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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’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.


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 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’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.

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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.

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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.

If you like this why not check out our events ?

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Chesterfield to Lincoln

To the flatlands.

One of the most useless pieces of trivia about Chesterfield are that the hills to the edge of it are the highest point on that latitude to the west of the Urals in Russia. The other factoid is that, on a good clear day, you can see Lincoln cathedral’s towers from the top of them.

There also used to be a railway between Lincoln and Chesterfield. Back in the Victorian era there was an ambitious plan to build a railway from Lincolnshire to Lancashire. All was going well until they reached Chesterfield and realised that things were going to get both tricky and expensive to cross the Peak so the plan was abandoned. Part of this route follows this line across a disused railway viaduct over the Trent.

The route starts by Chesterfield railway station and follows the canal for a while. From here it goes up the Clowne Branch Line which is a fantastic newly created shared use path.

Then the route heads past Cresswell Crags and through the Welbeck and Clumber estates. Then it’s off towards the Fledborough viaduct and into Lincoln itself. The route finishes with a cobbled climb up to the cathedral door.

One of the great things about this route is that there is a station at both ends which makes the logistics of it a bit easier. It’s also slightly downhill !

Enjoy this route ? Don’t forget to check out our cycling events.

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Bakewell & Monsal

The re-invented former railway lines in the Peak are popular with tourists and locals alike. This short route explores a couple of them .

Starting at Bakewell station, the route heads off down the traffic free Monsal Trail. Be careful, especially at weekends to watch out for dogs and children off their leads ! The route goes down the route of the former Derby to Manchester line and has some spectacular views, a few tunnels and a viaduct to keep you entertained.

Once you’re warmed up and have reached Millers Dale station, a short but brutal climb takes you up towards the hamlet of Priestcliffe. From here it’s across the A6 and onto a combination of sections involving gravel tracks and quiet roads and over to the High Peak trail.

We follow this trail for a while passing the former Parsley Hay station which has been converted into a bike hire and food kiosk and head south for a while.

From here we head off down a long green lane and off towards Middleton and Youlgreave. Here we head up another off road section and make our way back to Bakewell.

Instead of heading back to the start, there’s a short section along the A6 which takes us onto a bridleway that leads to the beginning of the Monsal trail.

If you love this route, don’t forget to check out our events that we are holding throughout the year.

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A Game of Two Halves

In the week when we lost arguably England’s most famous goalkeeper and Sheffield lad, Gordon Banks I thought I’d put up a local route that begins on the edge of the city.

Sheffield markets itself quite rightly as the Outdoor City. A big chunk of it is in the Peak District and the national park is easily accessible. This route starts (and finishes) at the Norfolk Arms. A popular watering hole with cyclists. From here it heads across the edge of the Mayfield valley and round the Rivelin Dams.

From there there is a punishing climb up to Stanage, which featured in the start of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly. Another hard climb (this time on road) follows round the bottom of the edge to one of our fave spots in the Peak – the Burbage Valley.

Then it’s onto the former country estate of Longshaw. From here you have two choices – cut the bottom of the route off and head off back to the pub or go south for some more exploring.

If you choose the latter it’s on to Moss Road, one of the few proper bits of gravel we’ve got in the area. Past the railway tunnel chimney and over Brown Edge over a little used trail. Then it’s across Big Moor and Ramsley Moor and up to Wellington’s Monument for a view down the valley towards Chatsworth (also in Pride and Pedjudice). Then it’s over to Curbar Gap and across the edges back to Longshaw.

From here pass through the estate and onto Houndkirk. At the end of Houndkirk (a short distance from the end) there is always the option, if time permits to go and have a play on the MTB trails at Lady Cannings.

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Hathersage Circuit

A ride with a view

Another shorter gravel ride that we like that can be done in a morning or evening. Includes the option of a play on Lady Cannings MTB trails.

Starting at the National Trust’s Longshaw estate which has a popular cafe on site the route heads over Houndkirk Road and past the Lady Canning’s plantation which offers an optional play down one of the blue MTB trails.

Then a road section round the Rivelin dams and up onto Stanage Edge for one of the most panoramic views in the Peak. Then it’s a lumpy (but mainly downhill) to Yorkshire Bridge and down the Thornhill trail which is on the track bed of the old railway that was used to build the nearby dams.

Then onto Shatton and a lovely quiet trail via Offerton to one of our fave climbs – Abney. At the ridge summit you are rewarded with a cracking view of Stanage edge where you were earlier. Then it’s onto the pretty, historic village of Eyam. A closed road section is followed by a steady climb up Froggatt and back through the Longshaw estate.

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A gravel take on an MTB classic

The Linacre Circuit has been a Peak District classic since it appeared in MTB guidebooks in the 1980’s. It is a combination of mud, climbs and cracking descents.

We’re lucky enough to live a couple of hundred metres from the route and have ridden it more times than we can remember. It’s great for an evening or afternoon ride and is very accessible from Chesterfield.

We thought we’d put out our own spin on the classic route that’s suitable for gravel bikes. There’s still a little bit of mud along the way, but generally it’s rideable in all weathers.

The route’s suitable for gravel bikes and hardtail MTB’s.

The route starts from Holmebrook Valley park and heads up a green lane and off into Linacre. From there its a nice gravel stretch over to Chandler Hill. Then it’s down into Holymoorside and a road climb out of the village. From there it’s an off road section and a bit of a push to the eastern most point off the Peak District National Park.

Then there’s a nice bit of twisty singletrack and we rejoin the road for a climb up onto Beeley Moor.

After a mile or so you turn left and go onto one of our fave bits of local gravel and onto Baslow Road for a small distance.

After that it’s a ride across the tops and a descent into Cordwell Valley. Then follows the best bit of the ride a couple of fast descents back towards Barlow (watch out for horses). And then it’s back over to the start.

Our fave eateries on the way are Hackney House at Barlow and the Peacock in Cutthorpe.