Sunday, 29 May 2016

Back in the Peaks

Yesterday's route.
It's been just over a week since I got back from the Great North American Adventure now and my mind has already set to planning future trips - current possibilities are Slovenia and/or Ireland in September, followed by a return to New York next May. I'm planning to do the big 40 mile bike ride across all five boroughs of the city on closed roads, and may do what I planned to do this year by taking the train from Montreal to New York or vice versa, potentially with a stop in Vermont as Burlington is said to be quite a cool, cultural destination and, I think, well off the beaten track for tourists.
View over the Scenic Ladybower Dam.
It was back to work for me on Tuesday, followed by a three day bank holiday weekend. Surprisingly, Saturday dawned bright and clear with temperatures of around 15/16 degrees (59-61 Fahrenheit), so my first thought was to make the most of the weather and the extra day off to go on a bike ride. I started off by heading down Bole Hill Road at the back of where I live, as the road leads you very quickly downhill and into the green forestry that skirts the edge of the Peak District national park.
The bridge over Ladybower Dam, resulting in scenic views.
After a leisurely mile or two on Rivelin Valley Road, I came out on the A57 which leads directly into Bamford and is officially in national park territory. Within a few miles, the space really opens out and you're surrounded on all sides by country cottages, hilltop vistas and signs inviting you to stop off at farm shops in the vicinity. Tempting as the thought was I pushed on as I had no place to put anything - when on a 'proper' bike ride I always aim not to take a bag of any kind as it just impedes your performance and weighs you down, although a small bag on your back can be useful for carrying a pump plus a few spares if you don't have room in your jersey pockets.

The cycle-friendly path between Bamford and Hathersage.
You know you're really at the heart of the Peaks when you see the first Welcome to the Peak District sign. After about five miles on the A57 I came out at the bottom of the Snake pass, and turned left for Bamford and the spectacular view over the Ladybower dam. This is a reservoir filled with water over the top of what was once a scenic Derbyshire Village - I imagine there was some controversy over the decision to fill it in at the time. I stopped for a few photos and a snack and as I was leaving Bamford village I saw signs for both the Eroica Britannia vintage cycling festival and the Hope Valley beer and cider festival taking place just down the road at the Old Hall Hotel in Hope, the next village along.
A worthy (but impossible) distraction on this visit.
I was very tempted to stop off and have a drink by making a slight detour, especially as I'd incidentally broken my own festival glass from last year and wanted another one. However, beer and bikes don't mix and nor does carrying glass so I pushed on by turning left at the end of the main road in Bamford to head towards Hathersage, where I would turn off onto School Road and the scenic climb up and over The Dale. The road between Bamford and Hathersage is very good for cycling as it has both a wide cycle lane on each side and, if you prefer, a completely traffic free (and wide) path on the left hand side for use by pedestrians, horses and cyclists. I opted for the latter as there were no other users on the path so I was able to get up a good burst of speed whilst remaining perfectly safe in traffic free hands.

The not-too-steep but unceasing incline up and over The Dale.
My resilience was tested again as I approached Hathersage and turned left onto School Lane - by The Scotsman's Pack, a country pub and inn where I had been recommended to go previously, and had rooms available to stay in for between £60-80. I wasn't tempted by the rooms at this point (having only cycled 15 miles) but I would certainly have been happy to stop off in there for some coffee and a cake. Still, I'd brought all the sustenance I would need for the ride and continued up The Dale rather than on the main A625 into Sheffield for some scenic views and very little traffic. The Dale ascends at a fairly steady pace with an gradient of around 8% over 1.6 miles/2.6km, so provided you've an energy bar or some such before it's not too much of an effort.

The start of the scenic hiker's route up to Stanage Edge.
Still, I could feel it in my legs and was pleased to reach the summit for a quick breather, where a few cars were parked up near Stanage Edge for the climb up there. As I wasn't in hiking mode, I opted to just take a few minutes out before continuing on to where the road joins up with  the long straight drag into Sheffield that is Ringinglow Road. Rather than opting to stay on Ringinglow until the end and head home via Ecclesall Road, I opted to take the quieter option and made a left onto Hangram Lane which leads directly down into Fulwood village. This is a pleasant scenic ride which is mainly downhill but with a few twists and turns that make for a thrilling descent back into suburban Sheffield.
Good to see cycle parking at the bottom of Stanage Edge for those wishing to take a detour!
Once I'd joined up with Broomhill after the long straight section along Fulwood Road, I headed home via Crookes and along the streets I usually frequent on my way home from language classes late in the evening. It was a pleasant ride and one I would look to repeat (at least in part) in the near future. A possible option is to head out along the A57 as above, then turn right and all the way up Mortimer Road which brings you out near Bradfield and the amusingly named Wigtwizzle - it might be worth heading that way just for a gratuitous selfie under the 'Welcome to...' sign! In any case I had a near perfect ride in perfect weather and I find myself already awaiting the next one with great enthusiasm.

Overall stats for the ride.

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