Slaithwaite to Whaley Bridge
After a good breakfast (vegetarian) at the AirBnB and a chat with the hosts, I started off with a diversion to visit the Standedge Tunnel which is the longest, deepest and highest tunnel on the British canal network. This meant an initial ride along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal where I got into conversation with some boaters and said I was visiting the tunnel “just along the canal”. They said there was no such place but I eventually realised that “just along” is all relative between the speed of a canal boat which would have to negotiate quite a number of locks (and probably take most of the day) and my bike.
The canal tow path turned out to be a fairly uneven surface and, after about 2 miles I left the canal and followed roads which were more up and down but a better surface. At the canal entrance there is a visitor centre and various information boards (plus a cafe).
After a good look around the canal facilities, I returned along the canal tow path before leaving after 4 miles and starting the day’s climbing after passing through Marsden. Soon up above 1000ft again. Down again and through Meltham (another place I’d never heard of) and once more up using Netherthong Road. There is also an Upperthong which I passed through after more climbing.
A steep drop into Holmfirth (13 miles) and it was time for a look around and coffee at the Riverside cafe. A good choice of cafes and sandwich shops and I purchased some provisions for lunch including a gigantic iced bun.
After a bacon roll to make up for the vegetarian breakfast, it was time for more climbing. Like most Yorkshire villages all roads out of the valley are steep. Holmfirth is no exception.
A long slow climb (push in places) to gain 1000ft in 3 miles.
Past Winscar reservoir (18 miles) and then another climb back up to 1400ft. Great views across the moors but hard work.
After meeting the A628 (Woodhead Pass) there was another surprise section of mountain bike trail. An alternative would be to ride on the A628 but that didn’t look attractive as full of lorries. For 2 miles the route follows the valley of the A628 but on a separate track away from the main road. The surface is not good! The scenery is magnificent and there were loads of lapwings and a couple of curlew which I must have disturbed on their nest as they circled me for a while.
Eventually the track drops down steeply to cross the A628 again. This was the only downhill section of the whole route that I didn’t cycle as the surface was very loose and there was a huge drop off to the right onto the main road. I decided walking down was the sensible choice.
The surface now improves greatly as the Longdendale Trail is reached. This is built on the route of the old Woodhead railway and runs gently downhill for 6.5 miles alongside a series of reservoirs. The surface of crushed stone is very good.
This section of the Pennine Cycleway also follows the route of the Trans Pennine Trail which in turn is part of the E8 European Long Distance path from Cork to Istanbul – maybe the next challenge?
The last reservoir is Bottoms Reservoir (29 miles) and the outflow includes a fancy fountain arrangement to release pressure in the reservoir after high rainfall.
There followed more climbing (once more up to 1000ft) and a strange, very indirect route around Gamesley before a drop into New Mills (39 miles) where I hoped to ride along the Millennium Walkway. this wasn’t possible (the clue is in the name) as it was access for pedestrians only.
Further ups and downs to Buxworth where I decided the weather was suitable for a stop for a pint outside the Navigation Inn canal side pub. at Buxworth Basin.
After the break I followed the canal into Whaley Bridge which turned out to be a mistake as I had to carry the bike (luggage and all) over a pedestrian bridge. The actual NCN 68 follows the road but misses the centre of Whaley Bridge.
Reached the Springbank Guest House near to the centre of Whaley Bridge where I didn’t know what to expect as it advertises that it has featured on the TV programme “Four in a bed” – not a show I know.
Turned out to be a good stop. The owner was very welcoming and locked my bike in his garage alongside his bikes. The room was comfortable and had everything you could possibly think of along with loads of notices. The weather was warm and the heating was still on in the bedroom but this was soon sorted using my bike tools. The guest house prides itself on it’s Victorian bathroom (with scented candles, etc.) so I tried out the bath (but not the candles – there are limits). Note that the rates advertised on the guest house website seem to no longer apply. I was quoted and charged £55 for an en suite double room including breakfast. Suggest ringing beforehand to make booking and agree rate.
Good take away fish and chips from the Fryery and then a tour of the local pubs to select the right one to watch the Championship playoff between Derby and Leeds. I picked one (The White Hart) that turned out to be good for TV football viewing but which also turned out to be “dog friendly”. So dog friendly that one local animal had been trained to jump up onto the bar stool on entering and then stand with its front legs on the bar. Am I alone is thinking that advertising “dog friendly” for a pub or restaurant is a reason not to visit? Accordingly the White Hart isn’t recommended.
Match was good as Derby managed to beat dirty, dirty Leeds after going behind and it was good to get back into Derbyshire from Yorkshire before the fixture.