It’s 8:30 in the morning. A thin wisp of woodsmoke curls lazily over the Fairholme visitor centre, accompanied by some rythmic chanting. Drawing closer the flickering embers of a fire crackle, and around it moves the Shaman, head thrown back, mouth open, appealing to the potent spirits of creatures long dead – Tame the Beast! Tame the Beast!
The breeze picks up, the fire blazes into the sky then dies. The Shaman has reached across to another world and the Beast is ready for us. It’s spirit curbed, no longer a Beast, more a donkey, endlessly transporting holidaymaker’s children up and down the beach at Blackpool. We are no longer afraid.
But first we must find it, down dale (past Hagg farm)
and up hill (the Roman Road)
eventually reaching the Beast’s lair
we emerge, shaken but unscathed
Now we’re ready to continue our journey, the sun has come out, the temperature is rising and after the delights of the Lockerbrook descent and the traverse of Derwent and Howden reservoirs the summit of Cut Gate is soon in sight. (Note the causey stones. The Shaman mystically transported them from his own back-garden to make the ride a little easier)
The Shaman may have mystical powers, but when it comes to navigation they are of little use. We get lost. Don’t ask how. Just laugh. Where’s the RouteMeister when you need him? We do, however, find a twisty, bouncy, landrover track which as well as regularly launching us skywards drops us down off Midhope Moor to Langsett Reservoir. A nifty blast along a cheeky concessionary path soon brings us back to where we wanted to be and the start of the return journey.
The boulder-field we shimmied down is ridable in reverse, just need to put the power down in places.
And the descent from the top of Howden Edge to Slippery Stones is fantastic. It starts with a choice of lines over grassy moorland, high-speed paving leading to jumpy ruts which coalesce into supreme singletrack that curves around the edge through some switchbacks, down a series of rocky steps and spits you out at water splash. We’re grinning like loons and head to the visitor centre to refill our bladders.
Its too early to put the bikes away – we’re both still buzzing!
We need to pin a tale on the donkey, and I’ve got a plan.
It involves a climb alongside the A57.
Before we finally reach the top of the tail
From here another typical Peak District descent takes us back to the car. What a fantastic day!
And before anyone jumps onto another MTB forum to belittle our day out, I would like to point out that:
1) no animals were hurt during the proceedings
2) none of the bikes in the pictures were actually being ridden by us – they were other riders we came across purely by chance. I actually rode a Raleigh chopper (circa 1971) and the Shaman borrowed his sister’s shopper. So there.