Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Out out - Transmitter Masts and Reservoirs

Last week was horrible- work, health, family business. I had a play date with Landslide and S2. I said I'd leave at 5pm Friday afternoon. At 5:20 1 stopped talking on the phone to my dad and still hadn't packed. I called in a bail so as not to keep everyone waiting but was reminded I could join later. So I packed and had my dinner at home, chilled out with TSK for a bit then left home on the cusp of darkness.  I had the roads to myself and shared the trail with curlews and owls. I had to remove my windproof and roll down my knee warmers until I reached the A57 at Moscar where I wrapped up for the descent.

The reservoir was quiet without the overflow raging. I took out my phone to check on the boy's location and put an approximate spot on the GPS.

I rode up through the trees and fumbled about in the undergrowth, now desperate for a wee. The limited detail on Google maps told me they were about 1 km further along & below the trail. I bounced, huffed and rollicked over the trail, which I admit I've not ridden before (at least not in the dark) trying to discern between the route and a waterfall in one stretch.

The trail dropped me out in a woodland and I could see a small fire below but I knew that would not be them. I'd overshot. I made my way through the trees to an and dropped the bike to investigate on foot but there were only sheep and lambs staring back at me.

I returned to the bike and checked Google again: determined to give it one last try. They were no more than 50m away. I was just about to descend to the safety of the woods again when I saw an un-natural-looking pyramid shape sticking out.

I wheeled the bike up, took up an inconvenient space and unsuccessfully set about trying to pitch quietly. It had taken me an hour to find them and it took me an hour to pitch and faff.  Still, once set up I wrapped my knees in the hood and ate a tin of tuna, the only savoury food I had with me to make sure I was fuelled for Saturday.

The night was slightly chilly with a cool breeze blowing through camp (it was still when they pitched).  At 2am I had a wee and span the bivi 180 degrees to put my feet into the breeze and move the moon from shining on my face. I still watched the stars for a while before drifting off. My upper body was cold so I tried taking my synthetic coat of to get a bit more heat into the sleeping bag. Unfortunately I forgot my sleeping bag was sinched tight over my head and shoulders and ended up straight-jacketed with my arms above my head and wrists by my ears until I could find - and reach - all the toggles and zips that I needed to release myself. It certainly warmed me up and for all of 4 hours, I slept soundly until hearing L and S moving around in the morning.

We rolled downhill to meet Grace and Cad who'd hiked up from Bradwell and I borrowed a kettle as I remembered my 90's gas stove (un-used in 18 months) is too big to balance a modern 400m ti mug on it.

(c) Stefanamato


• • •

After porridge and coffee we went our separate ways.  Me & Landslide headed off for Ladybower then Lockerbrook and Derwent. Much to my joy I discovered I can carry Midnight again - to get up the berms direct. We followed Summer Pastures for a bit then posted L down Hagg Side descent to much grins since he is back riding on suspension forks. The second round of breakfast was consumed at Fairholmes with lunch purchased for later. 


Happiest over second breakfast (c) Landslide

We carried on over cut gate watching meadow pipits scurry across bluffs. I had to set about trying to dig up some glass from the moor to prevent starting, a fire. The task got more and more difficult as tools and a second person were engaged.  The bottle resisted hard but was starting to ease out gradually so we persevered.

We debated what could be so awkward - a full pint glass? A litre beer bottle? a whole wine bottle?

Our snooty middle-class littering outrage was suppressed by the innocence of a seemingly "vintage" 3 pint milk bottle with the words "sterilised milk" thickly emboldened at the neck. Maybe dug up by a particularly active season of people and bikes treading this way.  I packed it onto my saddlebag and we carried on up, meeting plenty of riders coming the other way. Near the summit all was quiet except my stomach so before descending to the hubub of Langsett we took a booth (a sheep trod in the peat) and lay in the dry heather listening to skylarks and making fun of the grouse which had one eye on our leftover pasties crumbs.


(c) Landslide capturing me trying not to fall off.

• • •

The descent and climb back to L's cut off point was too short and we promised one more adventure before Scotland. He buzzed away. My route took longer to load and I switched my dynamo from charging my light to charging my storage battery.

There still weren't many folk at Langsett at 1230. I took the Woodhead bridleway between the litter from the motorists and the snow barriers. It was all solidly rideable this week.

My tolerance of continuous traffic rumble and moorland efforts were rewarded by a wheatear posing on a stone gatepost like a tiny Highway man, his eyewash and tailcoat and proud red waistcoat. The drivers thundered by unawares.


The crossing to the Dunsford bridge road was peaceful as ever.

Smiles, pretty smiles.

While I was tempted to try riding the steepest section with my dropper post down, pre race conservatism got the better of me and I didn't like the idea of being glassed by a 3 pint milk bottle if my arse overtook my elbow. So I walked.

• • •

I was hoping on an ice cream van at the sailing club carpark but no such luck.

I trundled on around the bridleways to the Ramsden Road but turned left at the bottom, alongside. the reservoir below Holme Moss transmitter station which towered above me.

A group of moto-crosses were lining up their machines on the dam for a pic & I had to work hard not to join on the end. They laughed + invited me to join on. Sadly I had no kick stand so I left them to it. They passed me later, carefully and at a distance so as not to cloud me in dust. I wondered why they were all congregated at the next byway turn - a very green, very vertical trail up the face of Holme Moor.  Moments later I found the mini lake where a stream is still discharging its contents onto a 40ft stretch of the track. I didn't fancy finding out how deep it was at such an early stage of the day so picked my way along the high bank where there was a narrow ledge and only the one pedal strike squarely on my right ankle tendon.

