When I met Mr Sparkle and friends on holcombe moor back in october I was interested in the route they'd done, Mr S offered to show me round his local trails sometime. So yesterday me and Si ventured, with some trepidation (and not just due to the previous 36 hours of rain), into Darwen. It was looking grim but it wasn't raining so the 6 of us kitted up and set off, dave, dave, dave, si, si and just for variety paul. The minute we got off road we were in proper slippery mud, that kind of set the tone for the day. Wind was ripping round us too, a steep tarmac climb from a farm he had a very welcome tailwind and as we got strung out on the climb the gusts would bring the odd snatched word or two from a discussion some 10meteres or so behind "..dy mud.." "..kin steep hi.." :-) Anyway over to hoddleden via the ex-longest train tunnel, through banjo country, over the top of the moors and dropping onto the whisky trail, so called cause so many people in haslingden had their own stills. The whisky had its own distinctive flavour due to the water from the peat, there was certainly lots of watery peat yesterday! Some cool singletracky bits down to the reservoirs, bit of a road section then onto familiar trails. The stone pitched climb up to robin hoods well was hard as ever, me and Mr S had a bit of tortoise and hare race going on, him riding/walking/riding on his SS, me with gears slowly winching up, this time the hare won tho. Headwind all the way along the tops, a new descent from peel tower was much better than my usual route. Along holcombe horseshoe windy and muddy, the climb out was purgatory, the mud was like treacle and a monster headwind, then just we crested the top it switched to a tailwind! We stopped at the strawberry duck where they had many fine ales, apparently, my coke was nice, apologies lowey, I feel I let the bolton contingent down there. They have a mud room, brilliant for winter mtbers, just a pity theres no roaring fire. The last climb up edge fold was going well till I tried to stay on the off camber grass near the top, stall, slip, drop, swear. Then it was just downhill via woodland singletrack to tea and cake and Mr S's. Will be a great route in the dry, probably as part of 3 towers, as it was it was it was still a good day out, not as bad as the weather threatened, only one minor(ish) mechanical no flats or crashes. Only 22 miles/3000ft but the mud and wind made you earn every inch of it. First "proper" ride of the year.