Anywhere ‘North of the Watford Gap – blah, blah, blah – is the North!’ I think the joke goes. Don’t look at me, I’m a child of the 70’s, Political Correctness did not exist. However, this gap was bridged on this weekend as a bunch of like-minded people from other parts of the UK ventured to the famous hills of The Peak District.
Andy Speight, of Sp8Boards and Leeds Longboarding, greeted myself and fellow Southern Fairies Outlaw Jonathan Braund after our six hour drive up from the South Coast at a bunkhouse he’d found on a working farm a short drive from the hills we’d be enjoying the following two days.
So cows with calves, sheep constantly bleating (and eating it seemed) and several working farm dogs were our neighbours, as were a bunch of disgruntled climbers who arrived the following night, but that’s not really relevant to our story, honest. (If they’d asked us to be quiet we would have obliged! Apologies to afore-mentioned climbers as we were a bit, er, enthusiastic with our evenings conversations. Anyways, moving swiftly on…)
Several other people arrived later that night and, after a few beers in the local pub, we all headed to our bunks eager to see the hills the next day.
The Peak District is famous around the world for its wild landscapes, steep hills, lakes and gritstone rocky cliffs making it a magnet for outdoor activity types from walkers and climbers to mountain bikers and the Lycra-clad road-bike crews.
It’s thanks to the latter that we longboard and street luge leather-clad types have smooth roads to enjoy instead of the usual pothole dodging and stone chip sealed roads we’re all too used to down South! The Tour de France visited a few years back and lots of roads were resurfaced and improved so it’s well known in the UK Downhill scene as a must place to visit for smooth tarmac.
Now, normally this time of year (the end of February btw) would not be an ideal time to visit this area also famed for, yes, you got it, rain. Or snow … as it was this time last year! However, due to, er … ‘unusual’ weather patterns
(AHEM! #GlobalWarming), we in the UK were experiencing what felt like an early Spring. This bode well for the weekends action!
The following day, I found out that I really do snore and my girlfriends of the past (and present!) weren’t ‘just making it up, probably dreaming!’ as I wanted to believe. My three bunkroom buddies soon informed me I sounded like one of the farm animals outside and maybe I should join them in the barn the following night. Charming, I thought… nah, I don’t snore that loud surely??
We found a Cafe a few miles down the road for breakfast then headed to the first hill of the day. We met some people already there and the crew began to grow.
This was a dead straight road that looked like it went on forever, but luckily it didn’t as we had to walk back up! No uplifts for us, this is hardcore UKDH Outlaw action! After a couple of hours it was deemed time to move on to the main hill of the day, Bolsterstone.
Now this hill I’d heard tell of many a time and I was a bit apprehensive my skill level wouldn’t be up to it so I started with putting down Coleman Slides, stop-starting all the way down this roller coaster of an incline.
Speaking purely for myself, I found I had to concentrate fully to navigate the sequence of corners and drops and the two chicanes this hill offers. It’s like somebody deliberately put the corners on the steepest parts of the hill! A long run into a tight left then a steep drop to a tight right, a slight rise to a blind crest and immediate left-drop-right being the first chicane, then a short increasingly fast run through to the next chicane which spat you out with a turbo boost of speed and actually turned out to be the fastest part of the hill.
Several times in the first sequence of corners I came close to the outer edge of the road where there was a ten foot drop into a ditch full of bushes and trees and, by the looks of it, pain and possible hospital visit. So after a few runs on my longboard I chose to ride my luge, which turned out to be bloody brilliant on this hill!
My now 24 companions were all busy ripping the hill apart, some gripping the corners, others sliding, some heading down with a buddy, others going for the inevitable Pack Run. It’s so good to watch the skills of others and different riding techniques and styles. Some were gripping the corners and making it look easy while others were enjoying sliding and spinning their way down the hill.
One notable moment, a skater took the first left and over cooked it and stopped right on the apex followed quickly by another who managed to slide to a stop without hitting the first, before anyone had time to react Jonny ‘No Brakes’ Braund came around the corner, saw the two guys standing there and quickly threw out a Heel-side Standie slipping straight through the narrow gap and throwing down a little Toe-side as he cleared them just for extra style points! To my friends amazement and comments like ‘He’s so good, I hate him!’ (#SFOL!)
I didn’t actually watch the others too much as I was loving the hill and only really stopped to get hydrated and fuel up with whatever random food stuffs I had brought the day before, but what I did see made me realise what talent we have here in the UK, especially the younger generation. The future looks great indeed.
We sessioned the hill for about five or six hours and, after walking back up it probably around twenty times, it was time to head back to the bunkhouse and do what generally happens at these kind of events, go to the pub, eat and drink beer.
(I refer you to the start of this story for the evenings er.. activitities.. Apologies again! You could have just told us to shut up?)
On awakening early, my now five bunkmates were all telling me I snore really loudly and a couple had had hardly any sleep! Next time we meet I must definitely sleep in the hallway or something! I narrowly missed a pillow to the head, apparently! (Hmm.. maybe I do snore after all? Nah.. They were all dreaming!)
We all got our stuff together, headed back to the cafe down the road and then, after a bit of debate,straight back to Bolsterstone. On arrival, we found the road to be a bit damp so most opted to wait a while before bombing down the entire hill. Instead, people used the opportunity to have a Slidejam on the upper steep section. It wasn’t long, though, before someone headed all the way down and, as the hill dried up, everybody was back on it with the sound of urethane on tarmac and the odd bail and crash filling the air.
As many of us had long journeys home we aimed to just skate a couple of hours but that turned into ‘Just one more hour?’ as this hill is just too much fun!
A bunch of the younger crew turned up conspicuously later as they’d hit the nearby city of Sheffield for a night out, making me feel really old as there’s no way I’d be skating this hill after a night on the town! Ah, what it is to be young! Not sure how long the others stayed but we had to leave as it was around 2pm now, I’m sure some stayed until it got dark.
Well, these are my impressions of this epic weekend with some of the UK Longboarding Family coming together from all points of the compass to forget boundaries and, instead, push some.
I’ll definitely be returning to this beautifully rugged part of the UK and want to explore more of the country of my birth. Sometimes you don’t have to leave home to have an adventure.
Thanks to Harry Bentley and Andy Speight for organising and to all the riders from South Down Shredders, Sheffield Long Sox, London Longboard, Southern Fairies Outlaw League and Leeds Longboarding. Check out our UK Crew listing for links to each group and read Andy’s write up on the Sp8Boards blog post here and more pix n vids on South Down Shredders event page.
Words: Robbie Stevens - Images : Robbie Stevens, Sp8Boards
Featured image: Timmy Peters - Video : LJ Leme