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Trails & Tribulations.

Always smiling! Derbyshires Peak District National Park. Ladybower Reservoir in the backdrop.
Today (Thursday) we set out for a Dark Peak epic!

However as often happens it didn’t turn out to be quite the epic we had planned (no change there then! :D).
Mitch and I set out about 08.20am to hopefully meet up with Mark Franklin in Edale; the beating heart of Dark Peak mountain biking. The Captain (Mark Bishton) couldn’t make it today which was a shame because whenever The Captain comes out it means that I’m not the slowest rider! En-route Mark Franklin informed us that his van wouldn’t start and he wouldn’t be coming either. Just me and the wing-man today then (or am I his wing-man? Probably!).
The forty mile drive to Edale always flies by when you have the beautiful Derbyshire countryside for company and Mitch and I arrived in good time. It was unexpectedly windy when we opened the car doors and not a warm wind either. We shivered and grumbled as we got changed and prepared the bikes. It was a ‘jackets on’ job for the first few miles until we warmed up. Once mounted we retraced our steps along Edale road towards Nether Booth before climbing steadily up the bridleway that traverses Nether Moor, through Jaggers Clough and up on to ridgeline at Hope Cross. I stopped briefly to take a couple of photographs of the stunning views all around us; it is a truly beautiful place and I never tire of it.

The view from Nether Moor towards Win Hill on the left and Lose hill on the right.
From this point the saddles are dropped low, out of harms way, and its full throttle towards The Beast; one of the Peaks more notable, technical, descents. Once you enter the wood the trail becomes very rocky and loose with lots of steps including a few that bite if you get it wrong. We rode it with a bit more caution today due to the very wet conditions and enjoyed slipping & sliding our way to the bottom. With smiles all round we traversed the bottom of the wood and crossed Haggwater Bridge to a short and very steep climb up the lower part of Hagg Side to Snake Road. It’s a tough little climb, especially on a 140mm trail bike and I had my bum pushed right back into the saddle and my head kissing the handlebars to get to the top.
Turning left at the top we had an easy spin down the road and then headed up through Rowlee Farm on the surfaced track before continuing up to the ‘crossroads’, of sorts, at Woodstock Coppice at the top of Hagg Side. Bearing north took us up and over Lockerbrook Heights to a fast, muddy, and rocky descent down to the west arm of Upper Derwent Reservoir, another good descent that one. At the bottom of the trail Mitch and I stood chatting briefly when we heard a hissing, I knew that sound well and we both laughed and groaned as my rear tyre deflated in about 3 seconds flat! Snake bite! (Not literally of course, snakes don’t often attack tyres. A snake bite is the common term used to describe a double pinch flat where the tyre has trapped between the wheel rim and a rock and causes the inner tube to split). We whipped off the wheel and replaced the inner tube with the spare one from my pack and then did the easy spin on the surfaced road down to the Fairholmes Visitor Centre at Ladybower Reservoir. On the way down we admired the dams in the beautiful sunshine and I took a couple of photographs on my iphone of the impressive and historical Derwent Dam. The noise of the water flowing over the spillway gives it a real atmosphere at this time of year.
Derwent Dam, Derbyshire.
We dropped down the stair set that leads to the bottom of the dam (technically I think it may be for the walkers but it’s too much fun not go down it on the bike) and pulled up at the welcoming visitor centre for a coffee and our now customary portion of lean protein (bacon sandwich). Surprisingly there was no sign of the 10 million ducks that normally like to beg us for titbits; must’ve been on holiday for the winter.
Coffee and Lean Protein, just what the doctor ordered! 🙂
After a brief rest (and a couple of slices of Soreen Malt Loaf to go with the sandwich) we were starting to get cold so we whipped out of the car park and headed south down the road, remaining on the western bank of the reservoir, before joining a bridleway that climbs steadily back to the top of Hagg Side. Once again we paused and enjoyed the views all around us before traversing the wet and rutted path back to Woodstock Coppice and almost completing our circuit of Hagg Side. Almost. The final descent down through Hagg Farm is a corker! The top half swoops down through several curves all of which have natural berms which allow the confident rider to really hammer through them right on the ragged edge. Mitch graciously set off first and I gave him a few seconds lead so that he could open the gate about half down to let me flow on uninterrupted into the lower section that is steep, rocky, loose, and fast. Yeehaw! With barely twenty metres or so left I felt my rear end kick out slightly and I knew immediately what was going to happen. I felt the back end of bike start to fishtail a little and I pulled hard on the brakes. Bloody snakes! Another double pinch flat had Mitch groaning at me again. Wheel off, puncture kit out, and 10 minutes sat repairing punctures was my reward for daring to take the Peak district for granted. It was worth it though.
 Mitch runs on a tubeless set-up which means he rarely suffers any punctures and is constantly ‘encouraging’ me to do the same. But I’m philosophical and I accept punctures with good grace; and besides they are all part of the fun! A day out in The Peaks wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have a few gremlins to talk and laugh about on the way home.
Mobile once again we crossed the Snake Road and whizzed down the earlier punishing little climb and back over Haggwater Bridge. We headed up the lower part of The Beast and then took a left turn down the side of the west arm of Ladybower and along the track before forking left up another long and sustained climb to Wooler Knoll.
Derbyshire is ugly! Looking towards The Vale of Edale from Wooler Knoll.
Initially we had planned to bear right along the ridge and descend Hope Bank via the Roman road to Townhead Bridge at Hope but Mitch pulled another one out of the bag! Thinking he remembered a singletrack trail straight on ahead, that turned and ran parallel with the Roman road, we decided to go with his intuition; and I was glad we did. Definitely a new trail for me; and definitely one I will be going down again soon.
Shorter than our original plan but worth every metre; we railed, hopped and skidded our way down before linking up with Roman road near the bottom.
For every punishing climb in the Peaks there is almost always the reward of fantastic, gnarly, singletrack descent and I really enjoyed this one; naturally bench cut into the hillside with a steep bank dropping away to the right made it slightly scary and the prospect of landing on your butt on the Roman road below if you made a mess of it (and probably a free helicopter ride to the hospital); ace!
We were now running out of time fast and we decided to track back along the Edale road to the car rather than adding on one more hill which was a shame; but who’s complaining? We’d had another great ride, spent the day admiring fantastic views and had eaten bacon sandwiches for lunch!
The most amazing thing about the whole day? We had been in one of Britain’s most popular national parks and had only seen a handful of hardy hikers all day; and not a single other mountain biker on the trails! Get out and ride!
In the next installment of Trails & Tribulations I am going to cover a few of our recent rides around local trails; look out for it soon.
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More images below
Wing-man Mitch Bryan with the sort of face only a mother could love!

Water on the spillway at the magnificent Derwent Dam, Derbyshire.
Ladybower Reservoir from Nether moor. Peak District National Park; Derbyshire.

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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