Fourteen MVHers and 5 significant (and patient) others made the trip up to the West Yorkshire town of Haworth in July for the annual Training and Social Weekend. The windy, flat expanses of Bala, Wales, were left behind this year for something more challenging…………
Some of the couples headed up early to make the most of this idyllic tourist town, home to the Bronte Parsonage and the Pennine railway; the latter featuring regular commuter trains (once per lunar month) to London.
Matt Mousley and Katrina clearly sampling the local fermented produce sufficiently to require a mid-evening walk to clear the head ……and the legs…… ahead of Saturdays plans.
Meanwhile Warren and Steve bounced merrily down the cobbles and paid the 50 pence fee to sit on the platform and wait for the London train. They would still be there now if they hadn’t noted half a dozen pubs between the hotel and the station. So they were safely settled back in the White Lion Hotel when the rest of the crew congregated: 3 Clarks, 2 Hooleys, 2 Mcleans, a brace of Heron, a couple of Coveys and a solitary Lindridge (don’t feel sorry for him, he was grinning ear to ear). Hydon made it in time to be convinced we were buying in rounds and it was his turn. Finally, Mr Mead and Aunty Jenny emerged from their new hi-tech support vehicle quoting the first of many excuses that their Sat Nav lacks….well, the Nav!
Early breakfast and then an eternity waiting for yours truly to prepare his bike. But without me as guide, there was a risk that all involved would fall into the clutches of middle earth’s flat caps and whippets.
Amy-Jo had spent a great deal of time planning and organising the weekend but woke up unwell and was forbidden to ride, by me (it must have been bad….she listened!). It was a shame in all respects, but especially because our more cynical members began to get suspicious of her motives as they saw the first climb of the day…… followed by a 90 degree turn onto the “hidden” second half of that first climb! Known in the 2014 Tour de France as Cote de Oxenhope – and leading into the aptly named Mast Hill at the right angle turn – this is one of those climbs that just gets steeper and steeper until it spits (or coughs) you out onto the moorland plateau above Nab water. A truly spectacular view. But at only 3.5 miles into the ride – and with 3 cyclists already tiptoeing up on their cleats – this was an early reminder that this terrain is, indeed, foreign to us! I tentatively promised that this would be the worst….and objectively speaking, I knew it to be true (Strava Veloviewer and a painful recce ride in April combined to evidence this). However, I knew that there were 2 more categorised climbs and a constant stream of very steep “kickers” and so with a group of 15 riders, I knew that people were likely to meet some demons elsewhere along the route.
Humbled and harrowed, the group weaved further up the lane to begin a shallow but exhilarating decent towards the next surprise!
The civilised gradient gave way to a landslide descent involving the ultimate road sign all cyclists want to see “Caution: Severe Hairpin Bends ahead”. If only Jenny Mcphereson had read this before she headed up someones drive and in to (not through) their gate. For a slim athlete she bounces really well; clocking up a mighty 4 “offs” over 2 relatively short rides. Awesome stuff. Never knowingly undersmiling either! Terrific entertainment.
Unfortunately Martin’s tyre did not survive this particular descent, rupturing shortly before (thankfully) the hairpins and sadly terminating the Covey’s ride. Meanwhile the main group had congregated in Luddenden as myself (begrudgingly) and Mead (gleefully) climbed back up to the stricken Martin. We had to call for an immediate extraction by Mrs Mclean in the support vehicle.
Not deterred we headed off toward Hebden Bridge. As I planned the route, I may lean to bias, but Heights road which curves around the hillside high above Calderdale is just unbelievably pretty as you peer down first at Mytholmroyd and then to Hebden Bridge. The support vehicle passed us on this lane on its way to pick up the Coveys and we briefly stopped to dissect how it could take 1 hour and three quarters to cover less than 15 miles! An alternative return was offered at this point…….not even a meek, squeak of weakness was heard…. so we ALL began another descent to Hebden to meet the start of “big climb” number 2!
This was about mile long climb from Hebden to Heptonstall and finishes with around 300metres of hilly cobbles between the narrow terraces. Absolute class. This hill beat me twice when I started riding in 2012 and it claimed a couple of casualties this time; although more due to its surprising corners and surface change than a true steepness.
The Moorland pass that took us from the White Roses of York, to the Lancashire Red Roses was as windy as the omnipresent wind farms would suggest it should be. A few miles of relative respite, albeit with the headwind. A great view of the monument at Studley Pike across the Valley (our intended afternoon run venue). On reaching Lancs, we headed up towards Amy-Jo’s family home in Briercliffe (near Burnley) and those who were not gawping at the wheel in front hoping for a natural disaster were able to see a view of Thursden Valley Road up to Widdop (the venue of our Sunday activities).
Jenny and Katrina decided to hot things up when we reached Trawden by getting on the front and disappearing off in the wrong direction. I made chase but got stuck behind a car which led to hysteria – on my part – as I tried to shout them back from behind the intervening rust bucket. I caught Katrina when the car overtook her and sent her back from whence she came. Meanwhile, Jenny was busy pointing out potholes to a Peugeout for another mile (she thought the group were on her wheel!), merrily in her own world. Oh well, a few more miles under my belt. Somehow though we had lost Katrina. Well, Matt had!
Finally we caught up with “big climb” number 3. A long gentle(ish) climb that again gets progressively steeper up to a derelict pub at the summit. Cruel. Not even a pork scratching remains.
Two final kickers (which I apparently built up in everyones mind?!?) and HOME! A tad over 40 miles but for some (including myself) this is the toughest route encountered. Sharp up is not made up for by rapid downs! The average speed in the low double figures for most of the group, but a general satisfaction for all.
Special mention must go to honorary member, Katrina. Her longest ride before this was a relatively flat 30 miles. Talked into this ride on the Friday night by beer swilling triathletes on tour, Katrina is ONE TOUGH customer. Can I say pigheaded and belligerent? She called herself worse, so I think I’m ok!? Brilliant effort.
A drive to Gaddings Dam. The scramble to the top was well worth it as the water was just glorious. Slightly chilly on the beach (that’s right, a beach in Yorkshire!) but it was smiles all around as we took on this gem of a wild swimming venue. No fees, no buidlings, no cars and all made possible by a charitable trust of local people who maintain it instead of allowing it to be drained and filled. Fantastic.
Rehydration and sustenance. What goes on in Haworth, stays in Haworth (apart from the published Bronte witterings). Practically hedonistic.
A ride over to Thursden and the group split in two.
One party headed up and around Widdop reservoir on a run.
The second party took on a shortish cycle back into Lancashire and taking in that fabulous Thursden Valley road seen on the previous day. Check out the profile. A recovery ride? Pah, this was not!
Finally lunch and a debrief in the Packhorse Inn. Famed for its isolation and an infamous new-year lock-in due to inclement weather a few years back. Not so lucky this time. All good things come to an end.
The votes for Norfolk next year are already raining in! Haworth was a beast!