A Great British Adventure in Derbyshire - CTC rides L'Eroica Britannia
Sixty-five CTC members were instrumental in the running of the event, providing the L'Eroica Britannia team with experienced marshals covering all three of the routes, as well as site volunteers for the first two days of the festival.
When the offer to ride the event was made, a few of us jumped at the chance. Between the six of us, four ladies and two men, that rode L'Eroica Brittania, we had been to a number of vintage-style cycle events.
The first thing that struck us was how incredibly organised everything appeared. It seemed every detail had been carefully considered, from the goodie bag that contained both soap and deodorant to the welcome-size Bakewell pudding and the real ale produced locally and named for the event.
After two days ogling beautiful bicycles, haggling at the jumble, taking in the cinema and shopping the vintage stalls, it was finally time to ride. Patrick, and myself were both on folding bikes, which as per the event's rules were relegated to the 30-mile route, while Roland, Jenny, Caren and Kelly all did the 55-mile ride.
All the routes included the same first section and we shortly came to the traffic-free Monsal Trail, where the coolness of the Old Midland Railway tunnels offered us brief relief from the sun. At Millers Dale, the routes split and Patrick, resplendent in his full 1940s military uniform and myself in the CTC woollen jersey and plus fours were off towards Tideswell.
Upon entering the village of Tideswell, the residents seemed to all be standing at the roadside cheering or at the church hall rest stop itself, helping ensure riders got their fill of water, bacon cobs, local Tindalls handmade Wake Cakes and tea. The week was also Tidewell’s Well Dressing festival. Well dressing is a custom only found in Derbyshire and is the art of decorating the towns' springs and wells with pictures made from natural elements; it has been an annual tradition since 1946.
As Patrick pressed on with his parabike with me shortly behind, we arrived at our second rest stop, in the “plague town” of Eyam. The remarkable story of Eyam and how the townspeople selflessly chose to isolate themselves to protect others from their fate was recounted to me by a local who had moved to the town in the early 1970s. Despite its dark history, Eyam’s architecture was picturesque and again the townspeople were out cheering us, chatting to us and ensuring we had enough homemade cakes to give us the strength for the last leg of our journey to Monsal Head.
Monsal Head was billed as the 30-mile route's most challenging climb. Patrick had long gone and I resigned myself to a very slow weaving pace to the top. Sadly, I walked the last third, but was in very good company; an apron-clad father on a butcher's bike and his young son.
Perhaps the crowning touch of the event was at the finish, when each rider’s name came across the tannoy and the waiting onlookers gave a final cheer on the last grass stretch. There were too many amazing moments over the weekend to name them all, but one thing is for certain: we’ll be back again in 2015.
Pictures from our adventure can be seen on Instagram