If you were to ask a mountain biker from our area about places to ride I’m sure that “Rivington” would be mentioned very soon or possibly first. When I rode regularly with friends we used the area around the tiny village of Rivington very regularly, all year round. Recently, and especially this year, I haven’t been there nearly so often. The main reason for this is not because I don’t enjoy riding there but simply that I can fashion a more action packed ride elsewhere and often be thrashing it down a quality off road trail with less road riding needed to get there. Today I decided to ride to Rivington village, up Rivington Pike, down through the terraced gardens and back home over Healey Nab.
I began with a road section and soon changed my original plan to include an off road trail which drops down a straight, fast, fairly smooth trail to cross the river Yarrow by footbridge or a ford for the brave. The water looked about a foot deep today so I chose the bridge. A similar trail climbs to the other side of the small valley. I knew it wouldn’t be a big ride, meaning less than 2 hours, so I was putting some effort in and found that I crossed the valley faster than I have previously according to the app. Strava. I still have my big ride which I planned at the start of the year to do so I’m trying to maintain fitness. This is an important knock on effect of setting such targets. I used another off road section after crossing the dam over a reservoir and reached Rivington after around 25 minutes. By road it’s possible in around 15 minutes but not as much fun. I climbed a gravel road to Rivington Barn which is a popular meeting place for motorcyclists at the weekends and continued up the steep and narrow trails of the terraced gardens. Out of the trees I climbed the final pitch to the top of the Pike at 1,200 feet. The valleys were flooded for reservoirs between 1852 and 1857. Philanthropist Lord Leverhulme, who made his fortune from soap, wanted to ensure a water supply for Liverpool 35 miles to the south west. He also provided a large area as a country Park on the flanks of the hills. He can’t have realised that 150 years later it would be a popular mountain bike destination.
The ride down was damp and the rocks slippery. I was cautious in today’s conditions. After 2 gates, which spoil the flow, it’s a twisty trail all the way down the terraces, fast and open for the first half and very tight on the second. Having ridden this section rarely in recent times I’ve had to relearn the technique. The corners are so tight that you can’t just lean in to ride the curve. What I was doing was entering the sharpest corners with the back brake on so that as I turned in the back wheel locked and slid around to turn me much more quickly. When I saw the exit I let the brake off and powered to the next corner. This section was used in the 2002 Commonwealth Games and I spectated here with my then 1 year old son, Dylan.
I returned by my outbound route but took the gravel road up the back of Healey Nab. The downhill was damp but still fun and completed a good ride considering the conditions. Riding in dry weather is certainly better but in northern England we don’t get as much of that as we might like. Fortunately we have a worthwhile side effect of our wet, maritime climate. Winters are rarely cold for long so we have no mountain bike closed season. We’ve clearly entered autumn in the last couple of weeks but there’s plenty of riding to be done before next spring. As for Rivington, I’ll be back but I don’t think it will become the main focus of my riding, as it once was.