Sunday 30 December 2018

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 7

Middlewood Way and Londgendale Trail - Northwest and Peak District

Kms ridden: 43
Running total: 420
Kms left: 80
Refreshments: 250ml water; Clif Bar; tortilla chips; walnuts

Weather: light rain, drizzle, hanging mist; 12 degC

Highlights: Seeing the sun set over Torside Reservoir and Woodhead Pass; getting an extremely muddy bike from the trails

Rides on Strava

Middlewood Way

Longendale Trail

Start of the Middlewood Way just outside Macclesfield (medieval labrynth just behind)

No cyclocross for me

Today was probably the worst day so far in terms of weather, which also impacted on the riding too. I had hoped to get out early and ride the Middlewood Way before my planned race in Macclesfield. However, at 8am it was still pitch black (Sun rises later up here than in London!), misty and raining. I really wasn't ready for this, so I waited for things to clear up a little.

In a way, if I were doing one continuous ride during the day that would have been easier to manage. At least once you stop riding you know you've finished for the day. However, my plan had been to do a ride, then stop to do a cyclocross race, then get in the car to drive somewhere else and do another ride. So taking off and putting back on drenched kit wouldn't have been great, and given that I was on the move there wasn't the facility to dry my clothes - logistics....

So after waiting an hour or so I ventured out, but the weather had only marginally improved. Then I began to worry about doing the cyclocross race. Last week when I raced in similar conditions at the Mendips Raceway it was at least 90 minutes after finishing racing before I could get going. That's how long it took to clean myself and my bike up after getting covered in mud. I couldn't afford to spend that much time again, knowing the other things that I had to do.

So in the end, I had to choose between doing the cyclocross race or doing the trails. Well, given that a cyclocross race only gives about 10km as opposed to a trail ride giving me double that amount in the same time period, for the purposes of getting the 500km-challenge done, I had to leave out the cyclocross race. It was sad to have to leave it out because Macc Supacross is a good event, and I have fond memories of going to South Park in Macclesfield.

Middlewood Way

Without too much crying over spilt milk I got on with the task of riding the Middlewood Way. I am familiar with this trail as part of it was my regular commute when I worked in Macclesfield. It was great to ride or run on it, through the woods, to get to Tytherington.

That section near Macclesfield is fully tarmacked. However, with the damp weather it was still a messy affair with all the leaves and mud on it. The surface is still fairly compact through Kerridge, and up to Bollington. Then after the bridge in Bollington it becomes a forest trail, which is very muddy in the wet.

Picnic time! Middlewood Way near Poynton
Still, the weather didn't deter people and there were lots of folks out - more groups of mountain bikers than leisure cyclists. Lots of people were on lunchtime walks too. In fact, the picnic area near Poynton was quite popular even on this dreary day, as was the nearby Boars Head pub!

Some years ago, I wrote an article for the now closed magazine, Cycling Active. I remember having a good day out when we did the photo shoot here.

I didn't do the full 10-mile trail, which runs from Macclesfield to Marple (near Stockport), but instead turned around at Middlewood train station and returned to Bollington via a road route, just to give the bike respite from the mud. The road route is still pleasant, and passes along the edge of Lyme Park. It burns more calories than being on the trail though, as there are a few steep climbs to get through the village of Pott Shrigley. Thankfully, there's a handy coffee shop along the way.

Longendale Trail

After the Middlewood Way, I jumped into the car and made my way over to Glossop, to ride the Longendale Trail.

The last time I was in this area was when I rode the Transpennine trail from Southport to Hornsea a couple of years ago. Discovering this trail was a real delight, especially when the weather was so much nicer than on this day.

Torside Reservoir shimmered beautifully in the sun, there were loads of brightly coloured flowers of early summer, and near the Woodhead Tunnel people were even sunbathing. Not so today!

Torside reservoir seen from the Longendale trail
It was misty and damp, there was low cloud on the hills, and the trails were very muddy. People had shied away from coming out today, as there weren't many people at all.
Up until now my clip-on mudguards on the bike had done a good job. But with today's conditions were probably a big ask, and the bike plus my ankles and shoes were covered in cack.

Once again, I didn't ride the full 8.5 miles as it was just too dark, damp, and miserable. The riding was very slow-going, and I needed to get to my lodgings in East Yorkshire that day.

So I turned around after around 5 miles and returned to the car via a minor road. It was lovely seeing the sun set over the hills and the reservoir, with the lights from the towns in the distance. In a strange way I felt lucky to have the chance to ride along this road through the Peak District at this time of the day.

With my Proviz jacket and Exposure lights, plus a high viz cover on my rucksack I was sure that any vehicles would have seen me, so I felt pretty safe. The road wasn't busy in any case. This route was slightly longer, and hillier (naturally) than the Longendale trail, but nothing too steep. The best bit was the long descent into Padfield, which made the road route worth it.

I still have around 80km to ride, and I will have to do it all tomorrow. Hopefully, it shouldn't be too difficult. I would prefer not to deal with a lot of mud though!

Related Posts
Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 6

Festive 500: Early morning rant

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 5

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 4

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 3

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 2

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 1

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