Saturday, 3 November 2018

Accessible Peak District - Monsal Trail

I'm back at work, which has given me less time for writing, but I am desperate to share the last two days of our holiday in the Peak District. We had a list of days out planned but, as Tuesday hadn't been the best day, and because we saw Steve Brown on Countryfile on the Sunday evening (as we cosied up in front of the log fire on the farm) and he did a piece on the Monsal Trail, we decided to change our plans.

Disused railway lines can be a perfect place for wheelchair hiking. They are rarely completely flat, but I don't want completely flat; I do need occasional low maintenance days. Have a look at the map of the trail. We did a little bit of forward planning on the Tuesday afternoon, on our way back from Chatsworth. We found, with some help from Google, Bakewell station. I wish I'd taken a photo of the ramp that goes from ground level up to the railway bridge. It certainly wouldn't have met any gradient rules at all! Then we spotted a sign with the little blue wheelchair and before I could scream obscenities at it, realised that the whole point was that this was NOT accessible but Hassop, the next station was.

I have to say, Hassop was lovely. We popped in, parked up and checked out the important things - toilets - which were cleverly at the back of the shop. As we were leaving, I spotted a lovely scarf/shawl, which I actually thought my mum-in-law would like the colour of... but then I touched it. It was 20% wool and 80% cotton and soooooooo soft! Neil, as he has a tendency to do after a tough day, immediately bought me it. I did tell him it wouldn't help my pain levels but I do love the scarf. It's the sort of texture that a small child would suck their thumb and stroke their cheek with it.

Monsal Trail

Having checked out Hassop, we went home and reviewed the map. No idea why, but I get quite excited by tunnels and I wanted to do a section that had tunnels and maybe some viaducts. Hassop is several miles equidistant from all tunnels, so we abandoned Hassop and parked up at Millers Dale. This was quieter, more remote, very peaceful and pretty (in spite of the redevelopment works going on). There was good toilet facilities and very easy access onto the trail. From there, we headed west to Chee Tor tunnels.

I had my Go Pro on, but that's ended badly! I transfered all the video to our new Chromebook but it bunged up the storage (which is tiny) and the Internet wasn't great, so it wouldn't sync. I thought I'd still got a copy on my SD card so I deleted the files. You can probably guess the rest and there's not going to be any video clips this time. Ooops! Because I videoed the whole day, we only took a couple of photos, but here they are:

Photo showing the entrance to one of the tunnels

Photo showing a close up entrance to one of the tunnels

You can see how lovely and smooth the surface is. It was great all the way that we did. It's also well away from roads, so Liggy got some extended off-lead times, which she loved. I was a bit concerned about whether she'd be frightened of the tunnels - in spite of some lighting, they were quite dark - but my bomb-proof pup was totally unphased. I loved the tunnels. They were cold and quiet but echoed beautifully. They were dark and eerie and you could only see other people as silhouettes. And then you got that 'light at the end of the tunnel', literally.

I also loved the scenery along the route, which I am unable to share, sadly. What I would love to do, is go back some day and do the whole route end-to-end. That would be a really cool challenge. Maybe Countryfile could make that their accessible ramble for Children in Need next year. The only downside on the Monsal Trail is the lack of toilets along the route. There are only two accessible ones, as far as I can tell. Thursday's day out may solve that little problem though, so you'll have to wait (as I keep being told about toilets)!

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