MAGIC STORIES - GRAVEL-TASTIC
We continue our series exploring the magic on our doorstep, this time riding from our Huddersfield Tap Room. Friend of Magic Rock, writer and journalist Tom Hill teams up with a couple of friends, including Rich Norgate (Magic Rock Head of Design) and Ed Wolstenholme (GBDURO) to take in an off-road tour of Kirklees.
Over to Tom...
Now, at the risk of repeating myself (check out this previous Magic Story about hiking from the Holmfirth Tap), I do love earning my pint. There’s nothing like a bit of physical excursion to make that first sip – or more likely, gulp – taste all the sweeter. And given a free choice a bike ride will always be my preferred way of working up a thirst.
I discovered mountain biking as a teenager nearly 30 years ago. The bike quickly became more than a plaything. It defined my sense of freedom and became a tool for exploration. I would spend summer holidays plotting local routes on a map and heading out to see what lay on the other side of the hill, or how far I could ride in one day.
In many ways not much has changed in the intervening years. I’ve been fortunate to extend my explorations by bike across the country and the world, but week in, week out, I never cease to be surprised at the new discoveries I make on my doorstep; pockets of woodland, forgotten bridleways or snippets of trail that open up entirely new route possibilities. Growing up in Halifax, and now living in Bradford, I like to think I know most of the riding options north of the M62 well. Kirklees though… well, that’s a different matter. While not exactly a case of “here be monsters” – as I have done a little riding this way before – there is still so much I don’t know.
I wondered if it was possible to create a circular loop from the Huddersfield Magic Rock Tap Room that took in some of the best classic riding that Kirklees has to offer. Luckily, the riding world is a small one, and friendships are easily made. Rich, Head Designer at Magic Rock – is as passionate about riding as I am and was up for any excuse to spend a weekday behind handlebars instead of crayons and a keyboard. We also decided to recruit Ed Wolstenholme; Slaithwaite resident and one of the organisers of GBDURO. Ed is the kind of guy that seems to have more hours in the day than the rest of us; riding hundreds of kilometres a week, running a motorcycle spare parts business, as well as playing in a band.
Rich and I met at Magic Rock HQ under blue skies and had a cruisy start through the town centre and along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to meet Ed. We found him in his partner, Jen’s bike workshop; Velofondista, conveniently located just off the canal. Sadly, she was busy working, so couldn’t join us on the ride, but was kind enough to knock us up a cracking Darkwoods coffee before we set off…
I love being guided by someone else. All responsibility for knowing the way is devolved to someone else, and all that is left to do is enjoy the views, trail and conversation (and stop for the occasional photo of course). We kept with the canal theme until Marsden, at which point the going got a little tougher as we climbed Wessenden Moor on the Pennine Way. Even then the height gain isn’t too painful; with short sharp ramps of cobbled climbs interspersed with long mellow stretches. And if you do need to get off and walk a section, the views back down over the Wessenden and Butterley Reservoirs make up for the tired legs.
The easy way or the fun way?
The old packhorse track of Springs Road features grooves worn into the ancient paving by thousands of cart journeys over the centuries. We rolled down them, wheels slotted in like a giant Scalextric track, splashing through puddles while pondering the lives of those who guided the packhorses from valley to valley.
The track and a short section of road saw us in the small village of Holme where we stopped while I adjusted a misbehaving saddle. Jubilee bunting still hung from lamp posts; but look a little closer and alongside the union flags were the yellow, green and polka dot of the Tour de France jerseys. An enterprising soul in the village had decided to reuse the bunting from when the TdF passed through in 2014.
Rather than take us down the hill on the road to a coffee in Holmfirth, Ed had other ideas. We winched up Ramsden Edge, over a wide rubbly track and exposed bedrock, weaving across its whole width to find the path of least resistance. The payoff for all that hard work was, at least, a high speed freewheel all the way to Holmfirth, where we popped into the teeny Bear Coffee for a caffeine fix to carry us home.
It was between Holmfirth and Huddersfield that Ed’s local knowledge came into play as we snaked our way on either side of the valley on back lanes and bridleways, occasionally crossing the main road (which was choked in rush hour traffic) and in our own little world distantly removed from that of tarmac and traffic lights. It is exactly what I love about these kinds of rides; a sense of escape, but also a sense of connection with the landscape instead of passing through it as quickly as possible. History and nature get bundled into one as you see a side to a location that is entirely missed when stared at from a car windscreen.
So deft was Ed’s guiding that I barely noticed that we had skirted Huddersfield town centre all together until we were all but a street away from the brewery tap. There was little left to do but wiggle along a few hundred metres of cycleway and make a beeline for the bar…
What was that about earning a pint?...
If you’d like to follow this ride, you can find the route below:
GPX trace of the route: Graveltastic GPX
The ride is just under 35 miles long and on mixed terrain. It is best ridden on a bike with off road tyres. Either a mountain bike or gravel bike is perfect. If that sounds a little long to you, there are plenty of options to shorten the distance; you could even catch the train to Marsden and start there.
The route passes directly past Velofondista, so call in for a coffee and check out their range. There are also refreshments in Holmfirth and The Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite is excellent if you need something a little more substantial than a brew.
As always, it is worth bringing a basic tool kit including a puncture repair kit and a pump as well as water to keep hydrated.
This ride route and other details is provided for information and entertainment purposes only. All cyclists shall choose to ride at their own risk. Any form of cycling involves a risk of harm it is each individual cyclist’s responsibility determine whether their skills and abilities are sufficient to allow them to complete a given ride in a manner which is safe for both themselves and others. This ride should not be completed by under-18s without express permission from their parent of guardian. Under no circumstances shall Magic Rock Brewing be liable for any actual or alleged direct or indirect loss, damage, injury, or death, of any nature and howsoever arising.