|Parsley Hay Cutting|
Sadly, very little of the railway infrastructure remains, with almost nothing left of any of the stations and only bridges and tunnels left in place. Cyclists planning to do an ‘out and back’ trip should be aware that there is a fairly significant slope heading from north to south. For this reason I would advise you to consider starting such a trip from Ashbourne, so as to get the ‘uphill’ part out of the way on your outward trip (I made the mistake of starting from Parsley Hay on such a trip last time out and really regretted it!).
|Hartington Signal Box|
The surface at Hartington was being replaced as I headed through the station area. The new surfacing was being made out of recycled material and I felt very self conscious as I headed along for I left tyre tracks behind me. The new surfacing continued for a couple of miles towards Biggin and made for very pleasant riding. This section of route was largely through cutting but eventually I came out into open countryside once again and for awhile at least the views all around were extensive. I did find this section quite hard going, possibly because of the loss of the new surface but possibly also because of the fact that I had 20 miles underneath me by this point!
Once through the next steep sided cutting the downhill gradient made a welcome return and I suddenly felt how much easier the going was. I was also struck at how well engineered the route was – it was clearly built as a double track formation, although only a single line was ever provided. At the other end of the cutting I passed the distinctively shaped Johnson’s Knoll complete with small standing of trees at its summit. This is a feature that is quite common in the Peak District, giving extra character to an already unmistakable landscape.
A little further on and the line is joined by the busy A515 road, popular among motorcyclists and now restricted to a 50mph speed limit. Nevertheless the roar of traffic from the road rather spoiled the section of my ride, which is actually one of the more scenic of the entire route. Away to the right were glimpses of Wolfscote Dale, one of the gorge-like valleys etched into the limestone plateau of the
After an unusually straight section the line then curved away from the main road to follow the contours and round to Tissington. Away to my left I could see Mininglow way off in the distance, which I had passed earlier in the day on the way up to Parsley Hay on the High Peak Trail. The distance between the routes was now quite great and the terrain between was very hilly, which made me feel relieved that I was on a nice level track!
|Looking Across the Moors|
The village was full of buzz even on a weekday. No wonder; it is probably one of the most picturesque villages I know anywhere in
I returned to the railway station and wondered what kind of an impact there would be on the village if the line were still open to allow commuting to
Heading further southwards and the tell-tale signs of another station site came into view as I reached the former stop at Thorpe. Again this was some distance from the village it was meant to serve and even more ambitiously this was where visitors to Dovedale were supposed to come to. I suspect that in reality only the hardiest ramblers actually came to this station for that purpose. Apparently many users of the Tissington Trail do take in the side visit of Dovedale as part of their journey, but by now I had over 30 miles under my wheels and so I moved on towards Ashbourne.
|Crossing the A515|
The run down to Ashbourne from Thorpe is pleasant if unremarkable except for one section crossing a stream just north of the cycle hire centre. Here the viaduct has been removed and the track plunges down to stream level and back up the other side. Sadly the health and safety police have been there and put in place a series of barriers that are designed to slow cyclists down. Wise perhaps, but it did take the fun out of the feature!
Just beyond is the cycle hire centre at Ashbourne, sited at the north end of the tunnel under the town. If you are tempted to hire a bike to explore the Tissington Trail I would personally use this centre rather than Parsley Hay so that you can get the uphill section out of the way first. Don’t miss the tunnel from the trail though – although it will be ¼ of a mile out of your way, it is definitely worth adding to the experience. I was pleased that it came last on my journey – it was a fitting climax to the route. The tunnel only opened in 2000 so on my first outing along here in 1994 there was no access to the tunnel. In 2003 it was still fairly freshly opened and when we travelled through I can remember the sounds of steam engines puffing their way through the tunnel being played as you went through. Although still advertised, the sounds weren’t playing on this visit which was a shame as I enjoyed them immensely. Hopefully it was a temporary loss rather than a permanent one.
There is a steady downhill through the tunnel and as with many others that I have passed through, Ashbourne Tunnel has a bit of a damp problem. Water was leaking through the brickwork in many places, sometimes leaving some interesting patterns behind. I was pleased to get to the other end but also disappointed to be dumped into an industrial estate after passing underneath the last two overbridges. The Station Hotel still seems to be doing a decent trade, long after the demise of the railway it was built to serve, but the station is just a distant memory now, long demolished and replaced by a hospital, leisure centre and various other buildings being used for commercial purposes. It was rather a sad end to the ride, but one railway gem still remains and that is the goods station, still performing a useful function as a timber merchants.
The Tissington Trail is perhaps overshadowed a bit by the High Peak Trail, but from what I could see it was more popular with cyclists (I was surprised at how busy it was). Completing the route in only one direction was particularly enjoyable for me as I had chosen the downhill run! The surface and easy going nature of the trail makes it very suitable for young children. The tunnel might be a bit scary for some but this adds some spice to the route. The descent from the top of the limestone plateau at Parsley Hay down to Ashbourne is exhilarating and if taken at top speed could be done in a similar time to that achieved by the trains all those years ago. A trip in the opposite direction is a slog though. In all a highly enjoyable end to my mini-trip to the Peak District exploring such lines.
|Ashbourne Goods Station|
For further pictures from my cycle ride please see my My Flickr Site