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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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The Tissington & High Peak Trails.

Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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The Tissington & High Peak Trails

`In the heart of Derbyshire's White Peak'

The Tissington Trail follows the course of the old Ashbourne to Buxton line and runs from Ashbourne in the south to Parsley Hay, which is thirteen miles to the north, and in the heart of Derbyshire’s White Peak.

The line or `permanent way’ was constructed by the London & North Western Railway Company and opened on June 4th 1899, but was never a commercial success. The line was used only by `local traffic’, carrying milk to large towns, especially from the dairy herds at Hartington and Tissington, and limestone from local quarries to the crushing plants and kilns at Buxton.

Eventual closure came in the late 1960’s and after protracted negotiations the permanent way came into the ownership of the Peak National Park and the Derbyshire County Council who converted it into a leisure route for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders and it became known as the Tissington Trail.

The TissingtonTrail is joined at Parsley Hay by the High Peak Trail which comes in from the east, and together they run a couple of miles further north to Dowlow near Buxton.

There are cycle-hire centres at either end of the Trail and both Mapleton Lane and Parsley Hay hire shops are attended from Easter to October.

There are ample car-parking facilities at Mapleton Lane and a pleasant picnic area close to the cycle-hire centre. The Trail north to Thorpe and then to the ancient village of Tissington need be no more than a gentle stroll for the track is even, the going easy, and the surrounding countryside superb.There are picnic areas and parking facilites at both, and toilets available at Tissington.

The next former station along the route is at Alsop which has all but toilet facilites. Approaching Alsop the Trail flirts with the main A515 Ashbourne to Buxton road, and crosses it just beyond the village. Care should obviouly be taken at the several points along the Trail where it crosses a main road.

The longest stretch between old stations is between Alsop and Hartington, where the Trail keeps to the west of the main road and passes through some of the most scenic countryside along the entire route.

There are excellent facilities at Hartington, including toilets and an information centre which is housed in the old signal box and which is open at weekends and bank holidays only, between Easter and October.

Similar facilities are included at Parsley Hay, just beyond the junction with the High Peak Trail, with the addition of the cycle-hire centre, and from here it is but a short and pleasant walk to Hurdlow, which has a parking area and picnic site.

From Hurdlow the Trail crosses the road to Monyash and Bakewell and bends westward for a mile before coming to it’s destination at Dowlow south of Buxton.

The Trail is ideal for use by the disabled and those with restricted mobility and is a haven for the naturalist, botanist and bird-watcher alike. There are many rare plant species and a host of interesting specimens of butterfly along the way too.

The Tissington Trail provides the gentlest gradient, and perhaps the easier access, because for most of it’s length it runs close to the main A515, whilst the longer and fractionally more difficult High Peak Trail cuts across a number of roads but is paralleled by no major roads anywhere along it’s length.

The High Peak Trail follows the course of the old Cromford and High Peak Railway from High Peak Junction, half a mile to the east of Cromford to Dowlow, a couple of miles south of Buxton, a distance of seventeen and a half miles.

Early in the nineteenth century a proposed canal link across the southern part of the Peak District had to be abandoned owing to lack of water and vast engineering problems, and so Josiah Jessop, whose father had engineered the construction of the Cromford Canal, turned to the new steam engine technology of the coming age and built this early rail-link instead.

Originally 33 miles in length, the line took five years to construct and was opened in 1830, with horses pulling the carriages along the level sections of the line and stationary winding engines hauling the wagons up several steep inclines which linked the level sections. There is an excellently restored winding engine at Middleton Top which can still be seen working at certain times during the year.

The line was used mainly to carry local freight like limestone and it’s components out of the area and to bring coal and other commodities in. Passengers were occasionally carried in a carriage attached to the rear of a goods train between Middleton Top and Parsley Hay during the summer months, but they were forced to alight and walk up Hopton Incline!

After amalgamation with the L.N.W.R. the line continued to decline and became grossly unprofitable with closure inevitable, and the final section from Friden Brickworks to Parsley Hay closed in 1967.

As with it’s sister trail, the line was obtained by the Peak National Park Authority and Derbyshire County Council and turned into a leisure trail known appropriately as the High Peak Trail.

From it’s junction with the Tissington Trail just south of Parsley Hay, the High Peak Trail runs south easterly through the wonderful open countryside of the Peak National Park. From Parsley Hay to Minninglow it runs almost parallel with the old Roman road from Derby to Buxton, known as `The Street’.

There are parking facilities and a picnic site at Fridon and one must take care crossing the main road just along the next section toward Minninglow.

The distinctive tree shrouded hill top of Minninglow can be seen on the skyline from as far away as Hurdlow. There are a number of Neolithic chambered tombs at this ancient burial mound and the old Roman road passes within 100 metres of the northern perimeter of the site, whilst the Trail passes the same distance to the south.

There is a picnic site and parking facility near Roystone Grange and a signposted spur of the High Peak Trail takes the traveller along the Roystone Grange Trail to view a site which contains relics from the Bronze Age, Roman and Medieval periods.

Also on view here is a marvellous example of early Victorian railway building in the shape of the massive Minninglow Embankment,- and the pure symmetry of the curve as the line bends towards Daisy Bank.

This is the longest stretch between halts along the Trail, from Minninglow to Middleton Top, where the surrounding landscape becomes a little more industrial as one approaches the large quarries around Middleton and Wirksworth. But thankfully the Trail follows quieter ways and keeps the walker away from any industrail clamour.

There are a full range of facilities at Middleton Top, including the cycle-hire centre, and it is only a mile or so to the well known popular picnic area at Black Rocks, the penultimate halt along the Trail before it’s destination at High Peak Junction.

There are toilet facilities and an information board at all three locations and ample car parking spaces.

The High Peak Trail has no village halts along the way and thus, provides no refreshment facilities, whereas the Tissington Trail has halts at Thorpe, Tissington, Alsop, and Hartington where the traveller might wish to pause along the way and make a short detour into one of these beautiful villages for refreshment.

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