A damp but mild Thursday night saw us investigating a few promising lines on the map to see if there was anything fun that was yet to be uncovered over on the Saddleworth side of our hills. I had not been over that side of the watershed on the mountain bike for quite a long time, and I fancied a change. We set off up one of the usual drags out of the village, and dropped down Boat Lane, which is always fun and holds up quite well even in the worst weather, guaranteeing at least one enjoyable descent even if the rest of the night developed into a wash-out. Climbing back over into the next valley and descending via the aptly-named track past Waters, that one which usually resembles a small stream at the best of times, we ended up thoroughly soaked and caked in mud. Even though it wasn’t raining much at the time it had been wet for the previous few days, so there was standing and running water everywhere, a small but significant quantity of which was destined to come home with us in our socks.On the first properly new path of the night we found a mysterious shrine to “Wisdom”, four carved stone blocks circled around a spring, hiding in the dark. The stones looked very new with no real sign of the usual Pennine algal green on them, so either they’ve not been there for long, or someone cleans them regularly. We moved on swiftly, before any local pagans had chance to capture us for ritual sacrifice or a lengthy discursion on eco-friendly stone-carving. It’s that sort of neighbourhood. The path itself made for a pleasant, steady way of gaining the ridge above, a friendly alternative to the usual route which batters its way up a stony 1-in-4 lung-buster of a climb.
We dropped down to Delph along a track I have been eyeballing on the map for a few months now, a route that turned out to be excellently rocky and entertaining, if very wet. Slippery green slabs of slick rock nearly caught us out a couple of times, and the lower section of path was basically a stream-bed due to the heavy rain of the previous days, but in summer this must be an excellent descent, and I can’t wait to revisit it in the sunshine.
A bad choice of climb back up onto Harrop Edge had us off and pushing, but the other side of the hill was another enjoyable blast of rocky downhill to the road, which, as it was getting late, we elected to follow straight back to the pub. All things considered it was an excellent evening out, the soggy conditions under-wheel notwithstanding, and our explorations opened up a couple of new, useful routes to add in to our regular loops.