Monday 8 July 2024

Monsal Head & Chee Dale Peak District Walk

A quick return to the Peak District National Park. This time we are in the 'White Peak' Limestone area. It is another of the famous beauty spots located in the area. From our lofty viewpoint we look down into the Dale and the winding River Wye. Perhaps most stunning of all is the Old Headstone Railway Viaduct.The bridge, which stands near the 533-yard (487 m) Headstone Tunnel, is 300 feet (91 m) long. It had five 50-foot (15 m) span arches, some 70 feet (21 m) high at the centre.  

The weather is a lot cooler than when we left home earlier. We have also had a light shower of rain. Our first task is to make our way down the valley to somewhere near the water pictured above. The majority of visitors seem content to stay on the 'Monsal Trail' itself. An 8.5 mile long traffic free route for walkers and cyclists. he route follows the former Manchester to London Midland Railway line, closed in the late 1960s. We be coming back this way as part of the circular route we have planned. 

Monsal Dale Weir


In a matter of minutes we are down at ground level looking up (rather than down). We are following the trail of the River Wye through Monsal Dale towards Taddington Dale. The views looking back are spectacular as the weather brightens up a little. At the moment the walking is fairly easy. The ground is fairly level with just the odd stile to negotiate. Thankfully the Cows are all laying down quite sedately, maintaining a watchful eye. We have now moved into 'High Dale' and the charming Hamlet of Brushfield. 

Things now get progressively more difficult. We are walking in the direction Of Chee Dale. This involves passing through 'Millers Dale Nature Reserve'. This former disused Limestone quarry is now a haven for plants and wildlife. The descent is extremely steep though . There are some very deep  steps that take us all the way down to the road. 


Chee Dale Railway Arches

From the road we pick up the path that will take us through the Chee Dale Nature Reserve. We are right down in the Limestone gorge. It is a bit like being in a scene from Jurassic Park at times. Thankfully today it is dry and the clambering over the rocks is manageable. In wet conditions it would be very slippy and a totally different proposition. The surrounding 200 ft cliffs make for excellent rock climbing. We are just focusing on the 'Stepping Stones'. At times when the river is high they do get totally submerged.

After safely negotiating the Stepping Stones we pass under the imposing Railway Arches. Today they are weathered and full of character. This hasn't always been the case though.When built in 1863 it was seen as controversial, and destroying the beauty of the dale. In 1970 Grade II listed status was given. 

We re-join the Monsal Trail which will take us back to our starting point at Monsal Head. The trail is 8.5 miles long, stretching at its furthest points between Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale and Coombs Road in Bakewell. We pass the old station at Millers Dale. It has been turned into a Cafe now. It was originally opened in 1863 before completely closing in 1967. The walking is much easier now than what has gone before. Perfect for the many cyclists who use the trail as well as walkers. We have a couple of tunnels to pass through, the first being Litton Tunnel (471metres). Closing on 1st July 1968.  

Millers Dale Station

The second tunnel is 'Cressbrook'. A similar length to 'Litton' opened in 1863 closing just over a century after it opened. Another victim of the Beeching-era cuts, part of 'The Reshaping of British Railways'. A plan to cut more than 5,000 miles of track and more than 2,000 stations. Today the tunnels, unlike similar ones in Northamptonshire, are very well lit.  We continue on the Monsal Trail back to our start point. It has been another really beautiful and interesting walk. 

In total we have walked 12.33 miles, 25,702 steps and over a thousand feet in elevation. 

Monday 1 July 2024

The Shakespeare's Avon Way - Great Comberton, Eckington & The Bredon Hills (21)


Shakespeares's Avon Way (22)

A quick turnaround in the great scheme of things for the 21st leg of our Shakespeares's Avon quest. Starting point today is the beautiful, and much sought after I would imagine village of Great Comberton. In the interest of balance I'm sure Little Comberton is equally as picturesque. The small village sits on the northern slopes of the Bredon Hills. Somewhere we will be exploring later in this walk. I must commend the Great Comberton village website. One of the clearest and informative you could ever wish to see. Everything from the village history to bin collections, Parish info and a wonderful gallery. We are walking in an anti-clockwise direction today towards Nafford. Within seconds we are in lush green open countryside with views to our left of the hills.    

Sadly we hadn't got very far when disaster struck once again. Mindful of the Fly incident from the last walk in these parts, my eyes were well covered today. Disaster might be 'doing it a bit brown' in truth. I trod on a small branch/large twig. Which then reared up an when straight into my lower shin. Enough to break the surface and draw blood. These days I always carry a basic First Aid kit based on previous experience Adopting the theory what can go wrong usually does where I am concerned...

Birlingham Quay & Swan's Neck

We have reached an area known as 'Swan's Neck on the Birlingham Quay. A perfect spot to moor up and take in the surroundings. Just as the Narrow-boat pictured has done. A  natural bend in the river that resembles the neck of a Swan. No Swans were visible though unfortunately . That would have brought this short reminiscence to a perfect end. 

