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Guidebook to cycling in the Peak District National Park, on road or trail bike. 20 day routes and one multi-day cycle tour. Easily accessible from Sheffield and Manchester. Routes right across the park on quiet roads and off-road trails. All graded by distance, gradient, terrain and ascent from Easy to Hard.
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The Peak District, Britain’s first and best-loved national park has long been well known for walkers but now it is a popular cycling destination too. Its network of quiet lanes, gentle off-road trails and stunning upland views are perfect for two-wheeled exploration. This guidebook describes 20 varied day routes right across the park, suitable for a range of abilities, as well as a 3-5 day (255km) ‘Tour de Peak District’ circling the whole area and stopping at charming Derbyshire towns and villages.
The region has a great variety of trails available to the cyclist from easy-going trails that use former railway lines, to narrow, winding and often hilly country lanes, to bridleways and byways that use former turnpikes and jaggers’ paths over rougher terrain. Of course, there are occasions where the only route available to cyclists is on a busy A road – in these instances the quality of route; landscape around, width and nature of road are all taken into consideration as to whether the route justifies it. Every effort was made to ensure that A road sections are downhill, keeping time on them to an absolute minimum.
The routes in this guidebook are intended for anyone of average fitness or better. This is not a technical mountain biking guidebook; it uses many of the region’s quiet lanes, bridleways, byways and ancient paths. Riders will need traffic sense, as the routes do use open road, but most of the routes are suitable for families with older children who have mastered the rules of the road. Many of the routes in this guidebook make use of National Cycle Network routes which are often waymarked via signs on lampposts and other street furniture.
The routes have been subjectively graded Easy, Moderate and Hard.
Easy routes are relatively short (no more than 25km), not overly steep and don’t climb one hill after another (cumulative ascent no more than 400m). They don’t use A roads at all (although you may have to cross them). The terrain is suitable for anyone who has never ridden off-road before and they use trail-type surfaces as much as possible.
Moderate routes are longer (range between 18 to 50km), have steeper but not extremely steep ascents and more hills in general (still less than 1000m total ascent over the route); there are also steep downhill sections. Busier roads are tackled where needed to join up parts of a good circular route, and riders will encounter rougher terrain – expect some mud, loose stones, lumpy but solid surfaces or sandy patches. The rough patches won’t last too long, and (in dry conditions) the rough sections should not be unrideable to someone who has limited experience of off-road riding on surfaces other than easy-going trails.
Hard routes tend to be the longer routes in this guidebook (ranging from 35 to 60km) and rarely have less than 1000m of ascent over the route as a whole. Although they edge towards mountain biking in places, they are never out-and-out technical off-road challenges. They may contain sections that some cyclists will consider unrideable.
The Tour de Peak District deserves a category of its own. Although no stage is tougher than a ‘hard’ route, riders should not underestimate the cumulative effect of fatigue on a multi-day route if they have never attempted one.
Chesterfield Canal (Route 1)
Works on the canal basin have closed part of the route around Staveley for several months over 2011. These works are likely to last up until December 2011, and are currently (1 July) not signposted at all from the eastern side of the works, so check the Sustrans site for the diversion map before you set out!
The additional diversion from Constitution Hill is likely to last until the end of August 2011. Both are promised to be open earlier if possible, but that is not guaranteed.
The areas affected are from Huntsman Road (turn left just after you pass the fire station just before the toucan crossing) to the bridge at Mill Green. Turn right at the end, then left onto High Street. While the secondary works at the bottom of Constitution Hill are ongoing, the diversion map on the TPT website is INCORRECT – as that often closes the footpath down Constitution Hill which is marked as the recommended route. So instead, continue down High Street to reach Morrisons. Turn right towards this, past the medical centre, then left off an access road onto a narrow dead-end road (Mill Green, signposted TPT, but it's easy to miss!) which leads to a bridge over the canal. Cross this and rejoin the route back to Chesterfield station.
Monsal Trail Updates: (Route 15 Buxton to Bakewell loop)
The planned re-opening of the four abandoned railway tunnels (Headstone, Cressbrook, Litton, Chee Tor) went ahead yesterday (25 May 2011), meaning that the Monsal Trail now runs from Bakewell to WyeDale (just west of Chee Tor). This means that the new route can now be used, and the awkward descent and footpath across the river at Littondale on the interim route is no longer needed.
