Hartington Hall (2)

On Sunday la famille Fatbloke had pressing business further south, so they left our party after breakfast. Rooms were emptied, vehicles moved into the village. Again the weather was sunny, so after discussing the possibility of some kind of internet April Fool on one or other unsuspecting ACFer (morning, Officer!) we didn’t bother and were on our way again.

This time we headed towards Hulme End, which is the northern extremity of the Manifold Trail. This is Derbyshire at its best, or would be apart from one small snag: we had crossed the border and were now in Darkest Staffordshire. We followed the trail, through a tunnel where appropriate train noises were made, and out the other side to Wetton Mill, where we had probably the earlies Elevenses stop in the history of Sunday rides. However, it was well worth it as the sun was shining, the wind had dropped, there were ducks on the water, chiffchaffs in the willow trees and the tea was first rate. Clare bought a large piece of cake and shared it out – very good it was too!

My wife decided to find out what life was like as a bike rack.

There was method in our Glorious Leader’s madness, as although the 11ses stop had been early, we dallied in the warm sunshine and some of us shed a layer or two. Within minutes of setting off we had put them back on again as Wetton is clearly well sheltered and lots of the ride is not. Shortly after leaving Wetton Mill, we began to climb towards Wetton village, and I think that at one point or another everyone had to get off their bikes and push, so steep was the gradient, with two or three chevrons in different places. It was only about 3 miles from Wetton Mill to Alstonefield, our lunch stop, but it must have taken us the best part of an hour.

We arrived at the George

just before it opened for lunch, and had to jockey for position with with an entire trudge of ramblers. The food and beer were worth the wait, as the tomato soup and smoked salmon sandwiches were very good indeed. It seemed to have changed hands since I was last there, about 35 years ago.

Before long it was time to return to Hartington, so we did so, up yet another gruelling piece of scenery into the teeth of a playful early summer breeze. As we hurtled down the other side the intrepid tandemists took the lead so we pulled over behind our car in order to dismantle our steed ready for travel, and the entire company came and watched. Fortunately there were no embarrassing moments in the process and within a few minutes we had detached the front from the back, placed the necessary bits on the rear rack, and were interrupted by a pair of cyclists going past on what looked suspiciously like one of these . After that small piece of excitement, we thanked Alan for organising such a superb weekend of cyclosocialising, said our fond farewells, and zoomed off into the early afternoon sun.

Hartington Hall (1)

Our journeys from Southend to Hartington and vice versa were unexpectedly good, averaging over 50 mph in each direction. Cars were unloaded, bikes fettled, the clans gathered and we all went to the pub for our evening meal on Friday. Here is a selection of pubbish photos:-

L to R: Clare (overexposed Shocked) Nicole, Papa, Marge (Mrs Alans).

Tom (TBenson of this parish), waitress, Gordy, Joan (Butterfly)

Half of Marge, Tony (Toekneep), Gill (Mrs TKP)

Clare, Vernon and Jackie (Mrs FB)

Joan, Alans, Janet (Mrs Wow)

Rhubarb crumble with Custard!

After a – erm – broken night’s sleep (my radiator sounded as though a small electric motor had been attached to it, and whoever was in the room above us sounded athletic, to say the least) the cycling began. This was a tour of some of the finest railway systems which have been dedicated to leisure use. To Biggin at the beginning, we climbed steeply from the hostel and joined the Tissington Trail,

heading south to Tissington, where the ladies running the tea shop were on their final day’s service, unwillingly apparently, having been ousted from their posts by a rival bid. Even so, the tea and flapjack were of the highest order. We headed east from Tissington, down a couple of chevrons and avoiding the ford, only to find our bikes covered in the finest sheep slurry, so several of us dunked them in the water to removed the offending substance. We went through Bradbourne and straight on to Carsington Water. This reservoir is a fairly recent addition to the delights of Derbyshire and is now one of its main visitor attractions. There were lots of wildfowl, some pretty good coffee, some barnacle geese, and

this kestrel.

Shortly afterwards we adjourned to the Miner’s Arms pub (do ACF rides always end up at the Miner’s Arms?) in Carsington village where everyone else’s food was served, consumed and its devourers ready to go before Jan’s and mine even appeared in front of us. Thus it was that we were even slower than usual up the next hill, which is graced with no chevrons but jolly well feels like it immediately after a large plate of lasagne and chips.

At the top, we joined another ex-railway, the High Peak Trail, and headed roughly north-west back towards Hartington. The scenery was breathtaking at times, but so was the wind, which hampered us accordingly. This whole ride, indeed the entire weekend, was spent in the “White Peak”, based on limestone rock, with its verdant pastures and whiter-than-white dry-stone walls.

The “Dark Peak”, to the north, is of millstone grit and peat bogs, and is an entirely different type of scenery. The boundary between the two is at Edale, with its wonderful caverns, and you can tell which side of the divide a meadow is simply by the colour of the grass. In general, the rain water from the White Peak drains south, towards the Trent, whereas the Dark Peak rivers are tributaries of the Mersey.

None of that bothered us intrepid cyclists though, as we battled through a north-easterly, finally emerging in Parsley Hay, the most northerly point of the ride. As a little light relief, Toekneep and Mrs TKP had a try on our Thorn Raven tandem, and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

From here, we had the most exhilarating ride down Long Dale, in which Jan & I gave the tandem its head, and southwards aye we fled. We crossed the B5054 before returning to the yout Hostel from the east, our highest speed of the day being achieved on the hill into Hartington, a little over 35 mph.

This post has gone on for long enough, so I’ll report on Sunday’s events later.