Each summer for the last three years, I have taken a group of young cyclists aged 10 to 16 (with a few parents, who we normally have to wait for) out for a 50-mile challenge. We number around 30 riders, and all belong to Matlock Cycling Club, but as the ride starts in Crich I thought that I’d share it with you.
Whether you are an experienced rider, new to cycling or just looking for a nice family ride, this ride has something for everybody. If you are a relative novice, don’t be over ambitious, build up gradually. You can always stop at one of the many cafés on route and simply double back.
The actual ride measures 48.3 miles (but don’t tell any of my young riders), and takes in most of Derbyshire County Council’s White Peak Loop cycle path. This means that over 80% is off road – but don’t think that you need a mountain bike. In the main, these are well-maintained cycle paths and any type of bike will be fine.
From Crich Market Place, take Sandy Lane down to Whatstandwell and join the towpath along the canal. Bikes only have a concessionary right of way on the canal side, so please give priority to walkers. Ideally use a bell to notify other users, but failing that a polite and clear ‘Excuse me’ and ‘Thank you’ usually does the trick.
If this is your first time out, the café at Cromford Wharf might be enough; after all you have always got the climb back up to Crich to negotiate. But if you are pushing on, please be careful on the next stretch as you need to negotiate the A6 through Matlock Bath, to the main traffic lights in Matlock. At these lights it is best to get off your bike and cross the road on foot, because you want to take a sneaky path down to the side of the river which is accessed at the NW corner of the road bridge. Once on the river bank you set off north along the side of the Peak Rail line. Another popular stop is at the Whitworth Terrace Café in Whitworth Park.
Eventually you will come to the end of the trail in Rowsley. Cross the A6 and take Church Lane up the left-hand side of The Peacock hotel. As the asphalt runs out, the track can be quite rough, so when combined with the gradient you might prefer to get off and walk. Unfortunately, until the Haddon Hall Estate allows the route to go through its tunnels we are stuck with this climb. Once you reach the top, it’s a nice sweeping descent to Coombs Road. There are a number of gates on the descent, so please make sure that you leave them as you find them and watch out for the disused railway bridge that you pass under. Take an immediate right and climb up on to the old railway line. You are now on the Monsal Trail, one of the most beautiful cycle routes in the country.
In the summer, thousands of people travel from all over the country, and Europe, to participate in the vintage cycling festival, Eroica. The main purpose of which is to ride, predominantly, the route that I’ve described. How fortunate we are, that all we have to do is pump up our tyres and head off straight from our front doors. I hope that some of you take on this challenge, or at least a part of it.
Take a break at Hassop Station Café, you’ve earned it, and then enjoy the vistas and tunnels as you head to Millers Dale. Here you will find another café and the start of the one big climb of the ride. Leave the trail at the station, drop down the steep descent to the valley bottom and take a right at the T-junction. Start the steady climb and pace your effort. Soon you will pass a cave on your left, and you need to take the next left which will lead you to the A6, just above the Taddington bypass. Please be careful; take a left and then an immediate right on School Lane, followed by another right on Slipperlow Lane. It’s the last push now, another 100m and you will have made it to the top.
Well done, you’re up and you can see for miles. You now know that there are no more hills until Whatstandwell! Keep right at the next junction along Moor Lane and then go straight across on to the dirt track. Eventually you will come to the A515; go straight across and take the path behind the fence which will lead you to the northern end of the High Peak Trail. The next stop is the café at Parsley Hay, and then just take in the beautiful views as you head back towards Middleton Top. Please take note of the advice with regards to the two incline descents from Middleton Top and Blackrocks before rejoining your route at High Peak Junction. From there it’s just a question of calling a friend or tackling the final climb up into Crich.