Did you call the hostel??

Published: August 2nd 2016
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Off to Bakewell for some breakfast. And then on to Monsal Head, to begin the day hike on the Monsal Trail. The trail is a traffic free route for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users through some of the Peak District's most spectacular limestone dales. The trail runs along the former Midland Railway line, and River Wye, for 8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill, in Chee Dale and Coombs Road, at Bakewell. Most of the route was opened to the public in 1981 but four former railway tunnels had to remain closed due to safety reasons, with public footpaths taking people around them. These four railway tunnels - Headstone Tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel, Litton Tunnel, Chee Tor Tunnel – opened for trail users a few years back. Our plan is to walk from Monsal Head to Wyedale, catch a bus, traveling on A6 to a footpath, which leads back to Monsal Head.

Monsal Viaduct - Now one of the most famous features of the trail and listed as being one of historic and architectural interest, was once the subject of much controversy and criticism. Its construction and the invasion of the Upper Wye Valley by the railway aroused strong opposition. Victorian environmentalist, essayist and poet John Ruskin said: "There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the Vale of Tempe... you enterprised a Railroad through the valley - you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange – you Fools everywhere."

Cressbrook Mill - was first opened as a cotton mill in 1783, powered by water from Cressbrook stream. It was built on the site of a small herb distillery by William Newton of Abney for Sir Richard Arkwright.The original building was destroyed by fire but a replacement was soon opened. This became known as 'Old Mill'. In 1812, construction work started on the large Georgian building that can be seen today 'Big Mill', as it was known, at first used water from the River Wye to power its two large water wheels before steam turbines were introduced in 1890. Manufacturing ceased here in 1965. It is now resort accommodations.

Litton Mill - Litton Mill was a large cotton spinning mill that first opened in 1782. It became notorious for the harsh treatment of child labourers by the owner, Ellis Needham. Many of the children, brought from London and other large cities, died young from the cruel treatment and were buried in the churchyards at Tideswell and Taddington.

Lime Kilns - The Lime kilns to the east and west of Millers Dale Station are examples of commercial kilns built in the 19th and 20th centuries. Quicklime had long been produced in small kilns, mainly for agricultural use, but with the expansion of industry, especially the chemical industry, demand increased. Limestone from the quarries that opened adjacent to the railway and coal brought in by train were burnt to produce the quicklime. This in turn was taken out on the railway. The last kiln closed down in 1944.

England's footpaths are not always well marked, so we periodically ask if we are on the right path. One older gentleman, gave us additional advise as where to get a good dinner and ale. The Packhorse Inn was a welcome stop for the refreshment of weary travellers since 1787. Formerly two miners' cottages, the pub sits on an old packhorse route that runs from Chesterfield to Little Longstone and Great Longstone before climbing up towards the Monsal Head to join an ancient Roman Portway.

Once back to Monsal Head we looked for the pub. Great environment, food and beer. At some point we struck up a conversatiion with four guys our age that we could over heard talking, about their children, grand-children, and politics. Anyway, after a great deal of conversation quizzing them about Brexit, and they about our disfunction election cycle, we realized we were the only six remaining in the dining area. I looked at my phone...it was late. I leaned over to Phil and asked if he had called the hostel about checking in late? ...OHHH, $*** Of course, no answer on the phone at the late hour. Asked the pub if they had a vacancy..No. Asked the guys where they were staying, nope, full. Someone in the pub had an aunt with a B&B, they called; Full. Oh well, sleeping in the car would just add to our story. Decided to head to YHA, just in case, and a guy had gone outside for a smoke. Problemed solved!!

Youlgreave YHA -


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