Welcome, fellow explorer of these hallowed corners, where Greater Manchester meets Cheshire and Derbyshire on the edges of the Peak District. A special confluence of hills and mills, of ways and waterways, of peaks and puddles.
Whether by wheels or on foot, this is our playground, awesome and awe-inspiring. Yet by equal measure, infuriating and intimidating, for cycling in particular, with routes that can be disjointed or non-existent, designed for conflict or hidden beneath puddles for half the year.
At some point in 2016 I snapped, tweeting a picture of a puddly towpath and pleading for better. Soon this special blend, of pretty pictures of hills interspersed with a longing for better cycling facilities into and around this side of the Peak District, found an audience. Now it’s time to pull out a very overused pun and shift things up a gear.
A logo, an Instagram account… and a website. A space to write that bit more about local cycling, walking and countryside access where shoehorning it into a tweet doesn’t allow for enough balance or detail. Not just whinging about the negatives but celebrating the positives. Moreover, trying to engage as many people as possible to champion the cause for better active travel and sustainable enjoyment of our marvellous countryside.
Balanced between three local council areas of High Peak, Cheshire East and Stockport, not to mention Derbyshire County Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Peak District National Park, finding the latest news about cycling developments around here can be more challenging than the hill climb from Jenkin Chapel. So here’s a place to bring it all together and to inspire even more to explore. The more of us getting out there, the bigger the case to make things even better.
I grew up in Marple, spending my childhood being pushed far too close to the edges of canal locks by my dad or trundling down Middlewood Way on stabilisers. As I hit my late teens I rediscovered bikes (sans stabilisers) as a way to escape and burn the accumulated flab of a 90s child diet. Somehow I skipped the whole “learning to drive and saving up for a car” phase, stuck to buses and trains and bought a better mountain bike instead. Good decision.
A bike took me towards New Mills and to my partner and his fearless Yorkshire Terrier, who climbed Kinder (several times) and lived to over seventeen (the terrier, not the boyfriend). Now our three-legged cat champions the case for better road safety and the power of determination, as new adventures and new stories await.
I cycle for pleasure, exercise and utility — and preferably all three at once. Heading out to Goyt Valley and descending past Windgather Rocks is always the best way to pick up a bag of shopping from Tesco. The quickest route usually isn’t the best, at least the way things stand with cycling on the roads around here. If it takes five minutes longer but feels five times safer and five times more enjoyable, that’s the route I’ll take.
I want Peaks & Puddles to be the resource I wish I’d have had over ten years ago, diverging off Middlewood Way for the first time and wondering… where can I venture to today?