RSF - The Off Road Cycling Club

The Adventure Starts Here

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Every year since I have been a member and probably for several years before that, there has been a South Pennine Walk and Ride Festival in September covering guided walks, cycle rides and horse rides throughout the region usually led by voluntary groups like ourselves. Irene and John Hitchen and myself discovered the RSF through their listing in the brochure some six years ago. I remember telephoning the then Lancashire Secretary, Brian Parkinson about an advertised ride and getting a really warm and encouraging response and was really curious to see what the Rough Stuff Fellowship was all about. I really loved the name!

Anyway, I found out that it was a great group of disparate but very friendly cyclists, mainly of a certain age, who shared my love of the countryside and cycling along quiet tracks and bridleways away from the roar of the traffic.

John Hitchen and myself, having taken on the mantel of running rides for the Festival, hope the same spirit prevails and every year we have welcomed newcomers to our “Fellowship” on our rides, some of whom have become members but all of whom have had a great day out with us - at least that’s what they said at the time!

We have of late settled into a fairly stable set of rides for the Festival, a route exploring the Shibden Valley near Halifax, the only two mainly flat half day rides you can do as part of the Saddleworth Circuit and a ride from Ogden Water, near Halifax over to Howarth and back.

The Shibden Valley Explorer was first devised by Reid Anderson and is such a good route that we love doing it time and time again as we wend our way up and down the Shibden Valley on quiet yet sometimes challenging bridleways before ending up back at the impressive Shibden Hall. This year, as it was Heritage Open Day, John and Irene managed to find an historic Unitarian Chapel at Pepper Hill serving tea, coffee, sandwiches and excellent cakes for a small donation and we received a very warm welcome and were amazed by the Art Deco stained glass windows! Our newcomers were undoubtedly somewhat younger than the majority of us but enjoyed finding out new tracks to ride and had a great day with us.

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The Festival “Saddo” on the second Tuesday of the month is always advertised as “mainly flat” - and for once it’s just about true - and suitable for beginners and we were pleased to welcome a couple more newcomers on the rides. The weather was kind and a ride up the Dovestone Reservoir system to its head is always spectacular and we only got a little bit wet on the way back! After an excellent lunch in the Lime Kiln Cafe we headed south down the Huddersfield Canal towards Stalybridge. With a former railway line, now a cycle track, following the same route as the canal we were able to mix and match only having to retrace our route on a very small section of the ride.

Our final offer takes us out towards Halifax again starting at Ogden Water Country Park then after a quick brew in a friendly cafe/B&B we set off on a gentle bridleway out towards Thornton Moor reservoir before the going become a bit more challenging on a section of the Calder-Aire Link before we pick up the conduit which contours high above Oxenhope which deposits us at the top of Stairs Lane giving us a fast and at times quite tricky descent to Leeshaw reservoir and thence on to Haworth for lunch via Penistone Hill.

After lunch we relied on local knowledge as Dave Walker offered to take us on a new route back involving a really tough climb up to Cuckoo Park Lane then onto Black Moor and back towards Thornton Moor reservoir. Dave had a little twist in the tail for this ride, striking off along a very muddy track over Thornton Moor to eventually join a great bridleway, Back Lane, at its summit affording us a great flowing descent back to base especially if you followed Dave’s wheel.

Rob Newton



Irene's photos of the Shibden Hall ride can be viewed on Flickr here:

Roger's photos of the Ogden ride can be viewed on Flickr here:

And some more of mine from the Saddo here: