We have landed in the homeland of the Industrial Revolution, the Calder valley in Yorkshire, deep in the southern Pennines of the north of England. It is a beautiful landscape of contrasts - rich green pastures segregated by artful dry stone walls, rising vertically out of the valleys onto barren and raw moorland where the wind blows and the sheep are wild and seemingly free.
Todmorden and Hebden Bridge are hotbeds of change and innovation - a place where someone will have an idea and just run with it, playing it out to see where it will lead. Incredible Edible (http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/) is one such example.
It's been four weeks since we set up home in Todmorden and in that time I've managed to point the pushie up and down a fair few local bergs. Let's put it on the table. This is a world class place to live and breath cycling, unless you don't like hills, in which case you are better off becoming a hipster and cruising the canal paths! What the climbs here lack in length or ultimate elevation gain (the longest climb is 8km), they make up for in their bite. Getting up and out of the valley will require that you haul yourself up a cliff that will go beyond 15% in places, with few alternatives. What fun!
If you ride around here, you have to expect a tough day out. On the tops, the wind always seems to blow and, after a tough little climb, don't expect to be able to then bomb down the other side, which is likely to be just as steep, narrow and winding. If you know where to look, you will find some pretty tasty sections of cobbles too, some on the flat and plenty up some pretty nasty murs.
Not only is the riding fantastic locally, but the Calder valley is very handily placed for a spin through the Trough of Bowland (cue Lord of the Rings jokes), the Dales and the Peak District. Highlights are the wild and remotes roads - a big surprise to me giving the sizeable urban population centres nearby - the patience of the drivers and that crazy folded landscape. One negative is the state of the roads - 5 years of under investment is taking its toll on the regions huge network. Don't pack your lightweight tyres!
It's a tough place to start cycling, or get back on the pushie after 4 weeks off in my case, but you can see why Yorkshire breeds some tough cyclists. Hopefully, it will set me well for the bigger days ahead such as the Fred Whitton Challenge (more of that in a future post). I'm excited about the opportunities here (both on and off the bike).