Today I contemplated riding to the Egg Hillock. My last ride was memorable, having made a climb which I hadn’t achieved in years. The problem with that was that if I didn’t make the tough climb it would all seem like a waste of time. I decided instead to return to the source of our local river, the Yarrow. The source is at the delightfully named Horden Stoops and I would ride as close to the river as I could to where it meets Black Brook, a few hundred yards from home. I thought that it would aid my route finding on the way down if I rode the trail in the opposite direction on the way up.
I rode to Hogg’s Lane where the Yarrow and Black Brook come together and a few hundred yards later crossed the canal, taking a short cut to the hamlet of Limbrick to rejoin the river. Next came a nice little trail along the valley where there are no roads or buildings to defy nature. Several stiles break the flow of the ride but in warm sunshine it was a good place to be .
The bike is barely visible in the bright light.
After the undulations of the trail along the valley came a steep climb away from the river. I had planned a different route for the way back which I hoped would run closer to the water but this way I joined a road and crossed the dam between 2 reservoirs. A short, steep climb followed and then I rode alongside the Yarrow reservoir which the river enters and flows out of. The water is collected here to serve the city of Liverpool some 35 miles to the west and the area was developed between 1852 and 1857. Liverpool was a thriving port and an important industry was soap. Lord Leverhulme, the soap magnate, built the terraced gardens and associated parklands as a philanthropic act. He couldn’t have known what a fabulous mountain biking area he was also creating! Another large industry which provided Liverpool’s wealth was sugar. Chorley man, Samuel Tate, was the big fish in the sugar industry which unfortunately relied on slavery to function as it did. It seems inconceivable now that Africans could be taken thousands on miles across the Atlantic and cast into a life of misery for sugar, which accounted for over half of Britain’s exports at one time. Much of our sugar now comes from beet which was developed under the French leader Napolean when the French tried to take over the world in the nineteenth century. War with Britain had denied the French access to Caribbean cane sugar. Napolean believed that wealth could only be gained by taking it from others, which explains his expansionism. Britain, meanwhile, had undergone the Industrial Revolution and concluded that wealth could be created through industry. Who’d have thought there was so much history on a short bike ride?
The Yarrow reservoir. My cheap phone camera seems overcome by the brightness on a beautiful day.
Two horses trotted past as I took my picture, kicking up plumes of dust, a changed from the more typical mud! In the opposite direction to the photo is the original course of the river down a rocky ravine. A new outlet was made into the next reservoir so the ravine is now dry. After a short road section came Lead Mines Valley, site of more industry. A gentle climb, initially, turns very steep for a while before going back to a gentle gradient on a gravel road. After the ruins of a farm I climbed a rutted and rocky ascent to the source of the Yarrow. Last time I tried this I couldn’t get enough traction in several places in wet conditions but today I got all the way without stopping. Another benefit of the dry conditions was that I was travelling quicker this time as witnessed by the app. Strava.
The dry ground allowed me over a dozen personal records!
At the source of the river at Horden Stoops I took a picture and looked for yarrow. It’s a common plant and I’ve wondered if the river was named after the plant or vica versa? I didn’t see any yarrow in flower but know it’s common enough in the area.
A stone by my front wheel, placed by the “Friends of the River Yarrow”, marks the start of the river and of my mainly downhill ride home.
The rutted and fast downhill section was seriously exciting. I allowed safety to intervene through a little braking but gave the thrill of the ride the whip hand. I joined the gravel road and sped down to Lead Mines Valley. Strava confirmed that I was 4th fastest, of all riders, this year! Lead Mines was crowded with visitors despite the Coronavirus restrictions. Well who wouldn’t want to picnic and play in the water with the family on a day like this? The children are not in school and many people are still off work. Life may permanently change after what we’re going through, I hope for the better. I rode back along the Yarrow reservoir and down to the Lower Rivington where the water exits into the course of the river. I took a different route into the valley in the hope that it more closely followed the water but it didn’t. There are plenty of sections of river with no path alongside. The valley was a better ride with the slight downhill now I was riding with the water flow. I hoped that after Limbrick I could followed the river to where it runs under the canal but again there doesn’t seem to be a suitable trail, so I went back the way I’d come. I’d hoped to take a picture where the Yarrow joins Black Brook but a family were on the bridge looking over. You can often see sizeable trout in the water here.
It had been a gorgeous trail ride in perfect weather.