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Pocket Pete's Mystery Tour

Ride Date 21 August 2016

By Ren Withnell

Sharon and I have been invited by Pocket Pete to join himself and perhaps his wife for a little guided tour of his locality. Luckily Pete only lives on the far (dark) side of Manchester to myself so it should be an easy ride and a day out. We have outstanding invitations from other readers to join them but as they're further away these will require proper planning and logistics. If only Sharon was stinkingly rich we wouldn't need to work and be able to take up these amazing generous offers. I have suggested Sharon finds and marries a wealthy man and keeps me "on the side", but she seems unwilling.

Sharon suggested I find a wealthy man and marry him instead. Any offers?

Pete has warned us that if the weather is against us the day may not happen. Pete uses his bike for commuting in most conditions but prefers the dry for pleasure rides. Being new to motorcycling his wife Paula is presently lacking decent waterproof equipment too. The BBC has today as dry but overcast with the risk of showers. As I get the bikes out and check them over the rain is heavy. Curses. We'll still ride there, if nothing else we can put a face to "Pocket Pete" and drink his tea, it's better than sitting in the house looking mournful all day.

The M60 offers nothing more than torrential rain. I'm still adjusting to Sharon being on her 250 and myself on the 500. We're only doing 60 to 65mph on the open motorways but after the last 3 years on 125s this feels incredibly fast. I worry that she can't cope, she isn't ready for this especially in these horrible conditions. As ever though she's right there behind me, cruising along and I often get the impression she'd be more than happy to take it to the max. It's me that's slowing her down.

I've street mapped my way to Pete's place so finding the house is no problem. It's a very nice house on the outskirts of Hyde. He has a driveway. He has a garage. I'm not jealous, not at all. Dammit

Peter welcomes 2 dripping wet bikers into his house with a warm smile. Soon we're sat around the kitchen table (Pete has a kitchen large enough to put a table in?) drinking hot tea made by his wife Paula. At 5 feet 11 Pete's a big chap with massive thick arms and hands like dinner plates. His wife Paula on the other hand is - are you ready for this - SMALLER than Sharon! We always knew it was possible but to actually see Sharon stand next to another adult and be slightly taller than them is surreal. 

As we talk the basic pleasantries move into learning who is who and the weather outside improves, just a little. Pete and Paula ponder the conditions for a while until Paula agrees she'll risk it as long as she can bring a spare pair of pants in case she gets soaked. We're off!

After just a few minutes down back lanes and up a steep hill Pete pulls into a pub car park in what could easily be the middle of nowhere. We have an excellent view across the whole of Manchester's conurbations. Pete assures us if the weather was better we'd be able to see across to Winter Hill's transmission tower which is close to where I live and maybe beyond. I've seen the opposite side of this view many times from Scout Road in Bolton, I'd never thought to come and see it from the other side. How odd. This is Werneth Low which I presume is ironically named. The clouds threaten us from above.

I recognise Charlesworth then I am lost and at the mercy of Pete's guidance once more. The next stop is Cowan Edge, or Cown Edge, there's some disagreement as to the spelling. A short walk sees us looking across a large arc formed when at some point in time the whole hillside seems to have slipped down into the valley. It's fascinating to ponder what caused this (erosion I presume) and I use my imagination to replay watching the earth give way tumble down. There's a touch of rain in the air.

Cown or Cowan Edge. A large rounded hill, half of it has slipped into the valleyCown or Cowan Edge. Eee, I remember when it were just one big hill.

I'm lost once more, happily as it is refreshingly relaxing to follow Pete. He is riding at a gentle pace so there's no stress to keep up and we have time to look around. I suspect he's taking it easy firstly because he has his wife on the back and she's new to all this and secondly as a courtesy to Sharon and I. He's read the website, he knows we're not all about speed and we'd rather see our surroundings than a blur of tarmac and trees. I sit back into the saddle and relish my surroundings. 

I feel sorry for Paula though. The rain comes and goes, momentarily heavy then light for a while. She's got a great textile biker's jacket but only has jeans on her legs and she must be getting at least a little damp. Come on Pete, a cheap pair of textile pants and some cheap waterproof overpants and job done, one dry wife!

Paula stand on a windswept hill as grey clouds form above.Buy the lady some waterproof pants!

Aha! I know where I am, sort of, ish, kinda. We pass the Blue John Cavern and downhill to a dead end. I've been near here often enough but never down this road. Beyond the gate at the end of the road the road clearly continued...once. The whole road has slipped away to one side and broken apart in the process as the hillside has been washed away. Sharon and I walk down to examine the remnants of the lane, Paula keeps on smiling as the rain returns once more. She's mustard that one I tell ya.

The old narrow lane has slipped away and broke up near the blue john cavernsThe broken old road. Landslides...I'm spotting a theme Pete.

We take the steep road down into Castleton then out the other side. At Hope Pete pulls into a cafe for a brew and I suspect to prevent Paula from developing hypothermia. The rain abates then as we prepare to depart it returns. Perfect timing.

This is a magical mystery tour. At times I recognise where I am then Pete turns off the familiar so I'm breaking new ground. He's upped the pace a small amount as he settles into the ride and we're flowing gracefully through the countryside. We detour through a village and wendle through some narrow lanes then Pete pulls up in a tiny layby down some random back lane. I have no idea where I am, it's great!

Aaaah, Arbor Low Stone Circle, he'd mentioned this before. While not as grand as Stonehenge Arbor Low's earthworks appear far more intact than any other I have seen. The ditch and embankment look quite fresh save for the grass and it's an effort to climb the steep embankment. Worthwhile though, looking down on the regrettably fallen stones gives a clearer understanding of the layout as well as the surroundings. I try to imagine why ancient folks went to such great efforts to create these places, to understand their function. The nearby information board claims (as they all do) it was for religious ceremonies. Imagine in 10,000 years time someone uncovers the remains of The Sydney Opera House - was it a grain silo, an antenna to communicate with aliens or a devotion to the great sun-god Froggle Nitwhimple?

Sharon smilling in the wind standing on a fallen stone at Arbor LowHey! Woman!! Get off that ancient fallen stone. The sun-god Froggle Nitwhimple will not be pleased.

Another short hop sees us rolling into one of those picture-postcard-perfect villages with stone built houses surrounded by lush green countryside. This is Hartington apparently. To add to the idyllic charm the sun tries to struggle through the clouds as ducks gracefully glide across the mirror flat pond. This is England as we're told it used to be, this is Mavis and Vera talking over the garden wall, this is lovely. I'm looking for the cracks, the hidden tower block or garish modern architectural monstrosity but I can't see them. I'm not jealous, not at all. Pete and Paula purchase some cheese. I'm sorry but cheese that has gone that mouldy should be in the bin, strange people.

Hartington's small pond with 2 white ducks upon it, surrounded by quaint stone cottagesWish you were here? I couldn't afford a parking space let alone a shed.

Pete leads us out of the village onto an narrow lane. There's a gate across this lane. Hmmm. Pete and I are on CB500Xs which are "adventure styled" so should cope with a little rough road but Sharon's on her definitely street focused Z250SL. The road becomes a little gravelly then another gate. Hmmmm. I keep an eye on Sharon. Pete apologises for the condition of the road, he's not been down here before. Hmmmm. Mud and cow poop now. Hmmmm. Cows in the road. Hmmmm. A steep and sharp switchback. Oh no!

The surface is broken up, dirty and steep. It causes me to focus my mind and bring forth all my skills to negotiate. I keenly and fearfully watch Sharon in my mirrors, dreading the "kathunk" of plastic and metal contacting gravel and tarmac. Damn she makes it look so easy! I don't get it. She does this, makes out she's all nervous and careful and inexperienced then rides like a pro. I don't get it. 

Sharon's small 250 next to Ren and Pete's big 500sSharon's little road bike is better off road than the Adventure bikes. Or she's a nutter.

Buxton comes and goes and we follow "Long Hill" towards Whaley Bridge. Sharon and I know this road well, we once came down here in the snow. Oh yeah! The snow. The snow in which I was struggling to maintain a shaky 15 - 20 mph while Sharon who'd only been riding a few months was right behind me looking like she wanted to go faster. So let me think about this. 2 options. 1. I'm slow, really slow, and scared, on anything less than firm clean dry tarmac. Or 2. Sharon is a mental case with no sense of fear when fear is due. Please do not answer that dear reader.

We stop at a pub before we reach Whaley Bridge and go inside for food. I order a roast beef sandwich with chips while my 3 greedy companions all take on the full Sunday Roast. I can understand Pete managing his big plateful but to see a Hobbit and a Dwarf leave but a few scraps is remarkable. We return to Pete and Paula's house and finish off with another brew. Time is marching on and as the evening draws in we must thank our wonderful hosts and make our weary way home.

Today has been a pleasure and an adventure. Meeting strangers is a fascinating experience but not always a good one, I daresay this one has panned out well. I've certainly seen parts of The Peak District that I'd never have found alone, drunk a lot of tea, talked and laughed and learnt quite a bit too. As Sharon and I head back on the motorway network the heavens open in earnest once more and in the fading light visibility is difficult.

My thanks to Pocket Pete and Paula for inviting us on their day out. May it be the first of many more trips. 


Reader's Comments

Pocketpete said :-
What a lovely description of our out trip out. I would spend more time on the word processor surely a job in Salford quays at the bbc beckons for you.

Paula survived the weather I thing we managed to get away with murder we could have been drenched.

It's always hard meeting new people but if you have common ground that helps. You and Sharon are a lovely chatty couple. I certainly learnt a lot from you guys. In particular how to stay warm and dry. How buying expensive gear doesn't actually mean you are going to be warm and dry.

As I'm used to my home comforts and dry warm cars this biking is all new to us it's taken a new mental approach to venture out in anything other than warm sun shine. So far we are both finally understanding just how life is better on a bike.

I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope we can all meet again in the very near future. I will take you on a round trip in the lake district on roads hardly anyone knows or uses.
27/8/2016 12:29:13 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Now what would the BBC want with a scruffy biker who writes about motorcycles?

The weather can be endured and even enjoyed to some degree with the correct equipment. I relish the challenge sometimes of just blasting through the worse the weather can bring. Nature can be awesome.

Anyhow if you can't ride in the rain then getting out and about in the UK can become quite a rare experience.
29/8/2016 6:40:35 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Yes I'm supposed to a tough northerner. I must get a grip and not be such a fair weather riders. Its just the round yellow thing in the sky is so warm and nice.
29/8/2016 7:13:09 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
That big yellow round thing is very nice. Sometimes it can be too nice, we're never happy are we. Just wait until the deepest darkest depths of winter that will soon be upon us. Minus 5 degrees centigrade, salt and grit on the roads, ice on the inside of your visor and your face, fingers so cold they can barely move and feet like icebergs. Oooh I'm so excited - I can't wait!
2/9/2016 6:07:04 AM UTC

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