A winter bike ride packed with history around Oldham

Our Christmas bike ride this year took place in very different weather conditions than last year. Both years we had jiggled our exercise plans to fit the best weather conditions. Last year there had be a thick frost but this year we were lucky to dodge the wet weather.

I have said before that wherever you cycle to from Chadderton involves a climb (except going toward Manchester) so we are always looking for the easiest climb. This years ride on the Monday took us out of Chadderton the same way we went last year, along the old railway path through Salmon Fields towards Higginshaw Lane. The railway used to go from Oldham Mumps to Royton Junction until the Beeching Cuts. The rail line opened in 1864 and closed in 1966.

The railway path from Royton to Higginshaw

Higginshaw today is home to many industrial units but in the 19th century it was the home to many sporting events ranging from wrestling to sparrow shooting but it was Whippet racing that was the big draw. Apparently, it was not unusual for 300 dogs to be entered into one handicap race.

Leaving Higginshaw Lane via the back streets we had to cross the end of the Oldham Bypass and the beginning of the very busy Huddersfield Road. There is no longer a bridge at Mumps and its absence still confuses me even though it’s over ten years since it was removed.

Having crossed the road, we picked up the cycle path behind where the Oldham Mumps rail station used to be. This track ends at the shopping centre near Alexandra Park. Covering 57 acres Alexandra Park opened in 1861. The was created as a scheme to give employment to laid off cotton workers who had been made idle by the resulting lack of raw cotton due to the American Civil War. This period in Lancashire mill towns became known as the Cotton Famine and is commemorated in Sam Laycocks dialect poem Welcome, Bonny Brid:-

Tha’rt welcome little Bonnie Brid

But tha shouldn’t ave come when tha did

Toimes are hard, we’re short of pobbies for earw Joe

But that, of course, tha didn’t know,

Did tha lad

Alexandra Park as all the attributes of a Victorian park and it is not difficult to image people in their Sunday best promenading along the wide walk way past the ‘Lion’s Den’ in years gone by.

Having found a downhill we headed for Snipe Clough and the site of the proposed ‘Northern Roots’ Eco Park. This ambitious project will be the largest urban farm in the country covering 160 acres and hopes to engage locals in much of the project. The community garden is already attracting volunteers.

We like to make our cycle rides circular but at this point we had no alternative but to retrace our tracks back through the park but it was time for a break, a brew and a tipple.

Cheers!

We headed back towards Mumps via the cycle track. This way avoided the climb up Park Road and took us through Glodwick, pronounced Glodick. Glodick was recorded in the 1190’s as Glodic.

Crossing the bypass once again we passed the tram stop and headed up the cobbled street to get to Oldham Edge.

The crossing at Mumps tram stop. The Owl being the Oldham symbol

This spit of land which is visible for miles around stands 251.5 metres above sea level and its not difficult to see why this area is called Coldhurst (cold wood). Although it is an area that as been enjoyed by Oldhamers for many years part of it is still available to the MOD, the Tank regiment having practiced here in the past.

As you enter the Edge the wide concrete Tank Road is in front of you. Oldham is best associated with cotton spinning. The abundance of coal in the area, however, was one of the reasons that steam engines were used in many local industries. Coal was formed over 300 million years in the Carboniferous geological period. Along with coal, vast areas of sandstone also formed. In 1879 a fossil forest was uncovered in the sandstone quarry on the Edge. This consisted of 12 standing fossil trees. Once these had been exposed to the atmosphere and the public started to visit the quarry the fossils started to deteriorate and were moved to the grounds of the nearby Bluecoats School. Some of the smaller fossils collected at the same time can be seen in Manchester and Salford museums.

Once we had reached the highest point it was downhill all the way but being a bit of a wuss, I pushed the bike as I found the rest of the path too rough to cycle.

The end of the path brought us out onto the Rochdale Road and we headed down Broadway for our post Christmas dinner.

This ride was well short of our usual 20+ miles. It was around 10 miles but was quite strenuous.

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