This article originally appeared in the CTC Cambridge Blog.
I had been planning a moving-on cycle tour in the Norfolk Broads, but when Simon suggested using his car to save time getting there, this also opened up the possibility of travelling further afield. After some discussion we settled on a trip to the Peak District. Last year Simon had discovered a quiet campsite at Knotlow Farm near Flagg, a few miles south-east of Buxton, and he was keen to visit again.
Tuesday 23 Aug
We loaded up Simon’s car and left Cambridge shortly after 4pm on Tuesday, arriving at the campsite around 7pm, giving us plenty of time to pitch the tents in daylight. I usually carry my tent on the bike so have a lightweight tent in which I can only just sit upright, while Simon is used to travelling by car and has a tent he can stand up in:
Simon had found a selection of cycle routes published by the Peak District National Park Authority with GPX tracks available for download. Most of these are too short for a full day’s riding, but we thought we might be able to piece them together with legs to and from the campsite making for a decent ride. Before setting off, I created a 61-mile and a 32-mile route starting and finishing at the campsite. We would improvise for our third day of riding.
Wednesday 24 Aug
We both woke early on Wednesday morning and, as the weather forecast was good and we were on fresh legs, we agreed to tackle the longer of my planned routes. This took us south from Flagg to Parsley Hay, where we turned east along Long Rake then south again to Tissington.
A couple of miles before Tissington we reached a ford. There was a footbridge to the side, but a motorist shouted that he had seen hundreds cycle through the ford, so I gave it a try. I should have known better: my wheels slid on the slippery cobbles and I spent the rest of the day riding in wet shoes. After the ford came our first hill marked on the map with a black arrow (1:7 to 1:5), and I was glad of the granny ring: definitely the right decision not to bring my new bike with only a double. Once we had made it up the hill it was a short ride to the picturesque village of Tissington.
We stopped here for coffee then picked up the Tissington Trail south to Ashbourne. This is a disused railway line that has been converted to a walking and cycling route and offers a gently graded, traffic-free alternative to the roads that wind up and down the surrounding hills.
From Ashbourne we headed north-east to Kniveton before turning south to Osmaston. There are several different bridleways heading south from here, but we only got quarter of a mile or so down the wrong one before being turned back by an assertive but polite game keeper who told us that we were trespassing on a private road. He pointed us in the right direction and we picked up a rough bridleway towards Shirley. This dropped steeply to a water mill before climbing up the other side, where we had to walk as even our 32mm tyres could not get enough traction on the steep ascent. We were soon back on the road and continued on a loop through Shirley, Hollington, Longford, Rodsley, Edlaston and back to Ashbourne.
Back in Ashbourne, we bought a picnic lunch at Sainsbury’s and stopped to eat on a nearby bench. We then set off on minor roads in a north-westerly direction through Mappleton, and picked up the Tissington Trail again a mile or so south of Tissington. We followed the trail to Parsley Hay, and continued north, where it becomes the High Peak Trail. We left the trail at Hurdlow for the final few miles by road back to the campsite. Total distance today was 61.5 miles.
Thursday 25 Aug
On Thursday morning we woke up to thick fog. Rain was forecast in the early afternoon, so we planned to do the shorter of my prepared routes, get back to the campsite in time for lunch, and visit a nearby tram museum to pass the wet afternoon. Today’s route took us east from the campsite to Bakewell, where we stopped for tea and a second breakfast. (I felt I had earned this as a missed turn had us descending a steep hill towards Ashford in the Water only to have to turn around and climb it again.)
We left Bakewell on another converted railway, the Monsal Trail, leaving the trail after a couple of miles to head north to Hassop, east to Baslow, then south to Beeley and Rowsley. From Rowsley it was a steep climb to Stanton-in-Peak, which we both agreed deserved its name. The ride today was very hilly, and after a long descent to Bakewell we had climbed back to about the same height as the campsite. I wondered if we would maintain our height now, and was soon answered in the negative by a sign warning “test your brakes” and a 1:6 descent.
From Stanton-in-Peak it was a very scenic route through Alport, Youlgreave and Middleton. Our leisurely breakfast and time spent wandering around Bakewell, combined with slow progress up the many hills, meant we were not going to be back at the campsite before the rain started. Our last few miles back to Flagg via Parsley Hay and Monyash were spent pedalling in heavy rain and an awful lot of surface water: day two of riding in wet shoes. Today’s ride was 32 miles.