I carried on to Digby reservoir before finding the much coveted icecream van. While I'd been holding out for a clean water resupply (I forgot at Fairholmes) what I actually ordered was a Magnum and a coke in case I needed a caffeine hit, having not had any since 10am. There's a beautiful lane/quarry above Digby but the climb to get there is not doable with a Magnum in-hand so instead of joining everyone sitting on the grass in the car park, breathing diesel fumes, I pushed the bike along the path to a big flat stone overlooking some tree­tops and killed some time not-giving-dogs-some-of-my-icecream.

The quarry above made for some fine offroad riding (I learned of this place whilst chatting to some 15 yr olds at the end of the TPT while they waited for a pickup from their dad).

Above Digby - tempting bivi spot or not in a million years!?

I did think there would be some fine spots before I realised some of the tracks were probably made by moto-x bikes, not mtb trails or ambitious hikers.

By the time I got to the edge of civilisation I was beginning to get peckish again. I pulled in at a spar in what felt like a place not to leave an unlocked bike.

• • •

I had a thorough check of my bags but still no lock. I did drop off all of my rubbish-including used coffee, so not entirely wasted. By now I'd got attached to my vintage milk bottle and was bringing it home as a memento. I re-packed it into my frame bag for safety.

The village of Holme was more familiar and I instantly recognised the shop where people are either passing or already in the pub. I tucked most of my bike behind the bins which were obscured from the road by cars and helmet locked the wheel. Purchase of a litre of water and an apology for forgetting my mask was quick and easy & fuelled me through the gruelling hillclimb out of the Holme Valley.

What a great route I/Garmin had plotted around sub-suburban Huddersfied. Dead end lanes past stone-fronted terraces that turned into scaly little single tracks through woodlands, cobbled descents, tiny stone humped bridges, it had it all. There's no easy way to get to Honley Tower but when you find the icecream van is still there, it's very easy to forget you promised yourself that water and instead fall for the £2.50 hot dog-with onions and sauce - and because he's about to go, you have to get the top up icecream just in case.



The only nearby spot out of the breeze for a woman balancing a hotdog, a bike and a cup of icecream (what stem cells were made for) was the pavement at the bottom of the footpath. I left one end open for people to cross the road safely & occupied the other - legs outstretched-to eat my (early) dinner while cars drifted by - folks heading home after a day of Yorkshire sun worship.

I dressed for riding into the evening - a trip over to Emley Moor then the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where I had sneaky thoughts about spending the night.

On the subject of another night out - I thought I'd eat again before bedtime so needed 400ml water for dinner, 400 for coffee &200 ml for my remaining porridge in the morning. Which really just left me coke to drink. Time to be on the lookout for outside taps.

• • •

The problem with riding to something so obvious as a transmitter mast is it can feel like you're doing pointless loops towards it then away from it.  At least I managed to find a petrol station where I could leave the bike under the nose of the shop assistant at the night service till & hidden behind a car with a pretty lady in it who looked like she had not the slightest interest in stealing my bike.

I rushed in, apologised for forgetting my mask again & left with the water. The water went in the Camelback, the unfinished coke went in the slightly crushed water bottle in case I needed it later.

Soon after I dived in a bus stop to add long finger gloves and a buff to keep the breeze out of the neck of my windproof. It was getting cold again and I was finally dropping down, till the next up.

My route did a loop around Emley Transmitter station which I nearly skipped but the intention of the route was to "ride to there" so I did it and enjoyed the little off-road bits it added in to the route. I was rewarded at a farmyard by the sight of Yellow hammers flitting in the hedgerow and hopping around in the fields and a couple of quail running free. I waved to my neighbour who monitors the transmitter as part of his job - from his bedroom 2 doors up from where I live.

I see you

Another rider caught me up as I waited for a tractor a trailer to pass on a dusty by way.

"You camping out?" he asked.

"Just training for a trip to Scotland, having a lo o n n n ng day out". "How far have you come today"? 

I thought of asking him to define "Today". I looked at my Garmin. In the last 20 hours I'd done 98km. 48 of them were technically "yesterday" and I felt cheated saying "50" so I lied some more & said "60". I told him I had 50 to go. That could have been 5 hrs riding t had me home by 1am.

"Long night" he said & sprinted off up the hill.

When I reached the edge of the Sculpture Park it felt too early to stop even though the sun was doing its thing on my way up the hill.

Sunset over the YSP

I dived into the Rhododendrons over the wall from the path for a wee and hoped to find a bivi spot but the area was riddled with mtb single track or thick with Rhodies so I pedalled/hiked to the top and instead found a large iron rusted vessel in the trees to hide behind. I won't lie, I was hoping it would be some scrap artwork I could hide under for the night-or at least make dinner in it... but it was just an open-top tank.

I left it behind and headed towards the park. Lots of signage advised that visits were only allowed pre-booked. I imagine during the day there are marshals checking tickets at the gates to check numbers of visitors since access is normally free.

• • •

I also assumed there may be heightened security in place as I toyed with the idea of unfettered access. Past the woodcarving area where some new shelters were a work in progress - a potential extension to their outdoor education facilities. It was painfully tempting but also felt woefully cheeky + I decided not to risk it.


The last piece I passed in the park is called "Maze" It's a big wooden box made up of (what look like giant Jenga pieces. It really would have made the best bivi spot but thanks to a cultured visit here with my in-laws I know that the sick joke of the maze is it's entirely impenetrable - impossible to get into. (I bet you could climb in the roof but there's lots of signs prohibiting it and earlier we'd already been in trouble for using another sculpture as a camera tripod - such heathens).

