Pendle Hill

If I have only a couple of hours to get a ride in, then I will do a circuit of this beauty.

pendle700 I first started taking cycling seriously about 20 yrs ago in a successful attempt to pack up fags and get fit.

It started like this….One day whilst recovering from a bout of flu I thought it may be a good idea to get my old “hand me down” bike out of the shed and get at little fresh air in around the streets where I live.  Well one thing led to another and I soon found myself at the foot of my local hill  “The Coppice in Accrington”.  The bike was totally unsuitable and on eventual arrival at the summit – developed a flat tyre.

View from the top of the Coppice looking down on the once industrial town of Accrington
View from the top of the Coppice looking down on the once industrial town of Accrington

I stood there for a few moments, the view was great but I had no means of repairing the bike! Did’nt have a pump or repair kit.

Just then a guy on a proper Mountain bike rode by! I didn’t think of asking for help, but looked in awe at how that bike and rider effortlessly progressed across the terrain.

That was it, and that very afternoon after pushing the bike home, I bought a “Mountain bike”

From that day on, I took every opportunity to explore our local trails, hills and moors.  It was a brilliant time,  East Lancashire is surrounded by hills.  I found that you can cover big distances, explore places where you would usually need a car.  I was to discover old bridleways linking my town of Accrington with Hebden Bridge and Haworth in Yorkshire.  I can head west over to Darwen Tower, Winterhill and Rivington.  All this and lots in-between can be linked together to create long exciting days out.

To the North, we have The Ribble Valley and Bowland fells with some of the very best road cycling anywhere.  Beyond Bowland are The Howgills, then The Lakes and Scotland.  The countryside is unbroken if you go North.

To the North the country side is unbroken.  The Trough of Bowland
To the North the country side is unbroken. The Trough of Bowland


I joined a local MTB club and with them learnt a whole lot of other routes and trails, some much further away in the Lakes, Wales and The Peak district. But there was one place more than any other that caught my attention and that was the Yorkshire Dales.

The Dales are only 25 miles away. I can get there in 90mins on my bike.   I don’t like using the car and much prefer to ride from home if at all possible. The Dales also have some of the most extensive and remote upland Bridleway trails in the country, not to mention the very best road cycling to be had anywhere.

View from Whernside looking towards Ingleborough, The Yorkshire Dales
View from Whernside looking towards Ingleborough, The Yorkshire Dales

The scenery is breathtaking,   its possible to ride most of the year as the geology is made up of Limestone and rainwater drains away quickly.

I ride with a rucksack and carry spares and have helped many a stranded cyclist over the years.”  Its packed with essential tools, nuts, bolts bits of chain, energy bars, money, Waterproof and a camera.

” Oh yes I  have learned the lesson of being stuck on top of the Coppice 20 odd years ago!”

I once met up with a MTBer on the way back one afternoon from Hebden Bridge.  His seatpost bolt had snapped and with nothing to sit on, had the hazardous journey back over the moors to Burnley!  It happened to me a few years later over at Lee Quarry.  The difference is that I had a spare bolt stashed away in my kit!

Pendle hill sits alone at the eastern edge of Lancashire like a beached whale.

The head of the whale is at the Barley end and the tail in Whalley.

The roads around Pendle are ideal training grounds
The roads around Pendle are ideal training grounds

Pendle is surrounded by a myriad of quiet country lanes and is exceptionally good news for the road cyclist.  When I first started taking cycling seriously some 20 years ago, the thought of riding up Pendle hill was considered a real feat of physical fitness.   A circuit can take anything between 2 – 4 hrs.  Its this hill more than most that has helped develop the stamina and strength needed for some of those long days out in the Dales.

Unfortunately Pendle has little legal access to offer the Mountain biker.  There are bits of bridleways dotted in and around this lovely hill, but the summit and all upland areas are out of bounds!  Its a terrible shame as there are some excellent sustainable paths up there.  I was once caught up near the summit by the Countryside ranges some years ago and they lay the blame for the lack of access firmly at the door of Lord Clitheore.

There is no real reason why we shouldn’t be up there with others who enjoy the great outdoors like myself, and can highly recommend trying to climb the track up to the summit from the Barley end.  If you can get up the left hand track without putting a foot down (dab) then you are truly awesome! Seriously though we should make our feeling heard and maybe some day be out enjoying it all together.

