I got into my climbing rhythm on that and went on ahead with Nick, while Martin and Paul struggled with it and rejoined us at the pub car park later.

Paul had reached his limits so we cut the last planned section from the route, and headed straight down the B6138 to Mytholmroyd. From there we returned to Hebden Bridge along the Calder Valley Cycleway.

When we got back, we sat outside the Shoulder of Mutton and enjoyed the nice cold drinks we'd been looking forward to all afternoon. It hadn't been a mammoth ride – only about 25 miles altogether (about 9 miles of that was on roads) but it had still been pretty tiring. I have definitely lost a lot of fitness. Never mind, it will be fun working to get it back! 😉

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2 Responses to “MTB ride – Watergrove Reservoir, Summit”

  1. Sounds a lovely ride. 25miles off-road is a long ride for those hills!

  2. Ah, but it was only about 16 miles off-road and 6 of the 9 miles on-road were downhill from Blackstone Edge to Mytholmroyd! Still, it was a good day out.

    I might plan a long walk over parts of that route later in the summer.

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