I popped down to the bridge over the pond from the stately home and confirmed my unease. The grand house was right there the lights still on. I was fairly certain there would be a good cctv surveillance checking for camp parties so I took some blurry pics and rode on - on across the barren farmland fully exposed to a breeze except for a few extremely tidy copse which had been trimmed of all brushy cover to within an inch and overlooked by two massive active farm houses. It's only redeeming feature? The gate that was locked last time I came this way was passable without me needing to climb over the 8ft high stone wall stile.

I was back on a road, had surpassed my casual plan and needed a new one.

• • •

I zoomed out the map and found the route went past High Hoyland which (at the time) I thought was near Wortley Hall (I am mistaken) and another big open farmland track but there are enough hedgerows, nooks + valleys for a bikepacker to get lost in, so I carried on my course towards the metropolitan Borough of Barnsley. Things I know about Barnsley:

  • There are very nice bits
  • There are shitty bits 
  • Sometimes the two mix 
My route soon dived off a minor road onto the Barnsley Boundary Walk. I remember when I was route- plotting, being unsure whether this would turn out to be a footpath but despite being a 10 inch wide gap in the wall followed by 6 tall stone steps that dropped 6ft in 24 inches it was marked as a Bridleway.

• • •

At 9:30pm I wasn't looking forward to a succession of gnarly steps and there'd better not be any stiles, but I decided it might also take me far enough away from a nearby factory hum and give me enough cover to sleep the night. Within 100m there was a tiny narrow bridge over a stream. Even upending the bike was a bit of a chore but realised the infrastructure would at least mean I didn't have to deal with horse hoofprints.

After the bridge the track opened into a glorious wide tree rooted solid trail which undulated in a pleasantly rideable way. Almost enough to distract me from the thunderous vehicle that passed on the road I had just left, all red and yellow lights blazing.

For a minute I hoped its labouring engine might have been the source of the pervading mechanical hum but sadly as the vehicle noise receded, the factory/farm hum resumed and I noticed that the whole valley had a feint odour of industrial smoke.

A flat spot in the trees was researched - too many brambles- and the flat spot above it - when researched by torchlight turned out to be a dumping ground for grass cuttings and black bin bags from the house above.

The rest of the lane was pleasant but wound up a hillside with no discernable perching spots.

The next bridlepath didn't hold too much promise either. I was resigning myself to a long and painful crawl home into the small hours or hoping to recognise somewhere I could bail onto the TPTo take residence in the shelter of a picnic bench. I recon­ciled this with my desperation for a sleep or promised to keep looking just as my narrow cart track widened a little and next to its drainage ditch were two substantial trees with just enough hedge and saplings to keep off the breeze and hide a bivi bag from any passing walkers.

I checked ahead on the map. A rather tempting olde English "Barn" was marked near the end of my trail but I decided not to risk it & stuck with my ditch-spot which was growing to my taste with the incoming wave of fatigue, despite the ever-present odour of smoke. The hum though, was inaudible.

I finally put my warm coat on - suddenly organised enough to wriggle out of my bib arms first, then set about organising camp.

I felt like it happened in record time. I just wanted to sleep but changed into some non-sweaty leggings and force fed myself an Adventure Foods Mousse Au Chocolate.

• • •

I didn't really get the packaging sorted so all kinds of gritty bits needed to be mixed with more water and I probably overdid it in the end. It had the consistency of something brown and runny but was, nevertheless, delicious. I feel like a lot of it ended up on my face, gloves & pillow but I was soon too asleep to care. I tried the coat-off approach again and ended up shivering anyway. Because I'd used the coat to keep my arse and legs warm I sucked up the shivers and drifted in or out of sleep. There's nothing I could be bothered to do to stop the shivers before falling asleep again so my sleep can't have been that bad. I set my alarm for 5 - so as to not be discovered and also to catch the sunrise.

• • •

It woke me when I was very tired. I opened the bi vi - light was arriving across the fields to my right but it felt cold out there - on the brink of zero degrees - and I was warm inside. I snoozed a little but the desire to get up for a pee after a solid 6 hrs sleep soon overcame the urge to lie in and once I was up, I knew the best way to get warm and mobile was the physical exertion of packing up my stuff.

I did so in the company of the emerging sunshine - I had the best view of it before it disappeared into the cloud bank above.


Once I'd packed away my sleep kit I was hungry enough to eat and a successful campaign commenced of using up the last gas of an empty canister before reverting to meths again. I managed to balance the tiny mug on the big old stove, brewed enough for porridge then just got my coffee water to the right temperat­ure before the canister expired. It was a perfect ending to the show the sunrise put on.

Much to my joy, the track surface changed. The night before I'd pushed up wood chip - too soft to ride on - because the choice was pedalling over historic paving slabs & my bruised tush couldn't cope with the smack smack smack. I pitied the coach passengers of yester-years.

This morning after 20m, the wood chip stopped & the traditional "just dirt" resumed.

I was glad I did not hold off for the barn as it had been subsumed into the active farm - though the mottle and daub was very impressive. Sparrows fought over territory and the sun gained its strength. A man and boy gave me a cheery hello whilst out checking on their lambs and I sat down in a field in the dirt to change out of my big coat and find thinner gloves. I still felt like I was riding pointless loops around Emley Moor but they were pretty so it didn't really matter.

