Parsley Hay Cycle Hire Centre

Mike Smith takes to the Trails

My home town of Chapel-en-le-Frith has become the proud possessor of a gold post box. The newly-painted piece of street furniture is a glowing tribute to Anthony Kappes, a local man who won a Paralympic gold medal in the tandem sprint cycling event at London 2012. Anthony, who was partnered in the race by his pilot Craig MacLean, is partially-sighted and is a shining example of the sporting excellence that can be achieved by people with disabilities.

Of course, very few people have the ability to win a Paralympic gold medal, but almost everyone, whether able-bodied or disabled, has the opportunity to gain enormous pleasure from cycling. This is the clear message that is coming from the Pedal Peak District project and the cycle-hire facility at Parsley Hay, near Buxton, which supplements its collection of standard bikes for hire with an impressive range of machines for people with disabilities and mobility problems.

Parsley Hay was opened in 1975 with the aim of getting people out of their cars and into the Peak District countryside. The centre is located at the head of the 13-mile Tissington Trail and the 17-mile High Peak Trail, both of which were converted from former railway lines into routes for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Its enormous success led to the development of further cycle-hire centres at Ashbourne, Derwent and Waterhouses.

The Peak District National Park Authority’s cycle-hire team manager Charlotte Bowler said: ‘Parsley Hay caters for 11,000 hirers from February to October. Many follow the High Peak or Tissington Trails, which combine long flat stretches with gentle gradients and so offer cycling opportunities for the whole family. In addition to 90 adult cycles, 15 children’s cycles and a selection of baby seats, buggies and trailer bikes, we probably have a greater range of equipment for disabled users than any equivalent cycle-hire centre in the UK.’

Carol Parsons, who coordinates the Pedal Peak District project, told me: ‘We are urging more and more people to get on a bike for the first time and we are very keen to promote family cycling, especially on the Peak District’s dedicated trails, which are safe, relatively flat and have plenty of picnic spots and interesting things to see along the way. Over 2,100 people have already registered on our website, which encourages people to set their own cycling goals, no matter how modest they may be. In 2012, almost 5,000 cycle trips were logged on the site, which feeds back the amount of energy burnt. This added up to 11 million KJ, the equivalent of 751 pounds of fat.’

On a clear, crisp day in the autumn of 2012 – the kind of day that is perfect for cycling in the White Peak – Parsley Hay hosted a Wheels for All Taster Day, when a wide range of specially-adapted cycles was available for people to sample. Ian Tierney from Wheels for All, a national charity which raises money for adapted bikes, showed me a double cycle, where two people, who could be a disabled person and carer, can sit side-by-side as they operate individually-geared, hand-operated pedals. He also introduced me to the Velo-Plus, which allows a disabled person’s own wheelchair to be loaded hydraulically onto a cycle which is pedalled by the carer.

Most Read

Charlotte Bowler would love to have a Velo-Plus at Parsley Hay, but has insufficient funding and sponsorship to purchase one at the present time. However, the centre does possess a number of cycles which enable users to transfer from their own wheelchair to one attached to the front of a bike, allowing wheelchair-users to enjoy the thrill of a ride while the carer does the pedalling.

Parsley Hay has a range of tricycles perfect for people with balance problems. Their hand-cranked bikes are ideal for people who are unable to use their legs but have sufficient upper-body strength to pedal with their arms – Carol Parsons told me that her husband had used one after breaking his hip. The centre also has an all-terrain mobility scooter.

My chance to talk to some people who had used the adapted cycles came when the first visitors of the day arrived in a minibus driven by Andrew McCloy, business development manager for Bakewell and Eyam Community Transport. Andrew had transported a group of people from Bakewell’s Medway Centre, all of whom have mobility problems. Their activities organiser Ann Leblanc had brought them to Parsley Hay because she was keen to give them the chance to enjoy a day out in the countryside on the adapted cycles.

I asked a number of people in the group for their reactions after they had taken a ride along the Tissington Trail. Lisa Fox, a 28-year-old from Matlock, who had tried out one of the tricycles, said: ‘It’s the first time I have ridden one of these bikes and I really, really liked it, even though I’m suffering from a slightly sore bottom’ – a condition that is not uncommon among cyclists. Joni Wood, from Castleton, told me that he had been ‘really happy’ with the hand-cranked cycle he had used.

Les Bolsover from Bakewell, who had been a keen cyclist before suffering an accident which left him with mobility problems, had used an adapted machine which allowed him to sit in a wheelchair whilst enjoying the experience of being on a bike pedalled by Medway staff member Tim Evans. Clearly delighted to be back on a cycle after several years, he said, ‘It was really enjoyable. I’d recommend it to anyone who is wheelchair-bound.’

The positive reactions of these people came as no surprise to Christina Porter, who works for the Peak District National Park Authority’s ranger service and promotes health walks and cycle rides for people who are suffering from health problems or social isolation. She said, ‘Cycling in the countryside is a great way of lifting depression, especially when it can be accomplished in the company of other people. Some of the people I’ve brought out here on cycling trips haven’t been on a bike for 40 years and can remember the Tissington and High Peak Trails when trains were still running on them.’

The message emanating from Parsley Hay’s ‘Wheels for All’ day that cycling is an activity that everyone can enjoy has been greatly helped, not only by the wonderful Paralympic cycling achieve-ments of people like Anthony Kappes, but also by the outstanding success of cycling superstar Sir Bradley Wiggins.

The people of Chapel-en-le-Frith are proud to hail Anthony as one of their own. And guess what. They can almost make the same claim for Sir Bradley, because he lived in the town for a while when he was training at the Manchester Velodrome.

The Parsley Hay cycle hire centre (01298 84493) is close to the A515, 8 miles from Buxton. Open daily March to October ( For details on: Pedal Peak District view