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Chester Easy Riders is an independent cycling club affiliated to Cycling UK. We cycle every Thursday throughout the year with moderate and brisk day rides of 40 to 80 miles.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

19th July 2012: Pendle Witch Country

The weather was uncertain, but the lemon cake was a sure thing at Number 51. We were having a communication problem with Dave M., who had apparently turned back in the face of miserable motorway rain. So it was that the certainties, myself, Brian Mac and George were conjoined by the last minute surprise trio of Mike Morley, Jim and Bryan Wade. 
We scooted around to briefly view Whalley Abbey entrance, and then headed for the golf course. There was a lot of up: Clive’s altimeter would have been whirring its wheels off. We weren’t in much risk of whirring our wheels off though as we strained slowly up from Sabden Brook. The narrow ridge road passed through a grotto of green onto the top of Padiham Heights, with Burnley below. Soon we were cruising, the weather was dry and the riding was easy.
After the delightful hamlet at Sabden Hall, it was 100% effort again just before reaching steeply situated Newchurch in Pendle with its strong connections with the Lancashire witches. In 1612 ten witches from the Pendle area were sent to the scaffold. In the graveyard of St. Mary’s of Newchurch is a tombstone with a skull and crossbones known locally as ‘the witches grave’. George appeared to be the expert on witches having married a local girl; he even knew where one of the Nutters was buried. 
East from Newchurch we bowled down Jinny Lane to the last remaining Clarion Room in the country. 

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

Hundreds of mill workers and their families used to come up here for refreshment and fresh air at the weekend. But there was much more to the Clarion movement than this, and fitness and fraternity through a national network of cycling clubs was a significant element of this socialist movement. Cyclists and walkers still come here for a drink and a break on Sundays. From here we rode into Barley, ignoring the cosy tea rooms as my little black timetable book had us behind schedule. We then whacked our way around the impressive green bulk of Pendle Hill. Right and ahead was a panoramic view stretching as far as the Yorkshire Dales. Our geographers, Jim and Brian Mac, recognised Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough on the horizon. We hurtled down the multi-arrowed Pendle Road to famously filmed Downham. Here we ran into two lively ladies who stalked us to the post office tea shop. I think they were looking for Specsave!
We crossed high above the A59, and over the Ribble at Chatburn (site of a yummy ice cream shop) and made our way south west to wonderful Waddington. The Lower Buck tempted, but I wanted the back of the ride broken by lunch, so we carried on easily to Higher Hodder Bridge. We ground around the heavily wooded Waddington Fell and up the Hodder Valley. We had done a lot of climbing, and after at least three hours in (and out of) the saddle, our lunch stop, at Chipping’s haunted 17th Century Sun Inn, arrived not a moment too soon. The food was excellent and the service was courteous and friendly.
We wound out of Chipping up a lush Quiet Lane past Legram Hall. The peaceful road meandered between Burnslack and Fair Oak Fell soaring to our left, and the wooded River Hodder below. The Wild Boar Park was passed, and we soon sighted the unlikely red telephone box as we steadily gained height and faced the last really steep bank of the day by Knot End cottage. The reward was a panoramic view across The Forest of Bowland to Yorkshire, and a lovely long descent to Burholme Bridge. The return to the Ribble Valley was by the route of least resistance! The famous Inn at Whitewell was passed as we followed the Hodder before winding left up the Roman road to Cow Ark, and past Browsholme Hall the ancestral seat of the Parkers, Bowbearers of the Forest of Bowland since Tudor times.
It was mostly downhill from here as we sped to coffee and cake at Balshall Barn. As we sipped next to the cows, Mike, George and I decided to have a look at the breathtaking Stonyhurst College, a magnificent 16th. Century manor house now home to a famous independent Catholic school. We passed ‘Cromwell’ Bridge over the Hodder and the beautiful old Alms House in Hurst Green on our extra loop. We finished by crossing the River Ribble at Great Mitton and returned to Mike’s former home village of Whalley.
It was a pleasure to cycle in such pleasant company. It was quite a demanding ride, and for those, who, because of various circumstances were not at their fittest, very hard at times. I hope now that the lactic acid has dissipated they will look back with pleasure and remember the fine views.  Mileage 46 or 51 with the Stonyhurst College loop.


  1. Is this the cool way to plan a route: pick an area and join up all the chevrons you can find? Certainly makes for great views! Throw in a sprinkling of eligible females along the way to liven things up and you get what Mike dryly commented at the time as 'premature expectations'.
    Rained all the way up the motorway and all the way back but lovely dry cool conditions all day for the ride. Perfect.
    Great ride. Pity you abandoned at Junction 31 Dave, you would have enjoyed it.

  2. Well if those two were Witches I'm off to buy a broomstick! Yes I found it hard after a 75 mile ride on the previous Sunday after over two months out of action but the scenery and company more than compensated. For me it was a real trip down memory lane particularly Downham where we used to feed the ducks 30 years ago,Waddington where my wife sang in the choir, Chipping where we used to drink real Boddingtons before the sell out to S & N - Ah the memories!