|Bike and I on another day|
In hindsight it was perhaps inevitable that after moving 90 miles East from South Manchester to Grantham it wouldn't take long before I started to think about running or cycling back "home".
Running 90 miles doesn't really appeal unless it is part of a big event, but cycling seemed a realistic and enjoyable challenge. So cycling from Grantham to Stockport was an ambition that I have had for the past six years but one that I have never got round to fulfilling. Then, last week, an ideal opportunity arose. Tracy and I had been invited to a family party in Macclesfield, there was no running planned that weekend, it was close to the summer solstice meaning I could get up extra early and take advantage of quiet roads and Tracy would be following in the car some time later. If I got too tired I could simply find the nearest café or pub and retire gracefully until the carriage and driver came to pick me up. The challenge was then set.....
The alarm sounded at 4:15am and by 5am I was outside the house, resetting the on board computer before pushing off along Dudley Road and through the desolate streets of Grantham. As I climbed out of Grantham by the Muddle go Nowhere public house I looked back to see a bright sun rising over Grantham setting a summer scene that would last for the rest of the day. The plan was to cycle along the A52 towards Nottingham. A cautious cyclist would usually avoid the A52 because of the quantity and the speed of the vehicles but I had left purposefully early to avoid the traffic. I suspect that I was only passed by about ten vehicles between Grantham and Bingham.
By Bingham I had a major decision to make, it was still early, approximately 6.15am, perhaps I could risk carrying on directly through Nottingham City centre and North to Hucknall or alternatively I could take a route through Bingham and over Gunthorpe Bridge avoiding the urban sprawl. I had predicted two major obstacles to this challenge, the first was navigation and the second saddle soreness. If I took the Gunthorpe Bridge route I would have to keep stopping to navigate via Google maps on my smart phone, If I went through the city I knew most of the route through to Hucknall. I pondered the decision for sometime as I travelled down an A52 that was so straight in parts it resembled a long airfield runway. In the end I decide to take Gunthrope Bridge, if nothing else it would be an adventure finding my way, it turned out to be a very good decision.
|A Well Earned Breakfast|
By Gunthrope Bridge I was about 20 miles into the cycle and feeling good. I was happy with the accomplishment of gathering a back pack, getting my bike ready and actually getting out of bed at a stupid hour. There is a certain excitement to being part of an ultra early morning things, I don't see that part of the morning very often, things were looking good. I cycled about four miles up the A6097 past Lowdham before stopping to consult the map. I picked an initial route through Woodborough to Calverton and on to Papplewick. It quickly became apparent that the decision to avoid the city centre was a good one. The villages to the North East of Nottingham are picturesque and quaint. The quiet country lanes made for excellent cycling amongst the wildlife that was just stirring in the post dawn sun. I had carried two bottles of high five electrolyte, I slugged occasionally as I cycled towards the M1 bridge crossing just before the village of Selston where I had planned to reward myself with a rest.
I sat on the bridge over the M1 and ate granola bars and chocolate raisins. It was about 7:30am, the sun was now shining brightly I had cycled about 30 miles and I was having fun. I assessed the next part of the route. I had planned to hit the Peak District at Cromford. I knew the excellent Torrs café at Cromford would make an excellent next resting point and I could look forward to a cup of tea and, if I could stomach it, a bacon sandwich. The route that looked best from Selston took me through Pye Bridge to Somercoates on to Pentrich and Park head through to Crich before the final leg to the breakfast stop at Cromford.
As I crossed the border from Nottinghamshire into Derbyshire it was striking how the landscape changed. The quaint leafy villages of suburban Nottingham gave way to a tired former industrial landscape where factories appeared in remote locations flanked by overgrown tress and shrubs. Some of the villages in the Amber Valley looked similarly run down and in contrast to the cheery "good mornings" that I had enjoyed from passing folk in the early cycle I was now met with more weathered expressions of suspicion as I cycled a bit more speedily through! The other noticeable difference was the hilliness of the Derbyshire terrain compared to the flatlands of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire through which I had already passed. I put doubt to the back of my mind, reminding myself that the hills would get much worse on the High peak! I slugged some more drink and powered on.
I kind of happened upon Crich and paused for a photograph by the statue in the village. I didn't linger for I knew Cromford wasn't far away and I looked forward to tea and bacon at the Tors café. I arrived at Cromford at approximately 9am. I was now exactly 50 miles into the cycle and although I was starting to tire, I felt good enough to eat an egg with my bacon barm, washed down by a cup of coffee (I meant to order tea, perhaps a further indication that tiredness was creeping in?).
