The Monsal Trail is just under 9 miles in length running from the Coombs Road viaduct, about a mile south of Bakewell to Blackwell Mill junction, 3 miles or so from Buxton. The trail runs along the course of the old Midland Railway The line was completed in 1863 through the very heart of the Peak District. The Peak Park authority bought the line and opened it as the Monsal Trail in 1980 after carrying out essential safety work. Numerous tunnelled sections of the line have simply been closed off for safety. Footpaths connect the sections closed by tunnels, cyclists need to link the sections by road.
The Duke of Devonshire had a station built at Hassop, which is now the highly successful Country Bookstore.
Monsal Head, standing high above the dale, affords the best viewpoint for admiring Monsal Dale. This is a good starting point for a variety of walks. Refreshments are available from the pub or tea shop. Parking is Pay and Display behind the pub (the car park in front of the pub is small and for short stays only).
Monsal Dale is steeped in industrial history.
Litton Mill lies downstream from Millers Dale station and is notorious for the uncompromising treatment of orphans by Ellis Needham, some as young as 9 years old, from London and other major cities. These provided a source of cheap labour with no-one to show any concern. The graves of many of these child labourers are found in nearby churchyards. Despite its dark past, the mill is an interesting building which is now in the process of conversion into luxury apartments.
Further downstream still lies Cressbrook Mill, which was opened in 1783 by William Newton. Previously the site had been a herb distillery. Richard Arkwright supplemented his Cromford Mills through the use of Cressbrook. As happened to several of the Mills, the original one burnt down. The subsequent mill was in use until the mid 1960’s. The mill has now been converted in luxury flats.
Both Litton and Cressbrook mills were water powered.
Following work by the Peak District National Park Authority – using £2.25 million funding from the Department of Transport – the tunnels have been repaired, resurfaced and lit so that they can form an extension to the existing Monsal Trail. The tunnels will be re-opened for use on 25th May 2011 by Norman Baker the transport minister.
A new cycle hire business has been set up on the Monsal Trail to take advantage of the new tunnels and improvements.
Hassop Station Tel 01629 815 668 www.hassopstation.co.uk
Monsal Head Hotel
View from Monsal Head
High Peak Trail