Book Review // Big Rides: GB & Ireland

We really got into mountain biking in 2020 and the Vertebrate guides were fantastic for coming up with routes to do and knowing if I’d find them achievable (given I’m not really into tech routes!)

I loved the Big Trails guides, so I was very excited with the arrival of the Big Rides: Great Britain and Ireland book.

Providing an epic selection of 25 long distance routes catering for both road, gravel and mountain biking there’s the classic routes of Sarn Helen and Lakeland 200 but also some surprises too.

As with the Big Trails books, this isn’t a book to take out on the hill with you. It’s meant for reading with a coffee on a wet day as you start to plan adventures; a place to start if you need inspiration and advice.

Big Rides starts with a detailed ‘How to Use this Book’ section highlighting understanding icons used, the colour coding used for when to go and the differences in pace calculated for each type of adventure.

This is particularly useful if, like me, knowing the quality of the tracks is useful in advance.

For each route the book provides beautiful images along the trail, alongside a summary of the route, including highlights, key locations and things to think about while planning. This provides both inspiration and allows you to start to plan your adventure.

For each route there is also an overview map showing the route and for each there is a summary of essential information, such as distance, key features, a profile of the route height along the trail, and pros and cons of the routes.

It also lists good places to find out more about the route to aid planning, from books to websites.

It’s a bit surprising for a guide which covers GB and Ireland to have missed out some of the classic routes, but to have 2 which drift on to the north coast of France. For example the Pennine Bridleway, a classic mountain biking route is missing.

That said I love that it has a fair spread of routes in the 5 nations and it does have some really useful information for planning routes, for example I’m totally inspired now to check out Scotland’s Get North Trail.

If you’re in need of some inspiration for an adventure and need a place to start then Big Rides: Great Britain and Ireland will get you started with ideas.

Tackling the Kirklees Way

The Kirklees Way circles the borough providing a 73 mile/ 118km challenge which takes in some of the areas rugged trails and industrial scenery, along with plenty of farmland, moorland and woodlands.

I undertook this route over three days, but 4-6 days is more realistic.

I should add that like many named routes in the area, the Kirklees Way might be a marked trail on the map, but a lot of the route isn’t well signposted and can be quite overgrown (especially at the height of summer). Some of the stiles and gates are also in poor condition. Map reading is definitely required!

Scholes to Marsden – 24.5 miles / 39.3km

This first section surprisingly turned out to be a tour of woodland and golf courses (it crosses 4!) as the route heads anticlockwise around the District.

Scholes is a good place to start – a nice village which is well connected and crucially allows for a nice downhill start to the route. Leaving the village it crosses farmland and then the Willow Valley Golf Club before heading over the M62, another feature of this section of the route.

From here it heads downhill through fields and tracks to Hartshead and Cooper Bridge roundabout on the A62.

Here it’s easy to miss that the route heads down the side of the petrol station where it follows a track and then heads uphill into Bradley. From here it crosses through Bradley Park Golf Club and heads uphill to run alongside the M62.

There is a lot of really amazing woodland on this section of the route and worth exploring in their own right.

Typical of the quality of signs!

From here it continues through various woodlands heading to Fixby. Here it crosses through Huddersfield Golf Club before dropping downhill to cut through more woodland and houses to reach Ainley Top, back near the M62.

From Ainley Top it cuts through a new housing estate before cutting under the motorway and following it to reach junction 23 at Lindley. Here it drops down to Longwood Brook before crossing Outlane Golf Club and up through Nettleton woods to wind around Wholestone Moor radio masts.

At this point I was definitely tired from all the ups and getting up Nettleton is definitely a long slog!

Here the route enters moorland as it dips down to Scammonden Reservoir before climbing back out to drop down to Marsden. An annoying extra climb at the end of a long day!

Marsden to Flockton – 29miles/ 46.6km

This section of the route provides a great contrast – from the rugged bleak moorland of the Colne and Holme Valleys, with countless reservoirs to reach Shepley where the terrain becomes farm fields and tracks.

Heading out of Marsden the Kirklees Way heads up the Wessenden Valley all the way until the track meets Greenfield Rd. It then crosses the road and heads on paths and tracks down to Digley Reservoir. Its a valley I know well so I didn’t have to think too much on this section of the route, as it leave the Colne Valley and heads in to the Holme Valley.

From Digley reservoir the route heads across the fields to Holme and then drops down through the woods to Ramsden Reservoir. Here it crosses the dam and heads uphill through the woods on wide worn tracks to White Gate Road before taking more tracks to drop down through the woods to yet another reservoir.

