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HOMESCAPES: PEAK DISTRICT

A S36O bikepacking trip through our local Peak District National Park playground in search of the finest rocky roads, Bakewell Puddings and Derbyshire Oatcakes…

One lonely locked-down cloud hung over David, Duncan and I as we peered into the dark peaty waters from the Ladybower Dam wall – the start point for our S36O bikepack. We’d been treated to a crisp autumnal morning. Trout fisherfolk readied their jettied boats, and bluebird skies beckoned over the Hope Valley, beyond Win Hill, where we were soon headed. A good morning, sure, but I was more than aware of the Peak’s Rain Shadow and westerly weather flows – we were all prepped for waterproof wanderings at some point.

At a modest 1,437 km², the United Kingdom’s first designated National Park makes a real bikepacking playground for a couple of days – a good blend of mild and wild, tarmac and gravel, moorland and grassland, forest and farm – with established routes like the Pennine Bridleway, Peak200 and Great North Trail tracking through. We’d, however, plotted a 122-kilometre overnight route-line based on discovering new sections of track and trail, and breakfasting at two of our favourite local cafe pitstops: Cafe Adventure in Hope and The Old Smithy in Monyash – marker buoys in the sea of uplands.

As comfortable as it normally feels riding close-to-home, local takes on a new level of appreciation and respect when the exposure and overnight aspects of a bikepacking trip are introduced. We might as well have been riding bikes in the Atlas Mountains; pack-lists were pretty much the same. Bivvy and cooking kit packed on the bikes, we set off along the gravel reservoir shore tracks, past sunken Lost Valley villages, into the Derwent dawn…

Aside from late summer’s purple heather swathes season, late October in the Peak is a visual delight. The mix of moorland, grassland, deciduous and coniferous forests knit oranges, burnt umbers and greens across our hills, patchworked by the weaving web of dry-stone walls and punctured by pockets of vivid yellow gorse. Beyond the honeypot site of Fairholmes, at the foot of the Dambuster Dam, we took familiar trails past Lockerbrook Outdoor Centre … and The Beast – a slabby, chunky, canopied bridleway rising up to Hope Cross. The Beast is a boneshaker if you’ve ever seen one and a definite hike-a-bike for us on our loaded rigid 29er bikes – a hike that enabled us to link valleys and gain special skyline views over Edale, The Great Ridge and Mam Tor nonetheless. From the giddy heights of Hope Cross, breakfast was in sight at the foot of a glorious rough-stuff Roman-road descent to Hope – one of the Peak’s bike hubs. Home to resupply stores like the Deli, bike shops like 18Bikes, pubs, curry houses, farm shops, and ace cafes like Cafe Adventure

Rachel and Billy – the enthusiastic mountain-biking cafe custodians – greeted us from the Bothy space with coffees and brekky sarnies. From a morning of rocky trails, to their delicious home-baked rocky roads. Ideal. They’ve been cooking up treats and serving drinks as Cafe Adventure, on the bustling Edale Road junction, since June 2015 and have quickly established themselves as a hub for local mountain bikers and roadies alike – they each organise popular social rides from the cafe and the tasty, hearty mountain hut inspired grub, space, and bike storage also helps. After meeting in Chatsworth’s kitchens, the couple spent a while looking for the right place to open their own space, from Tideswell to Tignes, before settling on their current setup – knowing Hope was a great starting point for people on mountain bike rides and hikes, or passing through on their road and gravel bikes. After a good feed and catchup, we popped along the high-street to buy the ingredients for our dinner that night: Derbyshire Mac & Cheese, the idea being to use local Hartington Cheese and Hendersons Relish to cook up a storm further south somewhere near Chrome Hill.

Our next Peak landmark soon stood in our wake: the infamous Mam Nick climb which meanders up to the most pronounced col we have, through Mam’s Moguls and opportunistic Magic Mushroom pickers. From the top, a sharp right and we were again away from the mid-week crowds quicker than you can say “another gate ahead”. We shared the glorious sun and shadow drenched Rushop Edge tracks with Mountain Bike getaway groups and Edale Skyline runners, before crossing the stark border from Dark Peak moorlands to White Peak grass and farmlands. Browns to greens; Gritstone to Limestone. With uninterrupted 360-degree views, riding Rushop is always a gentle reminder to look behind when bikepacking. Not for too long on those tightly rutted tracks, mind…

The Pennine Bridleway and NCN68 provided most of our route south, and it wasn’t long after crossing Monsal Trail’s deep limestone gorge that bluebird skies turned greyhammer. Peak fly-fishing terrain? It sure was wet enough for waders. We continued along on slippy limestone tracks – Chee Dale and High Peak Trail – with no-one about to keep us company. Even farmers were inside; enough muck has been spread for a day like that. Rivers washed down roadsides as we reached the stunning slither ‘Mini Winnats’ tarmac roads and technical tracks around Chrome Hill. Nevermind cooking up a storm, we’d had one cooked up for us; our plans for Derbyshire Mac & Cheese and #teaoutside were quashed by the relentless rain. Once our 15KM washout loop of this limestone reef knoll landscape, in this quiet south-west corner of the Peak, was complete we’d head straight to Monyash and seek somewhere with a roof … and woodburner. Compared to this morning, a tale of two countrysides.

