Paul & Noel’s Pennine Way Tour

Like many of you, I am a keen follower of Chris’s blog entries recording the events of our cycle rides.  When it came to my annual cycle tour with my friend, Noel, I suggested to Chris that I do a piece for a section of his blog.  We thought it might be of interest to show the variety of all the other cycling that different people in our group undertake. 

Noel and I have done a cycle tour over the last few years and have completed quite a few of the Sustrans National Cycle Network Routes (see  This year, we decided to go for the lower section of the Pennine Way from Derby to Settle in North Yorkshire (NCN route 68) which would be a distance of approximately 148 miles.

Is that all? I hear you all say; but the thing to remember with unsupported cycle touring (as opposed to having a van transport your luggage around for you, which is offered by some “adventure” companies) is that it requires a different bike, equipped to carry the load, a little more pre-planning and possibly a different approach than the usual Saturday ride.

My choice of steed is my humble, heavy as hell and cheap as chips Raleigh Audax that I bought off some bloke in Barnston for £100.  Noel’s is a little more suitable, being a decent Dawes Galaxy tourer which he has just fitted with new hand built wheels and a snazzy Shimano Dyno hub.  These, we equip with a rack, panniers and a bar bag and then load up with the minimal camping equipment required and other necessities to get us round.  There are a whole heap of top tips about what and what not to take etc, but I won’t blather on about that here because I think I may be exceeding my word count already!

My Raleigh

Noel's Galaxy

Friday – Home to Marston Montgomery (Near Ashbourne)  (31m)

So, the plan was to get the train with bikes to Derby on Friday afternoon and then pick up the route straight out of the Station and cycle about 20 miles to the village of Marston Montgomery near Ashbourne where we had booked in at a Camping & Caravan Club Certificated camp site on a farm.

We got to Lime Street via Merseyrail and, those of you that have ever tried this will know, it meant negotiating the ridiculously small lift from the underground platform to the main station and taking one bike at a time (last year we learnt the hard way that two bikes just don’t fit in!)

After arriving in Derby, we exited the station and quickly found the signposts marking the route and headed through the suburbs and typically scrubby city cycle paths towards the countryside.

We threaded our way along the picturesque lanes - a nice 20 odd mile ride to warm up the legs.  We found the farm (with a little help from my Garmin 800 which, incidentally, wasn’t that great at postcodes), pitched up and headed to the pub for a pint and some dinner before a good night’s kip under canvas ready for the first full day of riding.

Pitched up at Woodhay Farm - (mine is the blue tent, Noel’s the orange one) 

Saturday – Marston Montgomery to Broadbottom (50m)

After a later than anticipated start, quick brew, de-pitch and re-pack we were ready for a full days cycling.  First was a test for the Garmin as we needed to navigate directly to Ashbourne rather than re-trace our previous evening’s cycling to find the route again.

From our experience of previous tours we had decided to ditch the weight of stove and pans along with the hassle of cooking and washing up in favour of finding a café for breakfast.  The Garmin did me proud and routed us through some lovely quiet lanes into Ashbourne where we found which did us a great cooked breakfast and an obligatory pot of tea in their outdoor seating area in the sun.

After breakfast we found our way to the Tissington Trail, a cycle trail based on a former railway line between Ashbourne and Buxton (see  We headed through the railway tunnel that marks the start of the Trail and into quite a headwind.  We negotiated the dog walkers and families of cyclists and headed away from the town.

After a couple of hours cycling we found ourselves at Parlsey Hay, a busy Café stop for cyclists built in place of the former Station where we enjoyed a coffee and a piece of Chocolate Tiffin!

The trail ends a few miles out of Buxton where the railway line is still used for Quarry freight.  We passed the quarries and into the hilly country on the outskirts of Buxton.  This was the start of the hills and a taste of the topography to come.

We weaved through the lanes and into Buxton where we had a quick butty and a drink outside the Town hall.

After reapplication of some sun cream for protection from the increasing heat of the sun we cycled through Buxton Town centre via the main Manchester Road and then took a quick right onto a quieter single track lane.  The surface of which soon became slightly challenging even for the most ambitious tourer.

It seems that what might have been a decent surface a few years ago has been destroyed by 4x4 enthusiasts and, in my opinion, requires the cycle way to perhaps be re-routed.

After pushing our bikes along these sections we were happily reunited with tarmac again and enjoyed some the nice scenic route.

After a quick stop for ice cream and milk for evening and breakfast brews in the village of New Mills we headed for farm which was to be our camping pitch for the night in the village of Boadbottom.  From the link you will see that Lymefield Farm is a Garden Centre  / farm but it also has a neat Certificated Camping Location.  We received a warm welcome, pitched and headed to the Cheshire Cheese pub for a pint followed by some excellent recovery food … Chicken Chow Mein from the takeaway next to the pub!

Day 3 - Sunday – Boadbottom to Sowerby Bridge (39m) – Horrible Hills, heat and hayfever!

