I visited Sustrans’ brilliant National Cycle Network website to get inspiration for this week’s ride and route 68 – the Pennine Cycleway – immediately jumped out at me. The full route takes you all the way from Derby to Berwick-upon-Tweed but I hopped on just over the Yorkshire border at Dunford Bridge and followed it to Hebden Bridge.
I parked up in an explicably large car park for such a remote hamlet and was immediately climbing as I headed out of the Peak District. The views that greeted me as I crested my first summit were breathtaking and I could gaze right across West Yorkshire before I turned left at a small crossroads and was flanked by woodland. Another short drag followed there before I took on a three-mile descent into Holmfirth. Normally I’d relish such a long, fast section but this one was actually pretty stressful courtesy of a dodgy road surface, progressively narrowing lanes and a multitude of blind bends. The ascent up to Upperthong took place on an equally small road and I might well have missed it if it wasn’t for the signs which are helpfully positioned at almost every junction.
Emley Mast and Victoria Tower proved impressive landmarks and kept popping up on my right as I passed through Meltham, and I’m happy to report the descent into Slaithwaite was more fun than the previous one. I would urge caution though, there is a junction at the bottom that merges straight on to Manchester Road. I continued through the centre of Slaithwaite, turned left at a mini roundabout before tackling the longest ascent of the day up to Pole Moor. It started off OK but got immediately tougher as I exited the village and maintained an average gradient of over 10% for easily the next mile or so. A few sections were ultra-punishing too – easily in excess of 20% – and by the time I’d reached the top I was cooked.
I was rewarded with more great views as I circumnavigated Scammonden Reservoir and that brief downhill section gave me some respite before the climbing began again on New Lane. That was about as narrow as backroads get and I was in my highest gear again. Thankfully it was only half a mile before I’d reached Saddleworth Road, and from that point it was plain sailing as I passed from Kirklees into Calderdale. I flew down past Ringstone Edge Reservoir before traversing Barkisland and continuing on towards Sowerby Bridge. The descent features a few tight turns so keep your eyes peeled for the Cycle Network signs.
I have to admit I did feel the burn on the drag from Sowerby Bridge to Sowerby even though it was nowhere near as tough as the ramps I’d experienced previously, but once I’d turned right at The Church Stile Inn things calmed down before another fast run in to Mytholmroyd. Up to this point there had barely been a flat metre of road so I was pleased to find the last two miles passed without even the slightest of bumps. I followed Caldene Avenue out of Mytholmroyd before crossing the River Calder and turning left onto Burnley Road. That took me into Hebden Bridge and I parked up outside the Innovation Café for a well-earned snack.