Dambusters

The name of this route gets it’s inspiration from the daring raid that happened by the RAF in 1943 to breach some German dams. The 617 squadron practised their flying skills on the Derwent Dam in the Peak District.

The routes best done after a couple of days of dry weather. It’s one of those routes which is on the harder end of the gravel bike spectrum and we’d advise you take a waterproof and spare clothing if it’s not high Summer.

The route starts in Hathersage and heads up the south side of the Hope Valley and over Shatton Moor. From there it drops into Bradwell and onto Hope and up the Edale Valley. From here it heads up Hope Brink and up to an old Roman Road at Hope Cross. The next bit of the route is on a concessionary bridleway that’s construction has been delayed due to the Covid pandemic past the ruins of Elmin Pits Farm (it feels a bit cheeky as at the time of writing there is still a stile instead of a gate at the top and has an off piste feel to it).

Then it’s on and over the Snake Pass and up one of our fave gravel climbs past Rowlee Farm. Then it’s across some high pastures and down into the Derwent Valley. In one of the towers of the Derwent Dam is a small museum that’s about the history of the dam complex. If you want to stretch route out you can head round the Derwent and Howden Dams,

Our route heads under the Derwent Dam wall and down the east side of the Ladybower Reservoir to the Ladybower Inn. Then it’s down the main road for a short while (there is a cycle path on the reservoir side of the road), over the dam wall and past the famous plugholes that drain the reservoir when it’s full.

You then head off down the Thornhill Trail which is the former trackbed for the railway built to carry the stone during the construction of the reservoirs. At the bottom of the track turn left past a Quaker commune and into the bottom of Bamford village. Then it’s a climb up Satergate and Hurstclough Lanes back to Hathersage.

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The Road to the Peak & Full Hemlock

The Peak District has been populated since neolithic times and is covered in ancient tracks. One of the oldest is the Portway which stretches from Mam Tor to the Trent.

The route was in use until Medival times and it’s original line has been lost by both agriculture and development and the building of other roads. Evidence of it’s existence can still be seen with village names such as Alport and barrows and cumuli along some of it’s original route.

We used the Portway as inspiration for the Road to the Peaks route. Starting at the Hemlock stone just outside Nottingham. Our route passes places such as Dale Abbey, the Portway at Holbrook, Alport Heights and finishes at Mam Nick. It mainly consists of quiet lanes, byways and bridleways and is suitable for gravel bikes and MTB.

The nearest railway stations to the start are at Ilkeston, Long Eaton and Nottingham. Edale station is just down the hill from the finish and trains can be got back to the beginning from there via Sheffield.

Whilst doing recon for the Road to the Peak, we rode to the start in Nottingham and from the finish back to Chesterfield. We’ve added a couple of kilometres onto the route we’ve used to make it just over 200 km and a suitable DIY Audax contender – think of it as Gravel Audax or GrAudax ! It’s a proper day out but certainly do-able in Summer months.

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The Velotastic 300

We’ll make no apologies about this route. It’s long, it’s tough, in wet weather you’ll lose the will to live on it and it’s not for the faint hearted. 300 kilometres of prime Peak District tarmac, gnarmac, dirt and gravel. Ladies and Gentlemen this is the Velotastic 300.

Ideally done over a couple of days (one if you’re hard, three if you enjoy your cake stops), the Velotastic 300 takes you over some of our fave trails in one big loop.

The route starts at the ranger station in Linacre Woods, Chesterfield. This is only 3 miles from the local railway station, so there’s no excuse to bring your car.

The route is lumpy to say the least. If you are planning on doing it over 3 days, we’d recommend you stay in Castleton and Hartington, two we’d recommend either Buxton or Hurdlow which are little bit off the route.

There’s plenty of cafe’s on route to chose from and we hope you manage to visit a few to support our local economy. If you do have a crack at this route don’t forget to use the hashtag #velotastic300 in your social media feed !

Neveresting

Whilst I admire the endeavours of riders who complete the the Everesting challenge, I do like to be home for lunch. I’ve been on the coffee and spent too much time alone at work and come up with the Neveresting challenge for the time crunched rider.

The rules are quite simple:

Ride up one hill in the Peak District. Repeat reps until you climb the equivalent of Kinder Scout (636 m).

