Ride Diary - August 2019, Peak District
So 3 of us find ourselves with a weekend pass to go riding, but due to the terrible flash flooding in Swaledale and cancelation of the Ard Rock Enduro, we had nowhere to ride. A flurry of WhatsApp messages and a couple of phone calls later we are heading to the Hope Valley.
Basic plan is drive down Friday after work, camp, ride all day Saturday, camp, ride Sunday morning before homeward bound.
Friday afternoon rolls round and with my bike and gear loaded and ready to go I find myself waiting for the always punctual Adam to turn up an hour late! And we’re off in perfect time to hit the road closure 5 miles from the campsite with no meaningful diversion in place! A quick look at the map and we find the scenic way around, getting up close to some of the gradients we hope will be providing the smiles tomorrow.
Rich is already here and pitched up as we arrive. “I’ve never put this tent up before” declares our tardy companion, in the gloom we work it out and finally we can hit the pub.
Saturday morning arrives and as I climb out of the van ‘Dad’ Rich has the kettle on for a brew and a couple of egg butties – good work fella. Breakfast consumed we have a bit of bike fettling before heading out for a day of tough climbs and challenging descents.
A quick spin on the road to Hope and then we start the first climb of the day up to Hope Cross, conditions are looking good and the weather is warming up nicely. A left at the top sees us setting off down what the locals call potato alley, a long fast rocky descent littered with loose rocks and stones the size of… you guessed it potatoes. At the bottom I catch up with Rich who’s off the bike performing first aid on his rear tyre, a classic tubeless tyre pinch against the rim bead. A couple of plugs and a bit of glue later and we are back up and rolling. At the bottom of the next climb on the other side of Snake Pass we provide some mechanical assistance to a fellow rider who was due to be at Ard Rock, chain sorted we head up to the top for a shot at the screaming mile, a different prospect of trees, loam, roots & the odd patch of mud. A steady spin down the side of Derwent Reservoir ends with the welcome sight of our first café stop, tea & ginger cake is the order.
Now the normal version of this route would be to head round the other side of Ladybower Res for another climb, today though this will have to wait, today we tag on the Peak District classic of Chop Gate, some of the locals think we’re crazy to combine the two routes and by the end of the day I’ll come to agree with them. We head north up the relatively easy climb past the reservoirs before shouldering arms for some hike-a-bike action up onto the top of the moor, through the eternal bog before enjoying the ups and downs of the lollipop loop in an anticlockwise direction. Some great singletrack and rocky line choice riding to be had here and feels like the correct direction seeing those doing it the other way stumbling up as we pick our way down. If that was good the next bit is great as we now have to descend the rock slabs, drops and tight corners we carried up earlier, 5 minutes later as we hit the open section at the bottom the arms are aching and the grins are huge! Being an out and back we find ourselves back at the café for a brew and a ham sandwich.
I’ll be truthful right now and say the legs are feeling pretty drained and the prospect of the flagstone and singletrack climb on the other side is not filling me with joy, but the knowledge of another great descent that finishes at the pub is enough motivation to keep going and soon we find ourselves up high ready for the fast boulder strewn blast across the top before picking our way down the tight rocky bridleway to come out next to the Ladybower Inn. Now the only problem with it being a nice weekend in August is the pub is absolutely rammed with zero outside space available so we carry on over towards the dam when the vision of the ice-cream van appears - Fab please.
It’s been a tough day out with a lot of climbing in the legs and we all agree that the last climb back up to Hope Cross to reverse the first climb is a hill too far when a short traverse can see us back at the pub next to the campsite for a massive bowl of pasta, the longest garlic baguette in the world and a refreshing pint.
Showered and changed we head back to the pub for a couple more, some games of snooker-pool, macho bravado talk of the days exploits and a never-ending discussion over the 5 routes we could do tomorrow. Another comfortable night of vanlife awaits.
Sunday’s breakfast is sourced from the campsite café, a bowl of porridge and the first time I’ve had a teacake that needed slicing into 3 to fit in the toaster! While sipping on our cups of tea we finally decide on the Mam Tor figure of eight. We pack away most of our stuff and move the tents into the sun to dry out for our return and head out on the road to Castleton (the one in Derbyshire, not the one around the corner from the Hub).
Yesterday’s exertions are telling in our weary legs as we attempt the first ascent of the day, the surreal broken road climb up Mam Torr Pass. Whoever decided to build a road across a centuries old landslip site obviously had never heard the story of the 3 pigs building houses and after 150 years or so of battling against a 45 million tonne force of nature the road is now only accessible on foot or pedal power.
We press on to find the start of the first bridleway of the day, a lovely ribbon of singletrack along Rushup Edge. With stunning views down the valley, we head towards the group of paragliders in the distance taking advantage of a clear morning. Our progress is fairly care free and uninterrupted as a footpath runs parallel to our track separated by a low stone wall. As the paths converge we get a few words of encouragement from a walking group as we hang a right to head down Chapel Gate. Another fast and loose rocky descent with a substantial water channel criss-crossing all the way down, it’s hard work but great fun.
Now all downs are rewarded with an up and this is a particularly unpleasant road climb almost back to the start of Rushup Edge. We head in the opposite direction this time around the back of Mam Tor and find ourselves being photographed descending the stone flags towards Hollins Cross, game faces on boys! A slight right sees us start the last section of the day a great fast singletrack blast toward Castleton. Rich leads us out with Adam in the middle and me sweeping up the back, suddenly Adam slips in a rut, gets all sorts of out of shape before somehow saving it. Distracted by this and chuckling somewhat I hit the exact same rut, however my extra speed makes it un-saveable and I take a tactical dive to the left to avoid the drop on the right and land smack bang in the middle of a gorse bush, I’m still picking out the needles from my hands!
Somewhere along here the bridleway has disappeared, and we follow the tyre tracks right down a permissive path which is obviously a local favourite. This brings us to a gate with a narrow rocky gulley to get to the road, Rich makes it past the first rock that see Adam almost kiss his front tyre before coming unstuck on the random root crossing at an odd angle. I negotiate both obstacles cleanly and only have a slight hesitation when the shout comes up about another tricky section, ‘nailed it’ I boast as we gather near the isolated tea trailer, looks good but the bakery in Castleton is calling. Sandwich, tea & cake are inhaled as we reflect on another cracking day in the saddle then it’s a blast back to the campsite for showers and homeward bound.It was horrible to see the devastation caused by the floods in the Dales and the cancellation of the event but thanks to huge efforts and some great fundraising they will rebuild, and we’ll be there next year. Our weekend has turned out to be a fitting alternative and one we’ll talk about for quite a while.
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