Dewsbury Manchester on Calder/Rochdale Canal (Mountain Biking) Route Details

Route Description

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A long ride attempting to follow the Calder and Hebble Navigation and the then the Rochdale Canal, for as far as possible.


Canalside paths which vary from fast tarmac to nearly techical singletrack. The difficulties can be avoided

Detailed description

If taking the train (there's a good train service between Manchester and Dewsbury), it's an easy 5 minute ride to the start of this route along the Dewsbury Arm, past the Leggers Inn, to the junction with the Calder and Hebble Navigation proper.

National Cycle route 66 follows part of the canal athough often diverts onto nearby cycleways and roads.


My idea was to follow the Calder and Hebble Navigation, and then the Rochdale Canal across the Pennines to Manchester. I had done this before on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, so this was a chance to try the same destination by a different route.

My idea was to try and follow the canal as much as possible, although in some palces this is not possible, as the Calder and Hebble Navigation is partially on a river, with a towpath which you are not allowed to cycle on, or is unsuitable.

From The junction with the Dewsbury Arm, the going was easy to where the canal rejoined the river Calder. I took a small path along the river. If you don't fancy some proper offroad, there's a bridleway that runs just to the south parallel to the railway which is much easier. Past the road which runs to Ravensthorpe station, the riverside path becomes far more technical. You could miss this easily. From previous rides I remembered the towpath on the section by Mirfield was not very suitable, so I followed the quiet road on the south of the river, which linked to a cycle way which runs along an old railway to Colne Bridge. This is where the Huddersfield Narrow canal splits from the Calder and Hebble Navigation.

After going along the busy A62, I found a small road which took me back towards the river. Not knowing how cycleable the town path was I took a small farm track which eventually lead down to the Calder and Hebble Navigation. Technically the signs said cycling was not allowed on the canal towpath, but plenty of tyre marks and the thought of avoiding the A 644, persuded me to try it anyway. The track was muddy but passable, until at the edge of a massive industrial estate, I rejoined a minor road, which took me into Brighouse. After stopping at a supermarket for supplies, I rejoined the canal.

The surface of the canal was very good, although crowded with walkers and cyclists, and I made up some time along the easy canal path. The river to one side and the extensive tree cover made this very nice cycling. The periodic locks as the canal steadily climbed slowed me down, but the gradient was pretty gentle. At Soverby Bridge, there was a canal junction, with the Halifax branch heading off in one direction, and the start of the Rochdale Canal. The riding was again pleasant and easy, and I soon reached Hebden Bridge. Here the canal was busy with casual walkers, and there were plenty of slightly offbat places to stop for a while.

The sun had come out properly, and the pretty surroundings of the canal, with large hills looming on easy side, made this very pleasant riding. I found there was a lot of slow moving people out for a pootle along the canal, which required me to pas them on a narrow towpath. I soon passed the point where I had started the wonderful but pain filled Mary Towneley loop. The canal was still gaining height in a series of locks. The surroundings of the canal were now lush pasture, with huge hills about, rather than the dense woodland of the previous few miles. I got to Todmorden, which didn't look so pleasant with the canal side being dominated by a large area of demolished mills, and passed on. When I turned around, I could see the Stoodly Pike Monument looming above which brought back more memories of the MTL.

Carrying on along the pleasant canal path, I reached the summit level of the canal at a place called Summit, which was alos one of the places where the canal is crossed on the Mary Townley, although unlike the easy canal side path, the MTL takes a hardcore route over the moors. Past Summit the canal starts to descend. Annoyingly, although downhill, the anti motorcycle gates, and the the frequent twists around the locks slowed progress, so I didn't get to swoop downhill as I had hoped. Beyond Littleborough, the hills had receded, and flat lands lay beyond, althought the canal was still descending steadily in a series of locks. The riding here was not nearly as pretty as the previous section, and I started to get bored of the ride. As the plains of Lancashire and Manchester approached the land around the canal became more urban, with only brief interludes of countryside, although the canal was still still leafy. On the edge of Rochdale, the canal dives below the complex junction at end of the M 627 which confused me as I tried to find the canal again.

A brief section of countryside passed by, and then soon the canal began to approach the outskirts of Chadderton. From here onwards the canal would be an urban canal. Soon I reached the junction between the A 663 and the M60. The canal went into a tunnel, leaving the path to climb over the motorway on a long bridge and a cyclepath along the side of a busy road, until joining the canal again. The canal was still tree lined, but the broken glass and graffiti hinted that I was now in Manchester proper. The canal kept descending through locks every mile or so, and I kept on pushing forward, aware that my legs were tiring but my goal was near. I think the approach to central Manchester on the Huddersfield canal was more interesting.

At last within the last mile or so before Piccadilly Station, the canal became surrounded by new developments of flats and trendy bars,with the basin at the end of the canal being extensively redeveloped. A short ride along the street after the canal basin took me to the station and a train back to Dewsbury.



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