The trip was designed for our club members to be able to attend any combination of one, two or the full three days. The trip itself was suggested by one of club members and the dates set of the 6th to the 8th June 2014.
The plan for the Friday and Saturday was to head up to Gisburn Forest which is located in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire to try out the trail centre there and also try out any local trails we could find or get recommended. After a further overnight in Gisburn on the Saturday night the plan for Sunday was to start heading back South but take in the highly spoken about Lee Quarry trail centre (near Bacup, Lancashire) on the way back.
As seems to be the norm with club trips unfortunately a few of the team dropped out last minute meaning only ten of the planned fourteen turned up on day one. After having dealt with the delights of the M6 and having enjoyed the local rally-esque stage roads of Lancashire we all eventually found the Gisburn Forest Hub car park around 10:30am.
Once the group had all finally appeared and those last minute final bike tweaks completed the group all sat down for a good number of brews, some war stories and some cake to chill out after the circa 4 hour drive before heading out on the trails.
Gisburn Forest is like many trail centres in the fact that the trails are split into colour coded route sections, meaning you can do the shorter green or blue loop, or add on the harder red and black sections. We decided to go the full hog and do the full red route including all the extra black sections of trail adding up to around 18km in total.
The trails at Gisburn are set in the beautiful surrounds of the Bowland Forest area of outstanding natural beauty and have quite a reputation now as including a fantastic selection of singletrack whilst being able to maintain a more natural feel than many man made feeling trail centres. Gisburn trails are quite famous in their own right within the MTB world, and you may well have heard of the famous berms of the Hully Gully route and tight twisting route of Homebaked. Gisburn packs a lot in for those seeking a technical cross country challenge but there's also plenty of other areas and trails for those who like to get both wheels off the ground too.
The groups opinion of the opening few miles of the route was that of smiles all round, the overall feeling was that Gisburn was a very technical place to ride with little respite to catch your breath when swopping from the technical climbs to the full on technical descents. The trails are laden with rocks and boulders, north shore boardwalk, tight twisty singletrack with root gardens, and then into more elaborate giant rock sections.
The accommodation chosen by one of club members was one of the new era of accommodation....indoor barn camping! Our residence and HQ for the weekend was Dale House Barn only a couple of minutes drive from Gisburn trail centre itself. This is kitted out as a biker and walker friendly barn ran by a lovely couple who are both bike mad to boot. The barn is kitted out to sleep up to 14 in either sleeping bags or on mattresses that are available. The cost comes in at £140 a night if sleeping the full 14 bodies, which really does make it an ideal low cost mountain bike weekend away. The barn was clean and simple yet still full of character and charm with a cosy living area with wood burner, a well equipped kitchen, two mezzanine floors for sleeping, a BBQ and some really good showers!!!!!
The Friday night everyone was in high spirits even if pretty tired after the drive and the riding. It was decided as the sun was shining for a change to stay in and cook a BBQ, so after quite an epic drive to the nearest Tesco we chilled with Paul's 'cremated' burgers and some cheeky beers.
We awoke on the Saturday to the most horrendous wet weather, nothing was lost though, i worked my socks off in the kitchen for bacon sarnies all-round while some of the troops headed out to the local bike shop for spares and repairs. By early afternoon we decided enough was enough and we braved the weather and headed back out onto the Gisburn loop with a couple heading out on to more local "make it up as you go along" singletrack. By the time we actually got into the Woods the weather was clearing up, but mother nature was still giving us a hammering once out in the open on top of the exposed ridgeline areas. By the time the afternoons riding came to an end the sun had finally come out, so after showers and bike washing we decided to head into one of the local towns for some decent grub and some local ales.
Dinner was booked for the recommended local in Newton-in-Bowland, The Parkers Arms. This was a real gem of a pub, with great character, superb local brews on tap, and a simple quite stunning menu. the mandatory couple of pints were consumed and it was decided at least three courses were deserved after two days of good hard riding. The icing on the cake so to speak here was Paul B getting chatted up by the waitress (who rides downhill) for wearing a Yeti t-shirt, his comment "I cant remember the last time I got chatted up" was swiftly cut off by the waitress coming back quick as a flash with "don't worry you still haven't been...." - simple highlight of the night for the rest of us!
Sunday morning the sun was shining, some of the guys were feeling a little worse for wear after two days of hard riding and trying to maintain a fit and healthy order in the miserable weather the day before. After many cups of Starbucks finest blend, and a bacon sarnie of two, we all kitted up the cars again and headed South towards Lee Quarry.
Lee Quarry is a much talked about new trail centre and general bike play area in a disused quarry near Bacup in Lancashire. You may have noticed a lot of the mountain bike videos doing the rounds on social media sites at the moment feature Lee Quarry. The location itself was ideal as it was around an hours drive south of Gisburn on the way back towards the M6 for everyone's drive back down home.
The Quarry features a bit of riding for everyone, a couple of cross country loops, some downhill runs, some trials areas, and other bits and bobs which are fun for pretty much everyone on any type of bike and varying abilities. Most of us just chose to do one loop of the 7km cross country loop, including some extra sessions of various parts of the trails that were damn good fun. One or two of the guys headed across to Cragg Quarry for a further loop too. A fair few of us were sporting tired legs and all of us wanted to hit the M6 sooner rather than later before catching the rush hour on the way home. Lee Quarry is certainly a fun place, the main descent down at the end if fast, breathtaking and very sketchy! The descent offered a super fast off-camber slalom down the side of what is a ruddy big hill, with the fear of plummeting downwards through sheep, walls and rocks you had to negotiate off camber rock, steps, drops, twisty single track and some tight corners....amazing!!!!! I wouldn't personally travel the distance to Lee Quarry for a day ride, but i would certainly recommend tagging it on to a trip elsewhere either on the way up or back.
This was another great success on the calendar, and Gisburn and Lee Quarry will definitely find their way onto our annual club trip list. I would highly recommend to any of you visits to both, neither location are idea for beginners, but if you have a good couple of years MTBing behind you with some technical skill and confidence you can definitely reap the rewards of both locations and savour some great riding. I would like to take the time to thank Lester for suggesting and helping organising this trip and thank all the club members who helped organise and attending the trip....it was most definitely fun and some great riding and socialising had by all. For the rest of our keen club members please watch out for details of our upcoming trips to the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District, Wales and other locations coming soon.