The Tors Café is a fine establishment, described as:
A fine tradition of splendidly basic transport cafe populated almost entirely by blokes in dark blue corporate poloshirts and safety gear. Truck drivers, delivery men, workers from Severn Trent. They don't trouble the menu with any fancy stuff, just basic cobs and fry-ups (for more information see here)
|The Tors at Cromford|
The café also has a loyal following of cyclists and last Sunday I was one of them. For £2.90 I enjoyed a bacon and egg barm with a mug of coffee, fantastic and just what I needed to help me gird up my loins for the serious ten mile ascent to Newhaven which I knew was about to follow. There would be no more need for the smart phone now, I knew the route all the way back to Hazel Grove. I had prepared for the ten mile slog up to Newhaven and from there I knew that I would be on top of the High Peak with an excellent undulating cycle with magnificent peak district views. I slugged more drink and cycled onwards plugged additionally with caffeine, bacon, egg and electrolyte, just what I needed for the climb.
The climb to Newhaven wasn't as steep as I remembered but it did go on a bit. Ten miles later and after 300 meters of ascent I arrived at Newhaven feeling so tired I had to have another brief stop. I was now 60 miles in and my legs were feeling the strain, time to focus on the positives again. The next major accomplishment would be reaching Buxton. I pondered the High Peak trail as a flatter alternative to an undulating A515 but a disused railway track didn't make sense on racing tires. I slugged some more drink and set off towards Buxton. The A515 was a bit busy and for the first time I felt a bit vulnerable to the four wheeled bullets that's whizzed by. There was more need to feel vulnerable as the "Outlaws" were gathered at a roadside petrol station and they looked quite menacing in the black leather jackets, long beards and "fat" motorbikes.
I was glad to reach Buxton where the realisation that I had a good chance of making the distance began to sink in. There were now about 15 miles of cycling left, I could do this! there was another decision to make, should I go straight down the busy A6 or take on another climb up the A5004 towards Goyt Valley? I chose the climb. In honesty I was feeling pretty good. I had some unusual pains around my groin and ankles and as predicted my saddle area was mighty sore despite the two pairs of padded shorts and further pair of half length leggings. Despite the minor ailments, I was in pretty good shape. I deviated slightly at Buxton to visit the natural spring. I filled up my water bottles, took another slug and cycled on.
|Towards Goyt Valley|
The climb up to the Goyt Valley road ruined me but I was rewarded by great views towards the reservoir below. It was good to be back in familiar surroundings, a curlew flew overhead to remind me that I wasn't far from home. I had another impromptu rest at the top of the climb and was joined by various other resting cyclists. It seems cycling is booming. On the fast descent towards Whalley Bridge I passed cyclist after cyclist each a stranger yet all of us nodding knowingly to each other in appreciation of the great sunny day which we had seized. I arrived at Whalley Bridge after a storming fast descent hampered only by occasional cautious squeezes of the brakes as I reminded myself that It would be better to get to Hazel Grove in one piece.
After Whalley Bridge I joined the A6 and cycled towards New Mills on to Disley before the final fast descent to Hazel Grove. When I left Grantham I had intended to cycle to Macclefield but I had made such good progress I would have been too early for the family function which would have meant ended the cycling at a place of no significance. At Cromford when I realised I was likely to make the distance I decided to carry on to Hazel Grove and finish at Torkington Park where I spent many happy hours in younger days.
|The Council House|
6 hours and 30 minutes after leaving Grantham I arrived at Torky Park after 87 miles of brilliant cycling, what a great adventure. I cycled to the council house and did a lap of honour round the roundabout at the front. I free wheeled down to the Rose Gardens, ate what I had left and washed it down with some slugs from the drink bottles. Tracy arrived in the car shortly afterwards. The bike was transferred to the boot and we were off to do family duties and reflect in a successful ride.
For those that might be interested my route is described more fully below:
Grantham - A52 to Bingham - Gunthorpe Bride near East Bridgford - A6097 to Moor Lane - Moor Lane west to Calverton - Burnstump Hill - Papplewick - Linby - A611 to Salmon Lane - West to Selston crossing M1 - Pye Bridge - Somercoates - Swanwick - Pentrich - Crich - Holloway - Cromford - A5012 Grangemill and on to Newhaven - A515 to Buxton - A5004 towards Sandy Lane and on to Whalley Bridge - A6 to Disley and on to Hazel Grove
NB) The cycle could be continued along the A6 for approximately 4 miles to Stockport where there are regular direct trains back to Grantham.