A birthday treat.

Yes, it’s my birthday! For the record I’m 58 today and since my wife was at work I went for a mountain bike ride. I struggled to think of the best place to ride today. Healey Nab is having the trees felled and after a record breaking wet February the ground is still quite wet in many places, especially in the woodland where the recent sun hasn’t made much difference. I felt a strong urge to have a look at Healey Nab to see if anything had changed so made up a ride which would go there as my last off road section. It’s important, due to the infection of the larch trees, to go nowhere else where you could accidentally spread the fungal disease.

My ride started with a long, fairly gentle road climb where I set my fastest ever time according to Strava. I admit I was trying a bit more than usual but my improved fitness would also have helped. I took the access road to a golf club where plenty of older men were pointlessly hitting balls with sticks. Wouldn’t they have enjoyed a bike ride more? By the time I’d reached the club house I’d climbed around 250 feet. The club is based in the Hall o’ th’ Hill ( the Hall on the Hill!). It is a mid 17th century country house.The spelling tries to force you to use a traditional Lancashire dialect when referring to the building. I don’t know if those from outside of northern England will cope too well with this! Since working class northerners rarely pronounced their “H”s until the latter part of the 20th century the correct pronunciation is “all ot thill”. After that a rough gravel road descends across the golf course and is an exciting, fast trail.

I crossed the tarmac to reach another off road route which cuts between 2 roads. It’s a fast blast down into a steep valley, across a bridge or a ford if you dare, and a grind up the other side. I was soon onto the gravel road which runs over the back of Healey Nab. At first things looked as they always have because the first trees are spruce, which aren’t being felled. I remembered a section of single track which takes you across the moor into a patch of pine wood. I don’t ride here often and can’t remember doing it for years but today was an ideal time before the grass and heather get too high. The reason for not riding it is that the path leads nowhere. I stopped at the other side of the wood to take in the view. It was rather hazy.

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The end of a road to nowhere, looking over the reservoirs.

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And looking back into the deep, dark wood.

The ride back drops a little so gave me some free speed. I misjudged just before the end of the single track and a tuft of vegetation threw me off the track. I was lucky to stay on the bike. It’s an exciting little trail which I’ll keep riding. Ahead was the hill top with every larch tree felled. I made my way to the trail head easily enough because the very first trees are spruce and have been left. The following 2 pictures illustrate the change.

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Now. The start of the red and black descents.

 

IMG_20200115_124329Then. This was taken just a few yards away from the picture above.

I still had 2 birthday treats to come. First was that I found by exploring around that the trails are still there under logs and twigs. In the drier conditions than on my last visit at the weekend, things didn’t look as dismal. Surely all the wood will be cleared? This will leave only some deep tyre tracks to fill in to make everything rideable again. My second treat was, with all 3 gates open, the chance to improve my Strava King of the Mountains title which I achieved recently. I didn’t get a fast run up to the start because of the tree felling machines but I put a big effort in reaching 30.2 mph with an average of 22.2 mph. I reduced my time by 3 seconds. I set a time of 57 seconds when I was 57 years old. Now I’m at 54!

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