A breeze along the Trent and Mersey canal in the early morning; a roll through the undulating Staffordshire Moorlands in the late morning; mixing with the spectrum of cyclists frequenting the Manifold Trail; a sweaty slog in the mid afternoon heat over the moors between Beeley and Chesterfield; this was a day of parts, one that concluded with a increasingly gentle landscape as we hit North Nottinghamshire and left the Peak District behind.
The Sneyd Pit Memorial in Burslem commemorates the 57 mineworkers who were killed in an explosion at 7.30 a.m on New Year’s Day, 1942. An appropriate place to commence a ride to Lidice. It provides the background to the campaign that the North Staffordshire Mineworkers spearheaded to rebuild the Czech village which Adolf Hitler said would “Die, Forever!” Mineworkers did not usually work on January 1st, but the demands of war had not fallen on deaf ears, and so they went to work.
Heading out of Stoke-on-Trent one is rapidly into green spaces, though well within the city. It is now possible to cycle traffic free from close to the city centre, all the way to the edge of the Peak District National Park and into the Staffordshire Moorlands District.
Despite the beautiful countryside, so many cyclists stick to the honeypot trails - the Manifold, Tissington and High Peak. Great for families and those who don’t want the hard work associated with cycling more widely in the area, or perceive road cycling as dangerous - these were seething with cyclists of all abilities; just as they should be. Hopefully, some will go on to explore more widely. Those not packing the trails were thronging the numerous cafes which seem to offer the greater part of employment opportunities in the Peak.
Actually we used several traffic-free routes; the old towns loop line in Stoke-on-Trent, the Caldon Canal towpath, the Manifold Trail and a good section of the Chesterfield Canal towpath/Rother Valley Greenway. Surfaces were generally pretty good, though dusty after a period of dry weather. If it isn’t mud, it is dust. Actually, these routes provide useful - and attractive - ways through very hilly country or areas blighted by too many busy roads. Perhaps someone will persuade the government that cycling is a good thing and assets like these should be maintained and further developed. Maybe.
All in all we rode 83 miles today. A pretty good test with some pretty good climbs, the most notable being the long slog up onto the open moor between Beeley and Holymoorside. The haze from the heat disguised the long views that should have been our reward, merging them into a general mirage of distant horizons of blue hills.
The day was cooling as we rode into Shireoaks, near Worksop. A long hot day, but one that anticipated the next, when the challenging hills between the Potteries and Chesterfield will be replaced by the low line of hills to the west of the River Trent, the Lincoln Edge, the low Wolds, north-east of Brigg, and the ramp up to the Humber Bridge.
Getting a tough first day out of the system always seems like a good idea to me, when embarking on a long tour. Sets the scene and puts forth coming day sinto perspective. At least, that is what I think when sipping a cold beer and tucking into one of the tastiest ever chilli con carne I have ever had. Second days always seem harder, and so the lack of hills to attack with vigour and determination will be a boon. not that there is any lack of interest along the way. Cycle touring does not have to be challenging to be the finest way to spend a day, or two or …. however many you can manage.