Chipping Eight, Lancashire
Stats: 11.25 miles and 930 feet of ascent
The cafe at Beacon Fell is perfectly situated halfway round.
A varied switchback across the pastures of West Lancashire with a play in the woods to boot. Try to pick a day during a prolonged dry spell or a hard frost, as the section crossing the Brock can get squelchy. This area is richly-populated with ground-nesting birds such as lapwings and curlews so please take care not to disturb them. Perhaps relatedly, it is also rich in stoats. I usually have at least one close encounter with them on this ride.
1. Head out of Garstang down the High Street heading south. Passs Sainsbury’s on your right, go over the bridge then left at the mini-roundabout into Dimples Lane.
2. Cross the humpback over the canal and turn left at the end, over the M6 and right into Sandholme Lane.
3. Turn left at a bridge overhung by trees and climb Butt Hill Lane. Turn right into Gonder Lane and take the next left into Bleasedale Lane.
4. As the climbing eases, turn right into Snape Rake Lane (now the off-road fun begins). Follow this steeply down to a watersplash (you’re going to get wet coming back, so why not?) and a challenging climb out of the Brock valley.
5. Turn left at the end into Oakenclough Lane and, after a short climb, right into North Nook Lane (Brown sign to Beacon Fell).
6. Turn left at the top. You’re now on a tarmac, one-way road that loops around Beacon Fell. There are legitimate trails in the woods on your right, that lead right up to the summit. Have fun.
7. When you’ve been round the trails, admired the views and supped at the cafe, retrace your tyre-tracks back to Snape Rake Lane, past the entrance to Waddecar Scout Camp.[If the ground is really soft, you might be better retracing your route along the whole of Snape rake Lane to point 4)]
8. Just before the track starts descending steeply, turn right onto a rather squidgy bridleway. Zig zag down to the river and splash through it to pick up the steep rake sloping up to the right.
9. At the top, follow the wall north-west (I once had a stoat scream at me, just a couple of feet from my face, from inside this wall) and drop down to a bridge before reaching the road at Tootle Hall.
10. Cross the road with care (awkward bend) and take the permitted bridleway (marked Delph Lane) north-west to Broadgate Farm then zig-zagging up to the left to join Delph Lane.
11. Follow tarmac north (with great views) for a while, dipping to the hamlet of Oakenclough and passing Grizedale Lea Reservoir. At Grizedale Bridge, turn left onto bridleway, though a sheepfold system and rising to the right. Pick up a good track dropping towards Fell End Farm but bypass the farm on the left.
12. After the farm, turn left on a good, gated track and follow this past Grizedale Reservoir and down the valley itself. When you run out of bridleway, turn left on Higher Lane, right into Keeper’s Lane and right again into Delph Lane.
13. After the motorway, go straight on into Forge Lane where the road dinks right at a duck pond. For good measure (and to wash the mud off the bike) splash through the ford and up Wyre Lane, turning left at the end back to Garstang.