RSF - The Off Road Cycling Club

The Adventure Starts Here

Today’s meet started from Towneley Hall Country Park beside the infant River Calder, the first leg of the ride was very short, about 300 metres, to Towneley Garden Centre for our usual early cuppa. Very nice it was too!
We next traversed the tree lined drive of the park into Burnley and joined the Leeds and Liverpool’s towpath at the end of the Straight Mile. Here we saw Stephen Turner’s Exbury Egg a temporary, energy efficient, self-sustaining work space, located at Finsley Gate Wharf in Burnley. Working in collaboration with Burnley Wood Community Centre, Stephen will spend the summer conducting personal, environmental, historical and cultural investigations on the site with the people of Burnley Wood. He hopes the project will enable local people to share knowledge of the past of the site, to explore its present state and to better inform its future.
We then continued on the towpath until we reached the north eastern portal of the Gannow Tunnel where we climbed the short, but steepest hill of the ride, to arrive at Ightenhill.
Next was the descent to Pendle Hall, crossing the Bronte Way as we passed Hagg Wood and Hunters Oak to arrive at the bridge over the now much more preponderant River Calder. Here we joined the Burnley Way, which follows the river downstream to Padiham.
In Padiham we crossed the pedestrian bridge at Lune Street; this is the bridge that was under three feet of water in the Boxing Day floods. A quick jiggle up through the avenues ahead took us to into the grounds of Gawthorpe Hall.
Affectionately referred to as the ‘Downton of the North’, Gawthorpe Hall was redesigned in the 1850s by Sir Charles Barry, designer of the Houses of Parliament and the ‘real’ Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle. The Hall houses the North West’s largest collection of portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery as well as The Gawthorpe Textiles Collection, a wonderful collection of intricate lace, embroidery and needlework amassed by Miss Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth. It is also the final stop on ‘The Brontë Way’, the long distance walking route with strong associations with the writings of Charlotte Brontë and her family. It is now in the hands of the National Trust.
Lunch was taken in the Hall’s café. Eric and I dined up in the gods, not exactly on ambrosia and nectar though, but it sufficed. The rest of the team, with due deference to John’s wonky ankle, dined below stairs with the hoi polloi.
Whilst dining the heavens opened up, until now we had enjoyed good weather. Our brief repast over we ventured outside to find that the rain had dried up and the sun was shining; we were being well looked after today!
Leaving The Coach House Café at the Hall, we rode along Stockbridge Drive to the Padiham Loop Line, an ex-railway route, and up to Molly Wood. Designated a local nature reserve by Natural England, Molly Wood is a diverse site with two lodges, one of which is used for angling, there is also swamp and marsh vegetation, riverside habitats, plantations, wet willow woodland, scrub, tall herb, grassland areas and a hay meadow.
The large bridge ahead of us, Molly Wood Motorway Bridge (bridge 124A) was constructed in the early 1980s to carry the M65 over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
Next we took the seldom used lane to Lower Rosegrove; the name of the lane? Well, Molly Wood Lane of course.
Now back on the canal’s towpath, which we had to leave at the Gannow Tunnel’s south west portal to climb the other short, but again steep incline to the cyclists’ roundabout at the M65’s junction ten. How many motorway junctions have a second traffic-free sunken gyratory route for cyclists and pedestrians I wonder?
Swooping back down to the towpath at the other side of the tunnel we continued at our usual leisurely pace and re-traced our prior route back into Towneley Park and the conclusion of today’s meet.
Yes, another splendid outing with the Fellowship. See you all at Moses Gate next week, Brian.


Photos from the ride can be viewed here