Greatest Cycling Climbs #42 - Jackson Bridge
I can hardly claim that just because I’ve visited the locality twice in 3 months I now know the area. Nevertheless I am becoming more familiar with the countryside to the west of Barnsley, near to Holmfirth. Having ridden (I mean toiled) up Holme Moss, Pea Royd Lane and Ewden Bank in late summer (reviews pending), I was back again last week. What better preparation than to go out with a supplier the night before, consume a number of pints and have a curry? That was precisely what form my preparation for Jackson Bridge took. I only have myself and my typical lack of self-control to blame.
I was staying within view of an unmistakeable local landmark, the Emley Moor Mast. This huge self-supporting concrete transmission mast, stretches 330 meters into the leaden grey West Yorkshire sky. I opened the curtains but it was hard to tell whether it was day or night. It was dark, gloomy and damp. All that, on top of my hangover. Perhaps the fresh air would do me good? My proposed route would take me anti-clockwise towards Hepworth and Jackson Bridge, the target for the morning. At Jackson Bridge I would climb the hill and head back towards the mast and Emley Moor. Simples.
A very watery sun struggled into the sky as I headed north-west to Kirkburton. I expected to take a few wrong turns and sure enough before 5 minutes had elapsed I was already checking google maps and doubling back on myself. Eventually, approaching Hepworth (although I didn’t really realise it was Hepworth), it slowly dawned on me this was a hill I’d already previously down. After another map consultation it was confirmed I was indeed, in Hepworth. I turned back, (and instead of heading towards Holmfirth), rode past ‘The Butchers Arms’ and out of the village. At the bottom I turned left and began climbing instantly. This back road took me onto the A616 and towards Jackson Bridge. Only a few moments passed before I spotted ‘South View’, my prompt to turn right and start climbing proper.
I always have a sense of in trepidation when I start a ‘100 climb’. I wonder how steep, how technical will it be? Overall Jackson Bridge was tough, but I’ve ridden up worse. I started up ‘South View’ past the houses, thinking it was going to happen soon. It was. 3 tough bends, circa 20% got me out of the saddle to deal with them with any type of authority. The road meandered on and I gratefully settled back in the saddle. Looking more right than left, I could see I was gaining elevation. I was climbing out of the valley, thus providing me with a better view of the rain clouds steadily gathering over the next ridge of hills.
The road continued onwards and upwards. It was steep but it was no devil. I had time to look about and appreciate the valley below as well as wonder where the road ended. I recalled from Mr. Warren’s account the road levelled off and then there was one final ramp to the summit. Sure enough, he was right. The road peeled round to the right and there it was, the final incline. I was breathing hard, but had something left in the tank. I remained seated but my ascent was hardly going to trouble the timings in the national hill climbing competition, due to be held here next year. I could see the houses at the top - my target. Burying a bit more effort into the pedals I reached the top, complete with sweat pouring off my brow. I had done it, hung-over, and that was good enough for me! Now what? I was at junction, with a left/right choice. I went started to go right, then doubted myself. Map time. I needed to go left…..along Hirst Lane……which had a dead end sign posted closeby. It probably means for cars not bikes I thought……
It transpired that if you have a Mountain Bike – the road, I say road, I actually mean unmade track, is most likely fine. However, on a Holdsworth replica road bike, it was not ideal. And by that I mean, deeply sub-optimal. Indeed, the crux of the ride was not the hill climb, it was traversing Hirst lane. Reflecting on it now, I was very lucky not to get a puncture. As I continued along, the lane deteriorated until it was beyond my standard “Cyclo-Cross?” comment. By the end it was narrow track with half bricks lining the way and huge puddles of unknown depth. Eventually I reached a road made out of tarmac. I could see the Emley Mast in the distance to my left, so I knew home was relatively close. I made the most of the downhill that presented itself ahead.
With moisture in the air, I knew it was only a matter of time until it properly precipitated. I picked up signs for Shelley, a stone’s throw from the 3 Acres. The route back was more challenging than I had anticipated. Climbing out of the village I continued through a complex of bends, always with the mast in sight. I was happy to see the 3 Acres again. The concrete mast loomed out of the gloom, a red beacon indicating it’s presence at the top. I rolled into the car park, satisfied with my mornings work.
The hill was rated 7/10 and that’s a fair reflection. There was never a moment when I thought I would not make it, but it has some tough bends to negotiate. Regardless, I was content with striking another hill off the list. Plus I didn’t get wet. Bonus!
For more information on the Emley Moor Mast see www.thebigtower.com
If you wish to eat or stay at 3 Acres see www.3acres.com
Words, Thumbnail and Slider Image – bikebritain ltd