RSF - The Off Road Cycling Club

The Adventure Starts Here

Today’s run started from the Café Tor within Musbury Fabrics at Helmshore, quite close to the textile museum and the River Ogden which powers its working water wheel. As usual we occupied the very relaxing and comfortable sofas as we enjoyed the waitress service; excellent.

After this social interlude we set off on the ride; first crossing the Ogden to NCN6 on the route of the old Clifton Junction to Accrington Railway, which was opened in 1848 by the East Lancashire Railway Co. The line closed in 1966, and over the last fifteen years or so has been partially adopted as a National Cycle Network route. It was one of my jobs as a Sustrans Ranger to do the initial signage from Accrington to Ramsbottom; some of the temporary signs still exist.

There are still gaps in the route going towards Accrington, but it is open from Baxenden. We will be using this section, the Woodnook Greenway, on next Saturday’s ride.

NCN6 is never far from the River Irwell in this area: it is a 39-mile long river which flows through the valley. Its source is a spring on Deerplay Moor, approximately 1.5 miles north of Bacup. It forms the boundary between Manchester and Salford and empties into the River Mersey near Irlam.

Dropping into Irwell Vale we could view the confluence of the Ogden and Irwell; the River Ogden is formed by Musbury Brook, Alden Brook and Swinnel Brook which all flow from the Grane area. The cycle route, which is never far from the Irwell in this area, now runs alongside the branch line from Bury to Rawtenstall that is operated by the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society. In the last few days the newly re-built Flying Scotsman was doing low speed trials on the line, so we were keeping our eyes peeled.

At the usually quiet Irwell Vale it was virtually gridlocked with traffic, I think half of Lancashire was present, awaiting the Flying Scotsman’s visit. Our refreshment stop in Ramsbottom, the Cultured Bean, is almost opposite the railway station; I think the remainder of the population of Lancashire were here, if not Northern England. There were crowds everywhere and the roads were choca-block; question, would we be able to get any lunch? Yes was the answer, the steam enthusiasts were eagerly awaiting the famous engine’s arrival outside.

We enjoyed good service from the Bean’s staff; I nipped out mid-meal to check the train timetable. By my reckoning we should catch a glimpse of the locomotive on our way back, near the Lumb Viaduct, if we left on time. We did leave on time, and as we climbed towards the viaduct the Flying Scotsman was coming down-line from Rawtenstall. It was so quiet that it had almost gone past before I had my camera out; I did take a photo of the carriages though. Oh well, I have never professed to be a camera-man; failed again!

We crossed the Lumb Viaduct to avoid climbing Iron Lane; I did not know which of the two would be best, the rough and icy climb of the steep lane, or the mud of the railway cutting. We chose the cutting, and it was very muddy; I still don’t know which would have been best!

From the top of the cutting, on Iron Lane, it was a relatively easy run back to Helmshore; most of this morning’s ice had melted in the sunshine. In fact when we arrived back it was a quite heady two degrees C.

Again we had enjoyed a good ride, in brilliant weather and company.

The photos I took may be viewed on Flickr here.

See you all at Accrington next week, Brian

PS. The Textile Museum is in danger of being closed down due to funding issues, it is a cracking place to visit. At one time I used to give guided tours as part of my voluntary work with Lancashire County Council; here is a link to the threatened closure story; if you are concerned about this there is a link to a petition against its closure on the linked page.