A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the tag “Peak District”

Wet Weather Cycling

The beautiful autumn came to an abrupt end precisely as we headed off to Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District for our annual ex-student walking club gathering. And this year I wouldn’t be able to spend my day in teashops whilst the others got wet on the hills. No: we had brought the tandem with us. There would be no escape!

Fortunately, we had brought lots of waterproofs too.

Winnatts Pass, Castleton

Winnatts Pass, Castleton

We listened as our friends and companions planned walking routes before they set off along various paths. Meanwhile, we got into our car and drove up Winnats Pass out of Castleton. We parked near Mam Tor and removed the tandem from its lovely roof rack. It was wonderful to be able to bring the bike with us and to have our own adventure at the same time as everyone else – in the same weather!

The advantage of our starting spot was that we began by going downhill. The disadvantage was that the weather was wilder at this height. At least I knew I was outdoors!

We stopped just before the road descended steeply into Edale, and looked out over damp hills. They were very pale but at least they hadn’t disappeared behind clouds.

road into Edale valley

road into Edale valley

As we arrived in the tiny village of Edale (which nevertheless has its own railway station) we were pleased to find that the rain was so far keeping to a minimum, even if the wind was sharp. Even so, it was impossible to pass through without stopping in the village cafe.

It was a good move. No sooner were we safely inside with a warm mug of tea than the rain started to lash against the window. A second mug of tea seemed appropriate.

clouds clinging to Kinder Ridge, Edale

clouds clinging to Kinder Ridge, Edale

Our timing proved excellent. The rain stopped as we left, and the next section of our journey, along the valley bottom below Lose Hill then looping back into Hope, was dry. This was highly unexpected after what the weather forecast had predicted.

We cycled along this flat five-mile section at a good speed. It is so much faster cycling along a road rather than on bumpy footpaths as we usually do. However, I was quite happy to avoid any (no doubt) muddy and puddle-strewn footpaths.

We passed wet fields, wet cows and wet sheep – one sheep stared hard at us. (I don’t think it knew what a tandem was.) The roadside trees looked a little bedraggled – their leaves were half gone, so that they were no longer dressed in their full golden colours, but they were not yet sharp black winter silhouettes.

wet valley views

wet valley views

The village of Hope provided another teashop stop. This is a very important part of the day (not just for the cups of tea!). Besides providing sustenance, it also enables me to pace myself.

Then it was a short hop back to Castleton and (you guessed!) another teashop. Mind you, these small chunks of cycling all added up to 10 miles (including cycling up and down Castleton in search of a teashop – I can report that it has several pubs, not many cafes).

In Castleton we bumped into some of the walkers. It turned out that we’d done better than them in that they’d been out on the hills when the weather had done its worst, not safely inside a cafe like us. I’m getting to like this cycling lark more and more … the hills are distinctly lacking in shelter and cafes, whereas cycle routes tend to pass through civilisation much more regularly!

In fact, I made a startling discovery about myself that evening, sitting amongst so many walkers, as we compared our days’ experiences – I am no longer a walker; I am a cyclist!

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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.

River Wye at Blackwell Mill

River Wye at Blackwell Mill

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!

at the start of the Monsal Trail

at the start of the Monsal Trail

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!

room for everyone

room for everyone

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.

steep drop below

steep drop below

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!

abseilers

abseilers

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!

approaching our first tunnel

approaching our first tunnel

inside the tunnel

inside the tunnel

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!

Cressbrook Mill

Cressbrook Mill

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.

Monsal Dale

Monsal Dale

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.

the end of the line

the end of the line

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!

back to the river Wye

back to the river Wye

The Distance Travelled

I think the tandem has entered my soul! It’s certainly done something to my mind, as was brought home to me very clearly this weekend.

You may recall that the aim of the tandem was to get Pete and me back into the countryside together, something which it is accomplishing better than we could possibly have hoped! The two of us actually met in our student walking club, and a group of us continue to meet annually for a sociable get-together.

We have just got back from one such weekend, in the Peak District. The emphasis is split pretty equally between walking and catching up with each other, with plenty of talk of walking exploits, as well as chatting about our ever growing, and growing numbers of, children, who come along too.

River Wye at Bakewell

River Wye at Bakewell

This weekend, instead of subconsciously avoiding thinking about the family trips or outrageous adventures the others were able to do, I was able to relax, knowing that I was back out there too, spending days outdoors again. Just having that thought in my mind made all the difference. I felt fully part of things again, and could even add the odd tale myself.

Whilst there, it so happened that various members of our family were unable to undertake one of the hilly walks on offer, so we ended up on our own individual walk. It actually looked strangely similar to a family trip out – but, obviously, it wasn’t, if one of the teenagers asks!

classic Bakewell tart

classic Bakewell tart

Our ramble consisted of a meander round Bakewell in search of a tart (sorry, couldn’t resist – there were many such feeble quips on the day!) We found a cafe which offered a classic Bakewell tart, with or without ice cream, as well as the option of the iced variety. Needless to say, we tried them all! I can report that they were delicious, and bore no resemblance to the shop-bought variety.

iced Bakewell with ice cream

iced Bakewell with ice cream

Sufficiently full to bursting, we then headed on to Matlock Bath and had a lovely walk (ok, mine was of the four-wheeled variety) along the river Derwent to the town, in beautifully mild weather. The town made no allowance for being about as far from the sea as is possible in England: it was going to be a seaside resort, no matter what! It consisted of one long street, facing the river (not the sea!), with fish and chip shops all the way along, interspersed with cafes and the odd amusement arcade. There were even illumination lights strung up across the river, ready for dark. We sat outside a chippie, enthusiastically sharing a bag of chips and breathing in the relaxed, autumnal atmosphere.

Matlock Bath-not-by-the-sea

Matlock Bath-not-by-the-sea

It was a lovely weekend, which cleared my head in more ways than one.

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