The warming lights of the Bulls Head pub across the village green were more than a welcome sight. Sodden. Shivering grins behind face-masks. “Three massive mugs of tea first, please barman”…

Bakewell Puddings, Hartington Cheese, and Derbyshire Oatcakes: three of the Peak’s famous foodie items, and that next morning we so happened to find ourselves outside the finest filled-oatcake breakfast establishment in the land – The Old Smithy – chatting to owner, Dumpy, with steaming-hot brews in hand. Ed Driscoll opened the cafe just off the village green on Good Friday 1992 in a former blacksmiths shop, keen to cater for the increasing number of outdoor enthusiasts visiting the Peak District. Since, the hearty food and ‘tea by the pint’ outlet has become an institution for visitors to the area, now run by one of Ed’s sons’ David ‘Dumpy’, and Rose. Everybody and anybody is welcome – even us – still drying out from the previous evening with half of the Peak’s peat, cow shit, and limestone on our bikes, bags, clothes … and likely faces. A hub for motorcyclists and cyclists alike, you’ll likely get chatting to someone about travelling by some sort of bike; there’s a great vibe whether sat outside or gathered around the original cosy stove. And, Dumpy sources all the produce locally. Stop by when you’re next in t̶o̶w̶n̶ the wilds of the White Peak. The full Oatcake experience set us up for the ride home proper.

From Monyash, close-ish to home but feeling far from it after a barn night away in cosy sleeping bags on rustling sleeping mats, it was time to ride back east and north via the epicentre of Bakewell, lordy lands of Chatsworth, Curbar’s Eastern Moors, and gritstone gridleways. First up were the grassy gorges of Hubbendale and Deepdale – a landscape of lead mines, cattle farms and dry-stone walling – whose cambered, slippy trails led us to Bakewellian breweries and bakehouses. Thornbridge Tap Room to pick up bottled beverages, before Ye Olde Pudding Shoppe for traditional Bakewell Pudding. Loaded up, we pedalled on through the picturesque estate village of Edensor, past popular wild-swim spots in the widened Derwent river, before sheltering under a golden tree – somewhat apt for our Derbyshire stately-home picnic overlooking Chatsworth House. The Devonshires looking out, jealous of our local-produce feast and brews no doubt…

Brooks England

SCAPE SEAT PACK

Brooks England's 8-10L waterproof seat bag / harness, designed for your bikepacking and gravel adventure-cycling trips...

£115.00
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Brooks England

SCAPE FRAME BAG

Brooks England's 3L waterproof frame bag, designed to fit standard-sized frames, for your bikepacking and gravel adventure-cycling trips...

£85.00
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Brooks England

SCAPE HANDLEBAR ROLL (BAG/HARNESS)

Brooks England's 10-12L waterproof handlebar roll bag / harness, designed for your bikepacking and gravel adventure-cycling trips...

£110.00
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Brooks England

SCAPE PANNIERS (20-26L)

Brooks England's 20-26L (small / front) waterproof panniers, designed for your bikepacking and gravel adventure-cycling trips...

£195.00
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Pannier

PANNIER BOTTLE

Our original Pannier Touring Bottle (650ml), for your cycling and bikepacking adventures...

£12.00
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Pannier, voile

VOILE x PANNIER STRAPS

Our Custom Voile x Pannier.cc Bikepacking Straps - Olive and Original Orange...

£9.50
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Thirty-one hours after setting off, and we were cruising along Curbar – one of our world famous gristone edges – as more storms gathered on the Hathersage horizon. A good time to finish up back in Bamford. Straight to the hose to wash the cow shit off everything – no really, everything – and unpack the last couple of days. Proof, again, that accessible adventure can be found by heading out locally on a loaded bikepacking bike – the familiar becomes unfamiliar; comfortable uncomfortable; knowns unknowns…

Where are your Homescapes? Share with us in the comments!

CREDITS

Bikepacking Bags
Brooks England ‘Scape’ Range

Photography
Duncan Philpott

Words & Illustrations
Stef Amato

Tourers
Dave Sear
Duncan Philpott
Stef Amato

Cafes
Adventure Cafe – Hope (Billy & Rachel)
The Old Smithy – Monyash (David ‘Dumpy’ & Rose)

Journey | NIDDERDALE, ENGLAND

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Bikefishing? Oh yes. We strap fishing rods, flies, and overnight kit to our gravel bikes for a bike-fishing journey along the River Nidd. Along the way, we meet up with Nidderdale AONB fly fisherman, Oscar, who takes us upstream fishing in the river and stillwater fishing at the local upland reservoir. Time to see what the bike fishing hype is all about...

by STEF AMATO & DUNCAN PHILPOTT
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Journey | PEAK DISTRICT, UK

REPORT // PEAKLAND RAMBLE 2020

Pannier Rambles are our series of weekend bikepacking experiences. The Peakland Ramble sees us leave the centre of Manchester at 9.00am on a Saturday and ride an ace mixed-terrain route through the heart of the Peak District National Park, before finishing up in Sheffield around 4.00pm on a Sunday. It's a goodun...!

by PANNIER
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Journey | KYRGYZSTAN

EXTRAORDINARY WORLDS // THE SILK ROAD MOUNTAIN RACE 2019

In the early hours of August 30th, Pannier.cc Pair - Stef & Dave - crossed the finish line of the 2019 Silk Road Mountain Race. Stef shares his experience of the extraordinary worlds of: Kyrgyzstan and Racing one of the toughest bikepacking events going...

by STEFAN AMATO & DAVID SEAR
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Pannier

PANNIER (DANGLE)MUG

Our original Pannier Enamel Camp Mug, for your cycling and bikepacking adventures...

£15.00
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Pannier, voile

VOILE x PANNIER STRAPS

Our Custom Voile x Pannier.cc Bikepacking Straps - Olive and Original Orange...

£9.50
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Pannier

PANNIER x RAPHA ’15’ TECH T-SHIRT

Our technical bikepacking t-shirt, made in collab with Rapha, to support exploration and adventure on and off the bike

£54.00
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