Post: The details Charlie sets out below, a mixture of travelogue and history would form the basis of a very interesting guide book of the Derbyshire Dales and mountains. I do so like the way he mixes things up but keeps them interesting for the reader and everyone else. And in regard to the first paragraph, who needs a mobile phone ?
Sunday, June 7 Some Derbyshire Dales
“I was bound, like a child, by some magical story;
Forgetting the South and Ionian Vales;
And felt that dear England had temples of glory,
Where any might worship, in Derbyshire Dales”.
Tom is on holiday in Lincolnshire, and so he had arranged by post to meet me on Rowsley Bridge near Bakewell. I had also arranged with one of the Bolton Wheelers to come along with me. Now Joe (that is his name) is not a bad sort, but I am afraid that he and I do not go together. He is one of those who rides a rather higher gear (74”) and, although he is alright for the Fylde and Cheshire, he is of little use for Derbyshire. Besides which he is a ‘blind and stop’ cyclist, whilst I am one who can do the distance work with an early start, and a steady pace, but I am no use for ‘blinding’.
There is a heat wave on just now, and so we are travelling light, no mudguards, no cape, open shirt and alpaca jacket. Oh for a pair of shorts! My friend called at 6.30am, and we started together via the lanes to Walkden and Barton. Joe was soon blinding away in front, and for a time I kept close, but it is no joke twiddling my 59.8 inch against his 74, so I dropped behind. From Cheadle, he went after a chara, so I let him, hoping to hold the cards myself later. We turned into the lanes at Handforth, and made good progress, with scenery fast improving, until just beyond Prestbury we reached the Stockport-Macclesfield main road.
Then we were soon in the silk town. Immediately from here the seven mile climb starts, and here I laid my cards down. Though the wind was facing, and the sun scorching, I found it none too hard to get ahead, and soon I was well in front. I think, now, that he realises the value of a low gear, for he has since gone down to 66” (an old favourite of mine). There are some jolly hard grinds along this road, and this time there were no views, for there was a heat haze covering the more distant points. However, the moorlands are fine, and so, with a stop at every stream for water, we gained the Cat and Fiddle at the summit of the pass, 1.690 ft. A short level run, and then, crossing the border into Derbyshire, we flew down into Buxton.
The Bakewell road claimed us now, and soon we were running between the limestone walls into the first ‘dale’, Ashwood Dale. We stopped once to take a peep at Lover’s Leap, a magnificent little defile with a stream running through, and a fine waterfall at the far end. I succeeded in slipping and going over the shoe tops, but that mattered little – it would soon dry. Wye Dale is not as commercialised as Ashwood Dale, but here and there, quarrying tends to spoil the whole effect. I should like to have my own way with those manufacturers who go about ruining the English countryside!
The climb up to Topley Pike was a hot ‘un, but we were rewarded with a fine view of this wondrous Ravine of the Wye, beneath which is gorgeously coloured Chee Dale. A stiff headwind now to Taddington, where we started the long descent to the Wye again. Joe got behind a motor car, and fled away out of sight, whilst I pottered down with brake on, enjoying the wooded loveliness of superb Taddington Dale. He was waiting at the bottom, where the sparkling Wye comes out of the crag-crowned Dale of Monsal, having seen nothing of the scenery on the way down. Is this the Bolton Wheelers, then? Eliza Cook, who wrote the stanza which heads this record, beautifully illustrated Monsal Dale when she wrote:
“And Monsal, thou mine of Arcadian treasure’
Need we seek for Greek islands and spice-laden gales,
When a temple like thee of enchantment and pleasure’
May be found in our own native Derbyshire Dales”.
A wind heckled ride through typical scenery brought us to the flowery quietness of Ashford in the Water, then a motorised road brought us to Bakewell, a pretty town that everyone has heard of in connection with Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall, and her romantic elopement. We passed Haddon Hall, a many towered and castellated building of great antiquity, as we followed the Wye to its confluence with the Derwent at Rowsley. Tom was there on the Derwent Bridge: he had been waiting since 9.45am (we were ten minutes late). He told of how he had come in search of lodgings all through Sherwood Forest, a distance of 25 miles, and had received the same answer – ‘full-up’ – everywhere until at last he had ‘docked’ in a fine little place here at Bakewell on the last minute.
