After breakfast Alan led us out for 30 odd miles, where we had a very nasty hill to climb, but the views were well worth it. Then we arrived at the Manifold Trail which runs from Waterhouses to Hulme End along eight miles of wonderful cycle track. It is a gentle slope ride up a disused train track formerly used for the mine.
As we arrived at the start there was a school trip starting, so we had to over take 35 cycles on BSOs. Great to see that they did cycle with a smile, even when they were on a heavy bike that didn’t fit them, and it was a bit damp. We were waved past with a “Ooh look, here’s the professionals”.
From the trail you can see the Thor’s Cave, which has been inhabited for over 5000 years. We didn’t have time climb up, but next time will do so for sure. At Hulme End we found the Tea Junction, a cafe in the old train station. We of course enjoyed a cuppa and a cake, as any respectable cyclist should. The baked-well Bakewell Tart was an absolute delight!
We then took the road to Hartington where we stocked up on pasta and bread for our evening meal. We took a road through a very typical Peak District limestone landscape which felt like something you’d find on the moon. We arrived at the Parsley Hay Centre on the High Peak trail in the the very dense and squally rain. We pressed on for the last two miles along the trail to the Royal Oak where we would camp for the night.
We had a cuppa and talk with Alan in the nice warm pub before he headed back home and we ordered our lunch. Then the weather cleared up a bit, enough blue sky appeared to make a sailor a pair of trousers, and we pitched our tent. We hope Alan didn’t get too wet on his ride back.
The Royal Oak is a Pub with a barn accommodation and camping. The shower and toilet block is in the barn and has been updated in the last two years, though while we were there the taps in the ladies’ were playing up.
During Tuesday we kept looking at the weather forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, since we were getting closer to home and would be wild camping Wednesday night. It didn’t look like a great night or day weather wise to cycle the last 35 miles in. So a little talking and weighing up the options we decided to go for it since it would make sense. Even if it was 65 hilly miles, we would beat the rain and wind.
Little would we know that I had miscalculated the distance, it was 75 miles and VERY scenic. And as always you can’t count on the weather, the night into Thursday our last day turned into a dry, rather nice day.
We were still heading NE out of the Pennines: a beautiful place to cycle with rolling hills and glorious views, with some nasties thrown in for fun. A few miles south of Midhopestones we encounted the worst of the lot at 25%. We only came to a stop when I found this sign, else we managed to climb it on our fully loaded Surlys. While we had our little photo shoot a milk lorry passed us and we spotted it in between the trees at very steep angle further up the road, so we knew that we had more to enjoy.
In Midhopestones we found a rather nice pub, with maps of the area as table cloths. Though even my food was very enjoyable, Peli’s pasta was not cooked. We asked the waiter to sort something out, but when it came back it had clearly had a time in the micro and was still not cooked. She was too hungry to complain again, but it was a bit of a disappointment.
We tried to cut some distance and hills with a ride on the A616 and others, so the next few miles were not too enjoyable, but we made good headway.
The next bit was made interesting by the NCN68, which we had cris-crossed most of the day. Sometimes the NCN takes very nice roads, other times they try to cut a corner up and over a nasty hill where it could have easily gone around it. And then we had to cross the M62 and the NCN68 was the logical thing to use. But this involved coming down a steep gravelly hill where a MTB would be better suited than a touring bicycle! We used the tunnel under the M62 which just ended there with no signs telling you where to go. We took the upper road-come-dirt track which ran parallel with the motorway. At the end of the track we saw the NCN68 sign telling us to use the steep grassy bank where we could just about see a slight path – not the most inviting route!
So do take the NCN with a grain of salt and be prepared for surprises.
Then we were rewarded with a four mile downhill, which I think we deserved. A couple of lumpy bits more and we found ourselves in Hebden Bridge with 13 miles to go. Here we had a great dinner and rest before the last long drag.
As we left Hebden Bridge the sun started to set and we had a beautiful pink sky as a backdrop to the the hills. The only things we saw in the dark were some sheep and rabbits running across the lanes over the tops via Hardcastle Crags and Widdop – seriously wild countryside. The quote “Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors” springs to mind, for some reason I could not keep Black Sheep and An American Werewolf in London out of my head while cycling there.
And I had to keep an eye on Peli as her night vision isn’t that good, though I had to “peg” up the hills to make my dyno hub light work, had to be over 3mph to get it bright enough.
The last four to six miles towards Trawden were absolutely knackering and were done at a snail’s pace. We arrived at Peli’s parents rather zombie-fied, and very soon collapsed into bed and slept for eleven hours solid.
With this test ride, where we got the rain and wind and the hills a-plenty, we have learnt a few things :
– Our comfortable mileage per day is 35-45 miles, allowing time to take in the sights and not be too knackered to enjoy them
– Our rain gear and panniers are waterproof
And that what ever Australia and New Zealand throw at us we are ready and can handle it. Yes, some changes to what we are packing and how we are packing it is needed, but I think that we’ve got this touring malarkey sorted.
260 miles in total over 5 days, not too bad but two to long days, brilliant holiday.