Travel Story: To the top and beyond | Peak District | United Kingdom
Heeeyho Readers! What happened after someone stole my bicycle in 2019?
Five months. Five months of racing the streets of London, fighting thugs, and challenging mind and body under any weather to recover what I had lost. What happened after that filthy bastard stole my bicycle must remain a secret for… say… keeping anonymity. I somehow gathered the resources to move on with life (thanks to loving friends and much work); I just needed a new bicycle. And a place to cycle before my UK visa expired.
Plans were flexible. I contacted the fellas at Alpkit (the best adventure equipment store in the UK) and said I’d show up. They told me to visit the headquarters in Nottingham. Perfect. I jumped right away on a bus to Birmingham to meet with @rimicane, who took me for a walk and offered a glorious burger later that day. I made my way up to Nottingham the morning after. Robin Hood wasn’t there to guide me through. Sigh. (Nottingham was Robin Hood's town in case you missed the joke.) Anyways. After trying two or three bikes, the fellas informed me of a waiting list for new kits.
“Look… I have all my belongings here. I’m in a ‘round Europe trip, my visa is expiring, and I’ve got to move,” I explained. Negotiations went on.
“We can sell you a demo bike for a discount if that suits you.”
“Deal.” They couldn’t believe how easy going I was.
“You’ve got to be the first to come in here and leave with a bike!”
The original plans aimed to complete the North Coast 500 in northern Scotland. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that train tickets skyrocketed close to departure dates—only if I’d bought it a month before. I went back to Nottingham from the HQ, slept in a cheap hostel, and back to HQ.
“So, where are you going?” the fella asked. Tom was his name, if I recall. A legend.
“No idea. Suggestions?”
“Well, you can try the Peak District.”
Peak District Nation Park
The Peak District is an upland area in England at the south end of the Pennines. Mostly in northern Derbyshire, it includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire, and South Yorkshire. It can be split into the Dark Peak, where most moorland is found and the geology gritstone, and the White Peak, a limestone area of valleys and gorges cutting through the limestone plateau.
The first day I cycled 60km before finding peace in a moorland. Knowing that the law does not allow wild camping, I made sure to leave no traces before leaving to Hope (the town). A quick descend later revealed that the town was just ‘round the corner. I met a local cyclist named Gruff on a quick stop at the local market. We teamed up. Off to the Hardhurst Farm Camping & Caravan Site we went. The chap at the farm is a legend; price is honest (eight quid a night). So, the fun begins.
The Great Ridge
The Great Ridge is a 6 ½ mile walk starting in Castleton and walking through some of the most admired and stunning parts of the Peak District. Known to be one of the best ridge walks in the country, this Peak District walk gives stunning views over Edale, Hope Valley, and even the edge of Kinder Scout.
I knew nothing of this. I'd only heard about “one of the best places to mountain bike.” At least the names were inspiring. I lost no time and set sight to Castleton, where I’d start the trail up the famous Man Tor. The 517-meter high peak soon taught me why it’s named Man Tor (Mother Hill). Steep ascend, stone staircases, great views.
A sour-faced chap approached. “You can’t cycle here, it’s for walking,” he spat.
“Is it? Well, there’s no sign.”
Then this 80-something-year-old Brit told me it was allowed. "Do not pay attention to these moronic fellas," he said. I laughed. The old man used to run the length of the great ridge back in his days.
From the Man Tor, I raced down the Hollins Cross bound to the Lose Hill and Edale. The tires gripped well on the old stone Roman road. Descends are always easy; crossing gates added some fun. However, when it came to climbing. Ah! The climbing. Thank God I opted for a quality bicycle with enough low gears. I chickened out the last bit of the Lose Hill, where a steep climb covered in pointy rocks turned cycling into an impossible task.
At first, I thought the name Lose Hill came from the loose terrain. I couldn’t be more wrong, though the path covered in rocks did challenge the brakes. In fact, some say the name derives from the Old English hlose, meaning pigsties, or that it may be a corruption of ‘loose’, as in ‘free land’. Whatever that means, the path on the other side was indeed loose. The best option was to release the brakes and hope that a hiker didn't step in the way. Other trails derived from the Great Ridge, but I only stopped to photograph. However, later, months later, I discovered that I had lost the knack for handling the camera. Somehow, I had messed up the settings and never cared to check, resulting in not-so-good shots.
Whoever chose the name The Great Ridge, surely had enough reasons to use great as adjective. In every aspect the trails impressed me: the views, challenges and the mutual respect between hikers (just not the fella at the beginning) and bikers. Who the hell said Brits aren't nice people?
I went back to camp where I cooked mushrooms with pasta and veggies. After a well-deserved rest I headed straight to those trails again, to complete the circuit in reverse. The other day I planned to explore another trail named Bamford Edge, where a fun downhill led to the Lady Bower Reservoir.
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Disclaimer: The author of this post is a convict broke backpacker, who has travelled more than 10.000 km hitchhiking and more than 5.000 km cycling. Following him may cause severe problems of wanderlust and inquietud. You've been warned.