Simon wanted to go back to Bakewell to buy a new camping mattress we had seen in Millets, and our late return from the ride meant there would not be time to take in the tram museum. We got into the car to find it wouldn’t start: the battery was flat. Luckily Simon had parked at the top of a hill and we were able to get going with a bump start. Our priority now was to get a replacement car battery. We couldn’t find a repair shop in Bakewell; Google Maps told me the nearest was in Chesterfield, another 11 miles down the road
With a new battery in the car we headed back to Bakewell and Millets for Simon’s mattress and some other bits and pieces in the sale that we didn’t really need. As the weather was still miserable, we decided to eat in Bakewell rather than back at the campsite, and enjoyed a delicious curry in a warm and dry restaurant. No photos today because of the adverse weather conditions.
Friday 26 Aug
For our final day of riding we were greeted by a bright, sunny morning. Simon had been studying the maps the previous evening and had devised a route that would take us to Buxton and along another stretch of the Monsal Trail. We left the campsite and retraced our steps from Wednesday as far as Hurdlow, where we picked up the High Peak Trail north.
This only took us a couple of miles before coming to a stop at a bridleway, then picturesque minor roads to Earl Sterndale. Here we passed a pub called “The Quiet Woman.” I wasn’t paying attention, but Simon tells me picture on the pub sign is of a headless woman.
We turned left onto the B5053 and followed this as far as Glutton Bridge, where we turned right for the most scenic section of the whole trip, a gated road that wound up a valley to join the A53 near High Edge Raceway. We passed a tumulus near the beginning of the valley:
The road started to climb shortly after passing through a gate:
The A53 was a shock to the system after this beautiful quiet road, but it was only a short downhill stretch before we turned right onto a minor road skirting the south of Buxton. We then turned north for the town centre where we stopped for an early elevenses.
Simon had hoped to leave Buxton via Ashwood Dale to join the Monsal Trail east of Buxton, but when I looked at the map I saw his proposed route was an active railway. As the map was printed about 20 years ago, I agreed we should take a closer look. It turns out this is still an active goods line serving a quarry near Buxton. I managed to pick out a route through residential streets, avoiding the A6, and taking us onto a minor road heading north-east past the golf course. This turned out to be quite busy too, with lorries serving the same quarry, but once we were past the quarry it was a nice quiet ride down to Miller’s Dale.
Simon wanted to follow the Monsal Trail in the direction of Buxton to see how far we could get, but I persuaded him to explore in the other direction first. So when we reached Miller’s Dale we turned left onto the B6049 then right onto a minor road to Litton Mill. I had hoped we would be able to cross the river at the mill to go back via the Monsal Trail, but there was nowhere to cross so we had to retrace our steps up the road as far as a footbridge we had seen a mile or so back. We explored on foot and found a stepped footpath up to the trail, so went back for the bikes and carried them up the steps.
It wasn’t long on this nicely graded track before we were back at Miller’s Dale. We crossed a viaduct just before Miller’s Dale, and I got a shot of a disused viaduct crossing the same gorge:
We pressed straight on through Miller’s Dale and went through the three Chee Tor tunnels to arrive at the end of the line in Wye Dale (this is where the line would have joined the still-active goods line to Buxton).
Time for another U-turn to retrace the trail back to Miller’s Dale before picking up the B6049 in the opposite direction then minor roads back to the campsite. We only rode 34 miles today, but it felt a lot further with all the climbing.
Tonight being Friday, a mobile fish and chips van visited the campsite. The queue didn’t look too long, but most of the people in front of us were ordering for their entire extended families and friends, so it was more than an hour before we were enjoying our fish and chip suppers.
Saturday 27 Aug
Saturday came and it was time for me to pack up the tent and head back to Cambridge. Simon drove me back and dropped me off with time to unpack and do some laundry before leading Sunday’s afternoon ride. His next job was to replace the worn blocks on his rear brakes then head north again to pick up a friend from a music festival and take her back up to Flagg for a few days walking and cycling with their dog.
All in all an excellent three days' cycling, with more good weather than bad. Many thanks to Simon for all the driving.