All of us were very hungry, so we searched the handbook for a place but failed to find one suitable in the vicinity and decided to carry on. Where? We were at the cross-roads, the one to the right led down beautiful Darley Dale to Matlock, the left through equally beautiful Chatsworth Park to Baslow. Here came a little strategy. If we went to Matlock, we should have to get on to the moors afterwards, where the hot sun beats mercilessly down and the roads are more than a little tilted, whilst left leads to the more numerous dales where shelter may be found. Besides, to go by Baslow meant to get the wind behind! So Baslow it was.
At Beeley, we entered the Park, travelling along a road that gave fine views across the silvery Derwent to the wooded sides of the East Moor, and farther ahead, the rocks that crown Curbar Edge, whilst now and then we caught a glimpse of that stately mansion and its extravagant gardens, Chatsworth House. All the lanes leading towards the House were guarded by a man in a sentry box. At the enclosed and gated model village of Edensor, we passed out of the park, and after a rest (the heat was oppressive) we got along to Baslow.
Joe was done for want of a drink, and I would have found it very acceptable, but not even water was to be found, let alone a lunch place, so we held a confab, and decided to try and reach Eyam, six miles distant, where is a fine place. The surroundings, as we rode to Calver, were beautiful in the extreme, but at least Joe and I did not appreciate it as we might have done. Past Calver, we started to enter Middleton Dale – and now even Joe started to take notice – especially after we had discovered a horse trough of cold, clear water, in which we submerged our arms and heads. It was a luxury.
Stoney Middleton is a queer place. It is built in a dale, just one straggling street with the limestone cliffs on one side bulging out over the houses. As we left the village, the road climbed up between those white walls, until we entered Eyam Dale, a superb, wonderful picture of wood and rock. At the head of this is Eyam, the plague village, and here we found a right good meal, a wash, and – luxury, a cool room.
After lingering here awhile, we had a walk up the hillside to the Riley Graves, the last resting place of eight of the Hancock family (out of ten) within a week when the plague devastated this little village, 259 dying out of 350 inhabitants. It is a sad story, too long to be recorded here, and we decided that we would spend a few hours some weekday here when the chance came. Returning to the bikes, we sped down Eyam Dale to Middleton Dale, and commenced the tramp to the top.
The wind had entirely dropped, and the air was suffocating, besides which, the limestone road was glaring white, so much so that our eyes ached when we stared down. The machines and our shoes were covered in white dust. From the top of Middleton Dale came a swoop down to the end of Littonfrith Dale, then a climb up to Lane End just above Tideswell, where we turned right and switch-backed across the moor to Little Hucklow, where we entered Bradwell Dale, a bare defile, in which is situated Bagshawe Cavern, one of those remarkable stalactite and stalagmite caves peculiar to this district. Then the beautiful if motorised Hope Valley to Hope and Castletown, Here we had two routes to choose from, both of them involving a hard climb, for this is
“A deep vale
Shut out by alpine hills from the rude world”.
We chose the Winnats Pass, in preference to Mam Tor, for if the former does not yield the same view of the valley or give a glimpse of the scaly sides of ‘Shivering Mountain’, it is grander and more awe-inspiring – and a durned sight steeper and rougher too. We generally, intentionally or otherwise, pick the harder and rougher way. The Winnats is an old coach road; being once an adventure for the traveller, for on days when a gale is blowing, the formation of the pass turns the wind down the gorge with amazing velocity, and has been known to cause death from suffocation (?) Then again, it was a popular haunt of highwaymen; the story being told of a bridal pair being murdered whilst traversing the Winnats. And when one stands at the summit and looks upon that tortuous descent and upon the vast walls of limestone on each side, one can quite believe what terror it caused in the ‘bad’ old days.
We crossed the moors after sweating up the pass to Perryfoot and Sparrowpit where we dropped down Barmoor Clough to Chapel en le Frith, and by a good road past Combs reservoirs, reached Whaley Bridge and the Manchester-Buxton road. Tea at Furness Vale, and a ride in the cool of the evening to Disley, Stockport and Cheadle, where we left Tom and proceeded by the usual way home, as red as berries with sunburn. Derbyshire has a fresh variety of charms each time we see it, and those Dales possess an inexhaustive beauty of their own. 120 miles