Five all-weather routes in the Peak
Five all-weather routes in the Peak District that you can have a good ride on all year round no matter what the weather decides to do.
Why avoid the wet stuff? Trail advocacy group Peak District MTB explain: “Like much of the United Kingdom, the Peak District can take a real beating from the weather in winter, and some trails suffer more than others.”
So to help preserve those “hammered” trails, we asked Peak District mile muncher Ian Fitzpatrick to suggest some routes that can be ridden in all weathers: maximising fun while minimising trashed drive-trains and trails.
The routes are described in increasing order of difficulty.
1. Derwent Valley circuit
Distance: 17km (10.3 miles)
A lap of Derwent and Howden reservoirs.
Okay so it’s ‘just’ a lake-side double-track, but it takes you to some out the way places with great views. It a perfect switch your brain off and turn the pedals type of ride and a good intro ride for newbies and kids as it has zero technical sections. All this route has a good surface and even on the most rainy days there will be no mud, puddles yes but nothing sloppy.
Can be ridden either way round, the west side is mostly tarmac the east side is gravel. There is a climb on the way out whichever way round you choose to ride it. I’ll describe it anti clockwise
From Fairholmes visitor centre head on the closed (to traffic) road that goes under Derwent dam, up a short steady climb and then hang a sharp left. This is pretty much the last directions you’ll need to remember. Keep the water on your left and you’ll not go far wrong.
From the turn a short, steady climb bring you level with the dam wall, head north along the double track until another short climb bring you to Howden dam wall. Continue in a northerly direction until you reach the end of the reservoir and the river Derwent. After a short downhill look out for a sharp left that will take you over Slippery Stones Bridge. This bridge used to be in the now underwater Derwent village and was moved and rebuilt when the reservoir was built in 1912.
After the bridge head left on to the main track which meets the tarmac at King Tree. Follow this south to return to Fairholmes. You’ll pass the small ‘dambusters’ museum situated in one of the gothic towers on Derwent dam wall, usually only open at weekends it’s full of WW2 memorabilia and worth a look if open.
Facilities: Fairholmes has a snack kiosk open every day but Christmas Day. Bike hire and some spares are available too. Excellent community run pub and cafe at the Anglers Rest nearby at Bamford.
2. Ladybower circuit
Distance: 22km (13.2 miles)
This is more challenging with more climbing and some technical descending. Mostly hard surfaces, although you’ll encounter some short muddy sections and some greasy rock too.
From Fairholmes Visitor Centre take the closed (to traffic) road under Derwent dam and follow it south along the reservoir. Cross the busy A57 Snake pass and turn left onto the shared use bike path. Follow this for a couple of kilometers until a right turn allows you to cross Ladybower dam wall, note the signs asking riders to walk across here.
If it’s been wet recently and Ladybower is full you may see the plugholes (or Bellmouth overflows as they are actually called) in action. I find it a scary sight watching all that water cascading down 80 foot wide holes.
Follow the double track along the southern side of Ladybower until it narrows and becomes the river Ashop. Just before the double track swings right over a bridge take a left onto a steepening singletrack climb, keep left after the gate and continue up the rocky technicalities of ‘The Beast’, some pushing will more than likely be needed here, but at least the height is gained quickly.
Heading out of the trees the trail becomes ridable once more and leads to a four-way junction at Hope Cross. Pause to admire the view of Edale valley and Lose hill, before a right turn and another short climb brings you to the long rocky descent down to Rowley Bridge, the level section before the descent will often be wet, but drainage is greatly improved after recent maintenance days organised by Peak District MTB.
Be sure to look out for the sharp right that takes you onto a short section of tarmac and over the bridge itself. A short and surprisingly sharp climb brings you to a cross-roads at the A57 snake pass, cross this busy road with care and settle in for a long climb up through Rowlee farm and on towards Lockerbrook Farm Outdoor centre.
Keep straight on up a final rocky climb bring you to the start of a long descent back to Derwent Valley just by the dam wall. Hang a right on the tarmac to return to Fairholmes.
3. Houndkirk and Stanage circuit
Distance: 27km (16 miles)
This route takes you to some classic viewpoints while avoiding too much mud. Houndkirk, Stanage and Redmires are all there. The crowdfunded Lady Canning’s route can be added in if you fancy something with a few more turns than a typical Peak District ride!
Start from the small layby close to the excellent bike friendly Norfolk Arms at Ringinglow. Head up the main road and turn immediately left onto Sheephill Road, heading right on the the start of Houndkirk Road at the bend 250m from the junction.
The woods to your right are home to the fun Lady Cannings trail, the first in the UK to be Crowd Funded by local riders. At the time of writing this remains closed due to tree felling, needed to build another trail, signs and tape will indicate if the closure remains in place. It should go without saying to follow these instructions.
Keep on the main track gaining height steadily out of the small parking area, Despite some resurfacing work in recent years Houndkirk Road is still a good ride, nothing too techy but it’s high up and has wide ranging views in all directions. Keep straight on until you’ll need to bear right onto the main A625 road, head downhill towards and past the Fox House Inn, around the sharp righthander and after a few hundred meters, just before the bridge, turn right to a small car park that marks the start of the Green Drive through Burbage Valley.