A theme develops here, as the route climbs up the hill on tracks to reach Hades Edge before dropping into another wooded river valley to head towards Hepworth village. This was possibly my favourite woodland but also the only one where I found myself questioning if I had wandered off the path as I found myself stood in the river.

From Hepworth there is one last river valley before the route steeply climbs uphill on a road and then tracks to reach Dick Edge Lane. Thankfully the views are worth the sweating uphill.

Eventually its possible to see Emley Moor mast which is more or less in the direction of Flockton. From here the route heads in to Shepley, after which the terrain turns into farm fields and tracks as it heads to Denby Dale.

From Denby Dale there is an annoying loop which adds a hill up to Pool Hill trig point before the route drops down to skirt Scissett to head to Clayton West. If you look at the map its easy to question why this little diversion exists when the route drops down to be around 1km from where it headed uphill.

Here the route heads up and down through farm fields as it circles Emley and arrives at Flockton.

Flockton to Scholes – 20 miles/ 32km

This is definitely the most urban part of the whole route, and as such don’t expect it to be that well signposted. In fact there’s plenty of sections its easy to get lost without a map and a lot of judgement! While some of the areas along this route aren’t particularly desirable, there’s also some hidden gems.

I left Flockton knowing that this might be shorter than the previous legs, but it was going to be challenging nonetheless. From experience I know that footpaths through urban areas can often be badly maintained, lack use and be quite obscure. What hadn’t occurred to me was that at the height of summer I was about to encounter a jungle of nettles and overgrown footpaths that would leave me wishing I had a machete!

The route leaves Flockton and heads through farm fields towards Thornhill Edge. My first encounter with poor footpaths was largely down to meeting two frisky horses which left me jumping a river and having to carefully climb a barbed wire fence. That sort of set a theme for the day.

The route across Thornhill Edge was a nice traverse of the hillside around the estate and provides good views across the fields.

After winding through housing in Thornhill Edge the route cuts through a park and follows tracks to reach the Calder and Hebble Navigation. Pay attention here as the Wakefield Way is better signposted along this section and its easy to end up heading the wrong direction. The Kirklees Way heads under the railway and through a factory. I really had to double check the map along here as it doesn’t seem right as you head straight through the factory yard, particularly with the security gate.

As the route continues on I joins with the Spen Valley Greenway – a well surfaced cycle route. Here I confess to missing a turning and the dog leg but instead continued on to run under the road through the long dark tunnel of the cycle way.

As the path circles around the edge of Dewsbury, it crosses well managed woodland which as the path climbs upwards provides a great view across the town.

Here the route drops down to another factory and crosses through housing in Batley to head along farm tracks to join with the Leeds Country Way. This runs through the woodland on the edge of the town, before heading up the road to cut through houses to end up near the big retail park at Junction 27. Here the route is quite industrial and thankfully quickly crosses under the M62 to head through farmland.

The farmland here is notably less picturesque and many of the access points are difficult to access and one was completely buried in the hedge and required me climbing the adjoining wall.

Eventually it heads towards the M606 through nicer farmland, and towards the village of Oakenshaw and returns to Scholes via easy tracks and roads.

Navigation top tips

This article first appeared in 2016 when I wrote for Womenclimb website. As it’s National Map Reading Week I’m sharing the content again here… with a bit of a refresh.

Here are my top tips for planning your own adventure and not getting flustered by navigation:

1.Remember the 5 P’s

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance! Look at the map before you head out and plan a route that’s easy to follow. Not all routes are on easy-to-navigate paths and may require you to pay attention to the paths and terrain you’re on. Planning in advance will save time and arguments and definitely prevent you getting lost!

Think about what the route is and what type of map you’re going to use.

If its a day walk you might want an 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey Explorer map. For a multi-day walk you might decide to use a 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Landranger map to have more of the route on one map. If you’re in the mountains you might decide to use Harvey’s 1:40,000 Mountain maps which identify the contours more visually. Or if you’re after an afternoon adventure you might pick a local orienteering map!

2. Understand the map symbols

  • Do you know what all the symbols mean?
  • Can you identify a footpath from a bridleway?
  • Do you understand open access moorland?

If you’re not sure how to read a map, taking a course can really help.  We have a range of navigation courses to suit all abilities, (see our events page) but there’s also lots of fantastic free resources on the Ordnance Survey page.

Understanding the details on the map can really help to reduce the stress of navigating.