The climb’s got to be off road as there’s no road up Kinder (or that other big hill in Nepal).

Bonus points for finding a Peak District climb with the least number of reps to stop you getting bored.

Naturally these rules are more guidance than something you should take seriously. I’ve only used the Peak District because it’s local and Kinder Scout is a reasonable height. There’s no reason that this challenge could not be adapted to the height of other notable hills and mountains that float your cycling boat.

Successful attempts will win bragging rights at any of our events, plus if you email me your successful attempt and I’m in a good mood I’ll send you some stickers.

The usual disclaimer applies with this challenge – don’t be a dick and don’t blame me if it all goes wrong. Fist bumps to Hells 500 for coming up with the original Everest challenge idea and yes, I know I’ve adapted it to suit my own more modest ambition.

C to Sea

It’s the strange things you miss during the Covid-19 lockdown. Mine is not plentiful supplies of pasta or toilet roll or the ability to go out for a beer but the sea.

Living in Chesterfield, we’re nearly as far away from the coast as you can get. On a good day it’s 90 minutes drive or around 5 hours by bike.

A few years ago I did the Dunwich Dynamo. A fantastic event that runs every July from London Fields in Hackney to the small hamlet of Dunwich. There’s no organisation as such, just turn up and ride for free.

Everyone picks their own pace and is self sufficient either taking food with them or stopping on their way. There’s no leader, no big pack, just roll along as you like through the night.

When I did it I thought wouldn’t it be great to do something from Chesterfield to the coast. One of my fave spots on the edge of the North Sea is Kilnsea outside of Hull. This made a logical destination. There’s not a lot there apart from a World War One fort that’s crumbling away and a caravan park, but to get to it gives the opportunity to ride over the Humber Bridge.

The plan is when life returns to whatever normal, to set off from the Market Pub in Chesterfield around eight and ride through the night to the coast. The adventure won’t be guided – you’ll choose your own pace and route and have to be self sufficient including getting back at the end.

Once the pandemic’s died down I’ll pick a date when I’m riding it and you’re more than welcome to join me for a pint at the beginning and then make your own way. One request though, make sure you’ve got a set of lights and leave your sounds system at home if you’ve got one – my two big bug bears from the Dynamo !

The on/ off route that’s suitable for gravelly type bikes I’ll roughly be following is below. Feel free to choose your own.

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Solstice Challenge

Bollocks. In front of me there was a flooded bridge. It’s outline marked out by fence posts. The question was, was it complete. The surrounding river looked deep and cold. Should I risk riding it, not knowing the condition of the submerged structure or may an 8 mile detour via the road to Snaith. The clock was ticking on the challenge I’d set myself and I erred on the side of caution and headed back down the road.

Winter is a hard time to get motivated. The nights are long. The days (especially this year ) cold, wet and windy and the warmth of being indoors seductively attractive. I needed to do something to get out of the routine of doing nothing. With the shortest day approaching my mind drifted to the Summer solstice and rides through the night celebrating this. Why not do the opposite and see how far I could ride in the daylight hours around the solstice.

I’d got roughly seven and a half hours to play with and I wanted to get to a destination with a reasonable train service back home. The choice was narrowed down to either York or Cleethorpes off road – roughly 130 km. York won as the train fare was cheapest.

The route I’d chosen was roughly following the Transpennine Trail as far as Selby and then taking the cycle network up to York. I’d ridden bits of the route before so had a good idea what to expect – a mix of trails, quieter roads and bridleways, so my gravel bike was an obvious choice.

I took a pair of trousers and a duvet jacket with me for when I arrived in York in my Oveja Negra Gearjammer seat pack as I knew it was going to get dirty out there. I also use my Roadrunner Wedgie frame pack to carry sandwiches and other essentials including tools and inner tube.

The first start of the trip was the same as my commute to my office, then over to Ulley and past the reservoir that had threatened to breach in the floods of 2007. Then a short, but busy road section before a quieter bridleway over to Conisborough. My great grandfather used to have a farm near the castle there and drive is cattle down to the centre of Sheffield. A task which took several days.

Then along following the Don to Doncaster. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the route. Following the slow meandering river down a wide valley which looked ripe for canoeing.

