The Peak District has been chosen to pilot extending the Department of Transport’s innovative Cycling Towns and Cities into the countryside, as 32% of the UK population lives within 60 miles of the area and it already has a 58-mile network of cycle trails and cycle-hire centres. The project aims to encourage people to use bicycles and particularly to make it possible for families, less mobile people and those new to cycling to cycle regularly.
Phase 1 involves the reopening of the tunnels on the Monsal Trail and extending the existing trail so that it will soon be possible to cycle all the way from Bakewell to Topley Pike (near Buxton). When we walked part of the trail last week, work was well underway ready for the opening in May.
The Monsal Trail is about 8.5 miles (13.7 km) in length and follows a section of the former Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, built by the Midland Railway in 1863 to link Manchester with London. It starts at the Topley Pike junction in Wye Dale, 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Buxton and runs to Coombs viaduct, 1 mile (1.6 km) south-east of Bakewell. It follows the valley of the River Wye and runs parallel to the A6.
The trail passes through such places as Blackwell Mill, Millers Dale, Cressbrook, Monsal Dale, Great Longstone, Hassop and Bakewell. Millers Dale is an easy walk from Candlelight Cottage and with all the recent spring weather, the trail is lined with daffodils, catkins and pussywillow trees.
The Monsal Trail does not follow the old trackbed at all times, for where tunnels have been closed for safety reasons such as at Monsal Head and Cressbrook, the path has been locally diverted. However, four tunnels are going to be re-opened very soon. They are Headstone Tunnel, Litton Tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel and one of the tunnels at Chee Tor (the other is already open). The tunnels are all approximately 400m long and will be accessible for cyclists, walkers and horse-riders on the Monsal Trail. The tunnels have all been closed since the rail route was axed in the late 1960s. Recently we saw the BBC’s Julia Bradbury walking through some of the tunnels in Railway Walks: The Peak Express and soon we will all be able to do so.
There are hundreds of interesting things to see along the Monsal Trail including wildlife, geology, industrial and rail heritage. The trail will become a way-marked route with coordinated interpretation to help people enjoy all it has to offer.
At Candlelight Cottage, we can organise cycle hire for you and we provide maps and routes for walks and cycle rides all over the area including the Monsal Trail and other former railway lines such as the Tissington Trail. Please contact us for more information.