Words by Hannah Reynolds on Twitter and Instagram
We all get to a point when we fancy something a little different. We all know of popular bike parks and trail centres which offer concentrated fun and convenience, but what about hidden trails that lie just a little further beyond?
Hannah Reynolds has been out and about, chatting with fellow riders who offer a glimpse into their favourite trails around the UK.
Name of Rider: Isobel Riley
Favourite Ride: Forest of Bowland, Lancashire
How did you find it?
I grew up in Garstang, not far from the Forest of Bowland. After leaving home, travelling and working abroad I came back to the area and re-discovered my love for cycling.
My dad has always been a keen cyclist and is a founder member of Garstang Cycling Club so I started riding with them. The Forest of Bowland is really popular with local riders so I started to learn my way around by going out on the club rides. Whether I’m meeting friends for a quick spin or going out on a longer training ride it is the direction I head in most often.
What makes it special?
There are very few roads within the Forest itself, which means there is little traffic other than locals. On a sunny weekend, you will see more cyclists than cars. It is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; it is easy to see why. The woodland areas are very peaceful, and the routes feel enclosed and sheltered but the higher stretches of moorland can feel wild and exposed. It’s amazing to have that feeling of space and freedom even though we aren’t far from home or busy roads.
The Trough of Bowland is the road running from Marshaw called Trough Road, it goes to the top of Blaze Moor. It is just under 300m at the top, the stone at the top signifies where the old Lancashire border was. There is also a memorial to cyclist Bill Bradley, he was a local hero, having been twice National Champion and went to the Olympics in 1960. His old club Southport RCC run a memorial ride for him most years.
For a relatively small area it is crammed with tough climbs, when I was training for the Fred Whitton I used to come here a lot. Although the climbs are not that long it is never flat so I can accumulate several thousand meters in a morning’s ride from my back door.
Why ride it?
The landscape is stunning and varied, the roads are quiet and there is loads of climbing. It is a huge contrast to the busy areas that surround it. It is really popular with local cycling clubs so there is a good atmosphere when you ride there and many professional riders have used this area for training, even Bradley Wiggins.
Even though I ride there often I never get bored, it’s a big enough area that I can ride a slightly different route every time I go, although the Trough is always a favourite.
How to ride it?
The Forest of Bowland is very accessible for anyone in the North-West or coming up the M6 from the south. The forest is encircled by the M6 to the west, A65 to the east, A683 north and A59 to the south. Popular starting points for routes are Lancaster, Clitheroe and Ingleton. We normally ride out from Lancaster or occasionally Clitheroe.
Once you are in the forest the relatively low number of roads means you need to be a bit canny with your route planning. For a hilly route, to make sure we do plenty of climbing, I’ll include Cow Ark, Whitewell and Waddington Fell as well as the Trough itself. Longridge Fell and Birdy Brow are also pretty legendary amongst local riders.
There are a few good café options including Puddle Ducks café in Dunsop Bridge, supposedly the exact centre of the UK or Riverside Tearooms in Slaidburn - who do great scones and cream! If you start your ride in Clitheroe then pop into The Green Jersey cycle café, they do bikes and spares as well as coffee and cake.
There are some steep, sustained climbs so you need to have some easy gears if you are going to ride them comfortably. It can get very blowy in the exposed sections and the valleys can often funnel the wind so bring some extra layers. Whilst there are several great cafés within the Forest, and a few good pubs, it is worth making sure you have plenty of food and water as there are long stretches of the ride without anything.
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