Great Hill.

Great Hill rises to around 1,250 feet above sea level and is at the northern end of a line of hills in the West Pennine Moors. The highest point is Winter Hill at 1,498 feet but it also has a TV transmitter rising another 1,000 feet. The whole area provides excellent mountain biking with countless trails. I must have ridden most of them over the last 30 years but I’m sure I still have plenty to discover. It’s just this year that I’ve pieced together a long downhill from the top of Great Hill to the bottom of Brinscall Woods and I chose to ride it today. I don’t know why but I felt quite tired this morning so knew it would be quite a challenge to climb over 1,500 feet during my ride of 15.73 miles. I had no particular targets except to feel how the conditions have changed after a few days of rain.

I took my usual mixed road and off road route to White Coppice and chose the easy side of the river to get to the hill more quickly. I climbed the fire road up the woods and used a woodland climb to the top of the area. I still needed to use a short section of tarmac to reach the gravel road which starts to climb to the top and at the gate were 3 riders discussing routes. One guy was hoping to find a downhill segment in the woods which he’d ridden previously and I tried to help. It’s difficult to describe routes in this kind of area because you have no points of reference. There are no road names or pubs on street corners to act as guides. I said that if they were still there when I came down I’d show them the way. A throw away remark, accepting that my help was likely to be of little value. I continued to climb and thought no more about it. I climbed the gravel road which turns rockier later. I knew I’d need to slow later on the way back down to avoid the possibility of a pinch puncture on the sharp rocks, pictured below.

I briefly chatted to another rider at the summit who was trying to find a way to the Jubilee Tower on Darwen Hill. I love to ride up there. It gives me a ride of around 25 miles with some fabulous trails. I used to ride down the eastern side of Great Hill in the 1990s but tend to go round the end of the hill now. I pointed out a clearly visible trail that he might like to try to get to the top of Darwen Hill and we both set off in opposite direction. I tried to keep to the smoother, grassy trail today rather than attacking the stone slabs and rocks on the first section. The slippery conditions added some excitement. Three riders had set off before me and I’d just caught them up when they turned off to drop down to White Coppice. Maybe they’d heard the route described as one of the best downhills in England. I think I only read the remark on Facebook and I agree that it’s a very good ride, though I now prefer the way I was going. It’s smoother, not as steep and probably not as fast but it takes twice as long so I think I’m better repaid for the climbing that’s needed. I rode a smoother gravel section before taking a moorland cut through to the top of the woods. I slithered around but kept the speed sensible and then rode along the top edge of the woods to my favourite downhill of all. I’d created a segment on the app. Strava of this downhill but was the only person who’d ridden it!

Trees have been blown down near the top of my favourite downhill.

Who should be near the start of the section but the 3 guys from earlier? They hadn’t found the segment that they’d been looking for but said they’d follow me down. I set off and began to wonder if this really was such a good downhill. It had belonged to me but now others would judge it. I made sure that I didn’t lose them but frankly there seemed little chance of that! The one at the front clung on to my tail tenaciously and the other two weren’t far behind. I had some big slides in the wet conditions which added to the excitement. On one left had corner I entered too fast in my desperation to look good. The back wheel nearly overtook me! This may be proof that my body position on the bike was right. If I’d had less weight pressing on the handlebars the front wheel might have washed out and dumped me on the ground. As it was I survived with a loss of pace. The trail snakes down through the trees but is punctuated with rock features and some much tighter turns. At the bottom I got the verdict. They’d liked it and enjoyed the flat corners which had been so slippery. We chatted briefly and went our separate ways, me over Healey Nab and them over Darwen Hill since it turned out they lived in Darwen.

I looked at Strava after my ride only to find that the app. had been stopped before I left home. I must have accidentally pressed stop as I put it into my back pack. I did find later that one other rider had ridden my downhill today and then gone to Darwen! Thankfully his time was not as quick as my best so I’m now elevated to King of the Mountains now I’m not the only one to have ridden it.

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