Exploring by bike.

I used to think that I must know every trail worth riding, if I could ride there from home. In 2015 I met some other riders and rode with them a few times. They knew trails quite near home that I’d never seen before. I’ve found that Google Earth is a great way to find new trails. You can zoom in to the satellite images and pick out the narrowest tracks. Sometimes they may just be left by animals, mainly sheep in our local hills, whilst others may be worth riding. The only way to find out is to get out there and see what there is. We have a big area of barren moorland in the local West Pennine Moors. Very few trees grow because, presumably, the sheep eat any tiny saplings. It’s mainly rough grass which eventually gets displaced by heather, until controlled burning is used to tame the heather and the cycle continues. From a distance you’d imagine that you could walk across the smooth looking surface but when you get up there the tussocks of grass and heather make progress very difficult. If there isn’t at least a faint track you’re certainly going nowhere on a bike. I’d spotted some sort of a trail to the south east of White Coppice, a tiny village with a picturesque cricket field, so today I explored it.

white coppice trail

The trail in question runs down the centre of the picture, to the right of the darker area. The dark area is unimproved heather above a steep slope clothed in woodland. This is just a short segment of trail which runs for a few miles to the north and east and a shorter distance to the south.

I rode a mixed route to White Coppice but chose more road than I would have liked because the ground is still so wet in many places. I spoke to a small group of riders who were by passing the village on easier trails and had a look at one of the approaches I’d found in the satellite image. I looked up a 50 meter climb and saw a hiker clinging to a wire fence coming down. It was going to be just about impossible with a 30lb bike in hand so I went south to a disused quarry where I could follow a better path upwards. I still only rode the first few dozen yards before I had to push the bike, finally hoisting it on my shoulder to reach the top of the ridge. A convenient stile allowed me to get over a fence and the trail was quite distinct in both directions. I’d decided I would go north first to see what it looked like. After a quarter of a mile it was proving tough so I stopped to take some photos before turning round. It’s definitely a trail I’ll return to in better conditions to see where it leads. The moor has a thin coating of peaty soil over sandstone, so is not too boggy. There is the odd sump full of black semi liquid and a few tiny streams etched into the surface, which need to be crossed.


I turned around here but the trail in front looked rideable. The protruding rocks take some skill to skip over. The most distant peak is the summit of Great Hill, which I’ve ridden several times this year.


A bleak and impassable wilderness if there is no established path.

Turning back down the trail, there was no relief from the energy sapping ground. The effort to get over rocks added to the burden. There was no appreciable gradient to add interest. I stopped, surmounting a rock, and couldn’t unclip my foot in time so I rolled on some, fortunately, flat rocks. After a smoother part I entered a big rock garden and was stopped on my way across. It would be a tough challenge to get across without a foot down.


Some riders love a rock garden. Perhaps you can have too much of a good thing!

Over the broken wall ahead the trail became less rocky and eventually turned down the right hand side of the woodland, meeting a road. I followed a trail that I haven’t ridden in over 20 years, which cuts back into the woods. It was unexciting. After that it was simply a matter of riding over Healey Nab using the red graded trail and a road route home. I enjoyed my little exploration and will definitely be back to continue the ride northwards. It will probably allow me to ride to Round Loaf, an ancient mound of ceremonial significance, it’s assumed. I went there earlier in the year which you can read about in the link…….Riding back 5,500 years. ………I may also be able to link to the stone slab path from Great Hill to Winter Hill, so could chose either destination.

I was surprised to find that I’d only ridden for 90 minutes, with 986 feet of climbing.


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