The end of one bridleway joined an A-road into Ingbirchworth. The course turned right and almost immediately right again to circumnavigate the small village, cross the A- road once more a ride away. After looking both ways I opted to ride up the right hand side of the road the 50m between bridleways.


I was glad I did as I was slightly dubious of the condition of the hot hatch driver passing in a cloud of weed smoke at 7:45am.

I went through a number of pleasant cow fields, missed my turn and retraced to a gate, turned my turn and buried myself a bit to ride up the hill to a gate signed, "Please use the bottom path due to the current situation".

I checked the route of the "bottom path" - either well off my route or back to where I'd come from.

I wasn't in the mood for entitled farmers so I didn't see the sign & continued through the edge of the farm though I did feel a little guilty crossing the cows path during milking time, they and the few farm staff I passed were all friendly. The real suspect I assume was the house at the end where the scrap rusting classic cars/old vans littered across the bridlepath didn't look like they'd been touched for 15 years, never mind 15 months.

Liz and Millie didn't seem to mind

 More pleasant lanes, fields and trails finally put the transmitter masts behind me and I dropped into Thurgoland down a ripping descent, the whole of Woodhead moor laid out in the white/silver light across the valley. It was as washed out as I felt after yesterdays sun.


I was kind of back on my own territory although the road up to the TPT through Penistone surprised me somewhat. Every single old property seemed to have been converted into a Grand Designs monstrosity like a developer's wet dream.

I had a quick chat with a runner trying to identify the way down to the TPT but it turns out it was his first time too. I set off down the promising-looking road that appeared to be the approach road to the old station. I took the shortcut, carrying the bike down the stone steps through a gap in the wall to find he had even less patience and had scrabbled down the cliff from the bridge. Only then did I realise my face was still partially smeared with Mouse au Chocolate from last night's binge.

All my hopes for 2nd breakfast now hinged on 3 TPT cafes. I soon realised I'd missed one because of where I joined. Penistone was still shuttered up when I passed and when I got to the new stables cafe it was still only 9:45 and it was shut without opening hours posted. Rather than hang around with the horsey people I opted to ride on to the end and hope the park cafe in Oughtibridge would be open.

Before entering Greno woods I opened my sweetie stash to the atmosphere & sugar loaded to give me the energy to continue and the alertness to avoid downhillers dropping out of the forest. It was enough to keep me happy for the last miles into Oughtibridge where there was still no food on offer. By then there was only one dodgy burger van between me and home and sitting in Hillsborough park trying to keep unleashed dogs off a burger at 10am wasn't top of my wishlist so I popped the last of my sweeties and pushed my bike up an extra 20 steps (that I forgot were there), trying to take "the easy way home" from the bottom of the valley. 

I was pretty tired when I got in but mostly due to the lack of food and sleep deprivation on Friday night. Leaving for a bivi after a day at work always leaves me on the back foot for a day or so. Not that I regret it in the slightest. 

I had a 2 hour snooze after my bath and felt like shite all day but I'm really well recovered on Monday after 8 hours sleep. I'm astonished at how well the body bounces back from winter. All it takes is improved trails and a few more degrees warmth and anything feels possible. And look, if I can do 150km on my heavy bike with 2 gas canisters and a 3 pint glass milk bottle stashed things are looking up right?

Improvements measured by smiles.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Hapy Eater BEaster Weekend

I meant to tell y'all about it in the week but I forgot.  Local kids made a multicoloured sign for the park but yellow letters on a white background aren't good... still I was chuffed to be wished a Hapy Eater.

• • •

I said I'd let Landslide know my plans over Easter weekend for an April bivi but the problem was, I didn't have any. I wanted to take out my race kit and trial it in harsh conditions and the weather forecast was perfect - glorious in the daytime, clear and deathly cold at night. Like the borderline genius/stupid, insane/dedicated individual that I am, I packed my lightweight quilt, mat, threw in the stove, all my remaining fuel (worth about three meals), two days food for good measure and some significant clothing layers. I walked out the door with 2 plans in hand - Option 1: Northern Myth route (though planning this in a few weeks with Landslide so didn't want to spoil it by doing it twice in a short space of time)... Option 2: ride out to The Limestone Way to see Marcus who was making record attempt.  

I didn't know when I was going.  I didn't know when I'd be back.  Limestone way was the preferred option - taken up simply by making my way over to a point on the Peak 200 route then using the tracker to see whether or not Marcus was nearby. Because I'd ridden part of the P200 route a fortnight ago, the obvious thing was to rejoin it where I left it - at Rushup edge - using the prettiest known route through the Peak to get there.

I hauled a very heavy Midnight out of the house at 11am having spent all Saturday morning packing up and switching the dynamo across bikes. Within 10 minutes I was waving to a club mate passing the other way. + 30 minutes I was humming across Moscar, happy to be out. Even the fleecy leggings were a bit too warm. My plan to not bring out a pair of bib shorts "just in case" was paying off, the day was sunny, glorious and I sweated. 

In my haste to get "away from it all" asap, I dodged the panic parking at Ladybower / Derwent junction at speed, waving to the traffic warden on the way past and turned up the Bridleway to the quietest pace I know, chuckling at the line of motorists waiting for "that one guy" to figure out the bus turning circle is not actually a parking place. 

Just this one climb and you'll be away from all this... Sure enough, a small group of fell runners were the last people I passed for some time.  How odd that in this time of solitude and loneliness I still crave solitude.  Oh, there we go, I defined introversion.

Some different graffiti.  This fella is chuffed to be out of lockdown.

