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The Monsal Trail

A day in the Peak District, the sun is reluctantly shining, what to do?

A glance at the wide wide world of web offered a variety of hiking and climbing choices. But all of these included worrying phrases like “crampons recommended”, “stout hiking boots required” and the killer phrase: “a moderate level of fitness needed”; so we settled for something safer.

The Monsal Trail is a an eight and half mile track along an abandoned railway line, complete with tunnels, viewpoints, and ex-station which is now a café; seemed more like our thing.

We parked and then had to walk a fair distance to a shabby shed where bicycles were for hire. We pushed our substantial machines up a hill to the start of the trail. There then followed a very pleasant seventeen miles which took us the best part of the day, with frequent stops for views and rests, the latter becoming more frequent on the return journey when we discovered that we had been cycling mainly downhill to Bakewell, so now had to cycle uphill all the way back.

At the viaduct we left the bikes and walked down to take a look.

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Monsal viaduct

Cressbrook Mill was impressive….

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…. until you read the plaque: “behind the mill are cottages, built to house orphan children brought from the cities to work in the mill”. Not so idyllic.

The tunnels were fun to cycle through.

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One long tunnel had a sign suggesting that cyclists dismount because the lighting had broken in the middle of the tunnel. I ignored the warning of course and all went well till I got to the darkness, the people in front of me slowed, I lost orientation and fell off next to the wall. No damage done, but my glasses had come off and I could not find them in the pitch dark. There were several frantic minutes scrabbling around until I remembered the flashlight function on my phone and was reunited with my specs.

It was a grubby and dishevelled Spike that emerged from the tunnel, expecting some comfort from my wife. How she laughed.

Near the end we discovered some kids being thrown off a bridge by adults, something I am greatly in favour of, although I think the use of ropes spoiled things.

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Slightly sore of arse and with weary legs, we returned the bikes and trudged back to the car park. Ate a lot, slept very well.

This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. I frequently travelled along there with my father in the 1950’s when visiting an aunt in Stockport.
    It was at that time part of the former Midland Railway main line from London St Pancras to
    Manchester Central and I recall it being beautifully scenic between Matlock and Miller’s Dale.

    1. Would you therefore like to take responsibility for the rather faded used condom I spotted hanging from a bush next to the railway line?

  2. Britain’s Ancient Tracks with Tony Robinson (Sir Baldrick to you) is currently showing its second season. Episode three is just out, and is particularly relevant to this post. An excellent watch, with cracking video footage of some of the things Spike was photographing.

    1. Thanks. I will head back to the UK to watch it (definitely not currently downloading via torrent, no sir).

      1. Well done. It is the BBC after all, so if you’re not paying a licence fee then you shouldn’t be watching it. (Insert tongue-in-cheek emoji here)

  3. Hugely preferable to Robinson, “The Peak Express” with easy on the eye Julia Bradbury is another BBC programme about the Monsal Trail.

    1. Thanks for that.Watched it last night and we both enjoyed it, filled in some history around the trail without treating the viewer like a simpering infant.

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