Exploring the Monsal Trail
The tandem has just taken us on a new adventure: we’ve been on the Monsal Trail cycle route in the Derbyshire Peak District, which runs from near Buxton to just outside Bakewell. This is an eight-and-a-half mile trail along paths only useable by bikes, horses, walkers and wheelchairs, and which follows an old railway line along spectacular high-level viaducts.
Empowered people had organised the day and, importantly for us, took the tandem by trailer to the Peak District. It meant we were able to have a day’s cycling with a dozen or so other people who also really appreciated being there, especially in the beautiful sunshine we had that day (unlike on our last outing!).
There was the usual mix of electric bikes and ordinary bikes, as well as a hand cycle and a recumbent bike attached to another bike. And, of course, the tandem!
It really was a glorious day. Initially the route took us through woods and beside a stream. Soon there was a steep climb up on to the track – I had to dismount and hold on to the tandem for balance – it had the advantage of looking like I was actually helping pushing it uphill – I emphatically was not! That was the trickiest bit for our group but we were soon up on to the flat track and away!
The route is very wooded and peaceful. You really feel that nature has taken the land back. As it was so early in the season, we could see through the branches to the pale green fields beyond. Each time we went over a viaduct we stopped to peer down and across at the mellow views.
We passed families with small children on their multi-coloured bikes, walkers who used the route before crossing on to other footpaths, dog walkers, and many cyclists – it was too good a day not to be outdoors! At one point we even passed a group of schoolchildren abseiling from one of the high bridges!
And there were tunnels! Many of them! These were great fun except it was distinctly colder inside them than outdoors – the sun was very welcome each time we broke out again! Also, despite the lighting provided, it was quite dark and cyclists did appear out of nowhere quite close at hand once or twice!
It was wonderful to see these great feats of engineering still being used. There had been such a huge amount of effort put into building them, from the blasting through rocks to create the route, to the brickwork built to secure the cuttings and tunnels. It was strange to think that all those involved in building the railways could not have conceived of this use … not even of the bikes themselves!
Eventually we arrived at Monsal Head Viaduct itself – what a view! You could peer down into Monsal Dale (such a long way down!) and watch the tiny people below enjoying a stroll by the river.
We lunched at Hassop, a disused station, now providing welcome snacks on a terrace bathed in spring sunshine … bliss! Many cups of tea were required before I wanted to move!
It wasn’t far from there to the end of the line just outside Bakewell. I made it to the end then decided that stopping off back at Hassop was the end of the journey for me. I had cycled 10 miles, which was significantly more than I had managed for some time – and I could feel it! Pete headed back to the start with the rest and I got a lift back with one of the support team.
It was wonderful to explore a new cycle route and it was particularly good to be back in the Peak District as it’s part of our old stomping ground from when we were students, when we would spend Sundays getting away from the campus and into the hills. Now we were back – but doing something new, not trying to recreate something from the past. I think we’ll be back again!