history of healey nab

This section tells the story of mountain biking at Healey Nab – and how the site has been transformed into one of the region’s most up-and-coming biking destinations.

The early days

Healey Nab is a wooded mound, 600 ft in height, which lies between The White Coppice and Chorley (Lancashire) on the western edge of the West Pennine Moors. The site is owned by Lancashire County Council and was formerly used as quarry.

Originally inaccessible to bikers, The Nab – as is it known locally – was first opened up some years go when permissible access was provided from Heapey Fold Lane. Mark Graylish, a local rider and member of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), saw the potential for development and opened discussions with the Council as early as 2003.

At the time, unofficial trails were already beginning to appear at The Nab, built by local biking enthusiasts. Although undesirable, this was taken as a positive sign that local bikers were keen to make use of the site and that the terrain is suitably challenging. The objections to this early activity concerned the unsustainable construction methods, combined with potentially dangerous activities that conflicted with the interests of other users.

Work to officially open and develop The Nab began in 2008, initially led by Ian Hart (LCC) and Bill Ould (Blackburn and District Mountain Bikers). Rowan Sorrell, already emerging as an influential trail designer, was selected to carry out a site survey and develop a plan for the mountain bike trails. Tenders for work followed and the contractor Terra Firma was appointed, with Rowan retained as designer and architect.

How the trails were built

After a thinning of the tree cover, work to construct the trail began in late 2008. A walking excavator was used to firstly remove the surface leaf litter and brown soil, and then to move exposed rock and create the new riding surface using material taken from ‘borrow pits’ (holes dug to provide earth that can be used as fill elsewhere on the site).

Progress was slow at first, partly on account of poor weather, but also due to the amount of planning and discussion that was required during these early stages. Following the opening of The Nab’s first continuous run (the red route), a volunteer workforce was mobilised and given freedom to build a more downhill-orientated trail (the black route), which would appeal to the more experienced and extreme riders. Rowan Sorrell continued to provide a watchful eye over the new volunteer-led development, which focussed on the western side of The Nab where the gradient is steepest.

The involvement of local riders proved hugely successful. It gave riders a sense of ‘ownership’ of the site and encouraged them to use it responsibly. The volunteer work was coordinated through the web-based forum of Blackburn and District Mountain Bikers (BAD), where opportunity was given for people to voice their support or objection to the trails development. Various groups of local riders were drawn together and within a three month period during spring 2009, the Black Run was carved and shaped under the supervision of Ian Hart (LCC). The run itself offers a challenging experience, which reflects the backgrounds of the volunteers who built it – most of them coming from the more extreme and competitive end of the downhilling scene. Care was taken to ensure a high level of safety for all users of the The Nab (i.e. not just bikers), so whilst big jumps are a feature, these are situated away from any potential conflict with other users and include opportunities for less experienced riders to safely “roll through” (or bypass the feature) if they wish.

The Black Run was finally completed and linked with the trail-head in December 2009, forming approximately 2km of continuous trail when combined with the Red Run. To date, the Black Run has remained open with only minor repairs necessary – a credit to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who continue to maintain it.

The future of The Nab

The trail building volunteers have formed their own Facebook Group and website and are well set to continue taking responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the trails. For more information about trail building events and other upcoming activities, visit

Thanks to Bill Ould of the Blackburn and District Mountain Bikers (BAD) for providing this brief history of The Nab.