3. Understand map features: Grid Lines & Grid References

The grid lines are the faint blue squares superimposed over a map which form the basis for identifying a location.

Each square measures 1km across the lines or 1.5km from corner to corner so they can be useful for quickly judging distances. They are however principally used to give a grid reference, which when given as a 6 figure can give an accuracy of 100m of a location.

To understand how to identify a grid reference have a look at this helpful link.

4. Understanding map features: Contour Lines

Contour lines are the faint orange/brown lines that are used to identify the shape and altitude of the landscape.

While it’s easier to pick out the massive mountains using them, it’s worth studying the map to learn to identify the smaller contour features which can help to aid your navigation.

Contours have the height marked on them at certain points, which gives away whether the route is up or downhill. It might not matter too much for a few km walk from a car park, but if you’re carrying kit a long way to somewhere a bit more remote then it will make all the difference to how quickly you get there, and how knackered you are!

You need to roughly add 1 minute for every contour line you cross heading uphill, but it might be more if you’re not on a path and you are crossing scree, rocky terrain or moorland or if you’re carrying a heavy rucksack.

5. Orientate the map!

If you’re going to use a map it’s essential to orientate it in the direction of travel as you walk.  Get your map and turn it round until what you see in front of you is represented on the map, in the right direction.  Keep your thumb on the map as you travel to be able to quickly identify where you are.

It can sometimes take a bit of practice, but it’s the easiest way to be able to quickly navigate and understand how what you see in the map relates to your surroundings. Its also the easiest way to prevent getting lost!

From Hill Walking published by Mountain Training UK

6. The 5 D’s

  • Distance – How far are you going to travel?
  • Direction – Which direction are you heading?
  • Description – what are the features you’re going to pass and tick off as you go?
  • Duration – How long will it take you?
  • Dangers – are there any hazards en route?

As you’re walking, make sure you pay attention to what features you should pass on the route – check them as you pass over or by them.  You can mark your map to keep track of where you are.

7. Understanding how to use a compass.

Using a compass if something that many of us learnt at school or scouts and haven’t used since. For many walks its not essential to use a compass as we’re following footpaths or features like rivers and walls. However, when walking across open moorland, or in the high mountains compass skills can be essential.

For an overview of how to use a compass for navigating check out this introduction post from the Ordnance Survey and this more detailed one.

8. Have an escape route

  • What do you do when you the wether changes and you need to change your plan?
  • Can you safely navigate your way back without getting stuck?
  • Are you confident navigating in poor weather or when it gets dark?

Having an escape route or even a few options to cut short your plans is useful to have planned in advance to make a quick exit. Weather can be extremely changeable even when you have done your best to plan.

Read my blog over at Ordnance Survey about why using OSLocate app is a good safety tool.

Book Review// Wild Winter

Winter is my favourite time in Scotland. The mountains achieve a majesty in winter as the weather turns cold and changes the landscape. Wild Winter depicts this change as the chapters focus on the autumn and winter months in the Highlands.

Each month focuses on John Burns’ trips to Scotland and how the changing season affects the wildlife there. Starting in October with a trip to see the deers rut and whale watch, the book progresses through to March, with trips to find mountain hares, pine martens and beavers.

The book follows the same format as Bothy Tales, factual information on Scottish endeavours to re-wild, interspersed with Burns recounting trips to remote locations to be in the landscape. 

“Mountaineering plans are made in a warm room with a map spread out in front of you and a glass in your hand. Mountaineering decisions are made on aching legs, sweating, gasping for breath with reality howling about your ears.”

As he looks at the natural world he also discusses man’s impact. From salmon farming to the culling hares by grouse farmers, he is critical of man’s control of wildlife for our own profits. The constant battle between nature and man is best recounted in the discussion on beaver reintroduction to Scotland.

That Scotland’s wild spaces are anything but due to the management for deer and grouse is something most visitors overlook but wild winter brings to the fore. 

“Where I once saw wilderness and stood in awe of a magnificent landscape, now I see desolation. Now I see the scars we have wrought on this earth. I see the high moorland burnt for the shooting if driven grouse. I see our hills denuded of trees.”

Wild Winter is another beautiful book by Burns. If you love Scotland or just love literature which celebrates the landscape rather than tries to tame it, or battle through it – then Wild Winter is a book you will love.

Book Review // 100 Great Walks with Kids

I’ll start by saying I don’t have a kid, but I do have a 13 year old stepson who prefers the playstation to the outdoors and a small puppy who’s currently only able to adventure for a maximum of 30 minutes. They’re the same as a small child, right?