Looking for a Simpsons moments.  It's quiet if you know where to go.

At the bomb-holes I decided to risk a wee. The orange or yellow coats way up the hill were clearly stopped and I had a great view of the bridleway both ways if I needed to abort. I traced over to the wall to shelter from the icy wind for my lunch then resumed my climb past the white and orange coats which turned out to be sheep feed buckets.

I just noticed today that this horserider is *really* chuffed to be out of lockdown.

Back at the Lockerbrook junction the crowds resumed briefly but/got a clear run to the A57 then rode all the way up "Don't get off and walk" fuelled by dry trails and 6 lads watching from the top. I don't think I have ever cleaned it on a loaded bike and certainly not on Midnight. Things were looking up.

A busy ride up to the ridge and then it got quiet again. A gate stop overlooking the Hope valley left me eminently satisfied with bikepacking as a medium. Still without a plan, I had nowhere to be except where I ended up. No-one was expecting me. My only commitment was to be back home 40 hours from now.

With trails like these.

Hope is what dreams are made of, and where clouds come from

I plunged down the descent into the Edale valley. The motorists were largely polite, especially the bloke in the Audi Al who thought a cheeky pass on a blind comer would be fine & I kinda saved his life by letting him know there was a tractor oncoming (fitted with a hay bail on a big spike).

• • •

Immense moment of joy when I turned to find the sky peppered with paragliders again. The ultimate socially distanced activity. Watching them whirl around in the sky gave me something to do as I trudged the heavy bike up the restricted by way to Rushup Edge and I found another breeze-free spot for more snacks.

I got my phone out to check Marcus's location on his run but was frustrated by tech as I could not get the thing to switch on - or the screen brightness was so dim I could not see in the sunlight. In the end I gave up and decided to continue regardless to see what fate held. A brief calculated estimate in my head gave a 14hr guess at his time so I'd probably miss it. Still, it was the only plan I had so I stuck to it.

• • •

A roadie turned onto the lane past the no-car cafe and moments later I screamed past him while he sat on the brakes down the hill. He was less good-humoured when he passed me back after the junction. I was no match for his skinny tyres and he silently disappeared up the road.

My luck was definitely on. The Peak Forest traffic lights were green for the first time ever and I sailed straight through, loading in the P200 route to my GPS as I went. 

Soon I had limestone under wheel and it was much more pleasant in the dry compared to my last ride here.  The sun was making its way around the sky and a group of dirt bikers at the end of the track were debating their choices - back to Edale then home. My sense of freedom prickled again.

I was definitely on the Limestone Trail now and a large oak with a strategically placed breeze block proved the perfect sitting spot to have afternoon snacks (bagin) and attempt to make my phone work again to see where Marcus was.


At the rustle of a crisp packet, the nearby herd of sheep came running and I went to great efforts to shoo them away, fearing that Marcus would come running up the hill and miss his record because a herd of sheep was blocking the gate and his route to glory! They got the message and left me to eat in peace.

Somehow with all the screen-jabbing on Mam Nick I had managed to engage my phone in some very weird settings menu which took me an age to cancel. When I finally did get the tracker up I discovered Marcus had finished 3 hours earlier.  My estimate of 14 hrs was only 4 hrs off!

• • •

I was quite gutted to realise I had stopped just short of Millers dale station and probably could have saved my jam sandwich for later. As I rode under the Monsal trail, a little girl on the bridge above called "hello bike" and I waved back then we met for real in the car park.

I locked my bike up and only then realised that I'd also missed the café and a cup of tea by a few minutes. I sat on the platform and pondered my next move. I had quite a lot of water left. It was too early for dinner - I'd just eaten. I cleared my rubbish into the bin and got chatting to the girl's mum and dad who were happily chilling in the sun while the kids played with milk and bread crates and built a (unlit) campfire out of grass.

• • •

Me and dad had a chat about cycling which was a nice distraction from me deciding what to do next. Eventually though they headed home when the kids started to get cranky. I pulled out the camel back bladder, deciding whether to be frugal with weight or concerned about finding a top up. I went for a refil in the toilets and then at 6pm I decided to scoff my remaining edible food as "dinner" to see me through to wherever I decided to camp where I could brew up something warm if I needed it.  I'd used my last opportunity to sit in the sun without a coat on but bundled myself into a windproof and shorts for the tunnels.

• • •

The Monsal trail was still busy and I was happy for the filter of a steep hike up to the Pennine bridleway and some more open riding.  I did regret putting the extra layers on so soon though. 

On the Bridleway, in amongst the railway sidings I was protected from the breeze and found a sweet no-handed spot for 30 seconds of riding, arms outstretched to embrace the chilling evening air and the sunset - my contribution to spreading joy in the world to the people I had just passed - or maybe just entertainment for them, had I screwed it up and got caught by a sudden cross-wind.

Last of the light on the Pennine Bridleway

The sun was hitting the horizon as I approached Parsley Haigh, golden hour falling on the plovers and pheasants.

I've long coveted a stop in Parsley Haigh shelter but it would need to be late and I'd need to be desperate as the road/carpark is so close it could easily be a noisy spot by the road and a meeting point for activities or intentions less honourable than those of a two-wheeled tramp.

I flew on by.  At my exit from the trail a large group of campers and cars were tucked into the back end of the car park hiding the giant family tent, men with dogs and beers in hand and bbq in full flow. We were all out for a variation of the same thing, a very different variation on a theme.

