Work is being finalised on an extension to the Monsal Trail in the Peak District, taking the route from Bakewell to Wye Dale near Buxton, a distance of more than eight miles. The new improved route will be officially unveiled by transport minister Norman Baker on 25 May 2011.
For climbers access to Chee Tor and the Cornice will now be quicker and easier, down the tunnels and with the addition of the new boardwalk in Chee Dale.
Four disused railway tunnels will be reopened to the public for the first time in many years, to form part of the extended trail being built by the Peak District National Park Authority. Each about 400m long, the tunnels at Cressbrook, Headstone, Litton and Chee Tor were all closed to rail traffic in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. It was regular practice in the 1970s and early 1980s to walk up these tunnels (some of the team at UKC can remember that far back), but by the mid-80s their the entrances were blocked up. Official access for walkers, cyclists and equestrians will now be restored, with the tunnels neing repaired, resurfaced and relit.
The work is being carried out as part of the £2.25m Pedal Peak District project, which also includes a publicity campaign to encourage more cycling in the National Park. Funding has been provided by the Department of Transport.
Rhonda Pursglove, project manager for Pedal Peak District, said: 'It is an amazing experience to go through the tunnels and see the fantastic views of the countryside as you come out. We are looking forward to completing the work so that cyclists, walkers and horse riders can experience that feeling...'
Long term hopes to complete a circular route between Bakewell, Matlock and Buxton will require further funding and planning arrangements.
Path upgrades recently carried out in nearby Chee Dale by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) in conjunction with the BMC's Access and Conservation Trust (ACT) were a great success, with a strong turnout from volunteers including UKC/UKH readers. See our recent news item for more.
'The main valley path uses the boardwalk and is very popular with walkers' says UKC's own Alan James. 'Even though the new tunnel trail by-passes much of this, I think the valley base path will remain popular since it is a great and spectacular walk in its own right.'