I was idling away my Thursday in the bike group-chat admiring pictures of T & T touring over pristine German gravel tracks when Ned chimed in with something very close to what I was thinking: ‘I wish I was doing what T is doing’. Impulse took over and I hurriedly replied ‘Saturday night let’s go, Delamere, Goyt or Rivington.’ We slid away from the group conversation and agreed to seek our respective permissions and re-convene. Clearance was acquired, we checked in Saturday morning and I crossed my fingers for a good Leeds result for the sake of Ned’s mood.
I busied myself stuffing the Carradice and hanging my drybag as the footballers did their football and got myself into a rare state of readiness in time for the final whistle. Ned was ready quickly and after a brief discussion about where ‘that green bridge over the Mersey’ was, I was on my way to meet him. At ‘that green bridge over the Mersey’.
Setting off I quickly realised I’d adjusted my saddle the wrong way – it was now more up my arse, not less. My headset was also horrendously loose, giving a nice judder whenever I slowed. I got a little lost trying to find the right bike path to the green bridge but made it in one piece, with Ned happy to wait while I remedied my bad mechanical choices.
We were on our way, winding through the bikepaths of Stockport, re-tracing my old commute to Bredbury, asking Ned about his long ride the week before. We saw a green bridge, but this one was over the river Goyt. We didn’t have a ‘route’ file loaded to the bike computers but I had a relaxed amble out along the Peak Forest Canal from Woodley in mind. We passed the usual canal characters and pondered boat-life out loud, crossing paths with a smiling young french-(I think)-man on an e-bike. The canal stretch of the ride drew to a close as we reached Whaley Bridge, popping into Co-op for a water top-up and refreshments for the evening.
I led out of Whaley Bridge up the climb to the West, taking a totally unnecessary diversion south up a steep gravelly stretch which ultimately dumped back on the main road we’d started the climb on. There were signs for a wedding, a Defender 90 wedding car, suggestions of a marquee and a Fiesta in a hedge but the event itself eluded us, never mind. We swung south again, this time at the correct junction, and began the slow but lovely drag up to Windgather Rocks. The sun had made itself just about all the way to the horizon at this point, floating just above Lyme Park and the familiar back-side of Brickworks. It was glorious and golden.
We didn’t really know where we’d be sleeping, to be honest. We arrived at the main track up to the rocks to only a family remaining clambering around, and spied some flat looking spots that, though very exposed, promised a lovely view. We both managed the stupid combination of stupid narrow gates and stupid wide handlebars, walked the bikes up and paced around, inspecting ‘the spot’. I was a little anxious it was crap but Ned was happy and that was good enough for me. We added layers, found snacks and sat down to watch the view fade, a friendly photographer stopping by to have a chat as she made her way off the hill. It was a cold night, maybe entirely due to the wind, but the sunset, subsequent stars and easy conversation more than made up for it. It was either entertaining or unnerving watching cars come up and down the road, we were sat above – I’m not sure yet. One stopped below our spot for a long while in a very bizarre coincidence. Obviously we weren’t really supposed to be where we were, but I guess 2 bivvy bags, no fire and no shits is about as ‘leave no trace’ as you can get, so you’d hope we’d get the benefit of the doubt if we were stumbled upon.
Morning arrived. I’d slept reasonably well, Ned had slept very well and continued to do so into the morning. I enjoyed my remaining Rocky Caramels and made some token efforts towards getting ready as he snoozed. We were up and leaving just as the first climbers arrived for their morning pitch – lovely. I gave Ned two options to get to the coffee shop on Brickworks. He wasn’t arsed, so I picked the quiet hilly roads over the flatter main. These are absolute favourite climbs of mine, and it’s been a while, so it was great to get to the top of Pym chair, pass the little church at the bottom and make our way across to the top of Brickworks to float down for a morning coffee (neither of could really be bothered bringing stove and bits). We sat generously judging the passing bikes, feeling pretty happy about how many people choose to spend their Sunday morning riding all shapes of bike up and down the Peak District.
A stress and traffic free ride along the Middlewood Way, then a jump across to Dark Lane took us into Stockport for the final adventure of the mini-trip: a search for a Greggs. With a sausage, bean and cheez pasty secure in my belly, I followed Ned back to ‘that green bridge over the Mersey’ where we gave our departing speeches before making our own ways back to whatever else Sunday had in store.
Words and pictures – Ali Straker