Normally I'd crash into the Royal Oak at Hurdlow for some food and look out at the families camped there as they pitied my dishevelled form and heavy bike. This time I wondered if they'd get away with it or get moved on... and who'd be driving?

I stoked across toward Youlgreave and zipped off the road into Gratton Dale, my rear lights were used for a record-least - only 2 minutes during this ride.

I crossed the meadows part of the ride in the twilight with just a dying dynamo to supplement the afterglow of the sunset. I had also longed after a bivi in Gratton Dale since I first rode through it in 2016. Despite the difficulty of cycling here, (it's 50% unrideable) it is one of my favourite places, a lonely cleft in the countryside where I rarely see other people. However, the already cold temperatures had dropped by about 4 degrees when I descended into the gully and alarm bells rang (very faintly).

The first few trips here left me confused about the route and which gates to use but now I know it, I made good progress in.  

Last time I was here it was midsummer and it was pitch dark. It would have been ripe for a bivi but farmers were harvesting the fields above into the night so there would have been a constant drone of combines, tractors and shouts from the boss, not to mention whirling headlights and the possibility of being discovered so I had ended up in a bus stop in Baslow instead.  I was determined not to make the same mistake.

Where the track climbs out of the dale to the moor before descending again, I should have stopped. The temperature came up, there were flat bits, there was a wall to pitch behind but it all felt a bit out there, like my silver tent would look like one large zit on otherwise clear skin.

• • •

On my way down the slope I thought I spied a flat spot by a rock but on closer investigation it was still too sloped. I decided to stop being foolish and get out of the dale in favour of somewhere warmer but my decisions rarely stick.

A couple of gates later, flat spots started to get more tempting until I realised that the occasional tussock around there is just a limestone boulder with grass growing on it.

Finally I spotted a large slab-like boulder that I could lean my bike on, surrounded by 3 potential flat spots. I realised I wasn't going much further that night when the large volumes of very dry cow pats didn't really bother me.

• • •

Although my underlying desire was to get out of the dale, my head was having other ideas of stopping: that "I've always wanted to" was reinforced by "not wanting to tackle the next rocky section whilst it was icy" and "maybe the mud won't yet be frozen and you'll get wet and filthy", "I don't know where the next stopping point will be if I don't stop here" and the best yet, "The extra -2°C won't be so bad"

They all conspired to make me stop.

• • •

I had a lie down on the Tyvek sheet to check the body position - found enough flat spot with two tiny boulders to bolster my pillow placement. Luxury.

An excellent pitch - the tent was up in no time, despite initial paranoia about being able to get pegs in a boulder field. The tent was fitted out and stove unloaded by 9:30pm. My quilt gave me an initial feeling of warmth, enough to allow me to change into full dry layers as my fleecy bibs had still been clammy when I stopped. I couldn't be arsed to cook though, partly knowing I only had enough fuel for a max of 3 meals this weekend, I'd have to choose to drop one, and at 6- 7 pm I'd just scoffed a large portion of (cold) food.

• • •

Sadly by 10:30pm I was still wide awake and my feet were fucking freezing. My hands were fine (some ace Rab wool gloves). My body wasn't shivering but I wasn't toasty by any stretch of the imagination.

I needed to do something about my feet urgently as I was convinced I was going to get frostbite. A few different sock combinations didn't help although with every change of socks I got about 10 minutes relief because I'd warmed my core up through the movement associated with changing socks. For a while I didn't know what to do and wondered if this was the first step in the delusion of hypothermia but I was already wearing all my clothes so I just made myself a mental note not to take them all off if I started getting warm.

• • •

I took my gloves off to see what was going on with my quilt. In general, outside my warm gloves EVERYTHING was pretty chilly - no reassuring warmth inside my sleeping bag.  When I moved on to my side my mat was also freezing cold. I realise later that basically, my entire sleep system was massively out of its comfort zone.

At 1am I concluded more drastic action was needed. I considered Gian's philosophy (via Karl) that if it's too cold to sleep, get moving, but I wasn't in a race and I didn't want to end up needing to sleep through the daylight on Sunday so I decided to try eating something to ensure that at least had the energy to stay "warm"through the night. A thick layer of ice was on the inside and outside of the tent. I went for an incredibly bracing wee outside, then returned to the tent to get the stove going.

• • •

Suddenly I was incredibly thankful for the extra water I picked up at Miller's Dale.

It was a brilliant 20 minutes of warmth in the darkness, watching the camp stove at my feet and the stars above.  The downside: it was so cold it took me 3 matches to get the meths lit. The heat captured in the tent (even with the door open) kept/got my feet and body warm for the 1st time in hours. I turned the head torch off and listened to nothing except the occasional warble of something birdy in the night. The flame was so pretty but died out before my 400ml water could boil. Rather than lose the heat or make mediocre soup, I plunged some more fuel on the hot stove (so lost some to evaporation) so I could finish the boil.

With some fuel still burning after that, I put more water on - so as not to waste the fuel. Whilst the soup cooked (in its pouch, shoved up my jumper) I scoured the tent for something to "drink".  I didn't want coffee but that's all I had. Instead I tossed a jelly baby in the pot.

Of course the soup packet had opened under my coat - of COURSE it had. However, "soup" was giving it too much credit and "Smash* with flavourings" would be a better description.

* look up "Smash Mash Potato" if you were born after 1985, though a quick check on that google search yeilds the following fun "fact" on the Wiki page: "The adverts of 1970s and their catchphrase, 'For Mash get Smash', were voted television advert of the century by Campaign Magazine, and second-best television advert of all time in a poll of April 2000 conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4, beaten by Guinness' Surfer advertisement from 1999."

