Peak District wildcamping bikepack

An opportunity arose at the weekend to get out. I say ‘opportunity’, but this bikepack in the Dark Peak was complicated by my current state of moving house. Bike bags had been packed, sleeping bags and bivvy bags were neatly stowed in marked cardboard boxes, camp stove fuel and water bladder were stored God-knows-where.

An hour or so crashing around in the workshop later and I cobbled together some kit for the trip. With the weather sultry in Glossopdale, I opted for a tarp – a first-time outing for this simple shelter.

I strapped the bags to my ECR and pushed off at 5pm. While the heat of day hung heavily in the air, the sun had started its descent to the horizon and the evening light gave the Derbyshire hills definition, perspective and texture. The trails were agreeably quiet too.

I picked up the Pennine Bridleway and headed due-Edale over Lantern Pike towards Mount Famine. Feeling a little reckless, I turned the handlebars towards Jacobs Ladder and ended up pushing most of the way – underlining the heft of my bike and my hopeless skills as mountain biker.

Edale was full of weekenders enjoying the evening. The village’s Spoonfest had swelled numbers, but campsites would have always been full in this balmy weather. As a consequence, some enterprising folk had negotiated their own impromptu campgrounds on farmers’ fields further down the valley. The atmosphere was heavy with the fug of barbecues.

I didn’t delay.

I was headed for the banks of Ladybower north of Bamford where I hoped to find a helpful spot to rig the tarp and watch night fall. Pushing along the reservoir track I found a nice ‘beach’ and the branches of low trees provided perfect anchorage for my tarp ridgeline. Despite being my first outing, the tarp was ready in a couple of minutes. I rolled out my bivvy and sorted the bed for the night. A brew soon followed and I watched the light fade and the traffic illuminating the Snake Road – a mere whisper on the far bank.

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Cycle Touring Northern England – Berwick on Tweed to Glossop

Bike touring normally means a welcome escape from technology and being ‘connected’. On this trip, I’d never been far from my mobile phone as it served as my navigation device via OS maps and the excellent Viewranger. Perched on my Jones bars using a handy Rixen and Kaul Klikfix mount, it had successfully negated the need to carry numerous paper map sheets and guide books.

ECR on the Sandstone Way bikepack
Great riding on the Sandstone Way near Ingram

The technology came into its own yet again securing digs in Berwick. A quick search on late rooms and Google Maps was directing me to the Rob Roy Inn and a comfortable room. The ECR had a comfortable lodging for the night, too – the games room.

After last night’s extravagant meal, my dinner that night was far more modest. Two course for eight quid – mushrooms with dips and a very good pie and chips. I demolished it with guilt-free relish. Continue reading

Surly ECR XXL four months on – Evading Clichéd Rides?

I’ve had my mahoosive Surly ECR since March.

In that time, it’s been on numerous trips over the trails near home, took part in a celebratory ride for the bike shop that supplied it (and was greeted with nods of approval from the Surly dudes), lugged bikepacking gear on an epic trip from Settle to home along the Pennine Bridleway and ferried me out for coffee on a hill when I just couldn’t take it any more.

Surly ECR in the Pennines
A sunny day on the trails. An ECR day.

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Paying attention to Lantern Pike

Many a time I have driven from home into the Dark Peak and ignored Lantern Pike. The focus has always been Hayfield and the rocky fringes of the Kinder plateau, rather than the softer landscape to the west. My only reminder that the Pike exists is the pub that shares its name.

I resolved to change this today. I was after an easy ramble with the camera… a walk to work up an appetite for Sunday lunch. The weather was very kind, a period of calm before promised snow was due to ruin the Monday morning commute.

I strolled along the Sett Valley trail and gained ground via the Pennine Bridleway from Birch Vale. At the National Trust sign marking the Pike, I following a rocky path climbed steeply to the left and to the small ridge to the Pike’s summit and marker.

The views to higher ground were impressive, and I traced the route of a classic Kinder Scout Walk. No doubt there were plenty of walkers trampling its slopes today, yet I enjoyed solitude on this no-longer ignored hill.

Hair-brained bike packing – an Edale circuit

Quiet moments during the working week – usually when I’m stuck on a train – see the mind wandering to weekend adventures. Those jaunts are visualised through an imaginary rose tinted filter. The weather is always fine, the trails are empty, I feel fit, and the pitch is always perfect.

The latest addition to this idealised canon was a bike-packing trip into the Dark Peak and back again. In the interest of self-powered purity, I’d cycle from my doorstep over rough trails tracking bruised, broad hills, returning the following day. Assuming my progress was good, I’d camp somewhere high and star gaze.

With the weather set fair, plans were made to head to Edale via the Pennine Bridleway, along the Derwent Valley over the tops to Langsett before a blast along the Woodhead and home. I knew some of the terrain would be a challenge, but I’d take my time and all would be well. Ha! Fool!

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Diggle Jiggle – Something for the weekend

While the hills of Saddleworth provide some fantastic riding for the road cyclist , there’s equal if not greater scope off road.

I’m a novice mountain biker at best but, astride the Surly Troll, I’m slowly exploring the bridle-ways and byways near my home.

The wonderfully titled Diggle Jiggle is a case in point. An 11-mile circular route linking pretty villages (and some enticing pubs) in the hills above Oldham. Manchester’s busy streets seem very distant in this part of the city conurbation, and yet they are only eight miles away.

Although officially starting in Diggle, there are several convenient spots to pick up the Jiggle, Greenfield offering as good a kick-off point as any with its regular rail service from Manchester.

It provided a good starting point for me too. The first section of the route from here headed north along Ladcastle Road which climbs to the tidy fairways and manicured greens of Saddleworth Golf Club. The ascent soon eased though and I plunged downhill, brakes squealing, taking a sharp right to join the Delph Donkey Trail. A former railway, this gritty trail provides a decent off-road route for cyclists, walkers and horse riders. I’ve been riding out this at for nearly five years and had no idea it existed.

I turned off the trail at the gate for Dobcross Village cutting back past the Woolpack pub and climbed steeply to the village proper. A mountain biker was enjoying a post-ride pint at The Swan and I fancied joining him. However, I had to press on along Sandy Lane and onto Long Lane.

Reaching cottages, some proper off-road riding commenced. Turning left and right I followed a board track across Harrop Edge. The climb was slow and long but the views were ample reward.

The track dropped to a crossroads and steep broken route led down to the road and then singletrack onto Coat Lane skirting the Castlehaw Reservoirs and then onto the marvellously named Dirty Lane.

The route now picks up the Pennine Bridleway all the way back to Greenfield and route finding was easy. The terrain was more challenging, though.

The highest part of the Jiggle is gained by another wide, stony track and, after crossing the A62 once more, the route turned to single track again… great fun it was too, particularly with a rigid front fork!

Another wide track led to the Diggle Hotel and more lanes and tracks to the outskirts of Uppermill and more sedate riding.

I pedalled home, legs tingling with the effort and adrenaline still coursing through my body. The Jiggle is sedate stuff for seasoned riders, but as a starter for ten, it offers a reasonable amount of excitement. It will certainly serve as a great ride for an evening when the trails are quieter. I hardly saw a soul on Saturday and crowned my tentative first few steps off-road with some hills on the ‘Goddess the following morning.

If you fancy trying the Diggle Jiggle, you can download an excellent map and information sheet here.

Apologies for the stylised shots, by the way. Been messing with Instagram!