England's first purpose-built long distance bridleway for mountain bikers, horse riders and walkers is celebrating its fifth birthday. The first section of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail was officially opened in 2002 and has been hailed as a major success.
As well as providing a new leisure attraction that opens up beautiful countryside for cyclists to enjoy, the scheme has provided an economic boost to the area as new businesses open and others expand along the route.
The first section of the Bridleway, opened in 2002, is the 47-mile Mary Towneley Loop which skirts Greater Manchester and takes in spectacular scenery and picturesque villages in Derbyshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire. Named after Lady Mary Towneley, who rode 250 miles from Northumberland to Derbyshire to first launch the idea of the Pennine Bridleway, it was quickly established as a firm favourite for mountain bikers.
Since then, two more sections of the Trail have been opened up: a 73-mile pathway stretching from Derbyshire to the South Pennines and the 10-mile Settle Loop.
When the Trail is fully open, it will run for more than 350 miles from Northumberland, flanking the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Ribble Valley, East Lancashire, Calderdale, Rochdale, Oldham, Tameside, and Derbyshire.
Several additional link routes are under construction and expected to be completed by 2009. These link routes will connect the Trail to major towns and cities such as Bolton and Blackburn. The 17-mile Calder Aire link route was the first to be officially opened in June 2007 and connects Bingley, West Yorkshire to the national trail.