Rather than being wet through from my soup release, I was merely coated in something resembling baby sick and it dried on (or froze?) pretty quickly. For reference, a red jelly baby dissolved in 200mm boiling water is akin to weak Ribena flavour and was pretty good.

• • •

I retreated back to the cold sleeping bag to an alarming role reversal. My feet became warm for the first time in hours but my core degenerated into convulsive shivering. I'm going with cold water swimming theory here: as the body is rewarmed, circulation starts sending warm blood to the extremities again. Unfortunately this brings cold blood back to the core, hence the shivering reaction. An idle run probably would have helped. Instead, I tried to plug the quilt gaps, to no avail. My final desperate act was to curl up in a ball (ignoring the parts of my body that fell off the insulated mat) and breathe warm breath into my quilt.

I had been reluctant to do this for fear I'd just end up with a soggy or frozen sleeping bag but somehow I managed to drift off to sleep. When I next woke up shivering it was 5am and a perfectly legitimate time to get up for the sunrise. If I was lucky I'd even get out of Peanut-butter-mud alley before it defrosted.

First of Sunday light, Gratton Dale.  It's grey because it's white!

A much enlightened (therefore grainy) pic.  Thumb for chaos scale.

A bad pic of ice and impromptu self-portrait of a square head.

• • •

At least I didn't need to worry about my silver tent in a green Peak District. The entire field was blanketed with dusty white frost.  

During the sunrise I packed up the tent and jogged up or down the bridleway to restore blood flow to my fingers which kept shutting down in protest to actually having to touch cold surfaces.  It was a beautiful sunrise but I didn't dare take the phone out of its case and attempt to handle it without gloves on.

I decided that on account of having eaten 4 hrs ago, I could find somewhere in the sun for my next meal. Preferably at someone else's fuel expense since during the night I had used up 50% of what was supposed to last me three meals.

Packing up is such a warming experience and this day was really special. First the tent pack wouldn't go in the bag so I re-did it.  Then the bag wouldn't go in the bar roll so I angrily pulled the tent out again. By the time I'd scrunched and shaken it out a third time two small snowballs of powder ice had accumulated. 

I spilled my sweets on the grass but, valuing every calorie and a "leave no trace" philosophy, I repacked every one - except the ones I popped in my mouth, picking off the cow shit first.

Peanut-butter Alley was dutifully solid. The worse puddle reduced to no more than 1inch deep chocolate paste. What was more surprising was the spring, ditching around 30 gallons per minute of water into the stream while the rest of the Peak is rocking dry trails. And when I say, "stream", in places it was indistinguishable from the path. I used what bypasses I could muster as I really was not in the mood for wet ice cold feet.  Thrashing through brush with a heavy bike and wide handlebars was preferable. Consequently it took me 27 minutes to do the first 1.7km. 

I managed the climb up past Elton before feeling grindingly hungry but a nice bench was available. 

I've frequently zoomed past it on the downhill so I indulged in more fuel, porridge, coffee and dressing in something more suitable.  My sleep clothes, waterproof coat and trousers were replaced with bib tights (now warmed through the conduction of my backpack) and my actual cycling top instead of insulating synthetic down. My heart rate monitor was resigned to either buried in the bottom of the bag or missing in action.

Whilst I ate my porridge, I searched for the answer the question on the tip of my tongue - what now? After 3 hours bad sleep where I burned all my calories staying alive I was feeling a) reassured by my survival skills b) in desperate need of more fuel if I was to stay out another night c) pretty washed out in spite of the amazing day d) undecided on where to eek out another day's riding or sleep that night.

• • •

In normal times I'd have ridden into Bakewell, picked up more meths from an outdoor shop, maybe even a camp mat extra layer and a liner bag... but these aren't normal times and the shop wasn't open so instead I took the easy option - go home. I knew I could go back out if I wanted - take a bigger sleeping bag, switch to the gas stove. I knew I probably wouldn't. 

Not to be too much of a chicken I decided to carry on the P200 route and made provisional plans to meet up with my husband at either Curbar gap cafe or Longshaw (as I decided I didn't need Stanage edge in my life today).

I packed everything up again & enjoyed the lanes and trails over to Haddon and Chatsworth as the day gradually warmed up towards 9am then suddenly got busy around the main Chatsworth house. I was relieved, as always, to have survived the road between Chatsworth and Baslow having received nothing more than a dirty look from the wife of a C-Class driver who overheard "What a fucking surprise" directed at her close-passing, balding husband.

I decided I didn't want to be queuing at busy cafés and popped into the co-op to buy lunch to-go, feeling a bit exuberant as I had *just* eaten. I downed a cold laté from the fridge section to supplement the earlier coffee so I didn't have to carry the packaging up onto Baslow edge.

I'm not sure what they put in those Starbucks things but I cleared the edge, stopping only to open the gate. I even managed not to dab as I weaved my way between gormless tourists staring at phones at the viewpoint.

As anticipated people were queuing 10-deep at the Gap café so I sat on a bench in the sun to eat my cheese twist in case TSK showed up. When dry, the black wooden benches are toasty warm on a bum that's been in a chilly breeze for 2 hours.  I ate alone.

• • •

Most people on Curbar were walking at the edge whilst a runner and I dawdled together between occasional large groups on the path. A gaggle of ramblers were upset by my presence as they stood in the way of everyone, transfixed by a herd of deer they were watching through binoculars.

