Whaley Bridge to Derby
Last day of the holiday and a slightly longer day planned as I knew I’d be travelling over well known roads and would be back in my own bed at night. Another excellent day with fine weather.
As seemed to be common throughout the week, the first 5 miles of the route was uphill with 1000ft of gain up to a height of 1500ft. Most of this is on tarmac back roads but the last mile of climbing is on Old Road which matches its name. The surface is very loose and the gradient is steep. There seems to be a general belief that the NCN 68 route follows Long Hill (the nearby main road) but this isn’t the case and Long Hill isn’t recommended due to the number of large stone lorries and the speed of the traffic.
After cresting the hill there is more off road track (about 1 mile in total) before joining the road and descending into Buxton.
Plenty to see in Buxton and I took the opportunity of a stop for coffee. The Buxton campus of the University of Derby is in a very impressive building that used to be the hospital and is the largest unsupported dome in Europe. Inside there is a cafe and a restaurant run by catering students (recommended but only open in term time and you’ll need to put aside a good amount of time). There are also Hair and Beauty salons where you can get cut price treatments as the students practice on you. Perhaps a challenge to them if you’ve already completed 300 miles of the Pennine Cycleway. I didn’t stop for any treatments.
The Opera House is well known and whilst you can buy bottled Buxton Water across the country, here there is a free tap where you can fill up your water bottles with genuine spring water. Note the Health and Safety facilities in the picture.
Buxton is at 950ft and gets the weather you might expect at such a height. Famously there was a first class cricket match stopped for snow in June 1975.
Despite starting high, there is still a climb out of town on roads to about 1200ft where (near to the Parks Inn at Harpur Hill) the route joins a traffic free path. Note this can be hard to find and is relatively recent so old maps may be wrong.
The traffic free route continues to climb (reaching 1450ft) on a very gravelly surface. The route has been expensively fenced by the Council and seems to have been designed with a surfeit of pointless gates but has wondrous views. This portion of the route forms part of the “White Peak Loop” which will eventually link Bakewell, Cromford, and Buxton.
After 10.5 miles the route leaves the traffic free path across the hills and joins a very quiet back road for a downhill section to Earl Sterndale where the local pub is called The Quiet Woman with the non-PC pub sign depicting a woman who has been beheaded.
Then back roads to Hurdlow (15.5 miles) where the route joins the Tissington Trail – built on the track of the old Ashbourne to Buxton railway line so completely traffic free and with no steep gradients.
After 17 miles you reach Parsley Hay which has a bike hire centre, some local information and a small take away cafe and picnic benches. The cafe isn’t really recommended but there is little alternative choice. Best would be to purchase provisions in Buxton and then bring them here to be eaten. Fairly nearby is a great cafe at Monyash but this means a drop down (and climb back up) to the village.
Then follows a 14 mile flat and gradually descending route along the old railway line to Ashbourne (31 miles). There are refreshment stops along the route including at Tissington (visit the tea shop in the village rather than the kiosk at the side of the cycle route) and at the end of the trail near Ashbourne. Here the route goes through a lit tunnel to bring you into the centre of Ashbourne where there are a wide selection of pubs, cafes, shops, restaurants, etc. Don’t visit the “Cheddar Gorge” which looks nice from the outside but is run only for hipsters with all other customers being patronised! Plenty of other choices in Ashbourne. I would recommend the Flower Cafe which offers good breakfasts (all day).
I sat on a seat near the centre to eat a sandwich and nearby were a number of Change UK people trying to engage passer-bys in arguments about Brexit. There seemed little point as, earwigging, it seemed no-one changed their views and all that resulted was the canvassers and their victims getting worked up. I put on my best “don’t you dare bother me” face and they left me well alone. Obviously a job well done by the canvassers as the party was soundly defeated in the European elections and since has almost completely disappeared.
After Ashbourne there is a steep climb and then a drop and another climb for the quiet road route to pass under the busy A52. There a series of quiet country roads as the route meanders towards Derby with no more steep climbs as the Pennines have been left well behind. At Longford (39 miles) there is a very picturesque mill that it is obligatory to photograph (even if I’ve managed to get it lob sided).
At 44 miles you pass Ashe Hall, a Buddhist Centre offering various courses and a cafe (vegetarian only). The grounds are nice and all are welcome to walk around them. If you’re ready for a cake stop this is recommended.
Shortly afterwards the route turns onto the Mickleover Greenway – another old railway line that takes the route to the outskirts of Derby along a surface that is made of crushed stone and is flat. Frustratingly there are 3 pointless gates to open and close.
The end of the Mickleover Greenway at the old Mickleover station (now a private house) – 47 miles – is where a lot of people believe the Pennine Cycleway finishes. This isn’t true as the route continues onto Derby station but there are no commemorative signs at the station so it’s suggested that celebratory photos are taken here. There is a map of the whole cycleway and a well painted Sustrans milepost which although it is labelled NCN 54 rather than NCN 68 is still correct as both routes follow the old railway path.
The final route into Derby isn’t the best part of the route. It runs through some parks and then terraced streets. There is a section on a very bad shared pavement that includes massive trees, cobbles and a strange art installation involving scores of skulls. The picture showing the Halcyon hair salon next to the tattoo parlour, the charity shop and the boarded up chapel is probably typical of the back street scenes as you approach the end of the journey.
The route then runs through Derby city centre, over the River Derwent, along the riverside for a short while, then on a cycle path through Pride Park business park before finishing at the rear (Pride Park) entrance to Derby station. This section is hard to follow so I would suggest carefully viewing my Strava or Komoot routes first.
At the station there is no indication that it is the end of the Pennine Cycleway (apparently there used to be a commemorative board but it was taken away during upgrades to the station and is now probably lost). There is a cycle direction sign where the longest distance indicated is Wilmorton at 7 minutes away so not really proof of finishing the 390 mile (in my case) trip.
Then home (another 5 miles) and a sit down.
Note Derby is still near the north so is pronounced “dar-be”. It is officially the real ale capital of the world so plenty of opportunities for celebrating your ride.