You know those perfect days out on the bike, the ones where everything comes together – the trails, the views, the chilled out cafe stop and the exhilarating downhill sections? Well, the Bakewell circuit mountain bike ride was one such day.
Van loaded, we set off for Hassop station in the Peak District (Derbyshire). Actually, it’s not quite in Hassop village and it’s no longer a working station, but don’t let that put you off. There is a superb cafe in the old station building, just perfect for that pre-ride cuppa and taking your time sorting out the bike before setting off on the Monsal Trail (the old disused railway line which has now been resurfaced as a walking and cycle track running from Bakewell to nearly as far as Buxton).
Our ride for the day was Bakewell, over to Chatsworth House and Edensor and then back around to Bakewell. Over the years, I’ve done a fair amount of mountain biking and walking in the White Peak but aside from a brief spell riding on the Monsal Trail, this ride was refreshingly brand new.
Heading out of Hassop Station on the Monsal Trail towards Bakewell, the ride started gently – the only niggle being the icy cold wind on our hands, made worse because there had been no hills to warm ourselves up first. At the end of the Monsal Trail, the ride takes you down and across a road to a bridleway crossing a field. With a river running in the bottom, I was fully expecting the field to be an unpleasant boggy mire, but despite it being early March it was unbelievably dry (although rough and bouncy).
A short road section across a railway bridge, another field and then a track running alongside some of the Haddon Hall estate properties brings you to a track crossroads. Straight over here and you’re into woods, with the trail taking you uphill on a section which the guidebook graded “red but rideable”. I reckon this track would be a great downhill, but my legs were unable to sustain the power needed to ride the whole of this uphill section (no such problem for my other half, so if uphill trails through woods are your thing, you’d love this).
Once at the top of the woods, the trail becomes fabulous singletrack through the trees (avoiding the bogs on the wide trail and having fun on established twisty dry tracks instead). A double gate at the end of the woods opens out into a field and an exhilarating downhill which brought huge smiles to our faces. Following this, a little meander across a couple of fields and we were back to wide open vistas with the added bonus of the majestic Chatsworth House nestling in the valley below.
Riding downhill across the parkland, we passed grazing sheep and a huge herd of deer before dropping into the village of Edensor and the only busy part of the entire ride.
Edensor village is incredibly picturesque and part of the Chatsworth Estate, meaning that even on an early spring Saturday, it was full of tourists. However, after just a short pedal up out of the village we were back to peaceful country lanes. The uphill lane out of Edensor is classed as a blue hill in the guidebook and the riding here is technically easy with just a couple of sections of deep rutted areas to negotiate. Coming to the end of the lane, a short road section leads to a bridleway on the left which takes you downhill on the last technical section of the ride.
This bridleway runs through woods towards Bakewell Golf Club and is a fun section, although there are a couple of steep areas with protruding tree roots and big drop off’s which (riding a hardtail) I preferred to walk around. Derbyshire County Council are currently looking into doing some work on the trail here with plans to fill with crushed rock/slag and whilst there are a couple of sections which could do with some erosion control, I’m not sure about the planned material choice as it will detract from the natural woodland nature of the trail.
Before long, you’re back on the Monsal Trail at Bakewell, where it is just some short easy riding to get back to the Hassop Station car park and cafe. With just enough time to practice some bunny hopping (it has always eluded me – and I had the bruises and scars to show for it after our training session), we finished the ride with a visit to the cafe, one of my favourites in the Peak District.
Verdict: A brilliant ride (approximately 10 miles) on really good tracks with a good balance of technical uphill and rolling downhill sections. Incredible views and fabulous off road riding. It was the first time riding this circuit, but it is going down as one of my all time favourite rides.
OS Explorer OL 24 (White Peak) and White Peak Mountain Biking guidebook – Vertebrate Publishing
Plenty of accommodation in the Bakewell area. Closest YHA’s are in Youlgreave or Taddington. Various campsites in the area. Check http://www.visitpeakdistrict.com/ for further accommodation information
Pay and display parking in Hassop station http://www.peakdistrictcycleways.co.uk/peak-district-cycle-hub.php?hub=Monsal+Trail
There is also a bus from Sheffield to Bakewell which stops at Hassop Old Station (number 275), further information here