Peak District Walk – Monsal Trail

The weather this summer has been terrible, that is no understatement, it really has been rubbish. I know it must be digitally programmed into our British DNA to complain about the weather but this year it really is a valid complaint. We have had the odd day here and there where it has been nice but it always seems to fall when i’m at work :-). I can’t let a little thing like the weather stop me from getting out into the Peak District though, I simply had to adjust my expectations a little and just get kitted out in the waterproofs.

Where to go when the weather is bad? Well, for some reason I can’t get Bleaklow Stones out of my head but today I didn’t think it would be doable judging by the forecast. The plan was to stay low and plot a route where plenty of cover was available. The Monsal Trail instantly sprung to mind as a place that was more than worthy of further exploration and would be perfect for the days weather conditions. So… a quick call to my mate Andy and the plan was set.

I reached the parking spot near Bakewell Station after a 20 minute drive from home and the rain was already falling heavily. We got kitted out in our waterproofs and then begun our wander along the trail.

A brief historical excerpt about the trail… The Monsal Trail follows a part of the former Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, it was built by the Midland Railway Company in 1863 to link Manchester with London. It has many breath taking views along the way and you can feel the history as you walk along it. The trail officially begins down at the Coombs Road Viaduct which is around a mile down the hill from Bakewell station. We chose to start at Bakewell as there is usually ample parking near the bridge which crosses the trail. Today the road resembled a river bed as recent flooding had dragged lots of stones and rocks on to it. When we left the cars we half expected to find that they had been washed away when we returned.

Headstone Tunnel
Headstone Tunnel

After leaving Bakewell station you gradually head up hill until in what seems like no time at all you arrive at Hassop Station, more on that later. After Hassop you pass Great Longstone Station which was built to service Thornbridge Hall. Sadly I have no pictures of Longstone from today’s walk as at this point the rain was rather heavy. After Longstone the next main feature you come across is the Headstone Tunnel, this tunnel along with numerous others on the line were finally opened to the public back in May 2011. Previously the tunnels were bypassed by using footpath diversions, thankfully after a grant of around £3.7m we can now enjoy the original route the line took through the spectacular tunnels.

After walking through the 487 metre Headstone Tunnel you come out on to another spectacular landmark, one of the crown jewels in the Peak Districts Historical arsenal, The Headstone Viaduct. Here is a picture of said Viaduct from the Peak Routes archive as once again the weather spoiled any chance of getting pictures today.

Monsal Dale

The Headstone Viaduct is a fantastic specimen of the ingenuity of a great age in British industrial history, there are many others around the british isles but this is one of my favourites. when it was originally built there was some opposition as it was said to have destroyed the tranquility of Monsal Dale, this may be true in some ways but its there and I can’t help but be impressed by it. I’ve said in recent posts that when I first stood below it around 15 years ago I was awe struck by it, It stands around 40 feet high at its centre and its 5 arches span the 300 metres across the dale.

Anyway thats quite enough lamenting for an age gone bye, Back to the job in hand… As we walked across the Viaduct and reached the other side I spotted a little sign that I hadn’t seen before. The sign is pictured below and it represents the newly plotted White to Dark Peak walk to celebrate 25 years of the Country Walking magazine. If you would like to find out more about this then head on over to livefortheoutdoors.com.

White to Dark Peak - Country Walking Magazine
White to Dark Peak – Country Walking Magazine

After the Headstone Viaduct you walk along towards the Cressbrook tunnel, another one of the freshly opened gems for us all to have a wander through. As you approach the tunnel the Cressbrook Mill that was built by Richard Arkwright who plays a big part in the industrial history of this part of the world. It was once a thriving Mill but after a long history it went bankrupt in 1965 and it is now apartments.

cressbrook
Cressbrook

The Cressbrook tunnel is another long and impressive tunnel at 431 metres long. when heading west it weaves slowly around to the left before you come out into the open once more.

Cressbrook Tunnel
Cressbrook Tunnel
Cressbrook Tunnel
Cressbrook Tunnel

After the Cressbrook tunnel you don’t have to wait long before you get to enjoy another one of the trails many tunnels, which was lucky for Andy and I as it was still raining heavily. Litton tunnel is next and it slightly longer than Cressbrook at 471 metres long.

Litton Tunnel
Litton Tunnel

After the Litton Tunnel the trail climbs steadily as you pass Litton Mill, another Mill that has a very fraught history of bankruptcy and poor treatment of workers. Just like Cressbrook the Mill has now been turned into stunning apartments and a quick web search will find some available for holiday hire.

Millers Dale Viaduct
Millers Dale Viaduct

Millers Dale is the next station on the journey westward along the trail, easy access and ample parking are available here. The station itself is now home to the Peak Park Rangers and it has handy toilet facilities for those in need. We chose to keep going today along towards the Chee Tor Tunnels of which there are 2. before reaching the first tunnel you pass the huge Lime Kilns, an historical relic and another way in which the geological wealth of the Peak District was exploited in years gone bye.

Due to time constraints we chose to head back the way we had came after we reached the Chee Tor Tunnels. The rain today had not stopped and we decided to have lunch before heading back towards Millers Dale Station while sheltering in the Tunnel.

Hassop Station from the Monsal Trail
Hassop Station from the Monsal Trail

It was a rather grim walk back as the rate at which the rain was falling had intensified to a level at which folk in Derbyshire would class as chucking it down ;-), that is a scientific measurement, more than throwing it down but slightly less than pissing it down.. pardon my language but you need the facts to understand the scale at which i’m going by.

Thankfully we had the tunnels to shelter us from the torrential downpour and we eventually reached the haven of Hassop Station. I will admit to having never stopped here before, I have walked past an embarrassing amount of times but i’m so glad we decided to stop today. The Cafe inside the station has a vast array of goodies on offer and there is plenty of other things on sale in the book and gift shops. Cycle Hire is also available here so if you would like to find out more then click on over to http://www.hassopstation.co.uk/ Andy and I enjoyed a cup of coffee while taking the load off our feet for a while.

Hassop Station Cafe
Hassop Station Cafe

After a short break from the elements in Hassop Station we ventured back out into the rain to walk the final stretch back to the cars at Bakewell Station. I can thankfully confirm that the cars hadn’t been swept away by a river which was now running down the road. It had been another great walk and I joked with Andy that one day we would manage a walk in nice weather. Its a long running Joke that when he and I go for a walk we seem to always experience weather at its most extreme. We’ve had wind (Peak District – Ladybower & Alport Dale), we’ve had snow (Peak District – Kinder Scout – Northern Edge in the Snow) and now we’ve had about the worst rain you could get today.

If you would like to find out more about the trail and what amenities are available then visit http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/visiting/cycle/monsaltrail. Thanks for reading my post for today’s wander and I hope you will join me again soon for another Peak Route :-).

5 thoughts on “Peak District Walk – Monsal Trail

  1. Nice write up Dean, we cycled it last weekend in glorious weather. I do feel we should have took a more leisurely pace to enable us to take in the surroundings.

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    1. So instead of a Tour De France it was more like a Tour De Monsal 🙂 That’s the trouble with that nice smooth track, It’s just so easy to plough on but then you miss things. There are so many great places and views along the way.
      Hope you had a good outting, next I think I’ll cycle it too rather than walk.
      Thanks for commenting mate.

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