Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

April 2013

Peak Performance

Cycling Monsal Trail, Millers Dale

It was a chilly weekend in February which saw CYHA take to our bikes in the rather less than flat Peak District. Jim had booked us into a converted barn a couple of miles north of Tideswell, which proved to be a well-equipped and excellent choice. After the Friday night journeys to the frozen north, where snow still lined the field boundaries, a welcome beer eased us into the weekend.

A good nightís rest and one of Daveís humungous breakfasts prepared us to take to our wheels and head off towards the Monsal Trail. Jim had sold the trip on pedalling along well-graded ex-railway lines, so it was with some concern that we noticed that we spent the first two miles free-wheeling downhill (what goes down has to be pedalled back up again). There was a particularly steep bit which really tested the brake blocks. Still, all such thoughts were thrust aside once we caught our first glimpse of the Millers Dale viaduct soaring above us. This bit was a steep climb, but once we got to the top we were on the railway line and a dayís level(ish) cycling awaited us. There was a slight hitch when Nickís gear cable snapped, but luckily our morning coffee stop was at a bike hire shop and a speedy cable swap whilst we sampled the flapjack soon had us back on the trail.

The Monsal trail is notable for its tunnels. They are long and dark (even though lit) and particularly chilly in Winter, but they transport you from dale to dale with spectacular views including Littondale and Cressbrookdale, as we headed all the way to the far end at Bakewell. If this hadnít been enough drama for us, a noise like a gunshot rang out at Bakewell station as Johnís back tyre exploded under him. This resulted in another visit to a friendly local bike hire shop, but meant that John and Judi missed out on their Bakewell puddings. The rest of us trouped off to sample the delights of Bakewell (cue several inappropriate jokes about tarts), to thaw out frozen hands and complete our pudding pilgrimage (with custard, naturally). All that was left now was the cycle back, including that last slog up to the bunkhouse. This was a challenge and many were those who resorted to two feet rather than two wheels, but the reward was a slab of carrot cake and the promise of a fabulous Thai meal courtesy of Doug.

Sunday saw fewer of us take to the saddle (in some cases quite gingerly) as we took on the Tissington Trail. A chilly headwind did make the journey back more of a chore than its downhill gradient implied. The tea stops were not of the quality we had on the Monsal Trail (although, given the excesses of the day before, that may have been a good thing), and Tom, Dave, Jim and I missed the last coffee hut literally by seconds Ė someone should tell them that in England tea is at 4pm, not over by 4pm



Monsal & Tissington

Hassop Station on the Monsal Trail

Some rare fine weather on Saturday set the tone for a day's cycling on the spectacular Monsal Trail - the latest Peak District railway trail, complete with tunnels and viaducts, and a section which goes from tunnel to viaduct to tunnel like an Alpine motorway. There were also good views over Litton and Cressbrook mills which featured on Cressida's 2007 Dark Peak hostel-to-hostel trip.

The day was eventful with exploding tyres (John F & almost Tom), left luggage (me), and plenty of Bakewell pudding consumption. Despite the trail itself being relatively flat, the hostel was up a big hill from Millersdale back through Tideswell, making the last 4 of 29 miles the hardest. Trevor came on his first trip for many years, Lorna and Nick joined us for the day, and Lorna has even graduated to a bike with gears.

On Sunday, we cycled from Ashbourne up the Tissington Trail, revisiting old haunts such as passing Fenny Bentley and criss-crossing Cressida's 2010 White Peak hostel-to-hostel route. The landscape gets more rugged as you ride up the trail, with high embankments and deep cuttings. Three intrepid souls and I made it all the way to the end of the trail (35 miles round trip) with others going at their own pace with varying distances against time spent in tea-shops.


See some video clips of our cycle rides:

Cycling Monsal Trail Cycling Tissington Trail

Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer