The next Haglöfs Open 5 adventure race is going to be held near the town of Bacup, Lancashire. Sarah and I have a good lead in the women's pair's series but with some really stiff competition no score is safe. So for the first time ever, we went out in advance of the race to recce the area, specifically Lee and Cragg Quarries which will feature prominently in at least the biking portion of the race. The quarries are fairly recent additions to the singletrack options in the South Pennines, and are barely signposted, so local knowledge should come in really handy.
For the recce, Sarah, Alex, Adrian and I went out on a blusterly cool day which would probably be similar to the weather we would have on Sunday. I layered up in full waterproofs, as I was feeling a bit of a cold coming on and wanted to be warm. And dry. The puddles were all full so that turned out to be a good plan. Alex had the local knowledge from a previous ride in the quarries so he led the way as we tried to convert our strange maps into what we were seeing on the ground. Starting in Lee Quarry, we rode the east half of it, which was full of rock boulders and lots of short ups and downs. It was also quite confusing as the red trail offered a couple of options at times. With each trail intersection we were happier that this was a recce and not the actual race! We diverted from the red trail to head down to the pump track area, which also had lots of boulder-hopping opportunities for people much better at balancing that I am!
On the south side of the quarry, we left the route to ride up the moor towards Cragg Quarry on a new winding bridleway. It was slow going up but it promised a very fun ride down, with angled rocks for the more adventurous of riders to hop over at speed. After a short way along the Pennine Bridleway, we hit Cragg, which is a figure 8 course meandering near the actual bridleway. It is completely unsigned, but if you can figure out the trail, ride it clockwise on the smaller top half, and anti-clockwise on the much larger bottom (western) half. This quarry was quite ridable most of the time, with a few nice sections of downhill swoops, but mostly it was like a grown-up pump track...constant short, sharp ups and downs. My legs were screaming halfway through and never seemed to get a rest. Key I think is to keep momentum going to make it back up the uphills.
Once we'd conquered the windy sections of Cragg, we headed back for the second half of Lee, and the downhill to get there was as nice as we had hoped! The rest of Lee Quarry was also quite ridable and VERY exposed on a few sections. Don't forget there is a bottom trail at Lee with some more nice singletrack, this time a bit of dirt rather than the rock in the quarry.
All said, it is tough singletrack but enjoyable. Not sure if I really want to do it again, but I've only been mountain biking for 6 months so my singletrack technique needs a bit of work. I know from riding at Gisburn Forest that I was much faster around the singletrack trails the 2nd (and subsequent) times I rode there, sooo. We're hoping the same theory works for Lee and Cragg!
If you are looking for maps of the area, here is what we used, as OS maps don't show the quarry trails or the new connecting bridleway.
http://www.moredirt.co.uk/trails/maps/lee_quarry.pdf Lee Quarry
http://singletrackworld.com/2010/05/cragg-quarry-map/ Cragg Quarry
Oh, and the Cafe near the parking at the bottom of Lee Quarry is quite nice, and has printed maps of both quarries. Check it out!
Photos will be added retroactively after I con someone into coming along to the race on Sunday to stand around in the cold rain with a camera!