21 March 2012

Our weekend in the Peaks

Mid march might seem like a strange time to go on a camping trip in the north of England, but that's what we did last weekend anyway...

We decided to head up to the Peak District National Park to take part in the Spring in the Peaks 100km audax and get some hill training in. We did some cycling in the Peaks last year, and have done some hiking there as well. The area has great hills, quiet roads, cute towns, and is not too hard to get to from London -- pretty much a perfect combination!

We had previously stayed at a lovely campsite in Hathersage, where the audax started from, so decided to head there again -- this time with warmer sleeping bags. Still, I was pretty apprehensive when the forecast called for rain all day Saturday and snow flurries Saturday night! Our bike touring capabilities are a bit of a work in progress -- we don't actually have racks for our road bikes, so we had to use our big hiking backpacks which we quickly discovered were impossible to cycle in! Luckily, the campsite is walking distance from the village.

After leaving London on a packed Friday afternoon train, we reached Hathersage about 7:30 pm. We headed to the campsite and pitched the tent in the dark. We've practiced pitching it before indoors, but this was the first time we had done it properly. After that, we quickly headed back into the village for some dinner, and then back to 'home' -- our tent -- to get some sleep before the audax. As I say, we were worried about being too cold, but actually we were both too hot and had to unzip our sleeping bags during the night! What a great feeling that was!

Cosy reading before bed
The audax on Saturday was great, but we'll leave that for a separate blog post. But on our way back to the campsite we were treated to the most spectacular full rainbow above the famous (amongst rock climbers) Stanage Edge.

We encountered some snow flurries as we left town on Saturday evening, but knew we would be warm and toasty in our sleeping bags! Almost as soon as we turned in for the night, however, the flurries turned to rain. It rained all night long, and when we woke up at 7am the next morning it was still raining. We took that as an instruction to sleep in and by 8:30am the rain had stopped! I guess we have learned that the tent is indeed waterproof! So we decided to head out on a shorter route of 70km on Sunday, due to the late start.

The route took us out of Hathersage along familiar roads, taking the same climb as we had in the audax the day before. We then headed through the cute town of Eyam and past Foolow to Litton, where we stopped for tea and cakes to round out our cold breakfast of the early morning. We recognised some of the roads from the day before, and others from our cycle ride here last year -- but it was interesting to see all the different ways that they connected. The weather had cleared and we enjoyed some lovely morning sunshine.

After Litton we headed through Tideswell and Peak Forest, cycling up some of the very same roads that we had cycled down the day before! After a short stretch on the A6187 -- the only road with any traffic to speak of of the whole ride -- we passed by Mam Tor and rode down the fabulous descent into Castleton. The thrill was short-lived as we immediately began a long climb up again. We were averaging much lower speeds than we ever have before, but eventually we looped back to Foolow and soon afterwards enjoyed a long descent back to Hathersage. It may have been a 'short' ride but it was intense!

We got back to the campsite, packed up the tent (which had fortunately dried during the day), and made our way back to Hathersage for a final meal and our train back to London. It had only been two days, but something about the combination of cycling and camping really made it feel like an escape. We'll definitely be looking forward to our next opportunity to get away like this.

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