While the hills of Saddleworth provide some fantastic riding for the road cyclist , there’s equal if not greater scope off road.
I’m a novice mountain biker at best but, astride the Surly Troll, I’m slowly exploring the bridle-ways and byways near my home.
The wonderfully titled Diggle Jiggle is a case in point. An 11-mile circular route linking pretty villages (and some enticing pubs) in the hills above Oldham. Manchester’s busy streets seem very distant in this part of the city conurbation, and yet they are only eight miles away.
Although officially starting in Diggle, there are several convenient spots to pick up the Jiggle, Greenfield offering as good a kick-off point as any with its regular rail service from Manchester.
It provided a good starting point for me too. The first section of the route from here headed north along Ladcastle Road which climbs to the tidy fairways and manicured greens of Saddleworth Golf Club. The ascent soon eased though and I plunged downhill, brakes squealing, taking a sharp right to join the Delph Donkey Trail. A former railway, this gritty trail provides a decent off-road route for cyclists, walkers and horse riders. I’ve been riding out this at for nearly five years and had no idea it existed.
I turned off the trail at the gate for Dobcross Village cutting back past the Woolpack pub and climbed steeply to the village proper. A mountain biker was enjoying a post-ride pint at The Swan and I fancied joining him. However, I had to press on along Sandy Lane and onto Long Lane.
Reaching cottages, some proper off-road riding commenced. Turning left and right I followed a board track across Harrop Edge. The climb was slow and long but the views were ample reward.
The track dropped to a crossroads and steep broken route led down to the road and then singletrack onto Coat Lane skirting the Castlehaw Reservoirs and then onto the marvellously named Dirty Lane.
The route now picks up the Pennine Bridleway all the way back to Greenfield and route finding was easy. The terrain was more challenging, though.
The highest part of the Jiggle is gained by another wide, stony track and, after crossing the A62 once more, the route turned to single track again… great fun it was too, particularly with a rigid front fork!
Another wide track led to the Diggle Hotel and more lanes and tracks to the outskirts of Uppermill and more sedate riding.
I pedalled home, legs tingling with the effort and adrenaline still coursing through my body. The Jiggle is sedate stuff for seasoned riders, but as a starter for ten, it offers a reasonable amount of excitement. It will certainly serve as a great ride for an evening when the trails are quieter. I hardly saw a soul on Saturday and crowned my tentative first few steps off-road with some hills on the ‘Goddess the following morning.
Apologies for the stylised shots, by the way. Been messing with Instagram!