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A bicycle ride around Staffordshire and Cheshire Peak District.

A cycle ride from Flash to Wincle via Gradbach and Three Shire Heads, following the River Dane and returning via Roache End. Taking in parts of the Staffordshire and Cheshire Peak District.

Flash to Wincle and Roache End


Route Info
cycle map
Difficulty level: 3  (1 to 5 scale)
Distance: 27.00 km
Estimated time: 4 hours - excluding stops
Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 map sheet(s): 118/119
See start location on Streetmap

This cycle ride follows the approximate line of the Dane Valley from Flash Bar down to Wincle and Dane Bridge, returning via Roache End and the moorland area between Flash and the Roaches. The description here starts from Flash Bar, but of course it could equally well be started from Wincle or Dane Bridge. The route follows minor roads almost all the way and could easily be done on a road bike, though around Three Shire Heads there are some alternatives along rough tracks and these would require a mountain bike. Though the cycling is fairly straightforward the route drops about 300m in height between Flash and Dane Bridge, so there is a lot of uphill and downhill.

View near Flash Bar
View near Flash Bar
Flash Bar is an isolated spot at a sharp bend on the A53 between Buxton and Leek. It is over 500m above sea level and boasts a shop (Flash Bar stores - reputedly the highest shop in England) and a pub (the Travellers Rest). It can be a rather bleak spot in winter but on a nice summers day it has a fine view and often a fresh breeze. If you are arriving by car then it is often possible to park here, or alternatively you could park just along the road to Flash, which leaves the main road about 400m away in the direction of Leek.

Leave Flash Bar in the direction of Buxton but after 200m turn left along a minor road signposted to Knotbury. Follow this, winding gently downhill, until the road forks - both roads being signed as for access only. Take the left fork and wind downhill alongside an idyllic little stream. Eventually the road leaves the stream and bends around to the right (ignore the farm track to the left) and reaches a gate. Continue through this and past a small isolated cottage, the road now degenerating into an unmade (but quite well surfaced) track. Shortly after the cottage the track forks.

Three Shire Heads
Three Shire Heads
The right fork takes you to Three Shire Heads, a local beauty spot, and is in many ways the obvious route. Unfortunately the track has been severely chewed up over the years by a combination of horses and motorcycles, so it is littered with boulders and extremely difficult to cycle along. Follow it by all means, but it is likely that you will find yourself pushing or carrying the bike much of the way (even a mountain bike).

The left fork is therefore a better option, taking you down a winding route towards the River Dane, past some ruined farm buildings and then past Birchen Booth Farm and across the river, exiting up a steep hill to a cottage which is called Knar on the OS map. Incidentally this route may not be a legal right of way on a bike, so if challenged you may need to dismount and walk, though it is hard to see why anyone should have any objection to its use.

At Knar you join a minor road which winds down to Gradbach from the A54. This is deepest Cheshire and feels like the back of beyond - the road is narrow and gated, with several gates to open and shut before you reach the relatively major (but still small) Flash to Allgreave road at a point above Gradbach. Continue uneventfully along this road to Allgreave, where there is a nice pub (the Rose and Crown) and a good view of Shuttlingsloe, and you join the A54.

The Hanging Stone
The Hanging Stone
Continue down the A54 and across Clough Brook at the bottom and climb up the other side of the dip before turning left along the road to Wincle. This road dawdles above the Dane Valley before descending a steep little hill into the tiny village of Wincle, where there is a school and a church and you come to a T junction. Turn left and head for Dane Bridge, noting the excellent view of Hanging Stone across the valley. The road descends to the River Dane, past the Ship Inn (another fine pub) and crosses the bridge from deepest Cheshire into deepest Staffordshire.

Continue up the hill along a mostly tree-lined road. After a short time you arrive at the West Lodge of Swythamley Hall - a one-time monastic outpost in this remote area. The road forks here and you should take the second of the two left-hand turns (NOT the one to Hanging Stone Farm). This road skirts the southern edge of Swythamley Hall Estate, passing Swythamley Chapel and the South Lodge before crossing a bridge over small stream. Shortly after, a small turning back left appears to lead just into a farmyard but this is the road you want, and it actually leads through the farmyard eastwards up towards the Roaches.

This narrow single-track road is tree-lined and would be very pleasant cycling were it not for the fact that it leads steadily uphill - quite steeply in places. After a while you lose the trees and gain a splendid view over the North end of the Roaches and the country beyond, but the angle of the road never relaxes. Keep going, past a couple of isolated farms, until suddenly the road turns sharp left and degenerates into a concrete track to a farm. Ahead of you is an unmade track which leads, after about 800m, to Roache End and the narrow road which comes past the Roaches from Hulme End.

The Roaches from the South
The Roaches from the South
This is a good place to stop and admire the view, which is splendid. This is also the high point of the route for a while, which probably comes as a relief after the climb from Swythamley. The road winds around the end of the Roaches and then takes a large sweep south-eastwards towards the rocky pinnacles of Ramshaw Rocks to avoid a boggy area known as Goldsitch Moss. For most of the way to the T-junction at Newstone Farm it is gently downhill.

From Newstone Farm the quickest and most direct route back to Flash Bar would be to turn right and then follow the A53 northwards, but this is not pleasant riding because of the traffic. Instead, turn left and enjoy the long downhill stretch to the next right turn, where another minor road takes you uneventfully to the Flash-Gradbach road near Flash Bottom. It's appropriately named - the last mile back to Flash is a steady uphill grind, since of course at 500m Flash is the highest village in England. Here, if you can't wait any longer another nice pub (the New Inn) beckons, but if you still have the stamina, cycle on past the school to the main road, which must be followed for the last 400m back to Flash Bar.

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Flash to Wincle and Roache End Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
Flash view
0 - Flash view
Flash - 3 Shire Heads
1 - Flash - 3 Shire Heads
Flash - upper Dane valley
2 - Flash - upper Dane valley
Shuttlingsloe and Wildboarclough from Allgreave
3 - Shuttlingsloe and Wildboarclough from Allgreave
Swythamley - the Hanging Stone
4 - Swythamley - the Hanging Stone
5 - Roaches
Ramshaw Rocks
6 - Ramshaw Rocks

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