Tarquin's cycling pages

19 August 2009 - Edale Loop

WhereEdale Loop
(The Peak District)
Date19 August 2009
Duration3 hours 15 minutes
Distance13 miles (~21 km)
Trail conditionsDry dirt track, extremely rough in places, with occasional tarmac
Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones 29 GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)
Peter Wilton-Jones 30 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp

Trip report

Description by Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones

This ride followed route 1 described in 'Peak District Mountain Bike Routes', starting from the Barber Booth alternate car park, and taking one of the optional downhills before the end to complete the loop. Though there are harder routes in the Peak District, it is the toughest route in the guidebook, and is well graded and accurately described in terms of duration and difficulty.

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See pictureStarting from Barber Booth, head upstream along the Noe valley towards Jacob's Ladder (the head of the valley). Peter decided to add an extra mile to his route by leaving the car unlocked, and having to return to lock it.

See pictureSee pictureAt a farm, this becomes a dirt track. Stick with it, and it eventually reaches the base of the very steep Jacob's Ladder.

See pictureSee pictureJacob's Ladder has a footpath ahead and a bridleway zig-zagging to the left. The bridleway surface is far too loose and rocky to be ridable, and either way you will have to push or carry to the top of the steep slope, so you may as well take the shorter footpath. We took the bridleway. At the top of the steep part, the paths join and keep climbing, with the surface still too eroded to cycle properly. A few short sections may be ridable, but in general, it's a long push virtually all the way to the top.

See pictureSee pictureAfter a short rocky descent, a final ascent on a landrover track reaches the Edale Cross. This is a Medieval cross that was re-erected (and carved) in 1810, and is in a small walled recess on the right side of the track.

See pictureSee pictureNow pick a good gear, and thunder down the superb downhill that rewards you for the climbing. It requires a lot of attention on the rocky surface, but is not the hardest downhill of this route, getting you nicely prepared for what you will encounter later. (You would have to be a nutter to want to stop and take pictures. Who would do such a thing?) After going through an unfortunately placed gate, keep your eyes open for a gate in the wall to the right, just before another gate bars the track (you could optionally continue along the track to join the roads at the bottom, and cut off the next part, but that would be a waste of a good downhill).

See pictureSee pictureGo through the gate on the right, and skirt the edge of Kinderlow End. At a junction of paths (one heading through a gate ahead - that's not your path), continue skirting Kinderlow End, passing through another gate around to the right. Stick by the skirting wall as it swings around to the left, and becomes a good, rutted downhill, eventually channeling you into a walled avenue.

See pictureSee pictureCross the style on the left at the end of the avenue, and begin the next part of the descent over a grassy field, bouncing over ruts and eventually dropping more steeply down to the treeline. This last section decided to pop one of my front shocks - argh. Turn left and drop the last little bit down to a road. Cross the road and drop down a steep, rocky bridleway to a path running along the edge of a small river. It rejoins the road which then spits you out onto another road. Continue in the same direction at both junctions to reach a car park at Bowden Bridge. Turn left and cross the river using a side road, then swing left to avoid a campsite. Follow the road gently uphill to reach a junction. Take the road that climbs upwards on the right.

See pictureSee pictureWhen the road forks, take the right branch, and continue climbing. Just as the road starts to drop, take a path to the right, and start a sustained climb along a dirt track up to the right shoulder of Mount Famine. Most of it can be ridden with a little difficulty, but I'm afraid I had to resort to pushing. At the top, it passes through a gate and begins a gentle downhill along to the edge of a farmer's yard, where it reaches a proper dirt track again.

See pictureTurn left, and climb once again along a dirt track, heading towards South Head, with views to the right over the western side of the Peak District. A ridiculous tripple gate blocks the way at one point. I wonder if horse riders appreciate this any more than cyclists.

See pictureSee pictureThe track levels out a little as it passes between Mount Famine and South Head, with an excellent view over the Kinder Scout escarpment. A final steep technical climb reaches the top of this section, at the far side of South Head.

See pictureSee picturePrepare yourself for the downhill. This is an off-roading trail, and needs careful attention, passing through a gate a short way down. The trail base is made of large natural rock slabs, and in a couple of places they are stepped with large steps as it drops down into the next little valley, eventually steepening and becoming smoother before it crosses the stream at a ford. Take care, and try to ramp off them to keep yourself from accidentally nose-diving.

See pictureSee pictureOn the other side of the ford, the climb is ridiculous, jumping up in huge steps nearly half a metre high - some show damage from landrovers grounding as they hop off them. It begins very steep, then becomes more gentle, but still with big steps. As it approaches some trees, it levels out and becomes ridable (trial bikers might manage it anyway, but they're nuts). The gentle climb continues for a while, eventually ending at a road. Take a left onto a bridleway instead, and continue climbing. By this stage my lungs were killing me, making me feel quite sick - it's been far too long since I did this stuff.

See pictureSee pictureThe climb becomes stepped again, though not as bad as before. As it levels out, it reaches a junction. The track continues ahead along Rushup Edge, reaching an optional descent down a road to the left, or a path ahead around the left side of Mam Tor, which then drops down to Edale. We took the Chapel Gate alternative, which is left at the junction. This gains a great view over Kinder Scout, but you won't have much time to enjoy it before ...

See pictureSee pictureThe most awesome descent begins. This is very steep, with big steps and deep ruts. It follows the shattered and destroyed remains of a tarmac road, which has been ripped to pieces, leaving just the dirt below. The lower end is the steepest, with plenty of opportunities to send yourself hurtling into a dirt bank, or flying off rocks and down the side of the hill. It requires nearly as much mental work as the rest of the route put together, just to keep yourself on the bike. Take care, and prepare for one wicked shot of adrenaline that makes all the work up to this point worthwhile.

The track finally levels out at a gate, and ends after a short slope (watch out for the 0.7 metre [2 foot] drop off the end of a remnant of tarmac) at a junction with a road. Head at high speed down the road, and take a left just before it crosses a bridge at the bottom of the valley. This shortly reaches the Barber Booth car park.

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