What the the Baslow Circuit might lack in distance is more than made up in steep, technical climbs.
The ride starts off on the main road heading towards Bakewell and for about a mile and half you're forced into riding single file along the busy A619 which you share variously with tractors, 40-tonne trucks and tourist traffic. Before long you're off the main road and on a wide farm track heading towards Hassop. This first section is generally smooth and flat, allowing you to achieve reasonable speeds.
The track drops down to a ford, which (unless there has been a Biblical flood), is easily crossed on the bike. Once over the stream and you're heading up a rocky track, which has been eroded by trail bikes and 4x4s. When it is dry this technical section can be ridden, but once wet (as they were) the limestone becomes extremely slippery, forcing you to walk. Once through the rocky track you emerge at a farm and you're then back on the tarmac for a steep on-road climb to Rowland.
From Rowland and you're heading across the contours and riding (well, I say riding... walking) again over large slippery boulders. The first section is do-able in drier weather, again having managed it earlier this year, but once wet there is a distinct lack of traction. This section levels out for about 20 metres or so and then you're more or less forced to walk over larger boulders that are strewn along the track. Certainly riding down this section, as we did a few months ago, is extremely technical but ridable.
We stop for a breather and to take in the views and to see just how much impact the allegedly illegal quarrying is making on Longstone Edge. Off the soap-box and back on the bike and we head downhill for a short section before we head over an extremely rutted downhill grassy section. I fell foul of the ruts twice, within about 2 minutes; another of our party also hit the dirt but only pride took a bruising.
Another climb along a route that is usually humming with the activity of quarry trucks and we were back on the tarmac and a downhill section where we joined the main A623 for a short on-road section before heading back off-road. The next section was very ridable along muddy and worn tracks but without the added challenge of steep pedal-snagging ruts. However I did suffer a puncture along this section and when I started to try to fit a new inner tube (the 10mm hole being beyond repair) there was much amusement when I realised that I'd brought along a 16" inner tube for my boys' bikes. Fortunately I was offered the right size and we were soon on our way.
The next section was a short uphill section on the tarmac before a fast off-road section before another steep hill up to our immediate destination: The Barrel Inn at Bretton. In the glorious sunshine we sat and anjoyed a well-earned pint and a delicious sandwich. Not the cheapest of places to eat if you're out biking, but for £10.00 you didn't regret a penny; great food and friendly service.
After lunch we were on an off-road section and then along an old road which is interspersed with small islands of smooth tarmac in a sea of loose limestone. Before long we were heading downhill and passing Mompesson's Well, one of the places that was used by the villagers of Eyam when the Plague arrived where money was left in payment for food. Eyam offers more cafes and pubs, but having had lunch we carried straight on. We were soon off-road and heading down a gloomy and wet downhill track, which in places (especially after rain) becomes a stream.
AT the bottom of this section we arrived at a gate marking the start of the last off-road section of our ride; another deeply-rutted section. Once at Stoney Middleton we were back on the road for the final 4 miles to Baslow. The route actually takes you up through Curbar Gap, along Baslow Edge and then down a long downhill section. Today, however, we'd done enough and we arrived back at the cars about 4.5 hours after starting.
Simon Turton - Baslow, Derbyshire