Riding back 5,500 years.

My last ride was covered in my post “The World’s longest second”. It was a frantic and successful attempt to ride a segment in less than 22 minutes and 20 seconds. I beat the time by one second. I thought today that I should do something completely different where time wasn’t important. I decided to visit some of our oldest antiquities in Lancashire which are rather remote. A mountain bike is a very good way to reach these remote locations which can only be accessed by narrow tracks. A horse could get you there or a quad bike but either could potentially damage the delicate surface.

I rode for almost an hour on a mainly road route around the back of Healey Nab and up a steep road climb. Then a gravel road which lead to the moorland. Here the surface is soft and resists your bike from making quick progress. It was hard work but I wasn’t sinking into the slop because the surface is rocky under the thin soil and peat. The vegetation is rough grass and heather which tends to grow in tufts so it’s rarely smooth. The picture below shows Winter Hill just as I turned off up the moor to my first objective.

After a slow climb I reached Pike Stones. This was formerly a long barrow. A mound of earth and stones covering the stone chamber in the other 2 pictures. Not all the stones are left. When it was excavated a large number of body parts were found in and around the mound. It is thought that bodies were left at the monument where wild animals would have consumed them, leaving some of the bones. This monument is thought to date from between 5,500 and 4,400 years ago. That’s around 1000 years older than the pyramids at Giza in Egypt. We are still recovering from the last ice age, which was at it’s coldest about 25,000 years ago so it seems likely that the climate 5,500 years back would have been colder. There would probably have been some kind of woodland over the area then. The moorland only dominates now because of the sheep which graze in the spring to autumn. They would eat any saplings. In addition the ground is occasionally burnt in a controlled way to promote the growth of grass whilst controlling the heather.

I then spent around 20 minutes riding to Round Loaf, a much later mound from between 4,400 and 3,500 years ago. It’s far more remote which might explain why it’s never been excavated. Whatever is buried under it will still be there. I had to push the bike for short distances about 3 times and at one time I had to do a downhill section where I picked up some speed and got a bit of excitement out of it. Here is a picture to show just how bleak it is up there.IMG_20190401_122711

In another direction Round Loaf had come into view.

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I got to the top of the mound and took pictures of my route up and the way back down.

The age difference between the 2 monuments is very significant. Pike Stones was built in the stone age whereas Round Loaf was built in the bronze age. They must both have been religious sites of some significance. The ride down was still damp and slow but I eventually reached the flanks of Great Hill, a superb mountain biking area. I reached some good single track with plenty of rocks, drops and turns. I did the same as on my last ride and lost balance, tumbling down a bank. I’ll be trying not to make a habit of this!

After some moorland single track I joined the noted downhill track to the village of White Coppice. It has some big drop offs and would be best avoided if you are inexperienced. You need to be confident and let it flow over the sizeable rocks. I took in Healey Nab on the way back for a bit of high speed thrill. I got back home in a little over 2 hours of actual riding. It wasn’t the most exciting ride from a mountain biking point of view but it was quite an adventure.

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