I hate mud. There I have got it out of my system, but how was I to prepare my latest walk for Images?
Normally I have to carry out my reconnoitring anything up to three months before publication date, but like Shakespeare says in Twelfth Night, it seemed as though ‘the rain it raineth every day’. Ideally I wanted a walk that was as mud-free as possible, but where could I find it? Then it dawned, not only is the Monsal Trail a relatively dry all year walking route, but there is also a well-drained bridleway connecting it to Ashford in the Water (an ominous name if ever there was), that could be used on the return leg of the walk.
The Monsal Trail uses part of the Midland main line where it follows an almost alpine route high above Monsal Dale. Closed by the Beeching Report, its track-bed now takes walkers, cyclists and horse riders through some of the most beautiful scenery in the limestone countryside of the White Peak.
When Joseph Paxton planned the route of his railway between London and Manchester by way of the East Midlands, the original plan was to follow the Derwent Valley all the way through Matlock and Chatsworth to Hathersage where it would link with a proposed line from Sheffield. Not only was the Chatsworth route the most practical (it only required one tunnel, at the western end of the Edale valley), but by using a method called ‘cut and cover’ the line could pass hidden beneath Chatsworth Park.
Due to what looks like a petty ducal squabble, building the line came to an abrupt end when it approached Chatsworth; for years the terminus of a line destined for Manchester was at the tiny village of Rowsley. Once differences were settled, work commenced on the immense task of forcing the line through the gorge of Monsal Dale. Not only that, but the steep gradients caused by the difficult route resulted in the need for more powerful locomotives than would otherwise have been used on the easier route.
As the line passed over and beneath the Duke of Rutland’s Haddon Hall estates, he insisted on being provided with a railway station in keeping with his status. This was built at Bakewell close to the start of our walk. The Duke of Devonshire, not to be outdone, demanded a station of his own, which was built at Hassop. Miles from any habitation other than Chatsworth House, and that about three miles away, Hassop Station was in its day, an incongruously large affair. Nowadays the remaining buildings house an excellent book shop and café.
5miles (8km) of easy walking. Level for most of the way, but with one gentle climb in the middle.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure 1:25000 scale. Sheet 24, the Peak District – White Peak Area
Car Parking at Bakewell close to the start of the walk.
Public transport: TP and 6.1 services from Derby via Matlock
Refreshments: Pubs in Bakewell and the Farmers’ café. Café at Hassop Station approaching the half way point on the walk.
- From the main car park near the cattle market in Bakewell walk towards the town centre by crossing the gently arched footbridge (note the lovers’ padlocks on either side).
- Turn right and follow the riverbank up to the attractive old road bridge and turn right.
- Follow the road, over the bridge and bear right at the junction on to Station Road junction on the far side.
There was once a castle overlooking Bakewell, but all that is left are a few mounds in the field behind the houses lining Station Road.
- After a yard or so, turn right on to the side road – Combs Road. Follow it for about three quarters of a mile until it crosses an old railway bridge.
- Cross the bridge and turn left to go down to the Monsal Trail (signposted).
- Follow the trail, past the remaining buildings of Bakewell Station (now a Park Ranger meeting centre).
The station was built mainly for the convenience of the Duke of Rutland to use whenever he wanted to take a train to London, but locals also made great use of it both for both passenger services and goods.
- After a couple of miles Hassop Station comes into view on the right, making an ideal stopping place for an early coffee, or maybe to browse around the bookshelves.
- Walk on for a little under a quarter of a mile and look out for a footpath on the left beside a three-way signpost.
The lone house over to your right beside the main road is built on the site of a toll bar house on the turnpike road from Chesterfield to Buxton.
- Go through a gate (notice the special handle that allows horse riders to open the gate without dismounting). Follow the path (more correctly a bridleway), steadily climbing over the hill and down the other side.
- Go past a small abandoned quarry on your right and then beyond a line of trees, pass the remains of abandoned mine workings.
Churt a hard form of limestone was dug out of Holme Mine until a few decades ago. Mixed with china clay it was used to strengthen fine china. The mine extends in a series of blocks supported by stone pillars for a considerable distance beneath the surrounding fields
- Go past the mine and down past the backs of a line of cottages. Turn left when reaching the side road, following it for about 100 yards.
- Look for a low kissing gate-cum-stile on your right. Go through it and follow the field path beside the meandering river back to the bridge. Turn right to reach Bakewell town centre.
The field is known locally as Scott’s Meadow, named after a local benefactor who bought it. Wooden benches make it an ideal place to sit and watch the antics of greedy water fowl.