Cycle Hire Updates:
Trail Monkeys of Bradwell (routes 5, 14, 16, 17) has closed
Peak Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire have opened at the western end of the Monsal Trail (Route 15) at Wye Dale, extending the offerings of the long-standing Lazy Days tuck shop to include cycle hire and welcome refreshments at the western end of the trail.
Hassop station (listed in the book) is now fully up and running with a busy cycle hire base, thriving cafe, and bookshop.
|Plants and flowers|
|Art, culture and local festivities|
|When to go|
|Food and drink|
|What to wear|
|What to take|
|Emergencies and first aid|
|Waymarking and access|
|Using this guide|
|1 Chesterfield Loop via Transpennine Trail|
|2 Carsington Reservoir Loop|
|3 Ashopton Loop via Derwent Reservoir|
|4 Middlewood Loop via Lyme Park|
|5 Bamford Loop via Ladybower Reservoir|
|6 Ashbourne Loop via Hognaston|
|7 Chesterfield Loop via Holymoorside and Leash Fen|
|8 Tissington Loop via Elton|
|9 Wirksworth Loop via Hartington|
|10 Bakewell Loop via Hartington|
|11 Leek Loop via the Roaches|
|12 Waterhouses Loop via Morridge and Longnor|
|13 Penistone Loop via Holmfirth|
|14 Tideswell Loop via Peak Forest|
|15 Buxton Loop via Bakewell|
|16 Grindleford Loop via Edale|
|17 Bamford Loop via Mam Tor|
|18 Middlewood Loop via Pym Chair|
|19 Marsden Loop via Saddleworth Moor|
|20 Macclesfield Loop via the Roaches|
|21 Tour de Peak District|
|Day 1 Matlock to Dungworth|
|Day 2 Dungworth to Marsden|
|Day 3 Marsden to Whaley Bridge|
|Day 4 Whaley Bridge to Blackshaw Moor|
|Day 5 Blackshaw Moor to Matlock|
|Appendix A Cycle hire|
|Appendix B Cycles and trains|
|Appendix C Car parking|
|Appendix D Repair guide|
|Appendix E Route summary table|
Cycling around a bend on a narrow moorland lane above Hathersage, I stopped briefly at a wider space on the lane to write up some notes from the route I was recceing. I'd only written a few words when the friend I was cycling with whispered quietly ‘Chiz, look over there – there's a curlew on the ground!’ Quietly I dropped my pen and paper and shuffled over to the drystone wall, hoping that any movement I made was hidden by the wall. Peeking over, not only was there one curlew, but three, and they seemed to be in some sort of dispute – perhaps two males vying for the attention of a female!
They were much larger than I'd imagined – previously having only ever heard them in the sky above – and by staying low by the drystone wall we were treated to a display of low-flying acrobatics for several minutes. Eventually one flew away over the fields below, one landed on the moorland nearby and one disappeared into long grass at the far end of the field. Such encounters are not common, but when they happen are all the more special for their rarity – had we been in a car, we'd have whizzed past so fast we'd never have even seen the first curlew; walking, we'd probably have disturbed them with our movement before we got close.
But cycling is the perfect way to experience the countryside – fast enough to cover a good distance over the ground, yet slow enough to really enjoy the sights, sounds and (mostly!) the smells of the countryside. From the pungent aroma of wild garlic, the swathes of bluebells that carpet the floor of many woodlands in spring, the haunting cry of the curlew or joyful tweet of the skylark, to the purple blush of vetch in summer or flowering moorland heather in early autumn: on a bicycle the variety of the landscape can be appreciated in both detail and grander scale.
The Peak District needs no introduction to many – it has a string of firsts and mosts in England and the UK to its credit. It was the first National Park to be created in 1959, it's the most central National Park and the nearest wild outdoor space to the largest percentage of the population. Its ‘Wonders’ were first eulogised over by William Camden in the 16th century in Britannia (the first topographical and historical survey of Britain) and it is now one of the most popular National Parks in the UK.
While the honeypots of Castleton, Bakewell and Dovedale can get very busy at the height of summer they can soon be left behind on the quiet lanes and tracks that criss-cross this wonderfully varied region. This guidebook aims to introduce the reader to some of these wonderful routes, covering between 15km (10 miles) and 60km (37 miles) in a day, and leading up to a finale – the multi-day Tour de Peak District – a new five-day route running roughly around the edge of this fantastic region and within the grasp of anyone of average fitness.