We love riding round the hills of the South Pennines. And the aim of our sportives is to share our favourite roads and places with you, whilst also giving you the chance to ride a couple of the 2014 Tour de France’s signature climbs.
So, away from Cragg Vale and Holme Moss, what can you expect to see and experience on the Autumn Skylark?
A couple of sections of the Autumn Skylark take you across some of the most spectacularly open moorland in the whole of England. Here, the A635 descends gently into Yorkshire and the term “the spine of England”, so often associated with the Pennines, really makes sense as the moorland seems to drop away in every direction.
You’ve just climbed Crag Vale and are enjoying the long descent into Ripponden. Here the route takes you along a minor road high above the A-road that shares the valley with Baitings reservoir. It’s a great spot to stop and appreciate the wonder of these minor roads that make such a contribution to the landscape and, of course, to our event!
Norland Moor is a small area of mixed heather moorland and pasture, criss-crossed by minor roads and bordered by a steep hillside which drops down into the busy Calder Valley. We often ride round the moor on summer evenings and enjoy the rare combination of natural beauty, quiet roads and unbelievable views across the South Pennine hills.
Marsden Moor features in the final quarter of the Autumn Skylark’s 115km. After leaving Ripponden Bank behind you, you climb gently for several kms onto the high plateau of peat moorland above the town of Marsden. Once you are on the moor top, you are surrounded by a sea of waving moor grass and patches of heather. And, unlike many of the other high roads in the area, here you maintain your height for several more kilometers. The experience of sustained upland riding, without killer inclines, is a rare one and on a benign day, riding across the vastness of Marsden Moor is one of the most magical cycling experiences in England.
You might consider this a strange choice of “beauty spot”, a high bridge over the thundering M62 motorway. But there is something beautiful in this thin, elegant bridge arching across the hustle and bustle below. The motorway robbed many of the upland roads around here of their traffic, thus contributing to making the area such a great place to cycle. But it also serves as a reminder that much of the landscape owes its existence to man. The huge bulk of the adjacent Scammonden Dam holds back a reservoir that is now a haven for wildlife. Other reservoirs dot the landscape and mirror the clouds and skies. The roads and even the motorway help to define the curves and hollows of the hills. It’s a wonderful spot to sit and contemplate man’s impact on his environment and ponder our appreciation of beauty in form and function. But, of course, you might just have your head down as you speed to the finish…….the choice is yours.