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.

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