Pretty Pretty: the Derbyshire Dales (Cycling)
We have travelled around England and Wales a fair bit this year, with our bikes but not always cycling. Some places lend themselves to it more than others—our kind of cycling anyway (that's me and Sandra). This week, in the Derbyshire Dales, where strangely I have never been before, we rode our bikes in the most gorgeous autumn weather imaginable. And the prettiest countryside imaginable. Why I've not been there before I can't imagine.
In March 2012 we cycled the Monsal Trail to Bakewell and back from near Buxton. This week we were further south on the lower fringe of the Peak District National Park where the hills are more gentle. The Tissington Trail and High Peak Trail (which we cycled) are mostly in the National Park but they run off the bottom near Ashbourne and Middleton. Then the land flattens out towards Derby. Derbyshire Dales is actually a UK Parliament constituency which overlaps the National Park and somebody might tell me they are the same thing, but to me the Derbyshire Dales is different to the Peak District (where I have been before). The High Peak Trail has no peaks as such, nor has the Tissington Trail. Like the Monsal Trail they run along former railway lines. But they are better than the Monsal Trail in my opinion although that has a more interesting history.
The Peak District is a great place for walking. The southern part of the Peak District less so I think. It depends partly on the roads. We stayed in a place on the A515. Only a fool would cycle on that road, beautiful as it is—a motorcyclist's paradise I would guess, and truck drivers seem to enjoy thundering their vehicles along its sweeping curves and rises and falls. For push-biking you need to go into the country lanes or on the official trails. That's what we did. The Tissington Trail was literally at the bottom of the garden and across the A515 are winding lanes with surprisingly steep inclines and tiny villages as lovely and well-kept as anything you'll find in the Cotswolds. We have been to the Cotswolds this year and were shocked at the number of tourists wandering about shops full of junk with signs written in Chinese. In comparison the Derbyshire villages of Alstonefield, Ilam, Tissington, Parwich, Bradbourne and others are the genuine English article, and no shops.
I've tended to sneer at official trails but I'm changing my mind. You are struck by the fact that you are travelling along an old railway line and what fun it must have been to ride on the trains. They were not tourist railways either but served a purpose in the industrial development of the nation. You are struck by the beauty of the limestone walls and the little bridges and signal boxes and other remnants of steam railway engineering. Couples glide by on electric bikes and everyone smiles hello. The sun goldens the autumn haze lying over the landscape layering groups of hills one in front of the next as they fade into the distance. The air is still, sheep munch grass and the world is peaceful.
A couple of other things I should mention. I am very impressed with ViewRanger (1:50,000 Ordnance Survey maps) on my Nexus tablet. I mean very impressed. The other thing: I fell off my bike. I didn't just fall off—I fell off in front of a crowd of people watching. We were cycling along a lane towards Tissington and came to a ford. Immediately on the far side of the ford was a steep hill. A crowd of elderly cylists were gathered on our side of the ford and I asked them if this was the way to Tissington. Yes, they said. Through the water and up that hill. We've just come through the water and it's no problem. An especially attractive (and younger) woman said we'd need to be super fit to climb the hill and we'd probably have to push. It'll be fine I said and set off through the ford. As they watched, about halfway across, my front wheel began to slide and I fell off sideways, crashing down into about a foot of water. Sandra cruised by as I grabbed my bike and pretended I wasn't hurt. I had bent a fingernail back and it hurt (it's still hurting now) but I rode my bike up the hill as if nothing had happened. I suppose it's a male thing, pretending you aren't hurt.
The next place we are going is Lincolnshire.