There's Life in the Old Dog Yet!

It's been a mixed sort of week with not much riding. What with the somewhat uninviting weather and a niggling knee, the product of hauling my current decidedly unfit, non-racing snake frame up to Stanton Lees from Darley Bridge and finding that I needed two or three gears lower than I had available. It's been niggling enough to give way on a couple of occasions and for me to avoid much in the way of pedalling any route in which the road starts pointing significantly upwards.


But Sunday dawned sunny. Sod the shielding, let's go and see if the last few days of pootling along the cycle trails have let the knee recover. Let's go and find a hill or two. Not too many, or too far though.


Despite the sunshine the air was still cool enough to warrant arm warmers and a gilet. Much appreciated on the descent into Brassington and down through Bradbourne to meet the B5056 near the ford over the Bradbourne Brook. The B5056 follows what was the Ashbourne to Haddon Turnpike. Authorised in 1811 it was never profitable back then, but if it had today's level of quarry traffic things might have been different.


No quarries are working on a Sunday though, so it was a relatively traffic-free run to Fenny Bentley. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Heart rate alert. 244 beats per minute. Puts hand to chest and rate drops to an expected 115ish. Back to handlebars. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Nothing to worry about. No cardiac issues, just the flapping of the gilet creating annoying false readings. Anyway, it'll be time to take it off soon as the time for ascent approaches.


At the meeting with the A515 I leave Mrs. Bygone Boozer outside the Fenny Bentley Inn for a few minutes and take a short detour into Fenny Bentley itself and the bygone boozer that was the Wheatsheaf Inn.


The former Wheatsheaf Inn, Fenny Bentley.

It seems as if this post is going to become a lesson on the turnpike roads of the area. Prior to 1777 there was only a rough road through Fenny Bentley but in that year the Ashbourne to Buxton turnpike had a new stretch built through the village which would have produced a demand for inns. The Coach & Horses was one and it still exists. The Wheatsheaf was another, but is no more.


Quite when it was built I'm not sure. Dodd & Dodd's Peakland Roads and Trackways states that


“Until 1795 the only hostelry along the twenty miles between Ashbourne and Buxton was 'a mean public house which stood at the nine mile stone' which stands at Newhaven...”


so it doesn't seem to have appeared soon after the road was built. The first record of it that I've found is in Pigot's Directory which was compiled between 1827 and 1829 and gives William Beardsley as the innkeeper. The Coach & Horses is also listed. In all likelihood its time as an inn ended between 1891 and 1898. In the 1891 census Mary Kirkwood was the innkeeper but the inn has disappeared from Ordnance Survey maps by 1898 and in the 1901 census Mary is still living in the same place but her occupation is given as retired innkeeper. I can find no later references to the inn.


With this bygone boozer snapped it was time to retrace my pedal strokes and rejoin Mrs. BB and we headed south along the still relatively traffic-free 1777 stretch of the A515 to Sandybrook Country Park. The 135 degree right turn which sits opposite highlighted just how rusty my bike-handling skills have become and I was grateful that there was nobody in the immediate vicinity to witness the almost too close an encounter with the kerb and its neighbouring stone wall. For those turnpike spotters amongst you we were now on what was the main north-south route before the Fenny Bentley stretch was opened. I'm sure that there weren't quite as many camper vans using the route in the 1760s. Just how many folk do people think will fit into Ilam?


Over Bentley Brook, where there were a couple of dippers dipping, under the Tissington Trail and up on tortured tarmac to join the original 1738 turnpike route into Thorpe, where many years ago I remember patronising the Dog & Partridge.


The Dog & Partridge shut its doors in 2012. But it's not all doom and gloom, for it reopened after a refit at the end of 2014 and is now trading once more as the Old Dog. As I type it hasn't yet returned to service post-lockdown but it certainly appears that it intends to.


The former Dog & Partridge, now the Old Dog, in Thorpe.


With the Old Dog unable to provide sustenance - not that I would have partaken of any anyway. I'm taking this shielding lark reasonably seriously - we continue to follow the line of the 1738 turnpike road along Spend Lane and climb towards Thorpe Pastures where just after the steepest bit I have to stop. My knee isn't playing up. I don't need a rest. It's just that I can't perform a gate vault with my feet firmly attached to a bike.


I didn't need a rest. Honestly!

I have to admit that I'd have like a little lower gearing and it must've been fun trying to get a coach and four up here on a pre-John McAdam road surface. No wonder that the stretch through Fenny Bentley was constructed.


After acting as gate monitor for another pair of cyclists it was off again, weaving through the cow pats – my bike handling proving to be pretty good after all – across the pastures where another gate vault was required.


View back across Thorpe Pastures from the far gate.

More gate monitor service was provided, this time for motorists, before we pedalled along Gag Lane, between stone walls, past lime kilns and with great views either side, before dropping back down to rejoin the A515 and the 1777 'bypass' at New Inns.


Those stagecoach passengers certainly had some great views.

Now it was homeward bound. Through Alport en le Dale to Parwich, - nice to see the Sycamore open - and that 1811 turnpike that we started on. Up to the Jug & Glass and then home to the chilled brew waiting in the fridge. Oh! And a Magnum from the freezer. The knee held up OK, including the (very!) short bit of 1 in 5 approaching the gate onto Thorpe Pastures. So, as the banner hanging on the boozer back in Thorpe says...





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