Pendle Hill on the road as I mentioned earlier is exceptional.  There will be hardly a week goes by without  doing some sort of ride along its labyrinth of quiet country lanes.  I say quiet, I can remember the time I came across an upturned car on a sharp bend.  It was a Friday afternoon and the accident had just happened.  The road was so narrow that I had to crawl under the bonnet of the upturned vehicle to continue my journey.

The steep climb out of Barley
The steep climb out of Barley

I dragging my bike along the floor as I went!  I couldn’t help but notice amidst the broken glass and leaking petrol a large flap of skin off the drivers hand that had been trapped against the road surface and steering wheel!  Apparently two smackheads had nicked the car, crashed it and done a runner.  They must have been high as Kites, after all one of them left part of his hand behind.  The Police surely must have caught the driver, all they had to do was go down to Burnley General Hospital and wait for the muppets to arrive!

There was another time a few years ago when I was riding out of Sabden on my way home before starting work on the afternoon shift.  A gentleman (John a male Nurse from Burnley) had fallen over hitting his chin on the edge of an aluminium road sign.  The sign was positioned about knee high by the side of a small wall next to the Pavement.  It was actually right outside the Sabden Police House!  There was blood everywhere.  He didn’t look too well and was pretty dazed as he sat on the Garden wall regaining his senses.  I could see his injury and reached for the steri strips from my first aid kit.  It was quite nasty, the whole bottom of his chin was gaping wide open.  I could see the underneath of his tongue!  I was doing my bit with the patent, ” you know, reassure, talk to him, calm him down” that sort of thing.
Well John couldn’t see the wound and after a couple minutes, perked up a little and started chatting away to me.  I meanwhile had made good progress in clearing and drying the area ready for my adhesive strips.  I was going to attempt to join the wound together. Anyway, I had just got to the difficult bit and the largest section of the wound.   John was happily nattering away.  I said “Just a minute can you just keep you mouth still for a few moments while I tuck it all back in”.  His eyes glazed over, and in an instant he fainted, falling backwards taking me with him into the Garden!.  Oh shit, me and my big mouth,  and It was all going so well!

Well the neighbours were out by now, and an Ambulance was summoned.  I waited with John until he was on his way.
Later that afternoon I was telling the tale to my works Manager.  I told him about the steri stips, he said where did you get the strips?  I replied, ” I was given them whilst I was on the my first aid course”. He went mad, accusing me of stealing company equipment!  

Works manager
Works manager

I couldn’t believe my ears..  I said to him in a rage, “This morning I was helping the wounded in Sabden, and this afternoon I am nothing but a common thief”!

Here’s a little tale for you lot who don’t wear crash helmets YET!

One day whilst descending into Sabden from the summit of the Nick O Pendle, I had a nasty fall.  I was flying down the road towards the Cattle grid, about a third of the way down with a friend.  Now – just after, and to the left of the grid was a nice little twisty footpath, and if no one is about was great fun to hit it at high speed.  Well this particular day I got it badly wrong…

There are two things to remember here,  and Number one is “Never alter course on a Cattle grid as you can’t steer on shiny Metal”! the other is “That you don’t need a cycle helmet until its too late!” Thankfully I was wearing a helmet.  The bike collapsed underneath me and I slid down the road banging my head at full speed hard on the tarmac.   Clothes were shredded and skin was burnt off my shoulders,  elbow and thighs.  As I sat up assessing the damage, I really thought I had lost my right ear as the pain was intense.  But No wait a minute,  all was intact –  just a little blood.  I unclipped my helmet  and it fell in half!

There is a couple of post scrips to this story, the first one is…  As I was sitting there by the side of the road among-st the wreckage,  I noticed a white van slowly go by, I knew just by looking at the occupants that they were only after one thing – My Bike.  They thought that I was going to hide it behind a wall and was to pick it up later. I got the feeling that they would be waiting further down the road.  This turned out to be correct as I free wheeled past them 10 mins later.  I’m pretty good at mending bikes you know.  “Don’t forget,  I carry spares!”

The second post script is that, when I got home I wrote a letter to the well known Helmet company (MET) with this story and they very kindly replaced it free of charge!

