Tuesday, 9 May 2017

9 May: Ride in the Derbyshire Peak District (Car-assisted)

John S writes: This turned out to be a very select group of riders – just Mike C, Adrian and I met in Shelford to set off at 6.30am. I had been on two previous car-assisted rides in the Peak District, but these had been on Sundays when there is light traffic, so I was not really looking forward to the drive up the M1 through the rush-hour traffic on a weekday. As it turned out, apart from a five-minute hold-up to get off the M1 onto the A50 near Nottingham, we encountered no hold-ups at all.

We arrived in Tissington around 9.15 and unloaded the bikes. The skies were leaden, and it was quite chilly, so we looked to be facing a cold day in the saddle. Adrian led us off down the Tissington Trail for a short distance to turn off at Thorpe, and head towards Ilam at the end of Dovedale, passing from Derbyshire into Staffordshire. We found a lost lamb in the road and chased it back through a gap into a field. A retired farmer then came along and started to freely share his views on Brexit, immigration, and the world in general. After about 10 minutes of hoping another car would come along to make him move on, we made our excuses and set off again.

The road becomes a farmyard at Throwley Hall

We climbed to Throwley Hall where the road passes through a farmyard, and then climbed up Mere Hill and then down again to Greensides where we joined the Manifold Trail, which follows the path of the Leek and Manifold railway – a narrow gauge railway that was only briefly open between 1904 and 1934 - up the river valley. The river bed was completely dry, and we took this as a sign of drought, but it turns out that except in times of peak flow, the river water follows a separate underground path, which explains why there was water in the river further upstream but not lower down.

Cold and dark on the top of Mere Hill

On the Manifold Trail near Wettonmill

We stopped for coffee at Wettonmill, in a café that somehow managed to be colder inside than it was outside.

Grey skies at Wettonmill café

From there we continued along the trail and through a tunnel in the direction of Hulme End. Here we re-joined the roads, and passed through the intriguingly named Glutton Bridge. I had done the same ride, but in reverse, over 4 years ago, so it was interesting to see familiar junctions and go up and down the hills from the other direction.

Emerging from tunnel on the Manifold Trail

We crossed the busy A515 near Harpur Hill on the outskirts of Buxton, and descended through Cowdale to briefly join the A6 before getting on to the Monsall Trail near Millers Dale. This follows the path of the old line from Buxton to Derby, through the Wye valley. The trail passes through rocky valleys, and has many tunnels which are now lit, and over the spectacular viaduct at Monsall Head.

On the Monsall Trail near Bakewell

I stopped to try out the information point, which is powered by turning a handle, and offers spoken information about the line, and plays a song too. This has worked for years, sitting outside in all weathers, and needs no power or network connection – a sort of post-apocalyptic iPod.

We stopped for lunch at the café / bookshop in the old station building at Hassop. We then left the trail in Bakewell, where we took a steep climb out of the valley and then headed south along switchback roads. Near Youlgreave, Adrian stopped at a gate into a field full of sheep, and convinced us that this was in fact a byway that avoided a steep and difficult bit of road. Even by Adrian’s standards, this was towards the rough end of rough-stuff!

Off road and under blue skies

We continued on through Brassington, where we passed a rental house I had stayed in nearly 20 years ago, where the seeds of my daughter’s aversion to cycling with me were first sown. I still maintain that it is very character-forming for a three year old to be taken out on a bike in a child seat in freezing temperatures.

We had seen the reservoir at Carsington Water shimmering in the distance, and were soon nearby. Adrian and Mike had told me about a café there called the Pudding Room, which sounded very exciting. I was therefore bitterly disappointed when we found we were 15 minutes too late, and this was compounded by the menu in the window listing all the delicacies we had just missed.

We continued through Bradbourne to cross a ford and then make the final climb back to Tissington, where we arrived just after 6pm and set off home. The return journey was just as easy in terms of traffic, and even the A14 from Huntingdon was flowing freely by the time we got back.

The final climb of the day back to Tissington

We rode about 55 miles and climbed lots of hills. Thanks to Adrian for arranging this great day out and leading us on a fantastic route. Although we had an early start and a long day, it made a nice change to ride somewhere different, and climb some real hills. John Seton

Download GPS track (GPX).

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