Early March and we finally had the first real warm, sunny, still day of the year. It was the sort of day which gives anticipation of the warm spring/summer days ahead – the sort of day which breaks you out of the deep, dark and cold gloom of winter (yep, you guessed it, I dislike winter). With a spring energy, the possibilities were open….find a sheltered crag and spend the day climbing in the sun, put on the trainers and get up high in the hills, or dig out the mountain bike?
The last bike ride had been in the depths of winter, wrapped up against the elements and riding on slush and packed ice all the way along the trail. There was no real choice with the opportunity presenting itself to head out on the bike without all those layers of clothing which had been dominating the last 3 months! The bike was loaded up and the van pointed in the direction of the Peak District.
We arrived early afternoon so chose a relatively short circular ride which had plenty of hard pack tracks and options to lengthen or shorten the route depending on how we were faring and how late in the day we were. Starting in Hathersage, the ride initially follows the main road to Grindleford where you have to unfortunately battle with a fair amount of traffic. However, it soon turns off right onto a smaller lane signed to “The Gliding Club & Abney”.
Almost immediately, the gradient steepens and whilst the legs (and lungs) were working hard, it was on tarmac and so a much easier start to the ride than if it had been an off-road trail. Before long, you’re high above Hathersage with incredible views making it more than worth the effort.
Coming to a right hand fork in the road (just before High Low Hall), the route takes you down a narrow lane before a short sharp climb back up the valley. Once on top of the hill, some easy level cycling affords the opportunity to enjoy the views across the valley before taking a bridleway on the left (just before Offerton Hall).
The bridleway takes you across open moorland and I was fully expecting the trail to be gloopy and boggy. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find the trail relatively hard packed with the exception of a few boggy sections which were easily circumnavigated. Climbing steadily over the moor was not technically difficult but did at times follow a fairly deep rut, which I tend to find difficult to ride (for some reason, my usually stable position on the bike wavers and wobbles the minute I enter a deep rut which has no immediate way out!).
Once at the top of the climb, the open views across to Ladybower Reservoir, Stanage Edge and Hathersage were incredible. It was definitely worth stopping and savoring.
Descending down over the grass trail was short (as are most descents) but good fun before hitting a wide boggy area around the gate. Once through with thankfully dry feet, a left turn takes you up the road and onto a wide track (Shatton Lane). Leading up past a mast onto Shatton Moor, the views from here are once again spectacular. The track then has a lovely exhilarating downhill section before bending rightwards (Brough Lane) and undulating towards Brough.
The track turns into a tarmac road and a downhill section. At a sharp left hand bend, a bridleway on the right takes you back into Shatton village, crossing a ford as you enter the village. Once through Shatton, you have a choice – either continue into Bamford and up onto Stanage edge, or take the cycleway on the main road directly back into Hathersage. Due to the impending fading light, we chose the latter option and headed back. The new cycle/walkway is set aside from the main traffic and brilliant as this is an incredibly busy road.
Back in Hathersage, the only choice left is whether to visit one of the superb cafe’s or pubs for refreshment!
Verdict: A short (approximately 10 miles) circular route on good tracks which are generally well drained for winter riding. Spectacular views from Offerton and Shatton Moor. A good proportion of road riding, but generally on quiet lanes or cycleway.
Map: OS Explorer OL1 (Dark Peak). Part of the ride can also be found in the “Hope Valley Circuit” ride in the White Peake Mountain Biking book, produced by Vertebrate Publishing.
Refreshments: A good choice of cafe’s and pubs in Hathersage. If you want to combine some outdoor retail therapy with a good cuppa, the Outside Shop and Cafe is hard to beat!
Accommodation: Plenty of B&B’s in the area, plus YHA in Hathersage and campsite at North Lees (1.5 miles from Hathersage). Check http://www.visitpeakdistrict.com/ for further accommodation information
Getting there: Pay and display car park in Hathersage – but arrive early as it is only small and gets very busy! Hathersage is also well served by buses (Sheffield – Castleton route) and trains (Sheffield – Manchester line) – more information can be found here