I recently bought one of those head video cameras.  Below is a clip from a cycling event (The Vintage Velo Challenge) of the climb up from Sabden over the Nick O Pendle and down the other side.. P.s you will see the car parked up in the layby on the right.  “Thats where the van was waiting”.   A little further up you will see the cattle grid!

Rossendale Challenge and the Mary Towneley Loop.

My first experience at competitive riding happened on the Coppice in Accrington,  It was back it was 1998 when I found myself sat on the start line near the Bowling green.  BANG! the starting gun sounded and the MTB race was under way.  Seconds later I looked up only to see everyone disappear up the hill out of sight.  mmm “a little out of my depth I thought!”  I finished second last after someone dropped out with a puncture!  I must say right here that I’m not a born athlete, I only got picked for the junior school football team because I could throw the ball furthest!!  I did take part in a few Hamleden Hill fell races, but found my little legs couldn’t keep up with all but the fun runners and were not really designed for this type of activity!

But put me on a bike and this disadvantage disappears to an extent.  After my early abysmal exploit, the next biking event was the 42 mile Rossendale MTB Challenge.

The accent of Brown Wardle on the Rossendale Challege
The accent of Brown Wardle on the Rossendale Challenge

(“these events were not supposed to be races, more of a day out on the moors”) But the competitive nature in most of us came out and it was most definitely a race!  Now this type of event is more suitable to me, I do have lots of stamina, this together with local knowledge saw me finish in the top quarter of the field on the first attempt.  It was also the day it started pouring down midway through the race.  It was a truly horrible day.  Many competitors got lost in poor visibility on the moors, I was just glad I knew the route and thankful to get back to the car.  One year saw me finish 8th overall out of around 200 which is my best ever result in any cycling event.  Oh yes I’m no born athlete but every dog has its day!

Sadley they stopped running the Rossendale challenge some years ago and the attention of the organisers turned to the newly open Mary Towneley Loop.  Now this baby is 47 miles long, 59  clocking it from Accrington.  If you can get the distance and the route in your legs a couple times before race day,  then you will do very well indeed!  Take 11 energy gels (one before each climb) also put some salt in your drink, then you will be ok!  I sometimes take some leftover roast potatoes caked in salt in one of my jersey pockets.  This alleviates the monotony of consuming all those sweet gooey gels! If you get any of this wrong you are going to die on the last Rooley Moor rd climb.  This climb goes on forever… 20 odd minutes of anguish before you crest the top.  But even then its not all over as there’s one last tarmac climb to the finish.  This will have your legs howling if preparation is lacking.

Rider on the Mary Towneley Loop
Rider on the Mary Towneley Loop

I haven’t entered this event since they stopped giving the split times for segments.  These were great to study over after the race and were a good way of see how your mates had fared over different sections.  My best official time for the event is 5hrs 1 mins.  Nowadays I just love getting out on the Mary Towneley in the spring and summer months.  More info on the route can be found here in another page in the site.

I still enter a couple of others most years, these being the brilliant Colne Valley MTB Challenge in Huddersfield and the Pennine X.




  1. Eddie Hurst says:

    Hi Ian
    It’s been great reading your about your mountain bike routes around Accrington and surrounding area. Like yourself I’m born and bred in Accrington and have been into cycling for about five years. It’s only recently that I’ve invested in a decent mountain bike and I’m keen to do the Accrington to Hebden bridge and back route that you have done. I’ve watched the video on you tube but obviously it’s edited and doesn’t show the full route. Is there a detailed map of it? If not is there waymarkers on route?


    • iandon says:

      Hi Eddie, with the section of the canal between Tod and Hebden under construction after the floods of 2015. My preferred route is going to be pretty much blocked off until next year 2017. Have a look at the link below and pick your route over to Todmorden. From Todmorden to Hebden Bridge you can have rest and take the main road down into Hebden Bridge. Grab yourself a well earned lunch break then head up the road towards Howarth. After half a mile or so take the road off to the left sign posted “Hardcastle Craggs” Keep going up through the forest without making any turns and continue along that track which turns into tarmac and enjoy your views to until you reach Widdop res. From Widdop ride across the dam wall and follow obvious track over the moor until you descend down into Worsthorn Village. Now all you need to do is find the nearest part of the Leeds Liverpool canal @ Thompson Park in Burnley and ride back to Accrington. Its about 40 mile so pick a nice day!

      Enjoy. Ian.


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