Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Perfection of the Peak District

The outstanding day had yesterday was in danger of never being scribed.  It was just one of those rides that was so perfect, with so many things to remember, it's nearly impossible to get started. Wood for the trees and all that. 

I have a great friend Mark to thank for it all, for he saw immediately that I would be in need of an adventure as soon as possible after last weekend.  "Want to meet up for a non-pressure ride, perhaps the Peak?" to which I responded with a GIANT THUMBS UP. Some proper exploration, in a section of the District I've never ridden, with big climbs, big vistas, and my favourite kind of hang-on-and-hope descending.  Just what the doctor ordered.  

I will refrain from a detailed ride report. The mapped loop can be found here, although we did add a few alternatives, starting with a visit to the Riley Graves on the way out of Eyam (pronouced eem, apparently).  Very moving to consider the plague hit the village in 1666, and yet we still remember the heroic act of self-quarantine by the residents, 450 years later. 

Following the lane led us to a bridleway, running parallel to a dry stone wall and covered in boulders. It was an instant reminder of why I fell in love with mountain biking. I miss the big adventures and the natural descents, the constant change in terrain and that feeling of success when you arrive at the bottom still upright. To me, this is mountain biking.  Despite years of downhill, trail centres, riding our local stuff, my heart still lies on rocky tracks.

This beautiful and agile lady was waiting at the bottom of the trail. Three legs was no obstacle to the exitement of being out and it was a pleasure to talk with the kind hearted man who had given her a home from the shelter.

We had a number of long steady climbs through the day. The kind you can spin and chat,  just enjoying the scenery. And the winter sunshine!  Blue skies have been such a rarity this winter, it was bliss to see them again.

The company was fabulous, Mark is stronger on climbs than I, and I a little quicker on the descents, but riding together works well, as we both seem to appreciate the same fine detail in life and are happy to stop and stare.

The descents were great fun, with so much variety, from grassy sections, rocks, roots, steep gradients, shallow rolling sections and a ford. I only noticed the little bridge adjacent to this when I turned round to grab a photo of Mark getting his feet wet. Sorry!

I was glad when Mark suggesting stopping on this climb to look at the view, it was a toughie.

The golf course descent was everything promised, and more, with techy root sections, mud, ruts and some sneaky jumpy off-shoots.  We got seperated here, so I pushed back up to check everything was OK, only to find out we had just crossed paths somewhere and Mark was already at the bottom. Ah well, another run down that was well worth the push up.

Watching shafts of sunlight chase over the distant hills.

Random metalwork in a lichen covered rock, the sky blackening with a hailstorm that we watched 10 minutes later in the warmth and friendliness of the Eyam Tea Rooms. We sat for 2 hours, chatting and reliving the ride, before it was finally time for the long journey home.