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 The trains that used to huff and puff along these tracks have been replaced by people who do much the same thing.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.

Website: www.peakdistrict.org

Arts and Entertainment
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore