I hope you enjoy this self-guided ride route, which takes in Bakewell, Hartington and Cromford and is mainly within the White Peak – and if you fancy a crack at it for £3.00 you can download it here.
Now you won’t find this ride easy, with 63 miles and over 5,000ft of climbing, but the scenery and the quiet, narrow roads make for an amazing experience. I rode it yesterday on what was a very hot day with gloroius blue skies.
Chesterfield to Bakewell
The starting point is JE James Cycles, Progress House, Brimington Road North, Chesterfield, S41 9AP and is beside the Whttington Moor roundabout on the A61. There is plenty of free public parking on the little, quiet cul-de-sac outside the cycle shop. Leaving via the underpass the route takes you under the A61 roundabout and onto the Dunston Road, turning left shortly afterwards to pass through Newbold, an area of Chesterfield.
Within 2 0r 3 miles you’ll be in the countryside and passing through the first village, Barlow, and commencing your first climb of the day, parts of which will under a cool, leafy canopy of leaves – a real pleasure if it happens to be a hot day like it was yesterday.
Which ever way you leave Chesterfield to ride in the Peak (don’t let the locals hear you say Peaks) you are going to have a significant climb ahead of you. For this route it will be Wilkin Hill and Grange Lane. This is a climb of approx. 2 miles to the summit, which will put you on the main undulating Cutthorpe/Baslow road and eventually a beautiful descent of 3.7 miles into the picturesque town of Baslow.
Heading towards Chatsworth Park estate you’ll make a right turn off the main road onto a narrow country lane that takes you up and on through Pilsley. Note one of the many “Devonshire Arms” pubs on a sharpish left-hand bend before passing the village green and primary school on your right. You’ve now reached the summit of one of the many short, sharp climbs that are going to drain your legs during the course of this ride. Incidently, any climb less than 1 mile is considered short in the Peak District.
Once you join the A619 you’ll be descending into Bakewell and over the River Derwent.
Bakewell to Hartington
The Peak District is all about hills, so no surprise that you will be climbing again to get out of Bakewell, heading south west towards Hartington. There aren’t any settlements of any size between these two places so enjoy the countryside. Yeld Road will take you out of Bakewell and then you’re climbing steadily for 6 miles with one or two exceptions like the dip and rise into and out of Lathkill Dale. Watch out for the hairpin on the descent and the narrow bridge over the river, as you’ll find in summer there are a lot of walkers about.
Once you reach the other end of Long Rake there’ll be a quick left, left, right and you’ll pass Parsley Hay bike hire on your right just before an old railway bridge which now carries the Tissington Trail. Between Parsley Hay and Hartington is one of my favourite sections of this ride as you carry on through a valley with it’s trademark sheep trails that over the years have created narrow platforms on either side of the valley. The road slopes down very slightly between the sides of the grassy valley and it feels like you’re in another world.
Popping out the other end brings you to a road that takes you into Hartington and you’ve now covered 25 miles. Once the lockdown rules allow, Beresford Tea Rooms has decent coffee and cake – the coffee cake is to die for. But if beans on toast is your thing they do that as well. If you do make a coffee stop here, then you’ll need to back track and take the first right to get back on course.
Hartington to Cromford
Now you’re climbing a reasonably steep hill (11%) out of the village, but not for too long. You’ll pass Hartington Hall on your left, a 17th century manor house, now a youth hostel. Leaving Hartington behind it’s back to the open countryside as you roll on towards Biggin. Enjoy the undulating landscape and trademark dry stone walls of the Peak, which encase you, womb-like, with a few lefts and rights before your downward approach into Parwich at the 30 mile marker.
Parwich is another picturesque village with its own Hall, church and country pub. As those pedals keep on turning through the countryside you come to a junction with a bigger road, turn left and begin your climb of Longcliffe, hardly noticeable at first but slowly and surely ramping up, not too steep so you can maintain a steady rhythm as you’re in for the long haul to the top of Via Gellia
I would usually put the hammer down descending Via Gellia as it twists and turns gracefully through the rockface and woodlands all the way down to Cromford, but I was feeling quite tired – probably because I’ve not been putting the miles in during lockdown. Instead, I took it easy knowing the climb out of Cromford towards Crich was still to come.
Having descended Via Gellia into Cromford look to your left to what I can only describe as a huge pond, on the opposite bank of which is a well-known book shop, Scarthin Books, at number 6 in The Guardian’s list of “10 best bookshops in the world”. It also has a coffee shop, although it is closed during the lockdown.
Cromford to Chesterfield
There’s a set of traffic lights in Cromford at the junction with the A6 so with a quick right and left you’re heading towards Lea Bridge, over the bridge crossing the River Derwent (again) and soon after you pass Cromford Mill (of industrial revolution fame) where there’s a delightful canal-side cafe with a mouth-watering assortment of coffee, cake and other goodies.
Continuing on Lea Road, as at the time of writing this article it has “Road Closed” signs up because of a landslide that has taken half the road away, but bikes and pedestrians can get through with no problem.
When you reach the turning for Lea Bridge carry straight on along Mill Lane and up the climb towards Crich, but at Holloway you’ll turn left up The Hollow. If you thought you were on a hard climb before The Hollow steps it up a level or two for you. Enjoy! On the other hand, you could carry on a little further and on the left you’ll find a cafe called Fuel. This is a cafe most Fridays you’ll find me and my cycling buddies frequenting. And whilst we’re no cycling celebrity attractions a certain Brailsford or Kenway have been known to stop by.
Anyway, to continue, grit your teeth and make your way up The Hollow and just being thankful you’re not descending with melting rims or over-heating discs. After this there are no real hills to contend with as you’re getting to what are called “The Tops” where there is nothing more than a gently undulating landscape.
Once over the A632 Matlock/chesterfield road you’re onto Bottom Moor and by the time you reach Upper Moor you’ve hit the 50 mile marker. Continuing north-west you’ll arrive at a junction where three roads meet. It’s a weird junction layout, but all I can say is take the second left – but I’m sure the .gpx file will guide you through the junction. And now you’re on the last leg. You’re on Beeley Moor, but just as you get near the top of Hell Bank you turn right, go up another rise, then swoop down to what Strava calls the Beeley Chicane; this is an S bend over a stone bridge and a short, sharp kick up to Syda Lane. Just don’t overcook the chicane!
Continue across the tops and eventually you get to Far Lane. Turn right and swoop down the 2 mile descent into Barlow. Remember that first village you came to after leaving Chesterfield? Once you get back to Cutthorpe, turn left at the staggered crossroads and the road will take you back to JE James Cycles.
Congratulations, you’ve done it! Now do it for real – and you can start by downloading the .gpx route file.