a) an easy, pleasant, often busy, and not particularly exciting cycle around the Derwent and Upper Howden reservoirs (incidentally, great for the first ride back after a winter spent cosying up in front of the wood burner)
b) a gnarly, technical, tough ride up on the moors and down some hardcore descents – with downhills named such things as “The Beast” it always had an intimidating reputation for me
My first ever experience of riding around the moors in the area was many years ago on a first date with my now husband. Luckily he was so far ahead of me that he missed how many times I fell off trying to keep up (and I obviously impressed him enough for a second date!).
So on the dawning of a cold, clear, icy day in January after seemingly endless weeks of wet and windy weather, when said husband proposed a bike ride around the moors of Ladybower it was with some trepidation that I geared up to set out on the trail.
Parking up on the west side of Ladybower reservoir, the start of the ride was a wide track heading steeply uphill on Hagg Side. Breathing icy cold air deeply into my lungs before my muscles were warmed up was something of a shock to the system. I almost regretted not taking the easy option of a circuit of the Derwent and Howden reservoirs, but luckily we soon broke out onto the moors of “Open Hagg” where the going was much easier, more fun and had the bonus of sunshine.
We soon arrived at a bridleway cross roads, which had the escape option of a quick drop back to the reservoir in one direction and the continuation of the full Ladybower experience in another. Lots of mountain bike routes obviously intersect here as the number of people out on their bikes was just like a busy day at the trail centre – and there I was, thinking that we would be avoiding the crowds by getting up high onto the moors!
Turning west to continue the Ladybower circuit, we dropped down a steeply zig zagging trail towards Hagg Farm. It was great fun! The first part was lovely swoopy riding which soon turned into riding over some big loose rocks. I took it tentatively due to the amount of ice already encountered, but thankfully we’d found a quiet period in the stream of other bikes and I was able to pick the exact line I wanted – and my hardtail Orange Diva performed beautifully.
Crossing the A57 Snake Pass, we left the popular zig zags and had a stretch of easy riding on a quiet wide path alongside the banks of Ladybower. Black ice became the problem now and I ended up sliding onto my backside when I took my eye off the trail to admire the view to the side – mental note, keep your eye on the trail!
Whilst we could have continued on this track to the Ladybower dam wall, the lure of some fun riding had us taking a track leading steeply uphill to the right. The ice across the track led to some interesting and frustrating cycling, but the views at the top made it well worth the effort.
Continuing along through “Wiseman Hey Clough Plantation”, the track took us through muddy and rutted terrain, iced over to make things that little bit more interesting. The saving grace was that the ice made the mud less gloopy! Eventually, it opened out onto a better surfaced track and a fast and flowing downhill section which brought smiles to our faces.
Rejoining the track alongside the banks of Ladybower, we came to the dam wall and crossed to the A6013 road. If you fancy a quick pit stop at this point, the Yorkshire Bridge pub is close by!
Turning left onto the cycle path on the A6013 alongside the east banks of Ladybower, we came to the A57 junction and turned left towards Glossop. Just before crossing the bridge over Ladybower, we took a track heading up the east side of Ladybower, back towards Fairholmes Visitor Centre and the dam wall of Derwent reservoir. This is an easy track (popular with cyclists, walkers and runners), and is a great traffic free return route.
At Fairholmes, we turned left on the road alongside the west shore of Ladybower to return to the car park near Hagg Side.
Verdict: A fun ride, generally on good tracks. One technical downhill section (to Hagg Farm) which could be pushed if required. The uphill sections are steep but on good tracks rather than gnarly technical trails. I reckon this ride has given me a 3rd option now whenever I think of mountain biking around Ladybower: fun off-road riding, good distance, not too gnarly or tough.
Distance: Approx 10.5 miles (2-3 hours depending on conditions and hot chocolate stops)
Map: OS OL1 (Dark Peak)
Getting there: Options of free car parking on the west side of Ladybower reservoir if arrive early enough, otherwise several pay and display car parks. Bus 273 goes from Sheffield to Fairholmes Visitor Centre, further information here
Refreshments: Fairholmes Visitor Centre for toilet facilities, snacks and hot drinks. Yorkshire Bridge pub.