I’ve just spent the last week with my mother, the last five days of which were spent in the Peak District, with no net connect or reliable phone signal. Despite this, we’re both still alive. This is good.
My mom’s not hugely active, so my rides were mainly brief evening excursions whilst the soaps were on. Now, I’d been given a few pointers by some people on Bike Radar as to good routes, but of course, I didn’t think to write these down. Or print them out. So, for the first couple of evenings, I just explored a bit.
On that first evening, I learnt a couple of things. Firstly, I learnt that Winnats Pass is indeed a bloody hard slog on a bike – I gave up fairly early. Made it past the first cattle grid though… Secondly, I learnt that trying to ride up an incredibly steep road when your local roads are flatter than Keira Knightley’s chest is a bad idea when you’ve just eaten a steak, followed by a treacle pudding the size of your head. The following evening was only marginally more successful. I’d spent the day with mom at Chatsworth House, and was determined to find some bridleways.
Unfortunately, I’m the consumate trail centre numpty – if it’s not signposted in neon lights (or at least a little blue arrow on a yellow circle), I assume it’s either private land or a footpath, and give it a wide berth. I cycled to Hope to try and find18 Bikes. It was past their closing time, but I’d been told they were a good source of local knowledge, so I would have liked to have known for future reference. Alas, I was as bad as finding the shop as I was at finding off-road routes. I headed back to Winnats Pass to give it another bost. Got a bit further, then gave up. Found a bit of a trail, but realised it was an Open Access path – walkers only. Ooops. Rather shiftily beat a hasty exit to the road. Not before pictures though…*cough*
Third day was more successful. I convinced my mom to join me on a specially adapted hire bike – it basically has a wheelchair attached to the front. It’s a bloody good idea – I got to get some extra miles in whilst still spending time with t’mother, and she got to see a lot more of the countryside than normal. Bizarrely, she kept on likening it to Top Gun, insisting that I was Maverick. I pointed out that if I was Maverick, she was Goose, and should therefore avoid ejecting…
We hired it from the Parsley Hay hire centre, and went for a pootle down the High Peak and Tissington trails. It was only 11 miles in total, and it was actually fairly easy going, but I don’t think I would have wanted to tackle any real inclines with my mother strapped to the front… There were still some fantastic views to be had, and tea to be supped. Might try the Derwent centre next time – it’s a little more hilly, but apparently the wheelchair bikes have special gearing to compensate.
In the afternoon we went to the Chestnut Centre, which is a sanctuary for various animals…but mainly otters. I like otters, even though Mr Toast says that they sound like disabled children.
When we got back, I realised that my shoulders were quite badly burnt from wearing a sleevless top. Nevertheless, I got on my biking gear and headed out. First I went to the Castleton Visitor Centre, and picked up ‘Cycling in the Peak District’, written by the same guy who wrote ‘Dark Peak Mountain Biking: True Grit Trails’. I decided to go for the more sedate option as I’d be riding on my own in an unfamiliar area, plus I only had a short amount of time. Fortunately the instructions and maps in the book are pretty up-to-date and very clear, even for me. I soon found myself at the base of Mam Tor.
The book described the path up Mam Tor as ‘a broken tarmac road’. It’s not kidding – it used to be the A625, until a massive landslide in the late seventies forced its eventually closure. I rode up most of it, although I did walk over some of the bigger broken sections – being on my own with a mother to look after, I didn’t want to do owt too risky. Cowardice is the better part of valour, or something…
Amazing views though, and I’m thoroughly envious of anyone who lives in that area. Hills? Bridleways that last more than 1/4 of a mile? Mini-moos?
I definitely want to head back to the Peak District soon to get some lengthier rides in, although I’ll need to ease myself into it before hitting any of the tougher stuff. I mean…hills. No-one told me that this mountain biking malarky would involve hills.