Incredible Gravel Riding in the Hope Valley
I grew up in the wonderful Hope Valley, a stunningly gorgeous part of the Peak District National Park that lies just beyond the reaches of Sheffield. Accessible, beautiful and an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, the area is home to world famous climbing routes, is frequently named one of the best areas for mountain biking and a fell runner’s, road cyclist’s and hiker’s dream.
Whenever I go now, I can’t help but fall in love with the place just that little bit more. Trips are always fab as we get to spend time with my parents doing lovely things, such as strolling to the Grindleford Station cafe for giant chip butties, watching birds at the aptly named Bird Cafe on Hathersage road, swimming at the outdoor pool, scrambling up Stanage Edge and feeding ducks at Fairholmes. It’s a real treat to be there!
Whenever I visit, I have to think long and hard about which bike to take, so glorious is the riding on every kind of steed. Most recently, I plumped for the Specialized Diverge expert as I fancied checking out some of the gravel routes and bridleways in the Peak District, doing a little exploring and seeing whether Derbyshire really does offer some of the best gravel riding in the UK.
I wasn’t disappointed, in fact my experiences there, throughout one of the worst weeks when it came to weather, were nothing but positive and will remain firmly imprinted on my mind for long to come. Having neglected to pack either a power meter, bike computer or turbo trainer, I rode wherever my nose took me, going fast and pushing myself when I wanted to, taking time to appreciate the scenery when I didn’t. It was a true pleasure to just focus on enjoyment rather than metrics of any kind, my only constraints being my reluctance to leave my daughter for much over two hours at a time.
The weather was revolting for the main, in fact overall, the worst I’ve ever experienced in one trip; day after day of torrential downpours coupled with fierce winds with gusts of up to 100 kmph. I began the week scanning the horizon for signs of improvement in the weather through the day, leaping to my bike as soon as the rain began to ease (see the photo above!). But as the week progressed, I found it wasn’t possible to wait for the best time to ride so it was either get togged up in ASSOS’s finest wet weather gear (the Schlosshund jacket was my saviour!) and just stuck in, or stay at home, regret it and grumble for the remainder of the day.
I suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome, which means I really struggle with cold and circulation in my hands and feet and have to be careful when the weather is bad. Over the winter, a lot of time training indoors on my Wattbike, (mainly as I get a lot of training done whilst our daughter naps so I’m unable to go outdoors) meant I got out of the habit of just dealing with the weather, at least on a drop handlebar bike; I’ve never had an issue with getting wet and muddy on my mountain bike. Road cycling in very cold, wet conditions can be a lot less fun than say, mountain biking in the mud, because the high speeds and exposure (open roads rather than forest or hills) can really chill you to the bone.
Gravel biking, at least, where I went, seemed to be absolutely ideal for bad weather! I was able to get a decent workout, remain focused, engaged and motivated thanks to the technical aspect and the slower speed and higher power output needed to navigate off-road sections meant I stayed warm.
The sheer beauty of where I was riding was ridiculous. I live in a beautiful place myself (near Dartmoor) so couldn’t help comparing the two, eventually coming to the conclusion that the two areas are equally attractive but that Devon wins as we have the sea! When it came to riding, the Peaks seemed particularly good for gravel riding as many of the tracks were packed down fairly hard and the routes were pretty obvious, plus there were even some flattish sections. In Devon, many bridleways are so heavy going that it’s tough on a mountain bike, let alone a gravel bike. And on Dartmoor, bridleways that appear clearly on the map are barely visible once you get there.
As I enjoyed myself so much, I thought you might like to see a couple of the routes I particularly enjoyed whilst staying in Hathersage. The first one, taking in Longshaw Estate, Blacka Moor, Totley Moor and Houndkirk (an old Roman road) and a superb gravel road up Burbage was a phenomenal mixture of singletrack, open moorland, tarmac and bridleways; a real taste of the best the Peaks have to offer.
The second is a very straight forward, relaxed, beautiful and highly enjoyable route that uses the Thornhill trail from Bamford before circumnavigating Ladybower, Howden and Derwent Reservoir. It’s stunning but rightly popular; definitely better done during the week.
I can’t wait to head back to the Peak District to see Mum and Dad, enjoy family time with Kiddo and do some more riding. Have you been? Are you planning a trip? Let me know if you have any tips or questions.