The first section of the 350-mile Pennine Bridleway National Trail is now open

The Mary Towneley Loop, a circular bridleway route of 42 miles (68km) passing through Calderdale,Rochdale and Lancashire, is now open.

This is the first section of the Pennine Bridleway to open and provides a new facility for local riders, off-road cyclists and walkers, as well as visitors to the area.

When the Pennine Bridleway National Trail is complete it will extend for nearly 350 miles, running from Middleton Top in Derbyshire, east of Manchester, through Lancashire, the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria to Byrness in Northumberland.

The Countryside Agency has been awarded more than £1.8m from the Sport England Lottery Fund to help create part of this trail, which also includes the construction of three “feeder” or linking routes from the towns of Keighley, Penistone and Bolton.

The southern section – from Derbyshire to Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria – is expected to be open in 2004. Alun Michael, Minister of State for Rural Affairs, has recently approved the route of the northern section to Northumberland.

The Mary Towneley Loop was named in recognition of the hard work Lady Mary Towneley put in to getting the project off the ground some 10 years ago. A memorial stone to Lady Towneley was unveiled on the route above Holmes Chapel in Cheshire at its official opening in May.

The Countryside Agency has now published the Route and Accommodation/Services Guide for the Mary Towneley loop. To order a copy (tel: 0870 120 6466), quoting reference number CA29. Information on the route can be found at www.nationaltrail.co.uk

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