Sunday, 1 April 2012

1 Apr: Ride in the Derbyshire Peak District

Adrian reports on today's car-assisted ride in the Derbyshire Peak District, which explored the Tissington, Monsal and Manifold trails: Eight members (Averil, Mick C, Bill, John S, Neal T, Zhiqingli and her daughter Sophie, on her first time out with the club, and me), travelling in three vehicles, made an early start from Cambridge to meet at Tissington station in Derbyshire for today's ride. It was a lovely clear morning: there had been a frost overnight and it was still cold, but the sun in a cloudless sky was making a positive difference to the temperature.

We left Tissington station at about 9.30 am, heading north up the trail for a coffee stop about nine miles away at the Parsley Hay cycle hire and coffee shop. The views were lovely and clear across the hills to the east and west and high above Hartington from Hartington old station which is a mile away. At coffee we sat outside in the sunshine admiring the countryside before setting off on road east to pass 'Arbor Low Henge', Conksbury with its steep hills up and down, and on to the town of Bakewell. We didn't stop in Bakewell but continued up to the old station on the Monsal trail, where I thought there was a café for a lunch stop. However there wasn't, so Averil asked a walker if there was a place along the trail and was told there was one about a mile or so away at Hassop station. This was in the direction we were going and we were soon there, with three of the group finding somewhere to eat their sandwiches and the other five of us ordering a meal from the café. Again we all sat outside, eating out meals in the lovely warm sunshine.

After lunch we continued along the Monsal trail towards Buxton, passing Little Longstone, where some of the club stayed a few years ago on a CTC Birthday Rides week. At that time the Monsal trail ended here as far as cycling was concerned (unless you were prepared to carry your bike for a few miles) because the old track ran through several tunnels here and when the line was closed the tunnels were boarded up and no one was allowed through them. However in 2011 the Peak District National Park opened them up after spending £2.5 m repairing them. This was one of the reasons why Mick C and I wanted to do this ride today, and what a good job they have made of them, lights and a solid surface to ride on!

The first tunnel we went through was the Headstone Tunnel, at the exit of the tunnel you are in Monsal Dale and are on the magnificent Monsal viaduct. As this is as famous landmark there were lots of people with children wandering about, walking and biking and taking photos, we had to be very careful not to run into them.

After the next tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel, at 800 metres the longest on the trail, and the one after it, we arrived in Miller's Dale and the Millers Dale imposing viaducts. This part is very pretty, with the river Wye and villages in the valley and the trail with us up high on one side where we can look down onto them. The trail continues through more tunnels and crosses the river Wye as we travel through Blackwell Dale, Cheedale and onto Wyedale, just before Wyedale the trail turns off the old railway track (as the line is still used by a quarry) and follows the river below for 1 km before reaching a main road, the A6 which was not to busy. We had to ride along this road in single file for about a mile before turning off left up a quiet lane but with a very steep double hairpin to Cowdale and then cross the A515 to Heathfield Nook where we turned left and picked up Sustrans route 68, passing BrierlowBar garage with its book shop and café and then up a long climb to Ferndale followed by the B5053 to Longnor. At a crossroads after Longnor we turned down a narrow lane with grass growing down the middle, to pass through Ludburn and on to Hulme End and the station there where we stopped for afternoon tea, this is the northern end of the Manifold Trail. During tea we agreed to continue all the way down the Manifold trail to Tissington instead of taking a shorter route through Wetton to Tissington, although it was now 3.30pm.

On finishing tea we went down the Manifold trail, which is Sustrans route 54 all the way to Waterhouses. This route is used by families with children on bikes and is a very narrow and tarmac old railway track and parts of it are used as a normal road with a single lane tunnel in the middle with no traffic lights which could be quite dangerous for them, we had no trouble though on our way down to Waterhouses. At Waterhouses we turned left on the A523 uphill for about half a mile and left again up a steeper hill to Calton, in Calton we turned left again up a gradual climb onto open moorland and then a lovely long decent through a farm to Rushley and then on to Ilam. After Ilam we went to Thorpe by a very steep hill at bottom of which Avreil's chain got stuck between the chain rings, but Mick C was on hand to release it in no time at all (this being the only problem all day). After Thorpe it was only about half a mile to get back on the Tissington Trail, we turned north on it and in a mile we were back at Tissington station, it was now about 6.00 pm and we had cycled 54 miles.

After packing away the bikes and saying goodbye we all headed back to Cambridge. Thanks to everybody who I believe enjoyed the trip and well done to Sophie on her first ride with us. Adrian Lee.

Additional photos by Neil Taylor below:

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