I stayed my course, the deer stared back at the pensioners, unbothered by me passing. Perhaps they recognised my kindred scent. Wild animal and baby sick soup.

I stopped the Garmin route and pottered happily into Longshaw. I was right, more queues.

I didn't really need coffee but decided to use the posh toilets and use my favourite spot under the yew tree to get out of the breeze while watch the queue go up and down and eating my co-op pasta. I mused that lockdown means an end to being turfed out for bringing your own food to sit at the cafe tables since all available seating areas are now just "oustide" and the staff are all 100% committed to serving hoards of people, not clearing the tables or making spy-like observations of middle aged hikers weilding tesco wrappers and flask coffee concealed in their Berghaus rucsacs. Instead it's desperation queuing for a "real" macchiato while the staff scrutinise masks and hand sanitiser.

When I came out of the loo, four lightweight carbon mountain bikes dangled by their saddles from the poorly designed triathlon-style bike hangar outside the cafe. A beautiful cerise trek e-bike and two much-loved very clean-looking full sussers with colour co-ordinated components next to my very muddy, scratched Cotic, groaning under the weight of kit. I decided not to dangle everything from the saddle but instead locked it to the sturdy post, both wheels firmly on the ground. Passing children were fascinated by my bags and what was inside.

I thought of pretending I was the real Easter bunny and my bags were filled with Easter eggs.

I imagined their disappointment when all they found were a few faded skittles and some M&Ms coated in bits of dried cow shit.

Bike packing Trep can be very dark. 

Anyway, the bikers weren't impressed my bike got more attention or they weren't impressed by my skills riding the drop off to the path. (I impressed myself by not face-planting as my bags overtook me on the downhill).

I rode away from the cafe past the gatehouse occupant helping some dog owners understand about keeping city canines on a leash through a working farm. Houndkirk at least had a bit more space. 

I had a chat with an E-biker visiting for the day. He had no clue where he was, where he was parked or where he was heading next. He didn't want to tell me where he was from so finally I concluded I was too terrifying so left him in peace. At the lama farm he shot past me in silence, presumably on his way back to his car "somewhere over there"! Given the strong headwind that was raging I was gutted that I stood sod-all chance of keeping up with his battery on maximum assist. Perhaps he thought I was the illegal override police.

Passing the line of cars parked on Lodge Lane at a safe distance to avoid a car-dooring or jay-walkers another Mercedes C- Class driver first came at me head on (no priority given) then just as I changed my line for her, to hug tight to the cars on my left and let her through, she made an emergency swerve straight into my line - or rather - the first available parking space. I'm getting a bit pissed off with what folk will do to get a peak district parking spot.

All stress was offset by a chat with the Wildlife Trust ranger who was handing out helpful Countryside Code leaflets at Wyming Brook to help newbies understand how to help wildlife as well as enjoy it. I used the Trusts well maintained trail to get me off the hill and onto the A57 for one last final average speed boost to home to enjoy a final Trust-maintained track back to the allotments, home, a hose down for the bike, a laundry line for the snow melt kit and coffee and well earned bath for the Trep.

• • •

For the record, you will not be surprised to learn that wind speeds of 37 mph that evening and a forecast snowfall in the morning left me zero motivation to re-pack my bigger sleeping bag and head back out.

My conclusions from this ride are that the spring quilt is only really to be relied on in positive temperatures unless in an absolute emergency. Even then it's maybe best used with a combo of hot food.

In random sub zero conditions it is most probably genuinely worth sacking off the sleep and keeping going till tomorrow.

• • •

Since I've been home, luxuriating in recovery I been thru my annual breakdown of "how the fuck do I finish the HT if... ?" 

Analysis from year to year can be off-putting right now since, without the commute, I'm riding less time and less distance.

What I did find though is the last two years I've done nothing more special than what I did this weekend. I'm clinging on to that. Some big steady rides, the right level of recovery. On Sunday, despite 3 hours sleep Saturday night, my legs were pretty good. My head was pretty good. I'll not lie, I was totally mashed later but once I'd given myself permission to go home on Sunday I stopped treating it like a weekend ride and pushed myself hard over some tough climbs to get the training in that way instead of being out longer.

I was still pretty lucid all the way home until that inevitable moment when I was nearly home and at the bottom of Wyming Brook I decided that I just needed to be home asap.  While this weekend might have felt like a bail, doing it with strength left in the legs was a roaring success especially after 30km last week and spending the week before in bed after my Covid vaccine.

• • •

This weekend was nice - I treated it like a holiday (a tough, experimental holiday, but nevertheless...). I packed a stove, took the spare bike, stopped a lot, chatted, brewed-up, took photos and pitched my tent before dark - just).

I quite like holiday rides at this point in time.  The ability to leave my home and be immediately on holiday without the use of cars or public transport is invaluable.  With holidays though comes a need to stop when it's sensible, to go back to work, to enable the body just enough leeway to do it all again for training.

• • •

It leaves me eager for a longer trip (call it "a race" if you wish), where I have the personal excuse to thrash it, keep going into the night, say "blow it" to freezing temperatures, know that going home to my warm bed is the endpoint, game over, filling my bags with trash food because where we're going they don't have cafés. Not having to decide which route to do or where to go tomorrow because that has been defined and only when I get to the end can I stop and do something different. 

It's the intrigue of the past 24 months - how I've improved (god, I hope I've improved) but also what 12 months of lockdown has done - one way or another. 

Maybe the answer to the great question: "Is less ACTUALLY more?"  

When it comes to sleeping bag comfort ratings - it definitely is.