Then skirting through Doncaster following old railway track beds. Then north past villages that had suffered with the recent flooding. An onto Sykehouse looking out for the familiar red squares of the national cycle network route markers.

All was well until I reached the flooded bridge. After erring on the side of caution I headed the long way round to Snaith. On the way I gave the nod to a cyclist in a vintage Kelme jacket. Only on my return did I discover that this was a fellow I’d been talking to on social media for the past couple of years !

North from Snaith and past a disused airfield that was being used by a gliding club and onto Selby. Once the heart of Yorkshire’s coalfields, this market town’s significance in my journey was it was a major junction. To the east the Transpennine Trail headed towards Howden, to the north the rail trail to York.

No time to hang around as the clock was ticking. On to Riccall and the start of the Solar system trail, with distances being marked by planets.

Past the well healed suburb of Bishopsthorpe and the route was filled with families and dogs barely under control. Whilst the urge to press on was there, I decided the more pragmatic option was to show some patience and proceed with care and a smile.

Finally I was in York, the city seemed very noisy. Full of a toxic mix of Christmas shoppers, tourists and worse for wear revellers. A cyclist started chatting to me whilst we were waiting at a set of lights. ‘Blimey you’re a bit muddy’ he said’ Have you been far ?’. Chesterfield was my reply.

Clumber Rumble

Must admit whilst I love the Peak District, it’s good to head in the opposite direction and explore the trails to the east of Chesterfield now and again. This routes a great Winter route as it’s a bit lest wild than some of the ones I’ve created.

Clumber Park is a popular spot with locals. The estate which was owned by the Duke of Newcastle is now run by the National Trust and is great for walking, cycling and relaxing.

This route starts at Chesterfield station and heads down the Transpennine Trail roughly following the Chesterfield canal and then a disused railway line. It the climbs over a hill via some quiet lanes and re-joins the canal at Kiveton.

Then it’s over to Worksop and follows the NCN route 6 through Worksop to Clumber. Then it’s through the Welbeck estate and Cresswell Crags where there’s a visitor centre and cafe.

The route then heads down the newly opened Clowne Branch line and down to Poolsbrook country park. It’s then back along the Transpennine Trail back to the start.

The route is more ultra-CX than pure gravel – do able on a gravel bike but a bit muddy in places, but not difficult enough to require an MTB.

There’s also a couple of places that you may have to get off and push your bike. Please be sensible and share with care.

Eyam MTB Circuit

Most of the routes I’ve posted are gravel based but every now and then I like to mix it up and get my MTB out. This is a variation of an after work ride I’ve done with a mate.

It’s got a healthy mix of fast descents, killer climbs and postcard quality views on a good day. It’s a tough little circuit, especially if it’s windy, but we like our routes with a bit of gnarl as that makes it feel like we’re getting value for money.

The start/ finish I’ve chosen is at one end of the closed road at Eyam, but there’s nothing to stop you starting elsewhere.

Youlgreave Circuit

We’ve a soft spot for the White Peak. It’s often overlooked in favour of it’s bolder brassier Dark Peak neighbour, but has a wealth of trails that are worth discovering.

This gravel based route starts and finishes at Alport near Youlgreave. It’s a mix of gravel tracks, quiet roads and bridleways. There’s also a small section of the High Peak trail in there.

Peak District Gravel Climbs

If it doesn’t kill you….

Some would say it’s about the glory through suffering, others as just a way to get where you want to go. The Peak has quite a few iconic climbs that have been used in both road races and the national hill climb championships.

There are also some absolutely belting gravel based climbs for those who enjoy that type of thing. Climbs on the road in the Peak are tough. Doing it on gravel just turns the notch up a couple. Here’s a few of our favourites.

Mam Tor

One of the Peak’s most famous climbs. This former A road is slowly heading towards the valley floor which leads to a dramatic post apocalyptic landscape.

Longstone Edge

Longstone’s rightfully a popular climb with local roadies. A tough little number, but you are rewarded with a fantastic view at the end, The gravel version is relatively easy and goes via a working quarry with quite an impressive hole !

Shatton

Shatton’s one of those climbs that you don’t find in many guide books. It’s steep and a lot of it’s not gravel – it’s on precast concrete slabs that were put down so that vehicles could get to the transmitter mast at the top. However it’s a bit rough on a road bike and once you are the mast it’s full on gravel so it’s ignored by those who like lycra.

