A great day ride for all the family in the rolling Derbyshire Dales and Peak District. A circular route; using two disused railway lines and quiet back roads.
Getting to the start:
After watching a documentary on the beautiful Derbyshire Dales in the north of England. My parents researched possible bike routes to explore this wonderful place. I do not mind routes where you ride out and come back the same way because on the return journey you see what was behind you. Yet circular routes always seem better! Maybe this due to the fact you are not retracing your steps, or everything seems new. Here we were able to do a circular ride or a triangle ride if you look at the map below. The bottom side of the triangle is made up of back roads from Tissington to join the High Peak Trail coming out of Hopton. The right side of the triangle is the High Peak trail and the returning left side of the triangle is the Tissington Trail.
The Derbyshie Dales are about a four hour drive from our house so we looked for local accommodation. This way we could start the ride early in the morning; after a good nights sleep instead of a long and tiring drive. Using booking.com we found rooms at: The Bank House Hotel; a quaint old coaching Inn in the nearby town of Uttoxeter. A market town famous for being the home of the construction equipment company JCB; the easily recognisable yellow diggers and cranes that can be seem across the world. Samuel Johnson; the man who wrote the first English Dictionary also had a bookstall here. He famously stood out in the pouring rain after not helping his father one day. These days, a major local attraction is the horse racing course.
Having work commitments; we only had a weekend to spare so after driving up on a Friday afternoon we arrived in early evening. The landlord was polite and welcoming so after putting our bags into our rooms; we had a drink of the local bitter in the bar.
As in many countries; although we spoke the same language, accents and dialects vary wildly across the country. So it was fantastic to hear the dulcet tones of these local folk; to my south west English ears, their accents seemed smooth and calming. After being told the local gossip by a bored chef; I decided to opt for fish and chips in the town square. Fish and chip shops are found in almost every English town; yet prices can vary dramatically for no real reason. Here, the staple: large Cod and chips; was half the price of my local fish and chip shop. After enjoying this hearty meal; we returned to the hotel and got an early night for the ride tomorrow.
After a good nights sleep; we rose early for the complimentary breakfast. Dear reader, if you are not English and not familiar with English cuisine; we had another classic dish for breakfast: ‘The Full English’! This simple but hearty dish includes: fried bacon and eggs, sausages, black pudding, beans, hash browns, toast and if you are feeling healthy; tomatoes and mushrooms as well!
So fully rested and full of beans and energy we set off in our car to start the ride from the Ashbourne end of the Tissington Trail. We had no idea where to park; yet road signs guided us to a car park at the start of the trail. Parking the car; we changed into more comfortable cycling shorts, took the bikes of the car rack and set off for our adventure!
The ride out:
Leaving the town we passed through a grand railway tunnel; in which classical music piped out from speakers and soft lights pulsed to allay peoples fears of this dark place. As it was the weekend we had to take it steady and pass slowly other cyclists and walkers. Some people had let dogs run free so we had to take it slow past them; yet we were in no rush, so no worries.
After riding for a few miles we arrived at what would have been the old station for the small village of Tissington. Here is another place you can start the ride; yet it is a little of the beaten track compared to the more accesible town of Ashbourne. Riding out of the old station onto the road we passed picture postcard cottages with gardens full of flowers. Passing over the railway we cycled along a quiet lane; whilst following signs for Carsington Water. Here the route passed over moor land with sheep grazing in the long grass and old farm worker cottages plonked here and there as if by a greater hand.
We passed through the village of Bradbourne. We stopped at a war memorial; that celebrates the fact that no men from this village were lost in the first and second world wars. One of only fifteen villages in the whole of England that can claim this lucky feat. Afterwards we followed a quiet country road; that had a few short but steep climbs as it made its way across the rolling hills.
Soon we reached Carsington Water; a wildlife park around a lake. Here people were enjoying a relaxing day with their families. Here you will find a fantastic little cafe; in which we bought a cup of tea. After resting for a few minutes; we followed the path around the lake and then followed signs towards the High Peak Trail. After a long and gentle climb we reached the High Peak Trail and left the roads behind us for the last time that day.
High Peak Trail
The High Peak Trail follows the track of an old railway that carried locally mined minerals between two canals either side a steep climb in the Peak District.
The railway was closed in the 1960’s due to a decline in traffic and the increase in road transport. In the 1970’s the local council; had the foresight to buy the railway line and resurface it for the enjoyment of everyone for years to come. Now walkers, cyclists and horse riders can enjoy 17 miles of car free Peak District countryside!
We joined the trail after it had climbed up from Middleton and the surrounding mineral quarries. Here high on the Peak District you can see for many miles in all directions. With the many quarries in this area for the extraction of lime; a mineral used in construction and making cement.
Up here, high in the Peak District; we had a really relaxing ride. The surface was made of crushed limestone; well maintained and smooth. The sun shone and everyone and everything seemed happy and content. Walkers smiled and bid good day; even horses and sheep seemed to nod in agreement too. After resting a few times we reached Parsley Hay. This is where the old railway joined the railway branch line that is now the Tissington Trail. This old railway line used to run from Buxton, through Aldbourne; to Uttoxeter. The reason for its construction was to carry limestone out of the Peak District as well as carry passengers from the town of Aldbourne. Although, the hard terrain of the Peak District made building a railway line; difficult we have to remember that at the time, roads were not surfaced and often impassable by cart for most of the year.
We stopped again at the brilliant cafe in Parsley Hay. Here, the National Park Authority rented out bicycles for those who cannot bring their own. Here is a useful link: https://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/visiting/cycle/cycle-hire-centres/parsleyhay
As we sat in the afternoon sun; I noticed a small stone building with a conical roof. Taking my cup of tea and enjoying walking after being on the bike for so long; I went to read the information board.
The information board explained that this building was built by Croatians to celebrate their country joining the European Union in 2013. These buildings were common across europe; yet are still seen in Croatia. They are used to shelter from adverse weather and in Croatian they are called: “Kazun”.
After relaxing at Parsley Hay for a while; I became aware of the time and the setting sun. Even in summer, at this altitude the temperature can start to drop quickly in the evening. Because I was underdressed I realized the only way I could stay warm was to ride as hard as I could back down the Tissington Trail to Ashbourne. I told my parents and agreed to cycle on ahead then ride back to meet up them; just so I could stay warm through the exercise of cycling.
Again, the views were stunning and the going easy on the crushed limestone surface. I have taken photos yet they never do justice for the stunning scenery from many vistas.
After pushing hard on my mountain bike; I covered the 13 miles to Ashbourne in less than an hour. Resting once again because I was becoming saddle sore; I did not have to wait long before my parents caught me up.
That night we ate well and afterwards slept soundly. A great day out in this part of the country. Suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness in mind and body. Enjoy anytime of year but best on a sunny day. Cheers.
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Parking, refreshments and other tips:
We parked in pay and display leisure centre car park of Ashbourne. There is some free on street car parking in this town; yet for convenience it was worth parking near the trail head. There is also ample parking at Carsington Water Park or Parsley Hay if you are coming from the north.
There are decent cafes in Ashbourne, Carsington Water and Parsley Hay; yet always bring more water than you think you might need on a hot day. Check the weather and dress accordingly. Also be realistic in your level of fitness and do not put yourself under pressure by trying to ride too far. If you are riding in a group; ride to the speed of the slowest rider and do not expect too others to be as fit as you.
Also, find out the sunset time for the day of the ride and be realistic in your average speed. There is nothing worse than running out of food, drink and daylight as you are getting more and more tired.
Take it steady and you will enjoy and relax on this fairly long but rewarding ride.
3 hours and 19 minutes
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