Route: From Derby to Edale by bike, 55 miles, six hours, riding a Dawes Lightning. Alone.
I had to use a capacious monstrosity of a rucaac belonging to my sister. I left, this green thing hanging three-quarters empty off my back, at 11.45a.m. The first ten miles along the A6 were less than ideal – fast cars, fumes, sticky. It was a pleasure to reach the Derwent Inn at Whatstandwell and leave the road to take to the Cromford Canal.
I was comfortable in shorts although a little saddle-sore – I had no Brooks leather saddle [that came later I recall]. Along the canal through the greenery, seeing the odd person (this was a weekday), and through the first tunnel of the day, the Gregory Tunnel on the Cromford Canal towpath.
Trees and plants in bloom gave way to open vistas as I passed the Wharf Shed. Here it was that I did my year 6 residential in 1976. The trees closed in again as I started the vicious 1 in 7 mile of Sheep Pasture Incline. Middleton Bank swiftly followed, almost as steep. Hopton bank, the last of the three going north, is not at all steep for the cyclist, nor particularly long. Once past the three banks, the railway rolled under me until I reached Parsley Hay, where I rejoined the road.
At Monyash there was a market in progress and considerable traffic. I saw that the “Bulls Head” had been renamed “The Hobbit”. From Monyash to Taddington was an uphill granny-gear grind. I arrived at 3.40p.m. Thence fast downhill over rough, awful roads for a touring bike, past a village called Priestcliffe, which reminded me of the village in “An American Werewolf in London”. Then murder it be…
I took a wrong fork and had to backtrack. Taking the right fork led me onto still worse, rougher roads. A bad road became a bad bridleway became an indifferent path. [This was years before the “mountain bikes” we use today, with which I could have taken such terrain in my stride.] The saving grace was that it was pleasant country. I pushed on, and after much overgrown road, joined another deserted thoroughfare, which in turn, joined the B6049 at Millers Dale.
At Tideswell I had a pint and a Mars bar. From there to Lane End I found tiring and slow going for some reason [I knew very little when I was 19 of blood sugar levels.] Once on a northbound minor road the wheels started singing again and I whizzed along through the heat, down dips, making light work of the occasional grade. This is cycling in the Peak District at its best, the minor roads, the scenery, the summer.
Dropping down into Castleton, I was hindered by passing cars and I had to keep my speed down to 20 mph or so. It could have been a fast downhill stretch. Castleton itself was packed with tourists. It was 4.30p.m. At the foot of Winnats I stopped to rest my back which was aching, and made some corrections to the back wheel, which had shifted somewhat. The rear tyre was almost touching the frame. I had to tighten the rear axle nuts considerably. The climb through the Winnats gorge itself was a long walk. At one point, a falling rock the size of a fist missed me by a few metres. I rode a little near the top and pushed the bike up the grassy hillside to the summit of the pass rather than take the long dogleg of the tarmac road.
The descent to Edale – the highlight of the trip!! A completely car free raceway; my brakes came into full use, and I must have touched 40mph. I recommend it in summer in shorts; put your head down and go. Let gravity do the work. [Though it must be said you’d be a long time in hospital getting skin grafts if you fell off dressed like that at that speed.]
In Edale I had a pint. Lots of people around. The shop shut as I was there, at 5.30p.m. I took train at 6.05p.m back to Derby. An excellent, epic, endless cycle ride.