Travel: Family therapy on wheels

Cycling `en famille' along abandoned railway lines in the Peak District may sound like hard work, but it's a very enjoyable way to avoid arguments.

IT WAS during a camping trip in Derbyshire last summer with my two older sisters, my niece, nephew and assorted partners and in-laws, when, in the hope of avoiding the almost inevitable family argument, we found ourselves planning a full day's cycling trip on a network of abandoned railway lines. Given all that proximity, riding ourselves into a state of exhaustion seemed like a canny idea.

We assembled at the cycle-hire centre in Ashbourne where the delightful staff assembled a train of five mountain bikes and two children's buggies. The trains that used to huff and puff along these tracks have been replaced by people who do much the same thing. From the look of our fellow travellers, the route is a haven for the unfit and middle-aged who attempt to demonstrate to their families that they are not ready for the sidings yet.

The buggies were sturdy contraptions that fixed to the centre of the rear wheel. Three-year-old Harriette took to hers immediately, with the wide, look-at-me grin of a princess in a carriage. Two-year-old Tom was less certain. His toddler's intuition told him that if he climbed into the strange pram-like affair he wouldn't be able to crawl around for a while. A diversionary finger of KitKat bought enough time to strap him in, and we were away.

The first leg of the journey was along the Tissington Trail, which covers 13 miles from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay in the Peak District National Park. It runs along the route of the Ashbourne to Buxton line - which opened almost exactly a century ago on 4 June 1899 - and the section was constructed at the tail end of railway building in the region. serving as a branch line, taking milk and limestone to places such as Buxton. It closed in 1963.

We pulled out of Ashbourne under swooping branches which cast a mottled shadow over the gravel path. Like the trains that used to run here, our pace could best be described as a chug. The children were remarkably good- humoured, certainly more so than I would have been had I been dragged in a cart behind a bike along a dusty track. Tom alternated between sleeping, gurgling and bawling; Harriette sang, beamed and picked wild flowers - sorry about that.

After a detour to take in an open-air lunch at the Waterloo Inn in Biggin, we rejoined the trail and continued the fractional ascent to Parsley Hay. Then it was a sharp right, to link up with the High Peak Trail which runs for 17-and-a-half miles from Buxton to Cromford.

The Cromford and High Peak Railway, whose former route this section follows, was opened in 1830 and was as commercially unsuccessful as the later Ashbourne- to-Buxton line. It was built to navigate a 1,000ft limestone plateau and was used mainly for local traffic - to run lime, coal and agricultural products out of the area and bring back supplies. For a time, passengers could travel in a carriage attached to the goods train. The final section from the brickworks to Parsley Hay closed in 1967.

After a few more miles of open fields we set off cross-country to link the two branches of the disused railway. After describing a winding arc around the Minninglow Embankment we hopped off at Loncliffe and set off for Brassington, a pretty village of Derbyshire stone with two very decent pubs, the Miners' Arms and the Gate, for those in need of sustenance. After five or so hours in the saddle, we were certainly in that category, but had promised ourselves a cream tea further on.

After Brassington it was Bradbourne before a long, free-wheeling descent - Harriette giggling all the way - towards Tissington Ford. This was followed by a long, hard push up the other side of the valley before we remounted our bikes, pedalled past a picturesque trout pond and turned a corner into the Blytonesque village of Tissington.

After tea and scones on the lawn of the Old Coach House, it was time for the final push and the few remaining miles back to Ashbourne, six- and-a-half hours after we had departed. In retrospect, our chosen route was a little ambitious. By the time we had squeaked to a halt, unstuck ourselves from the saddles and woken the children, we had cycled almost 30 miles - without a single argument.

There are six cycle-hire centres within the Peak District National Park; Ashbourne, Derwent, Parsley Hay, Waterhouses, Middleton Top and Hayfield. For information, call 07000 732529. Mountain bikes cost pounds 8 per day, cycle buggies pounds 6, child seats pounds 2 (helmets are free). All centres have cycles suitable for use by people with disabilities.


Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'