We leave the River Avon at the Eckington Bridge. The car park nearby is busy with Paddle Boarders and those enjoying a riverside Picnic.  

The stone bridge is Grade II listed, and first built in 1440. We continue along the Eckington Road to where else but Eckington. Given It's proximity to the river it is very prone to flooding. Our path takes us through the churchyard of  Eckington Holy Trinity  Church. The Church is medieval and has been used for Christian worship for about 800 years to this day. Now begins the slow but steady ascent of the Bredon Hills.

Bredon Hills looking towards The Malvern Hills

The first field we passed through held a nice surprise. A flock of about a dozen Roe Deer were gathered on the hedge line. A dog walker startled them, and they charged in our direction before disappearing into a neighbouring field. It was very humid and the continuous climb was hard work. Thousands of tears of history are under our feet. At the top of the hill is an Iron Age hillfort that dates back to before the 1st Century AD. In June 2011 the largest ever hoard of Roman coins found in Worcestershire was discovered in a clay pot dating to the 4th century.   

There is a short respite as we reach 'Woollas Hall'. Erected by John Hanford in 1611 and stands on the western slope of Bredon Hill. It has now been converted into a number of attractive self-contained residences. Currently a one bed-roomed ground floor garden flat will cost you £235,000.  A Victorian 'Vampire Defence Kit' is also currently available through an Auction site that is thought to originate from the Hall. Complete with a handheld mirror, assorted Crucifixes, wooden stakes, holy water and various other essential items. Of course no Vampire Defence Kit would be complete without a pocket pistol and silver bullet.    

Parsons Folly/ Banbury Tower

At the summit is a building called Parson Folly or Banbury Tower. Built in the middle of the 18th century as a Summer House for John Parsons the Squire of Kemerton Court. With the Tower the total height of the hill is 1000ft. It is now leased out as a mobile phone base station with a number of unattractive ariels attached. The views though are absolutely stunning.  

View from the Tower

Not only do we have a Tower , we also have a Toposcope! Always a great pleasure to discover one. The Brecon Beacons are some 60 miles in the far distance.   Herefordshire Beacon 13 miles, Worcestershire Beacon 12 miles.  


Coming down from the hills are another matter altogether...The picture on the left doesn't really show how steep it actually is. Add in the crumbling rock and the rickety barbed wire fence and the jeopardy is just about complete. It is with more than a little relief that I arrive at the bottom, just about in one piece. 

Once we are back on the level it is a case of making away back through the fields to Great Comberton. We pass the pretty Church of St Michael in the centre of the village.

It  felt like more at times but a total distance of 10.08 miles walked. An elevation gain of 1,130ft. In total 20,840 steps.   

A really beautiful walked that lived up to my expectations completely.Hardly saw any other people out walking , a real haven for peace and tranquility.

Sunday 23 June 2024

Nartional Cycling Show NEC Birmingham 2024

My first time at the National Cycling show. I was really looking forward to the event as well. I have very much got into cycling in the last few years. The National Cycling Show is an for cycling lovers regardless of how fast or how far they go.We were hoping to be their for the start of the guest speakers at 9:45. We just about made it although the traffic was very busy as we approached the NEC in Birmingham. Several events on today including The Gardeners World Live show. 

First Guest Speaker was the incredible Mark Beaumont. Mark is a long distance cyclist who holds the world record for cycling around the world. Completing his 18,000-mile (29,000 km) route in less than 79 days! Setting out at 3:30 each morning and completing 240 miles rain or shine. Amongst many other amazing achievements he has also cycled the Americas. From Anchorage in Alaska to the tip of Southern Argentina. The importance of dedication, resilience and discipline came across very strongly. 

With Mark Beaumont
Another Speaker we very much wanted to see was Olympian Jo Rowsell.
Jo won Gold Medals in the Women's Pursuit Team at the London Olympic Game in 2012 and Rio in 2016. As well as five World Championship titles, four in the Team Pursuit and one in the Individual pursuit. 
She spoke about not being a natural cyclist while she was at school. How it was one of those 'Sliding Doors' moments that she fell into the cycling world. At school she was more at home in the pool or running. One particular day she had a choice of 'double maths' or a trial for the Cycling Team. She modestly said that she wasn't even the best at the school. But the National selection team saw something in her that they could work with. The rest is history as they say.
It was great to meet up with them both afterwards. Hopefully I have picked up a few tips too?

There really was was something for everyone. Stunt Riders,workshops, and anything else even remotely connected to cycling. A really enjoyable day out , and one that will be a regular date on my calendar.

Monsal Head & Chee Dale Peak District Walk

A quick return to the Peak District National Park. This time we are in the 'White Peak' Limestone area. It is another of the famous ...