Providing a range of great walks all as mini adventures, this book provides an opportunity to engage children in the outdoors and explore new places without having to drag them for a dreaded walk.

100 Great Walks with Kids covers the basics of what’s needed for walking with young children, such as considering footwear and buggies/ carriers.

It breaks the walks down into regions and for each provides a great overview and why the walk is exciting to children, as well as the key info such as distance, start/ finish, and difficulty grading.

All of the walks are relatively short 1-3 miles long so do-able for small children with plenty of exploring along the way.

The only downside of this book is that in trying to cover the whole of Great Britain, the walks are spread far and wide – from Scilly to Skye.

The maps are quite basic with not many features marked on them for navigation but there are clear written directions to follow.

All the walks also include a panel of other things to see and do nearby, which is great for making a full day out somewhere if your little one walks quickly!

This is a great book for families who might need some inspiration for day trips, weekends away or a summer holiday. Its also got some great ideas for inspiring young people to get excited about the outdoors from a young age.

Book Review // Day walks in the South Pennines

I wouldn’t normally use a guidebook for day walks and definitely not for the area in which I live. But given the chance to review this guide I thought I’d see if it would still impress me, given the amount of walking I’ve done in the South Pennines.

The ‘Day Walks in…’ guides produced by Vertebrate Publishing now cover almost all of the National Parks and some extra areas too, as with the South Pennines. The same format is also used for their mountain biking guides, which I’ve used a lot since taking up mountain biking last summer. (who didn’t get on a bike in lockdown 1?)

Day walks in the South Pennines covers 20 walks around West Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester, all between 8 and 29km (5 and 18 miles).

Each route has stunning photos, an overview of the walk with a clear OS map route image and detailed written walking guide.

Each route also has a really clear overview panel covering the total distance of the route, ascent, grid reference for the start, parking suggestions and which OS map you will need.

The books covers a lot of classic walks in the area, so is a great introduction to the South Pennines for visitors. You’ll find walks around Dove Stone Reservoir, Bridestones and Stoodley Pike, Hollingworth Lake and Blackstone Edge.

Some of the routes covered require good navigation skills – for example the first route in the guide of Holme to Black Hill and while it says as such in the written text its surprising for a guide book of this nature to suggest a route which requires walking on a bearing across open moorland which is a hotspot for mountain rescue locally.

The South Pennines isn’t a designated national park or even an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so many people don’t necessarily associate the term with a specific bounded area. So the inclusion of the area in the ‘Day Walks’ series is fantastic to encourage more people to visit the towns and villages in this area that is between two National Parks.

The guidebook does sneak in some routes outside of the rough geography of the South Pennines though with the inclusion of Pendle Hill (in the Trough of Bowland), Rivington Pike (in the Western Pennines) and Goodshaw and Hamilton Hill (in the Western Pennines). These are great routes, but its a shame as there could have easily been 3 more routes on the South Pennines Moors included in this guide. And surely there’s enough great walks in both the Western Pennines and Trough of Bowland for a separate guide too?

That said this is a great introduction to the area and some of its classic walks.

Book Review // Walking the Literary Landscape

I’ve been reviewing Vertebrate Publishing books for the past year and they never fail to inspire the imagination for adventures. I was delighted to review Walking the Literary Landscape, particular as it focuses on the North of England. There’s so many hidden gems in the North that guidebooks like this which are national are going to always miss something wonderful.

The slim book is laid out in a relatively standard format with all the necessary safety information and countryside code reminder for hiking and hill walking in the UK.

The book covers 20 walks ranging from 5 to 14km (3 -9 miles), from the Lake District, North East, Peak District to Cheshire. Each walk also relates to a different literary author, which provides a great range of interesting routes and tales.

Each walk is covered with a beautiful photo of the location and a page summary of the author’s links to the landscape. Its then followed by a 2 page guide with step by step notes about the route and an ordnance survey map of the route.

Some of the walks and literary connections are obvious ones – Ted Hudges for the Calder Valley, Bram Stoker for Whitby and Beatrix Pottery for Windermere. Others were a little less obvious, such as William Shakespeare being associated with Wooler, and Charles Dickens with Carrock Fell in Cumbria.

Vertebrate Publishing always do fantastic walking guides but I like this one for the unique theme and the route choices. Rather than taking in the classic walks of the area, the routes are more thoughtful and cover a great range of beautiful locations.

So if you’re looking for inspiration for walks and have time to combine a trip with a good book then I’d highly recommend combining a walk from this guide with something by the author – perhaps a trip to Daresbury with a bit of Lewis Carroll?

