To me the Cordwell Valley is almost like a shangri-la for cyclists. Situated to the west of Chesterfield, almost like a crease in the map acting like a bit of a ha-ha between the town and Sheffield, the valley is a collection of cracking climbs, event better descents and pretty hamlets and villages.
Being a valley, the are offers a good selection of climbs if that floats your boat. We’ve listed the major road climbs below, but there’s also quite a few shorter ones which are just long enough to get you out of your saddle. There’s also a few off-road climbs if you really want to hurt yourself.
The climb up to Owler Bar is an absolute belter. One of those climbs that gets a little bit harder the further you go up it. The first bit is relatively pleasant heading up through a woodland and a few little kicks upward to test you. Then there’s a bit of a false flat and a slight downhill and the road begins to bite back. Past a bridleway to the left and you can just about see the top in the distance and the roof of the Peacock pub. By this time you’ve probably ran out of gears and your legs are singing a bit of a song. A few more metres and you reach the roundabout.
Fox Lane is another doozy of a climb. Unlike the Owler Bar climb it’s hard at the start and gets easier towards the top. It ramps up at the beginning up to a set of farm buildings. From there, there is a false flat again before it kicks up to another farmhouse on your left. After that it flattens off a little before heading off over a lovely bit of exposed moorland.
Think of the Unthank climb as Fox Lane’s wayward cousin. It roughly ends up at the same place, it’s a little less harsh but is rough around the edges. This climb has been a fave at the start or finish of some of the events I’ve organised.
The start is quite gradual on a fairly respectable piece of tarmac. Look over to the left and there’s a wood where a USAF phantom crashed in the early ’70’s. To give you an idea of the speed of those things the pilot and navigator ejected over Curbar edge. Then there’s a right and a left and the road ramps up. From here the surface gets more gnarmac than tarmac and narrows a bit. Up through some woods with a steep drop off to the right and you pop like a champagne cork out onto a high moorland plateau. Keep your eye’s peeled for the airstrip on the left.
Cartledge Lane is another brutal road climb. At around 1.6 km long with an average gradient of 9.7%, it’s a brave rider that tackles it on the big ring. The only way to really describe it is harsh from the start to finish.
Horsleygate Lane’s about the easiest way to get up to Holmesfield from Cordwell Valley. The gentle climb slowly traverses the valley side. The surface is a bit sketchy in places so take care if you decide to descend it.
There’s also a couple of good gravel bike / MTB descents of the lane. One at the top Grimsel Lane is a cracker. The lower descent Sid Lane is a bit looser and makes for a better climb.
Far Lane’s a always strikes me as quite an unremarkable climb. It’s longish, fairly straight and the views are nothing extraordinary. Always leaves me feeling like I’ve been robbed when I get to the top.
Dobbin Lane however is the Ying to Far Lane’s Yang and is an all time fave of ours as it has a little bit of everything.
Starting in Barlow it heads up to Highlightly. Then there’s a lovely switchback, you go round the corner and boom a wall of tarmac is in front of you. Keep shifting down like your life depends on it and winch your way up to a postbox on the right and the road flattens. Ignore the right hand turn which is another gem of a road and past a few very nice houses. Then the road narrows and climbs up to Cowley Lane in Holmesfield.
Commonside Lane’s quite an unoffensive climb. At around an average gradient of 6.5% it’s steep enough to get you working but not that brutal to leave you begging for a bit of a break.
At the time of writing the road is closed to motor vehicles, but is passable by bike. I hope it stays that way as there’s plenty of other ways for cars to get to the top. This is not the first time the road has closed as it has a habit of trying to slide down to the valley floor.
Wilkin Hill is another one of our faves. It starts next to the Peacock or Hackney House cafe – both of which are worth a visit. The Peacock’s a bit pricey but does a nice lunch and the cafe has a cracking cake selection and does an awesome home made pie.
Best not overdo it on the food though as this climb starts with a bang. The road rides sharply up to a right hand bend. From here the climb follows a rather pleasant valley undulating until it meets the top of the Commonside Lane climb. From here you can head back to Barlow, over to Far Lane or up to the top of Grange Hill.
On the latter option the road keeps undulating traversing a ridge until a final kick up to the top of Grange Hill.