Is West Yorkshire the best county for mountain biking in England?
According to Benji Haworth, West Yorkshire is the best county for mountain biking in the whole of the UK. That’s a pretty bold statement but he’s prepared to stand by it.
By way of proof, as well as a how-to instruction, here’s a route from Tom Hutton to take you on a tour of what West Yorkshire has to offer you and your bike.
Calderdale has earned itself something of a reputation for its top-notch riding, and with very good reason — it really does seem to punch above its weight. This is a long-time favourite of ours that links the artisan towns of Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, with a sortie onto the hillsides and moors to the north. There are so many highlights it would be impossible to list them all — the good stuff just keeps on coming. But the run from Gorple Stones down to Cant Clough is a peach, as are a few of the steep and stony delights at the finish.
Way to go
START (OS103/SD955246) Picnic Area, A646, E of Todmorden: Turn L onto the main road, then 1st R into a narrow lane then follow this R before dropping to the canal bank. Follow the canal for 2km and at Stubbing Wharf, head back up the main road and turn R. (Note: some sections of canal were closed at the time of writing necessitating heading up to the main road earlier). Continue to Church Lane on the L.
(SD985273) Church Lane. Distance so far: 4.4km: Follow this up and keep SA at the top onto a track. Climb the road and turn L to climb to a sharp LH bend. Keep SA on a track to houses and turn R onto a BW. Follow this around the hillside, dropping into a couple of valleys, before climbing to a track (Pennine BW). Turn L and follow this down to the Gorple Reservoirs and up to the road. Turn L for 1km then L over the dam of Widdop Reservoir. Continue around the shore then bear L to climb steeply to a waymark by Gorple Stones.
(SD922321) Finger post at Gorple Stones. Distance so far: 17.6km: Keep SA to descend to a gate and keep SA here to ford a stream. Now climb away and as the track swings R, turn L onto a faint, singletrack permissive BW. Follow this down to the shores of Cant Clough Reservoir and go through a gate then turn R to continue on a good track. Go through another gate and turn L (Pennine BW) and then follow Pennine BW signs all the way up to the road at Long Causeway.
(SD893288) Long Causeway. Distance so far: 23.9km: Turn L for 4km to a turning on the R (Shore, Todmorden). Drop for 800m to a sharp RH bend and turn L onto a drive. Go past houses and when it swings R, turn L through a gate onto a track. Follow this down over a bridge and then turn R to climb then drop sweetly to a junction with a gate ahead. Turn L to climb steeply, with a wall on the R, to a junction, where you turn R.
(SD923265) Junction near Orchan Rocks. Distance so far: 30.1km: Continue between walls and on flagstones on Whirlaw Common. Keep SA on a drive and drop to a X-roads. Keep SA to climb steeply on a narrow track and continue past the golf club to the road. Turn R and then L, past a cemetery, then R onto a BW. Follow this around to a junction and turn R, to drop to a house at Rodwell End. Keep SA to drop to the road and bear R through the tunnel, onto the A646. Turn R to finish.
The car park is on the N side of the A646 between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge (OS103/SD955246). It can be easily reached from the M62, the M65 and the M66. Rail users could set off from Todmorden or Hebden Bridge.
Best time to go
A mix of tracks, some muddy and a little fragile in wet weather. Not too busy at any time of the year though.
Maps and guidebooks
Memory Map V5 OS Landranger (1:50,000)
OS Landranger (1:50,000) 103, Blackburn & Burnley, 104 Leeds & Bradford
OS Outdoor Leisure Series (1:25,000) 21,The South Pennines
West Yorkshire Mountain Biking by Benji Howarth (Vertebrate Publishing)
Great bike shop in Hebden Bridge, Blazing Saddles, 01422 844435.
Organic House — excellent organic cafe in Market St, Hebden Bridge.
The Youth Hostel at Mankinholes, 0845 371 9751.
B&B at the Robin Hood Inn at Pecket Well, 01422 842593.
Hebden Bridge TIC, 01422 843831.