Swellands, Marsden 10.5km

pule hill

A walk round the Swellands route will provide you with a sample of moorland walking on the Pennine Way, views across Colne Valley and a return on the Standedge Trail.

The walk starts in Marsden village centre. While not exceptionally long, it does cross moorland which can be difficult to walk on and navigate in poor weather. It also has some steep uphills to get high on the moors, so be prepared.

A full route description is available on the Marsden Walkers are Welcome website where you can also find the leaflet and a gpx file to download. The route is also well sign posted, with these way markers so look out for them as you walk.

Starting in Marsden village at the train station and head out of the village following the route to go under a road bridge and onto Fall Lane. Follow this right, to the roundabout. Cross the road here and head up Binn Lane. After the houses finish you will reach a wide track leading down the side of Butterley reservoir.

Follow this wide track as it heads gradually uphill passing another dam of Blakley Reservoir. Where you cross a cattlegrid there is a path on the right through the fence which heads downhill to eventually reach a bridge over the river.

Ahead of you the path climbs very steeply (and mostly slippy mud so take care) up to the top where you will meet another path.

Turn right here and follow the path above a deep valley. After crossing the stream help up the steps and continue to follow the path across the moors until you reach Swellands and Black Moss reservoirs. Cross the bridge and follow the path along the reservoir dam to the end. Here in summer you will find a tiny sandy beach, known locally as Marsden beach.

At the other end of the reservoir turn left and follow the paved path as it heads along the reservoir edge and then rightwards, all the way to a kissing gate, from where you will see. Pule Hill and Redbrook Reservoir.

Continue on the paved path till you cross a stream and arrive on the Standedge Trail track, a bridleway across the moors. Go straight ahead and drop down to be able to head right on the Standedge trail towards Marsden.

About 1km on you will drop down to pick up a track that will take you up to the road. Cross this and take Old Mount Rd and then turn on to the track signposted for Hades Farm. Follow this track as it heads towards Marsden and when you can see a stone barn on your right, drop down to take the path at the corner of 2 walls. This will lead you onto Old Mount Road. Follow this downhill back to Marsden and the A62.

Deer Hill Circular, Marsden – 6.5km

High above Marsden lies Shooters Nab, possibly the greenest crag around this bit of West Yorkshire due to its northerly aspect. Near it is Deer Hill Reservoir, the high point of this walk.

The walk starts in Marsden village centre. A full route description is available on the Marsden Walkers are Welcome website where you can also find the leaflet and a gpx file to download.

The route is also well sign posted, with these way markers so look out for them as you walk.

The route heads up past Crow Hill house, built in 1801 and now a large wedding venue. As it continues up the hillside it heads through a field gate and follows a muddy path between fields towards Scout Farm.

Here you pass through the National Trust signed gate and head onto the moors, following the broad track which turns right and heads uphill in the direction of Shooters Nab crag. As you head uphill you cross a stone bridge over the water conduit for the reservoirs.

Turn around and admire the view across the valley!

As the track starts to flatten out it reaches crossroads near another stone bridge. Turn left here and head along this track towards the building in the distance. This is the shooting lodge. As you pass the building the track becomes tarmac as it circles the reservoir.

Along the reservoir are steps, follow these down and past a wire fence where just behind there is a series of steps to cross the wall. Turn left here and follow the wall, heading straight down past a house and continue to meet the road junction.

Cross the road and take the first left up the bridleway towards Delves Cottages turn right onto Delves Gate road. As this descends turn left up a path and then first right to follow a series of paths which bring you out on another road. Head downhill to find the first path which leads downhill on your left.

From here you arrive on the Colne Valley Circular route. Turn right here and as you come to the second set of houses there is a path that leads downhill on your left. Follow this through the fields to the A62. Cross the road and head straight on following the footpath over the river and onto the Huddersfield Canal.

Turn left and follow it all the way back to Marsden!

Eryri/Snowdonia Gold Level Ambassadors

As Tinkadventures delivers courses and activities in Snowdonia, we felt it was important to complete the National Park’s Ambassador programme and we’re now proud to be Gold Level Ambassadors.

The Snowdonia Ambassador programme is a free online course enabling you to learn more about Snowdonia, the management of the National Park, Snowdon itself and 7 of the 9 Special Qualities identified as unique features of the National Park, including geology and historic landscapes.

The Ambassador programme is completely free and while it is aimed at people and businesses working in the National Park area, much of the information is interesting for even the general public so definitely have a look.