Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Benefitting from Beeching? : 'How the Trail Became'

The Peak District National Park (incidentally, the oldest in the world!) is divided into two distinct regions. The White Peak has a limestone base and is characterised by it's rivers, dales and rocky outcrops. Further north, the grit stone based Dark Peak is a land of wild moorlands and wide open spaces.

Traversing the White Peak, the Cromford and High Peak Railway was opened in 1831 as a link between the Cromford Canal at High Peak Junction and the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge. At the time it was a feat of engineering, being one of the first long distance routes (33 miles) and climbing to a height of 1,266 feet. In comparison, the highest working railway summit today is Ais Gill on the Settle-Carlisle line at 1,169 feet. C&HPR was built as an alternative to a canal and served to carry coal, stone and eventually cotton.
In 1899, it was joined by a second line, the Tissington Railway, which ran from Parsley Hay, 13 miles south to the market town of Ashbourne; from where there was a link to the main line at Rocester. At one time, milk from Derbyshire farms was transported down the Tissington line, onto the main rail network and from there to Finsbury Park in London.
Unfortunately, neither of these lines survived the Beeching axe, closing in stages through the 1960s. In 1971, however, the lines were given a new lease of life, being re-opened - in a joint venture between the Peak Park Planning Board and Derbyshire County Council - as trails for walkers, cyclists and horses. And so 'became' the Tissington and High Peak Trails.
Last May, I had the pleasure of walking a section of the Tissington Trail with a class of Y3 children. It rained (no surprise there then) and the back stragglers complained more and more with every step (awww! - we did a whole 3 miles!), but we had a great time, found loads of evidence of the trails original usage and, because it was a weekday, didn't even have to dodge many cyclists.

Almost the last section of our walk took us down the dip where once stood the Seven Arches. Sadly, the viaduct was demolished, but at least the new path took us right down to the level of the brook and the wooden bridge which crosses it.

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