Longridge Slopes MTB, Lancashire
Stats: 17 miles and 1300 feet of ascent
There’s the Newdrop Inn on Higher Road, then numerous swanky-looking pubs in Hurst Green and Ribchester.
This is one of those rides for which the map offers little promise, yet proves a delight under the tyres. There’s huge variety, from silent forest to hidden dell to rolling riverbank. All of this is tucked away just five miles outside Preston yet feels deeply rural.
The ride is tilted on a great south-facing plane where the wooded slopes of Longridge Fell slide down to the meandering banks of the Ribble. There are a couple of sections where map-reading skills are called upon but most of it is straightforward.
One word of caution; the forest ride off the Fell can be an execrable squelchfest after any appreciable dosage of rain. This loop could be omitted and the ride would still preserve its charm, albeit docked of 3 miles and 460 feet in the all-important athletic metrics.
1. Start by dropping through an incongruous development of holiday homes. There is a bridleway marker. As you look back over your left shoulder, you’ll see an even-more-incongruous crag overhanging the houses, and a fishing pond at the bottom. The bridleway soon turns into a beautiful, swoopy, sunken singletrack and that’s it – you’re transported from all the grot and grime of commerce into the countryside proper.
2. At the bottom, turn left (at a place called Written Stone) through Cottam House Farm and turn left alongside a small stream. This turn is signposted as a footpath but the good people of the Ordnance Survey (and the hoofprints underneath your tyres) should tell you you’re legit. Up to the right you should see a huge treehouse (April 2012).
3. Head up to the road on a short, grassy pull and turn right. Sharp-eyed map-readers will spot that you could get here a deal quicker by road but not as scenically.
4. The next section of tarmac, however, is unavoidable. Fortunately, the views to Pendle Hill, Darwen Tower and Winter Hill are more-than-adequate compensation and the lane is quiet. Go straight on at the Newdrop Inn and keep going until you see the forest access at Tilhill on your left.
5. Turn left and climb on forest road, zagging first left then right, contouring below the ridge. Look out for a forest ride heading down with a blue bridleway sign and take it when you see it. This ride can be distinctly moist if rain has fallen in living memory, but you’ll soon break out into open fields. Bear slightly left, heading towards Chilsey Green farmhouse, on the far side of the road.
6. Turn right at the road and ignore the left turn to Hurst Green as you’re going by a far more interesting route. Keep your eyes open for the bridleway on the left to Crowshaw House – the fingerpost is on the opposite side of the road.
7. Follow the lane down, curving round a small pond to a beautiful gorse-filled dell, with dense forest on your left. After Greengore, the main track veers right but go straight ahead for some lovely singletrack dropping into the wooded ravine of Dean Brook. This brings you out into the charming village of Hurst Green. Turn right, past the imposing almshouses and the Bayley Arms, to the main Preston-Whalley road (B6243). Turn right and then immediately left down Lambing Clough Lane along the side of the Shireburn Arms.
8. Swoop down, forking very slightly right to avoid imposing at the homestead of Lambing Clough itself. At the bottom, go through the farmyard at Trough House (and turn right where you see the WAA parking sign). The Ribble Way goes slightly left over a stile here, but cyclists are obliged to head off, following a field boundary parallel to the river.
9. Cross Starling Brook on a tiny footbridge and keep to tussocky fields, rising slightly to the right-hand of two houses (Hey Hurst). Turn right up the lane.
10. This is the tricky bit. After 400m of lane, there’s a field opening on the left with neither signage nor evidence on the ground. But, trust me, this is a bridleway. Set off boldly south-west, passing under a line of small electricity poles and heading for a tiny hidden bridge and gate over a stream. Once you’ve found these, you’re OK because there’s now a line of distinctive white arrows pointing the way as far as Dewhurst House.
11. Head downriver to the elegant bridge at Little Town and ride into the ancient Roman settlement of Ribchester. Bear left down Greenside and past the antiquities, picking up signs for the Ribble Way. This is mostly on farm track but includes a short section of rooty singletrack around a wooded meander.
12. Turn right just after the impressive edifice of Hothersall Hall, up a lane made of parallel concrete tracks. This turns to grass where it levels out, trending right under National Grid pylons to Ox Hey.
13. Follow an easy lane, then roads, towards Longridge but turn right at the end of the double reservoir to pick up the bridleway back to the start.