This is recently upgraded from being a footpath, so although you are allowed to ride it extra caution and politeness work wonders here as there is still the occasional person who is not expecting to see bikes.
After a steeper start it’s a constant steady climb up the valley. Turn left on the road when you run out of valley, past the carpark and up a short climb after the bend. Keep on this road until it starts to head downhill after Higgar Tor and during a long sweeping left hander keep a look out for a right turn. It’s currently not signposted and is easy to miss.
Follow this grassy track down, with a short muddy and rutted section after the gate then keep left down the hill past the ruined and crumbling farm house on the right. A short climb to gain the road and a right turn will see a steady angled climb back to the Popular End of Stanage.
Head left on the road under the edge and take the right turn by the corner of the woods to continue past the Plantation car park. There is excellent coffee and pizza available here during the summer months, but you’ll need to be self-sufficient at this time of year!
Continue under the edge until the road swings sharply left, turn right here onto the Stanage Causeway, settle in for a long pedal here as you gain a 100m meters of elevation by the time you get to the Pole. Keep straight on past Redmires Plantation, where another crowd funded trail is to be built soon. Bear left onto tarmac and round the reservoirs after a long descent and a short climb turn right onto Soughley Lane follow this until another right turn onto Roper Hill and a short road climb that always seems tougher than it should to me! Follow this road back to Ringinglow Village.
4. Houndkirk and Stanage Figure of Eight Variant
Distance: 30km (18 miles)
A longer, tougher route with more climbing and added tech. Follow the above ‘Houndkirk and Stanage circuit’ route until the top of Burbage Valley.
Turn right here back towards Ringinglow, passing the still closed Lady Cannings, to turn left in the village, pass the llama farm and cross the road bridge, take the first right after this, heading downhill with a great view over most of Sheffield at the tight left hand bend keep straight onto the gravelly Byway follow this round several loose, tight bends (easy now) and down a steep section before the angle eases but the roughness increases.
Take the first tarmac left turn, signposted as a cycle route to the Peak, and follow these blue signs back up hill to gain Fulwood Lane, turn right here and follow tarmac, via two left turns at T-junctions until it ends at Redmires Reservoirs, bear right here and climb to the Pole, after a couple of hundred meters the main track swings right, hang a left onto singletrack which with some less than obvious route finding will take you to a fantastically technical rocky single track descent down through the Plantation bouldering area.
Note that this is a popular place to be with many walkers and climbers so easy does it. In fact rainy midweek days are advised to get a good clear run.
Once out of the woods head down to the road and go left, turn left at the next two T-junctions to gain the highpoint on the road. Keep left at the next junction too and head past the top of Burbage Valley, it’s just a couple of kilometers back to Ringinglow from here.
Facilities: Norfolk Arms Pub at start and finish and the Fox House Inn. Or you can divert (+1km) to The Sportsman Inn at Lodgemoor for excellent Sunday dinner!
5. Vertebrate Graphics Winter Route
Distance: 21km (13 miles)
A couple of years ago now the good guidebook-writing folks at Vertebrate Graphics produced an illustrated guide to this route. It’s a classic Dark Peak outing, and is good at any time of year. It just happens to take in a lot of hard, well draining trails making it perfect for a wet winter outing.
From Edale turn right onto the main valley road towards Barber Booth, follow this uphill. The route originally turned right to take in the challenging climb of Chapel Gate and descent of Rushup. However despite being passable on a bike or on foot these are currently marked as closed. So to avoid this section keep climbing on the road until Mam Nick is gained, it’s a long and relentless slog so settle in for the duration!
Descend and turn right continue for 3km until turning right onto the start of Roych Clough, follow this engaging track past a variety of natural and manmade trail features until a right turn onto a bridleway is signposted. This is just before a tight left hander after a long straight smooth section so keep your eyes open.
Follow this bridleway along then down a steep and rocky section before the end of the descent brings a tight right hand turn onto a farm track. Settle in for another long climb here, on a good surface gradually getting looser and rougher as you gain height and fatigue levels increase. A no-dab ascent of this climb is a good effort, a bit of pushing will be in order for most here.
It’s worth it though, once the top is gained there is the descent of Jacob’s Ladder to look forwards to, follow this classic descent down solid rocky surface past sride sheffield
everal drops until a right turn through a gate brings you to a looser section that spits you out by a stone bridge. Cross this and follow the gently downhill double track to Barber Booth and the road back to Edale.
Facilities: Penny Pot cafe at Edale Station. The Nags Head for sausage and mash with a pint of their own beer would be my recommendation. Or you can divert (+1km) to the excellent No Car Cafe at Rushup Hall.
Peak District trail advocacy
They’ve helped improve access, open discussions and both run regular trail maintenance days. Both are keen to encourage sustainable, responsible riding and their Facebook groups are a great way to keep up to speed with trail conditions and their work in general.
For twitter users, Keeper of the Peak is a great resource based on riders tweeting trail conditions in the Peak District
Now, just get out and ride!