“Oh, my beloved nymph! fair Dove,
Princess of rivers…
How many poets and people of literary fame have enlarged on the wonders of Dovedale? How many cyclists have urged us to visit this beauty spot, and how often have we made a vow that on the morrow, Dovedale would be seen? For two years we have been going, yet only today have we got there, and realised what we have missed. I had acquainted Tom with news of my new lightweight, and left him to fix a run up, making the stipulation that we should have an early start. To my delight, he suggested (by post) Dovedale, meet Kingsway End 7.30am – and so it was fixed.
I was up at 4.30am, creeping downstairs like a robber – I know the treads on the stairs that squeak from experience! There is an art in preparing breakfast, having a wash, and eating the meal so quietly as not to awaken light sleepers, and, though in ordinary circumstances I am a very clumsy mortal, when anything like this is on the programme, I become as silent as a mouse. At 5.40am I was out, no one being any the wiser. It was daylight, but cold and bleak, and I started at a good pace to get warm. I took the lane route to Walkden, where I had to meet a clubmate, who had promised to accompany us. He came, but told me that something had cropped up which prevented him from carrying on with us, and so, after a short chat, he turned back and I carried on alone. Keeping a steady pace – rather too fast for a start – I crossed Barton Bridge, and covered the suburban miles to Didsbury, and the meeting place, just as Tom came up. He examined my new machine, tried it, and gave the opinion that it is an ideal mount for our purpose, then we started.
We faced the breeze, as we passed through Cheadle and Edgeley to Stockport, then faced the four miles of ‘killing’ setts until Hazel Grove was reached, where starts the steady grind up to Disley. I changed over to 59” in anticipation of the climb, but before I had gone too far, I knew that something had gone wrong with me – I could not get into my stride, the road seeming to drag painfully. Of course, it was my own fault, for yesterday I had been climbing every hill, and speeding along too quickly for comfort on the morrow. Because it takes more than a week to regain form after lying dormant for five weeks, it will be some time before I can regain my form and position – besides which I had only had four hours sleep last night, all contributing to my lethargy. From Disley we had a level, easy run, with excellent Peakland views on the left to Whale Bridge, where again the climbing started. Tom, too, was in a poor mood. Once we stopped for a snack, sitting on a stone with a tantalising view of green Goyt Dale before us, and the high-ridged, brown moors toning the effect.
The drag up through Fernilee would be nothing interesting were it not for the valley on our right, a valley likened by Tom to the Trossachs in Scotland. At Rake End starts the two mile horse-shoe round the edge of a deep valley, and for a change, we decided to join the old road, which cuts straight across. We did not find the descent very steep, but the resultant ascent up the grass-grown road was stiff and, of course, unrideable. At the summit, 1,401 ft, we got a good view of the moorlands surrounding Buxton, and of creeping white ribbons leading over them, with an excellent idea of the situation of the Queen of the Peak. Down we swooped into residential quarters of Buxton, then to the Spa’s shopping centre, out of which we moved as quickly as possible – we have no use for fashion.
The Ashbourne road very soon had us out of the saddle, climbing to Harpurhill, and dropping us down, only to climb again. The scenery consisted of bleak green moors, quarries galore, which stand out on the hill summit, and faint traces of the limestone dales. We were clearly out of form, the scenery was barely standard, and we had got into the seat of the hill-making industry, besides which a growing wind persistently tried to push us back. At the five cross-roads we came to Hindlow, a cold looking place, although the day was warm enough. Up we went again, then a very short down, and up again, each up meaning a walk of at least half a mile, and when we came to a level (these were very few and far between), the wind made it hard work. The first nine miles took one and a half hours, from Buxton, and we could see that we were rapidly losing ground.
Hurdlow, then Parsley Hay, and things got a little easier, the ‘downs’ being longer and the ‘ups’ shorter. At Newhaven Inn, eleven miles beyond Buxton, the scenery improved, and the next seven miles via Alsop en le Dale to Fenny Bentley saw us ‘quids in’, with a general downward tendency, and superior wood and valley scenery, until, two miles from Ashbourne, we reached Tissington, a beautiful little place, and turned right for Thorpe, at the entrance to Dovedale. We found nothing here except a motor club that made the dust fly and us curse them, but as lunch was due, we wandered away down a bylane. A notice, ‘Luncheons, Teas’ attracted us into what seemed a farmyard, and Tom ordered a Fruit dinner. We were invited to a lounge room and then had a stroll down the lawn. It was a first class, private hotel. After ages of waiting we were ushered into a dining room, where a dinner of potatoes and leathery meat was waiting for us. It was not what we had ordered, but we could scarcely say no, so we tucked into it, and cleaned it up. The next course was some sickly looking pudding, which we also removed, then waited for the next. It never came, and after half an hour of waiting, we asked for the bill. Three shillings each! For a bit of horseflesh and a mashed potato with signs of pudding about, we were charged six shillings! we paid up, glad that we had not had a full dinner. In future the ‘private family hotel’ will be given a very wide berth. I knew what would now happen, from experience, with a hot meal on board, we should go worse as far as cycling was concerned, and later events proved that it was only too true. But now for Dovedale.