“Spring has sprung…and great timing too!!”
Day 1 – Friday 11th March 2016
Castleton in the High Peak was the venue and Losehill Hall YHA was base camp. A group of 6 rode out from Runcorn on a balmy Friday afternoon. Clothing strategy was the subject of much discussion as it was sunny in Cheshire but rumours of fog and low temperatures in the High Peak led to a split decision in the peloton and Roy Forster followed the ‘Suns out, Guns out’ maxim sporting his newly ‘dehairified’ pins. Meanwhile 6 other club members of the group opted to drive out to transport kit and grab an afternoon ride in unfamiliar surroundings.
The ride from Runcorn followed the Wizard route as far as Alderley Edge. A planned coffee and cake stop at the Wizard was unsuccessful due to closure and use was made of gels and bars in order to get us up the climb from Pott Shrigley into the hills, followed by the roller coaster ride through Kettleshulme and down into Whaley Bridge. As the group rode up Rushup Edge to the top of Winnats Pass the expected fog did not materialise and we arrived on schedule at Losehill Hall before a hearty dinner arranged by Mark Hewitson in a local Italian restaurant.
The …..erm….. carbs were flowing freely and following a failed attempt by Roy Forster at some ‘magic’ jiggery-pokery (failing to predict he was in the presence of genii) more carbs were quaffed and we departed the restaurant in high spirits to the glee of our hostess. We returned to base camp to spend our first night in the comfortable but bijou accommodation. Messrs Stevens, Fowler, Hewitson, Boyle, McLeod and Jackson took room 6, Messrs Forster, Arundale, Pickering, Cowell and Orme in room 5, Roy kindly supplying ear plugs to his room mates in advance of an expected snore ridden night! Meanwhile Lady Di being the only Lady enjoyed the luxury of a single room.
Day 2 – Saturday 12th March 2016
Day 2 began with a hearty breakfast, great value actually and at 9am the group readied for departure for our planned 85 mile scenic loop around Derbyshire. Heading East to Hathersage at an ambitious pace the group began in exuberant fashion (as I had planned a flat start to the route to allow us to ‘find our legs‘) but as we turned south we began to climb as we followed the Derwent River through Grindleford and towards the beautiful village of Eyam (known as the ‘Plague Village‘) and wonderful deserted lanes on the approach to Tideswell, ‘The Cathedral in The Peak‘.
On the exit from Tideswell we began our first steep climb of the day up on to the Derbyshire Dales before descending sharply to a road running adjacent to the River Wye ( The Monsal Trail ) After a photo opportunity we continued through Bakewell and on to Café stop 1 – The Old Smithy in Beeley on the Chatsworth Estate. Great food, great service, alfresco dining, 13 happy Wheelers (Matt Burke had joined us for the day) exited the café and were immediately faced with a 750 ft ascent onto a plateau before descending into Matlock which, as it was a glorious day seemed rammed with a million day trippers.
We were glad to leave Matlock beneath The Heights of Abraham before turning on to the ‘Via Gellia‘, a wonderful gentle 2% incline running 8-9 miles up to the Buxton Road (a great rhythm climb). An immediate detour off the main road and we began our draining approach to Café Stop 2 – Cobbles Tea and Coffee Shop in Longnor.
Unfeasibly cheap food and drinks served with a smile! Unfortunately, curse of the route planner followed and immediately upon leaving we entered the toughest phase of our day, the climb to Flash up some really tough, steep climbs. As we approached the A53 at Flash the weather closed in and we hastily descended Axe Edge into Buxton before the final phase of our ride.
By this stage some of the group were starting to suffer but the road headed upwards again to Sparrowpit before the final climb to the top of Winnets Pass. Decision time…. Ride Leader Marco had offered a ‘Bonus Loop‘ for anyone feeling that way inclined. The majority vote was to head home but myself, Ryan, Matt and Ciaron decided to descend Mam Tor into Edale.
After a brief summit the decision was taken by myself and Ryan to ‘U-turn‘ and attempt the ascent of Mam Tor – not easy with 85 tough miles in the legs. Ten minutes later we crested the summit before an elated ‘selfie‘ and the descent of Winnets Pass and arriving into Losehill Hall to find our clubmates quaffing ……carbs. A truly challenging ride of 6 hours+ and almost 8000ft of ascent.
The atmosphere in ‘The Old Cheshire Cheese‘ was much more muted than the night before and after multiple T Bone steaks had been consumed, it seems the squad were too knackered to ‘bend the elbow‘ and it was ‘Lights Out‘ just after 10pm!!!
Day 3 – Sunday 13th March 2016
Sunday morning and all were bright and breezy at breakfast. There were varied plans for the Sunday morning….a hilly run for Di, a morning loop for Dave. Mark, Ciaron, Rob Cowell and Rob McLeod said their farewells (Rob Mc so keen he left half his gear hanging up in the room) most vowing to do it all again the autumn whilst the 6 Hardcore ‘Weekenders‘ clobbered up for the long ride home.
Sundays ride began again in bright Spring sunshine, we were truly blessed! The group headed to Hope before turning South and immediately heading upwards! Beautiful Derbyshire Dales, traffic free roads and sunshine, it was a truly wonderful ride home through Tideswell and Harpur Hill before bumping into fellow Wheeler James Male and heading up the spur towards the top of ‘The Cat‘ before the big descent out of Derbyshire. The ride was very ‘top heavy‘ with lots of climbs in the first 90 minutes and by Barlow Hill the legs were screaming for mercy before the welcome descent into Macclesfield and the gently rolling route through leafy Cheshire lanes to ‘Jodders‘ for a hearty lunch.
Fully aware that we were now embarking on the final leg we decided that we would finish in style and with the assistance of super domestique James Male we fairly smashed it home through Knutsford and via ‘La Via Wizard‘, not forgetting the traditional ‘Antrobus Smash‘ (sorry lads) which was taken by Ryan Jackson, whist Al Orme suffered the first puncture of the weekend. As we approached Runcorn the bunch bade each other farewell and drifted home for recovery drinks galore and the ‘Sunday Sofa‘!
Thanks to all who attended. It was a tough weekend but great fun, great team bonding and those who suffered as always will benefit the most… you know who you are!!!
Words – Mark Stevens.
Pictures – Mark Stevens, Diane Turner and Matt Burke.