Day 3 didn’t start well.  We un-pitched and packed up but when clipping my panniers on, I noticed a rear puncture.  Better a puncture at camp than on the road and so a quick tube change was undertaken revealing a very small thorn which had probably lead to a slow puncture that went down over night.

On top of that, possibly due to being camped at a Garden Centre and with the last few days of dry and breezy weather, I became afflicted with severe hayfever. So I sneezed my way to Hollingworth for another café breakfast at a greasy spoon.

After breakfast and another challenge to our wayfinding capabilities, we found our way onto another cycle trail on the former Woodhead railway line (See which used to run from Hadfield near Hollingworth to Sheffield.  Its route is next to a set of reservoirs of the Longdendale Chain.  This is a sequence of six reservoirs on the River Etherow in the valley of Longdendale. (See  Working for United Utilities, Noel was in his element!

Bottoms Reservoir (being at the bottom of the series)

It was quite hard going into a strong headwind as we gained elevation and the wash boarded surface didn’t help our efforts.  We only managed an 8mph average for several miles but the pace allowed us to take in all the views along the Longdendale Valley.

Toreside Reservoir

The trail ended at the Woodhead tunnel where the route became rather vague again, possibly due to more recent changes from the older map we were using, so we decided follow the A628 to where we could see it joined the route again.  The weekend traffic was quite busy and the gradient challenging over the Moors.

Top of the A628
The route took a left towards the Winscar reservoir into another bar rattling descent where, due to speed, we missed another sign and had to push our bikes up a footpath alongside the reservoir path.  By this time, lunch was calling and another happy descent sped us quickly into the Town of Holmfirth where we found ourselves at made famous by “Last of the Summer Wine”.  We enjoyed a few pints of tea, butties and some cream scones for a treat!

Sid’s Café
After lunch the riding continued to be hot and hilly and the route took us up and over the moors near the M62.

We then descended to the Scammonden Reservoir (see adjacent to the M62.

……and underneath via a service tunnel…..
Eventually and after some more calf cramping climbs, we found our way through the lanes and villages to the Town of Sowerby Bridge which was to be our stop for the night.  As I approached the turn off for the camp site I turned round and discovered Noel wasn’t behind me.  After a short wait I rode back and found him changing a rear flat.  Inspection of the tube revealed a split on the inside near the valve.  Noel thinks it was from a hard hit of a pot hole.

So, a puncture to start the day, and one to end the day.  After changing the tube, we found the camp site of Rough Hey Wood and after pitching and freshening up we cycled back into town for some Calzone and a well deserved pint! 

Rough Hey Wood camp site (it was a bit rough!)

The obligatory brew!

Day 4 – Sowerby Bridge – Hebden Bridge – 21m

After an efficient de-pitch and pack up we were away again.  Down into Sowerby Bridge, left, and then up!

It was becoming clear that the route by-passed busy A-roads and towns situated in the valleys by taking us directly out of the valley and up the sides to the high ground.  Although this provides spectacular views and kept the riding nice and quiet, it meant the constant climbs and fast descents previously mentioned.  There seemed to be no in between and the reasonably flat sections of the trails of the former train lines were long gone.  So, we turned and attacked another gruelling gradient.

It was possibly for this reason that we had only seen two other pannier laden tourers over the entire 3 days.  The route is a serious challenge and one possibly best not attempted with full panniers of camping gear.

Not sure why Noel has packed a truck on the top of his panniers?!

We decided a re-think was in order.  It was simply too hot and we were too over-laden and tired from the previous 2 ½ days hills to gain much enjoyment from another day of hill-slogging so time for a change of plan.

We decided to cycle to Hebden Bridge instead of the 50m to Settle and have a good brunch and return home by rail from there a day earlier than originally planned.  This would allow us to return later in the year with a new approach of B&B accommodation and less luggage with fresh legs and cooler weather.

In my opinion, cycling is to be enjoyed and if any aspect starts to detract from that enjoyment then a re-think and flexibility is necessary.

With our minds made up and after a slight detour of an erroneous 2 mile climb due to more lack of signage we descended again into Hebden Bridge.  We found a nice café and ordered “The Works” breakfast.  Suitably re-energised we made our way to the station and booked tickets home via Manchester.

It was the end of another touring adventure and possibly the most difficult so far; but the Pennine Way is a route that cannot be completed in one go and so it leaves us with more to plan for!

Noel collated the stats of our ride and I have added the metres climbed and descended from my Garmin.


m Climbed
m descended
Miles (Paul)
Home -> Derby ->Marston Montgomery
34 (31)
Marston Montgomery   -> Broadbottom
Broadbottom -> Sowerby Bridge
4h 45m
Sowerby Bridge -> Hebden Bridge -> Home
2h 45m
24 (21)

15h 30m
147 (141)

Avg 9.5mph L  Max 35.2 mph