Cycling in the Peak District

The Peak District National Park Authority is piloting a new scheme aimed at getting us out and about this summer

Riding high, legs pumping, lungs full of fresh air – few thrills can match pedalling through the spectacular Peak District on a bike, and now thousands more local people and visitors are being encouraged to take up cycling with a new Pedal Peak District project.

Following its successful Cycling Towns and Cities campaign, Cycling England is keen to advertise the benefits of cycling in the countryside. It has funded a pilot scheme being run by the Peak District National Park Authority that aims to get thousands more people cycling. It hopes to encourage local residents to use cycle routes on their doorstep that they may not be aware of.

Another part of the project is to improve cycle-routes. In line with this work has started on four 400-metre former railway tunnels on the Monsal Trail. Closed since 1969, the Headstone, Litton, Cressbrook and Chee Tor tunnels had been used to store building waste which needed to be removed. Several local firms have been involved in the project. Contractor Glyn Yates, from Elton, and his son Ben braved dust and grime to clear 500 tons of rubbish, including 130 dumped tyres, rubble, wire, plastic, timber, even old toilets and a kitchen sink. Then various surveys had to be undertaken: Donaldson Associates of Derby did a structural survey, Archaeological Research Services of Bakewell surveyed the archaeology, and habitat surveys were done by Andrew McCarthy Associates of Sheffield and Peak Ecology of Bakewell. Over the coming months, the track-bed is being resurfaced, the tunnels lit, and the work should be completed by spring 2011. The iconic Monsal Viaduct is also to form part of the trail which will create a new cycleroute from Bakewell to Buxton. Although further funding will be necessary, it is hoped in the long-term to create a cycle-circuit linking Buxton, Matlock and Bakewell.

Anyone with access to the website can sign up to chart their progress and in the process have a chance of winning a �300 bike every month. Both this site and have a wealth of information on different routes, training courses, cycling tips, public transport information and bike hire. Cycle-hire centres are at: Parsley Hay on the High Peak Trail (01298 84493); Ashbourne on the Tissington Trail (01335 343156); and Fairholmes in the Upper Derwent Valley for Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs (01433 651261). The new cafe at Hassop station is also soon to offer cycle hire (01629 815 668). With the promise of summer ahead it certainly seems the ideal time to gear up for some fun and fitness.

Paul and Sarah Nixon of Hathersage only took up cycling a year ago after a holiday in San Francisco when they hired bikes and cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge. We enjoyed it so much that when we got back we bought a couple of mountain bikes,’ said Sarah. ‘Now we go out a couple of evenings a week after work, just to stretch our limbs and get some fresh air, and we do a longer ride at the weekend.

‘We wanted to explore our own glorious back yard which is the Peak District National Park,’ explained Paul, ‘and now we’ve explored places we wouldn’t have seen without the bikes, although we’ve lived here 11 years.’ Using guides and maps which grade the rides, give conditions to expect and an approximate time, their rides have included Cavedale, Coombsdale, Stanage Pole, the Long Causeway, Redmires, Ughill and Blacka Moor.

‘We really like the circuit round Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs,’ said Paul. ‘It’s absolutely spectacular scenery and excellent trails that people of most abilities can do. We took our teenage nephews and hired bikes from the cycle-hire centre. They thoroughly enjoyed it.’

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Fitness is also a key motivator for the couple, who run a sustainable packaging firm, SP Containers, in Rotherham: ‘We do feel better for said Sarah. ‘I used to struggle pedalling up the hill to get home, even got off and walked, but now I can do it. You get a sense of satisfaction when you achieve a new milestone.

‘It’s sociable too, people chat and exchange advice about the route. We’ve seen people of all ages doing from youngsters up to a couple in their 60s. We used to be gymmembers, but we were always making excuses not to go. Biking is different, we go out in all weathers, it’s lower impact on your joints than jogging aerobics, and it’s an activity we can enjoy together.’

A local girl who credits cycling with a major role in her drive to the top in her sport is Ellie Koyander. Ellie grew up cycling round the national park from her home-village of Tideswell. She took up skiing at the age of 11 at Sheffield Ski Centre. She was on our TV screens earlier this year, at the age of just 18, when she took part in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver as the top British women’s Mogul freestyle skier. ‘The national park inspired me to take up outdoor sports as a child and began my love for adventure,’ said Ellie. ‘I love cycling to keep me fit in between ski training, and I’ve spent many happy hours on my bike, while also enjoying the area’s fabulous scenery, a great sense of freedom and fresh air.’

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