Beeley

We used this on the Hardcore100 and got quite a bit of ‘customer feedback’ on it so it’s must be a toughie ! A good alternative to the normal road route, the first steep bit is on tarmac. Once you’ve got to the farms half way up the gradient settles down however the surface becomes very sketchy just to make up for that.

Stanage

Stanage has a big mountain feel to it. The route has always been a fave descent but it also makes a cracking climb. There’s also one of the best views anywhere at the top.

Rowsley

Rowsley’s got a bit of reputation in road riding circles and this little climb that links Rowsley Bar to Beeley keeps that aura going.

Church Lane

This is Rowsley’s other climb. One of our fave’s that we’ve been using a for years and is a good ‘back way’ into Bakewell.

Bar Road Baslow

We used this towards the end of the Brutal Tootle. It’s a climb that just keeps on giving.

GHB

The man who was never lost never went very far – GHB Ward

All of the events in 2019 start in the village in Holmesfield. Whilst it’s a lovely place and has several nice pubs, it was also the home to one of the original champions of access to open land GHB Ward.

Without GHB and those early pioneers we probably would not be able to run our events.

George Herbert Bridges or GHB or Bert Ward was born in the middle of Sheffield in 1876. In 1900 he put an advert in the Clarion newspaper for a walk around the highest hill in Derbyshire Kinder Scout. Back in those days you could walk around the plateau but the summit was private land.

On the back of this walk he formed the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers, the world’s first working class rambling club. This organisation became the chief organisation for campaigning for greater access in the Dark Peak. As early as 1907, 25 years before the famous mass trespass, they were organising walks across privately owned shooting moors.

In 1923 Ward was served an injunction to prevent him setting foot on land on the western, Hayfield side of the Kinder plateau which would have prevented him taking part in the mass trespass 9 years later.

Ward was also a Freemason. This may seem strange from a man who was a committed socialist. It however did give him access to some of the major local landowners.

Federation of rambling clubs were starting to form in northern cities like Liverpool and Manchester. In 1926 GHB was instrumental in forming a federation of the 18 Sheffield Rambling clubs.

A year later a meeting of all of the ramblers federations was held in Hope with the aim of forming a national body.

In 1931 another meeting was held at Longshaw Lodge, which had recently been purchased from the Duke of Rutland using an early version of crowdfunding. This established the National Council of Ramblers Federations, which in 1935 became the Ramblers Association.

In 1941 GHB retired to Storth Lodge on the edge of Holmesfield. Folks that entered the Brutal Tootle passed the entrance to this house.

Without the pioneering work of GHB we probably would not have had the access to the uplands we do at the moment.

Great advocacy work has been done locally to us by groups like Ride Sheffield and Peak District MTB, working with local landowners to improve access and help them maintain local trails.

The short MTB route below passes GHB Ward’s house and takes in several concessionary bridleways across the Eastern Moors Estate.

Moss Valley

This is another route which is a fave of ours and part of it is the commute we do into Velotastic HQ. It starts and finishes at Chesterfield railway station, so there’s no excuse to drive to the start.

The route heads off down the Chesterfield canal which is a nice traffic free way out of the town. After a few miles there is a short climb through the village of Whittington followed by a bridleway to the quiet village of Hundall.

On a good day there’s a panoramic view over to the Peak and down the Drone valley. From here it’s onto Apperknowle and down a bridleway that’s just beyond the Travellers Rest pub. The trail goes round the back of an airstrip. It’s rarely used, so if you do see a plane it’s a bonus. Then it’s a short road section through Troway.

Next is a fun descent down into the Moss Valley which is followed by an inevitable climb. Using a set of bridleways the route traverses the valley onto Mosborough.

Then it’s more downhill to Eckington and off road to Barrow Hill. From here we rejoin the canal and take the Transpennine Trail towards Inkersall. Then it’s a fun descent through Westwood and onto Brimington Common. The ride returns to the start following the Transpennine Trail across Tapton golf course.

The route takes 2-3 hours so is an ideal Sunday morning or weekday evening ride. There’s plenty of places (pubs) on route to get a drink.

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