25 March 2022

By Simon Ashworth, our Northern Correspondant.

 

So, the weather forecast for Friday 18th March was unequivocally good. Even for the Northern contingent, it looked promising. The BBC had abandoned the temptation to swerve responsibility by using phrases such as ‘gentle breeze’ or ‘slight chance of showers’. The icons included only one primary colour which, for the first time in a long while for the north, was no longer grey.

 

There was only one thing for it – time to play the Friday Freelance card and head to the Peaks for an impromptu gravel ride. Time was tight between school runs, but it was possible to get out for just shy of 35km of steep gravel out of Macclesfield and stop off for a coffee in the re-furbished Cat & Fiddle.

 

The start of the ride was pretty steep as we climbed through Macclesfield Forest on mostly well surfaced fire roads interspersed with equally steep stretches of tarmac. A brief plateau allowed a slightly easier pace and the chance to have a good catch-up chat with my riding partner for the day. After a very brief descent, we started the climb of Ankers Lane, finally emerging from a lovely stretch of gravel just before The Peak View Tea Rooms. We could almost taste the bacon sandwiches and coffee as the route took us throug h the car park before cruelly swinging right to take on the next steep section of gravel (or rocks, as the surface may have been dubbed in any other part of the country).

 

This took us to the top of the beautiful Erwood descent. Taking in a mixture of open moorland and rocky sections, descending this stretch on mostly dry trails under blue skies with stunning vistas was a real treat. One which the Peak rarely serves to this level of perfection. From the bottom of Erwood, a nice steady climb out the Goyt Valley took us to The Cat & Fiddle Inn, which has now been re-opened and re-launched as an artisan whiskey and gin distillery. It also serves Kickback coffee, which seemed a wiser accompaniment to the exquisite triple chocolate brownie which was calling my name.

 

A mixture of short tarmac and gravel sections led us back to the start of the final descent through Macclesfield Forest, featuring lovely off-angle drainage channels and a fair few steps. The latter helped me to understand that my roadie-esque position on my gravel bike may need a little honing for such terrain!

 

And that was it, an absolutely cracking (if short) ride stolen from what should have been a weekday. Good riding, good company and good coffee all served up beneath an endless blue sky in the Peak District. It’s true that its mostly grim up north, but sometimes, just sometimes, it really isn’t!

 

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