After a busy morning with the kids I crammed the last essentials into the backpack and rolled out onto the street and down Hucknall Road. I hadn’t scrimped on gear, a forecast for a cold night meant I was taking no chances, but happily I still managed to keep things pretty light. The plan was to get from Nottingham to a relatively isolated part of White Peak by bike and spend the night under the stars before riding back in the morning using as few ‘proper roads’ as possible sticking to bridleways and tracks. I had a few destinations in mind but was happy to end up anywhere remote, having not done any big rides for a few months I wasn’t completely sure how quickly I’d become knackered. A mishap with my usual dinky camera meant that I was going to experiment with a GoPro instead.
Leaving the main road just past Bulwell I found some good woody paths near Hucknall and stitched together a vague route West by travelling along the Robin Hood Way, over the M1 and past some ex-mining towns. Through meadows of rapeseed, farms, woods took me beyond Nottinghamshire. The disused Cromford canal linked straight on to a no through road which dumped me near Ripley. Within 2 hours I’d got to Shining Cliff Woods at Ambergate, a patch of ancient woodland perfect for bombing around on a bike. I necked one of those caffeine energy gels and waited for my head to explode.
Following some caffeine induced noodling around in the woods I joined the Mid Shires Way. Along the track I met the world’s friendliest farmer (opened a gate for me and docked his flatcap) and the world’s most sinister farmer (three of them, all stood dead still glaring at me, one of them had a pitchfork). A downhill detour to Cromford for some fish and chips turned sour as all the chippys were shut, and I’d somehow lost my debit card so couldn’t get any food anyway (think it dropped out my pocket). I resolved to survive on what I’d brought along for snacks, and cursed away whilst climbing the monstrously steep hill up towards Black Rock and Wirksworth.
The last segment of today’s riding was along the High Peak Trail, a gentle track that used to be a railway and has now been converted for cyclists and walkers. The surrounding land was ‘very white peak’, rolling green hills, drystone walls, bleating lambs, the occasional narrow road snaking past the fields. It’s not as wild, epic and adventurous as the Dark Peak but except for the odd car in the distance I hadn’t seen another person for three hours. I was drained from the ride and rolling along a flat empty bridleway with the sun setting ahead of me, I couldn’t want for much more.
I’d noticed Minninglow Hill on the map, mainly because it was far from any roads and buildings and offered a few trees for shelter. In reality it was a perfect inconspicuous spot to spend the night, flat grass, fenced off from the surrounding farmland and it turned out to be an iron age burial ground. It was a chilly night just nudging above zero, I set up camp under a cluster of bare beech trees, once in the bivi I knocked back a few flasks of miso soup and tried not to think of fish and chips.
I used the GoPro to try and make a timelapse film of setting up camp, it didn’t really capture that too well but it does show a decent transition to night time.
The sun was up at 05:30, it had been a good nights sleep under a clear starry night which had left a layer frost by dawn. I was on the road again by 06:30 experiencing the highs that only a person who has two snickers bars and strong black coffee for breakfast can know. I didn’t see anyone until about 08:00 when a couple of fresh faced runners passed me. It was a cool fresh morning which was a pleasure to move through with bleary eyes, feeling a little lazy I opted to go back the way I’d came. Some fruitless searching for the missing bank card further compounding the decision to get back home.
It was a long and slow three hours of steady riding back to Nottingham, it was tough going without any food and the ride seemed to mostly consist of uphill climbs. I’m proud to say that once back home I ate a shameful amount of food and made myself ill. I’d been out the house about 21 hours, covered about 75 miles, slept in a burial ground and ridden through woods, bridleways, fields, past rivers, streams and found a wilderness from my doorstep.