The news that last month the 50,000th cyclist was recorded on the Monsal Trail since it was extended through the tunnels last year comes as no big surprise. The car park at Hassop has regularly been crowded and cyclists have been whizzing in and out of the tunnels to Miller’s Dale and Blackwell Mill for the last eight months. In this era of economic austerity and local authority cutbacks it’s gratifying to see such a positive development – one that encourages people to get out of their cars and enjoy exercise and safe cycling, while also benefiting local businesses and the wider Peak District environment.
The next step is to extend the Monsal Trail eastwards to Rowsley and west to reach Buxton, which it should have done last year when the tunnels were re-opened and which I understand the National Park Authority are still keen on achieving. Peak Cycle Links are already striving to make the Buxton connection to the High Peak and Tissington Trails, at which point the route will stretch south to Ashbourne and across the high limestone plateau all the way to Cromford. A cycleway up the Derwent Valley via Matlock to Rowsley, already in Derbyshire County Council’s distant sights, will then complete this wonderful cycling circuit.
It can’t come too soon, either. All those people – especially families, novice and nervous cyclists – who have discovered the fun in riding traffic-free along a scenic former railway line are eager for more. Returning cyclists to the Monsal Trail don’t want to stop at Bakewell or Blackwell Mill but are keen to explore further; and the sheer pressure of numbers on the route also needs relieving. Elsewhere on our web site we’ve outlined some cycling routes off the Monsal Trail that take in country lanes and bridleways, but for a completely traffic-free day, where navigation takes second fiddle to the stunning views and sheer exhilaration of sailing through the landscape, then roll out those cycle trails!
And it’s not just about catering for tourists, either. Making cycling easier, safer and more accessible benefits everyone, irrespective of whether they’re visiting the Peak District for a holiday or if they live locally. The real value of developing a traffic-free cycling network through upland Derbyshire might be in fact be the opening up of local cycling gateways to the residents of Buxton, Darley Dale and Matlock. The next challenge after that will be to link these trails via safe cycling routes to the more remote rural communities of the National Park. (Those of us who live in the villages like traffic-free cycling, too!)
Of course, the Monsal Trail is not the only established cycleway in the Peak District. In the next few months we’re going to be showcasing some of the other trails via this blog and on our main website, including the Manifold Trail, Middlewood Way and Trans Pennine Trail. There’s far more to cycling in the Peak District than the Monsal Trail, of course, but 50,000 cycling journeys along an 8.5-mile strip of land in just eight months tells its own story. More of the same, please.
Monsal Trail stats
- An automatic cycle counter recorded the 50,000th cyclist on 31st December 2011
- An average of 226 bicycles per day have used the trail since last May
- 17,160 cyclists have been recorded travelling west towards Blackwell Mill and 32,855 south east towards Bakewell since May
- Hassop Station cycle hire has had 10,000 hirings since opening last March