Monday, 23 July 2012
Date: 22nd July 2012
Length of route: 12.2 miles/19.5km
Route: Edale-Barber Booth-Mam Tor-Winnat's Pass-Castle-Hope-Edale
Difficulty level: Medium
Cycling in the Peak District National Park is exciting for a number of reasons, not least the abundance of quiet country roads, green scenery, shops selling local produce and the likelihood of meeting more than one fellow cyclist. On a weekend in the Peak District, with (very) fine weather and a place to stay, I decided to take my bike along and do a complete loop, starting and finishing in Edale where I was based.
Initially, I left the campsite where I was staying and rode down the road to the end of the village, taking a right to the next small settlement along of Barber Booth, which is the opposite of the way I normally go, so I had never been that way before. Upon leaving Barber Booth, the road became very steep and winding as I made my way up the prominent landmark of Mam Tor. Before very long, impressive vistas opened up to the left, although I had to stop a few times to appreciate these due to the effort of climbing. Perhaps it was due to it being a hot day, or my having been out of the saddle for a while, but this was a real effort to climb, and may just be one of the steepest climbs I have ever done. Nevertheless, I did not need to get off the bike and walk up in-between rests, and I met a couple of cyclists who had made their way up all the way from Sheffield, so I tailed them for a while until I got to the top, which proved to be a useful motivating factor!
The real reward came as I crested the last rise of the hill, which led straight into a long downhill stretch that would lead to the road back to Castleton, although it didn't take very long to get to the bottom of it on my bike! Following this were a few twists and turns where I had to check the map to make sure I took the right path to Castleton. This was confirmed by the presence of Winnat's Pass to my left, a unique formulation of narrow and tall rocks which it is possible to ride/drive through along a very narrow and steep downhill road.
To say that Mam Tor was a steep uphill ride is nothing compared to the downhill challenge that Winnat's Pass represents. I was not the only cyclist to be taking the descent down into Castleton (a few even overtook me), but with the road being so narrow and steep, I had my hand on my brakes at all times and this was the most I ever had to use my brakes, and it took real effort to keep them on and maintain control of the bike, such is the level of the descent - or perhaps the level of my confidence in handling such downhill stretches! Nevertheless, I survived it and before I knew it I was in Castleton.
The road from Castleton to Hope was long and flat, so I managed to get up a bit of constant speed before turning off onto the Edale road, where I made my way back to Edale quite rapidly due to the largely flat nature of the road. Although the route overall was quite short, it was quite difficult in the sense of having a very steep uphill climb and the most challenging descent I have ever experienced. Nevertheless, all in all it was a pleasant ride, and when I got back to the campsite I genuinely felt I had only reached half of the potential miles in me for that day!