So on the Bank Holiday Saturday a couple of weeks ago we headed down to Castleton in the Hope Valley to do some riding. Arriving in the car park just to before 10 it was surprising to see so many empty spaces (it wasn't exactly heaving when we got back either).
First up it was the old road up Mam Tor. This was shut in 1979 when the council finally gave up trying to keep it open due to the landslips continually pushing it down the hill. It's a steady climb enlivened by the traverse of the worst of the landslips. The road climb continued round to the back of Mam Tor.
There's an easy bridleway leading from the nick to the ridge line above Hollins Cross, the blast down to the cross is slowed by walker's blithely walking across the path without looking. There's a couple of descents leading down to Edale from here, actually we've used one as an ascent in the past so that one's out. Cath isn't too confident about the other. It begins by following the line of an old collapsed wall before a grassy section leads to a gate.
|Descending from Hollins Cross to Edale|
From here there's really only one line so you have to take whatever it gives you. There's a few drop-offs and occasional large rocks which are only just avoidable. After a sweeping left hander it becomes a lot easier and the drop down to the farm isn't too bad.
A bit of road work and Cath suddenly cuts in to a gap in the hedge, "Nearly missed it", a narrow bridleway leads round the back of a farm before opening up as a broad track heading up to the ridge. It's easy climbing before a short drop in to Jaggers Clough. We have to wait a while for a group of horse riders to pass by. It's just as well as the next climb looks steep and loose, "It goes on for a long while" says Cath. After a false start getting across the beck, clattering my shin on a pedal in the process, I start to climb.
As the gradient steepens the surface becomes looser and forward momentum slowly fades. I spy a cleaner line out to the right and I'm able to keep moving. Just as I thought that I was going to have to walk I see the angle begin to ease, a bit more effort and the worst is done. There's still a long way to the top though and it requires choosing the line well in advance. A gate gives some respite but the lane beyond is a lot easier and soon the summit at Hope Cross is gained.
|Climbing up to Blackley Clough|
There's several ways down from here, from right to left: the Roman road leading past Hope Cross itself and then back down in to Edale; straight on through the woods down the descent known as The Beast; left up a long steady climb before the descent past Blackley Clough, known locally as Potato Alley.
Left it is. The climb is easy, especially after what we've just done, then there's a short drop to a ford and a gate before the track traverses round the moor and begins to drop. As the gradient increases so does the size of the stones making up the bed of the track (it's called Potato Alley as that's the size of the stones but I'm sure some were the size of turnips!) Now I don't really get on with loose, rocky descents but the Peak is full of them so ... The technique is actually simply but you have to force yourself to do it: keep a good speed going and keep the weight on the front wheel.
|The start of the descent from Blackley Clough|
|The steepest part of the descent. This is Potato Alley!|
Well I'm sure that the local cognoscenti would say that I went too slowly but I got down in one piece and with just one dab so not too bad for me.
Across the A57 and another long climb up to Lockerwood Farm then another of the classic Peak descents: Gores Farm. This isn't as loose and rocky but again you have to keep moving as momentum is your friend, though I did get overtaken (at speed) by a local!
A bit of road around Derwent reservoir before our next climb up to Derwent Edge, this takes the form of a line of gritstone slabs set in to the field. They are like a ramp test slowly getting steeper the further you climb. Eventually, lungs bursting, we have to dismount about 100 metres short of the old farm above Grindle Clough. The next section after the beck is all but unrideable going uphill so it's hike a bike time until the gradient and surface roughness ease a little and we can ride to the next gate where the track leads to the open moor.
|The last climb, reaching the ridgeline of Whinstone Lee Tor.|
Easier riding leads to a steepening before the last wall so a bit more walking. Then the track traverses the edge just above the wall and we make good progress to Whinstone Lee Tor. From here it's a long traversing descent to Cutthroat Bridge. Normally this is boggy but the summer's dry weather is still holding out and our tyres hardly make a mark. The last hundred metres to the bridge is increasingly rocky and I have to make just one dab which I'm well pleased with. I wait a few minutes for Cath wondering where she's got to.
|Dropping down to Cutthroat Bridge|
Worried I work my way back up the track. No sign. "She went off down that track" say a couple of walkers. Somehow I'd managed to miss a major track junction! Pushing on I could see her heading back towards me, Oops! The descent was another Peak rock fest, just keep moving as fast as you can to keep control. The track ends suddenly and without warning on the A57 next to the Ladybower Inn. Time for a drink.
All that's left is a ramble through lanes and along old railway tracks to get back to Castleton. For a bank holiday in the Peak District we'd hardly seen anyone, with the exception of Hollins Cross we probably saw more mountain bikers than walkers. Not a big route, about 37Km but a lot of up and down and a lot of terrain that made you think.