This is a continuation of the signposted Peak Park anniversary route and the route for Sustrans NCN6. At present the route is signed to Castleton, but is easy to follow from there and signage picks up again in Manchester as part of the Fallowfield Loop (Floop as it is locally known.)
Between Sheffield’s third and fourth largest cities lies some of England’s most beautiful and also most challenging terrain for cyclists – The Dark Peak. There are a number of options for crossing this section of the Pennines. The A57 Snake Pass is viable for cyclists, although it is narrow and has fast traffic.(The introduction of a 50mph limit has made it safer for all road users including cyclists, and we are waiting for Sheffield City Council to do the same on the South Yorkshire side) The Woodhead A628 has been dualled in places and has a lot of truck traffic, which makes a highly undesirable place to be for a cyclist.
Currently (January 2016) there is a study underway on the feasibility of a Trans-Pennine tunnel which would take lorries away from this road. Views are mixed on the desirability of this but the carrot that is being dangled in front of cyclists to support this is removal of traffic from the surface roads making them more cycle-friendly. The author is engaged in this consultation and will post updates as they arise.
In the meantime, the Trans-Pennine Trail offers an alternative, but as a leisure trail much of it is unpaved and therefore can be hard going on a road bike, especially in the winter.
This route takes takes advantage of cycle routes and trails in the Sheffield urban areas, then uses minor roads in the Hope Valley, taking advantage of the closed road up Mam Tor, with a stretch along a busier road past Rushup Edge, then taking to canal towpaths in the west side of the pennines, with options to use the TPT to traverse south Manchester, connect with the Fallowfield Loop to get into the student hotspots, or stay on the canal network to get right to the city centre, at Piccadilly.
The weather can get extreme at any time of year in the Dark Peak – make sure you have waterproofs, warm clothes and something to eat and drink in an emergency.
There are plenty of options for public transport to assist in your journey – The Hope Valley line local trains run parallel to the first section of the route, whilst the Buxton line can be easily picked up once on the western side of the Hills. Further north, trains run regularly from Glossop and Romiley to Manchester via Guide Bridge.
OK, you’ve climbed out of Sheffield using the Anniversary Route, and we hope you enjoyed the nature trail, the Shepherds Wheel historic Little Mesters (newly restored) and the Rotary Club viewpoint on Fulwood Lane. You turned right onto Ringinglow Rd and just beyond Burbage Moor (where Kiera Knightley was famously filmed in Pride and Prejudice, 2005, and if you’re lucky there will be an ice cream van) take the right turn towards Bamford Moor. Avoid the temptation to swoop down the steep incline towards Stanton Lees at the next turning, as you will have a steep climb out again if you do. Instead, take the right turn and continue to the next cattle grid where the Long Causeway joins – an unclassified public road but currently closed to motorised users because of the damage they’ve caused to it – but leaving that behind take the next right, a sharp climb on a straight road followed by a nice switchback and steep downhill to arrive above Bamford on the A6013. Turn right, making use of the shared use pavement past the Yorkshire Bridge pub, and walk your bike over the Ladybower Dam wall, then turning left to use the Thornhill Trail bridleway (a former railway used to construct the dams) and taking the next right fork to reach the road towards Thornhill. This is the NCN route Another option on emerging at the A6013 is to go l. then first r. to use the road to Thornhill – either way a very pleasant trip along the Derwent valley. When you’ve climbed up to Thornhill take the narrow r. towards Aston running above the Hope Valley, and follow through until you drop down to the outskirts of Hope. There is a track off to the left leading to a Caravan Club site, marked ‘no cycling’ which is a very pleasant back route into Hope.
From Hope there is a circuitous back road via Pindale that will take you within spitting distance of the massive Bradfield Quarry Site – an interesting contrast of heavy industry in the midst of an area of outstanding natural beauty, perhaps giving a taste of what the Peak District was like in the Industrial Revolution, when there was far more industry than there is now. There is also a very pleasant campsite at Pindale Outdoor Centre, although you will need to book at busy times – there are plenty of other camp sites in the Hope Valley. The route takes round the back streets of Castleton and conveniently past the Fish & Chip shop. before popping through the Car Park to get you back on the main road. Turn left and traffic will drop off as you start to climb the Shivering Mountain, and there are some gates and sections of broken road to negotiate until you find yourself on Rushup Edge – not generally an edge you Rush Up though! If you were looking for something a little steeper Winnats Pass has forked off on the left, although as it is now the only car route west from Castleton tends to be a busy and disappointingly unpleasant cycle up – cycling down is a matter of holding on for dear life.
Although you are now back on the A625 it’s generally not too busy, although it can be somewhat exposed on a windy day. Note the Pennine Bridleway crossing the road – recommended for MTB’ers. As you start to drop towards Chapel-en-le-Frith, you will come across the Chestnut Centre, at Slackhal, on the right.. Drop off to say hello to the otters by all means, then take the minor road towards Wash, which will bring you under an impressive triangle of railway viaducts, where you turn right for Chinley on the B6062. If you’ve had enough, Chinley benefits from regular fast and slow trains to both Sheffield and Manchester, whilst there a couple of good pubs at Whitehouse, on the south side of the village, to while away the wait for your train.
But if we’ve just whetted your appetite, on your way down the hill from Chinley towards Whitehouse there is a bridleway following the river. Follow this through to the old canal wharves at Bugsworth Basin, and you will come to the junction with the Peak Forest canal, just north of Whaley Bridge. This is your traffic-freeway to Manchester. Turn right to head north and it will take you through New Mills (where the Pennine Cycleway crosses on its way up to Glossop to meet up with the Trans-Pennine Trail) the stupendous flight of locks at Marple (where you are not far from the railway path to Macclesfield, NCN route 55 – pick it up at Rose Hill station )
The new Connect2 scheme at Chadkirk offers an opportunity to link in to Manchester via Stockport. That’s the quickest way into the city, but there are some other route options below.
To pick up the Trans-Pennine Trail, just beyond Romiley the canal turns north and soon crosses the Tame Valley – the trail passes underneath, watch out for not very clear signage. This will get you to Stockport or east towards Glossop and the Woodhead. Or carry on squelching your way through Hyde up to Guide Bridge, where the Huddersfield Narrow canal meets up.
If you come off the canal at the A635 you can make your way to Fairfield Station where there is a link onto the Fallowfield Loop – you have to traverse some old unappealing railway sidings with burn-out cars, but then you come onto a park created from reclaimed land which is very pleasant, follow through and the Floop will take you through the student hotspot areas of South Manchester, all the way across the city whilst barely seeing a car, with links to other parts of the city including the centre (haven’t explored these yet so am unable to pass comment) and ending up in salubrious Chorlton-cum-Hardy, where you can pick up the TPT again by following Chorlton Brook.
Should you prefer to carry on along the towpath, however, this will rapidly bring you into the city centre via Sports City and the Velodrome. Man Picc lies close at hand for regular trains back to Sheffield, but after a ride like that you may want to treat yourself to a meal in Chinatown or the Rusholme curry district.
For more information about leisure routes around Manchester have a look at http://www.bikerides.dsracing.me.uk/ (Site not updated since 2009)