Bakewell, the Monsal Trail and a Tunnel

Day two, of our early September, camp at Monsal Head with a walk, or two, over the weekend with some friends.

Sadly, Alvin and Andy F had to go early due to work commitments, which left Barney, Andy H,  Shaun, Tony, Sean, Geoff and Chrissie, and of course, the two dogs Tilly and Dixie.

Geoff, Chrissie and the dogs joined us for this walk, walking to Bakewell from Monsal Head and back along the Monsal Trail.

Day one was covered in the recent blog; An Autumn Walk on Bamford Moor and Stanage Edge, which detailed all the above names mentioned.

Day two, we awoke to a foggy morning!

Today’s walk was organised by Shaun, we would walk up to Monsal Head, then down in to Monsal Dale, cross the A6 Dukes Drive, but often called the “Buxton Road”, walk up through Great and Little Shacklow Woods, bypass Ashford in the Water, pick up the public footpath in to Bakewell, head for the town centre, then head north to pick up the disused railway, now known as the Monsal Trail, walk through Headstone Tunnel, back up to Monsal Head and back to our tents.

This walk covers a lot of ground I used to walk as a child when as a family we came to stay in the Peak District. We would walk the whole length of Monsal Dale and before Headstone Tunnel was closed, I used to walk through there with my brother using hand torches.

I had my second comfortable night, in Vaude Odyssee L2P, which replaces my trusted Vango Tornado 200.

Breakfast finished, we kitted up and then headed for Monsal Head. The fog was burning off and  the sun was shining through, it was going to be a hot day.

Heading for Monsal Head

Monsal Herad

Leaving Monsal Head to pick up the path to Monsal Dale
.... "This path has quite a steep drop. Looking at the OS map, 110 metres approx!" ....

Once at Monsal Head, we took the wooded path down to Monsal Dale. This path has quite a steep drop. Looking at the OS map, 110 metres approx!

Because the path is heavily covered with trees, its hard to see or even appreciate such a steep drop, so care is needed especially if you have children walking with you.

Along this steep hill side, were once lime kilns, where limestone, along with coal, was burnt to make Quick Lime.

I mentioned in my blog for day one An Autumn Walk on Bamford Moor and Stanage Edge, Monsal Head gives superb views down Monsal Dale and Upperdale, both dales providing very pleasant walks, and Upperdale was covered in White Peak Walk from Monsal Head Sunday 18th December 2011. Here, you will read about Monsal Dale.

The River Wye, flowing through Monsal Dale, like many rivers in the White Peak, was heavily managed with weirs, manmade waterfalls come dams in days gone by, to power the various mills located along side. Without going too far upstream, you had Cressbrook Mill, then the mills around Ashford in the Water and Bakewell, just to identify a few.

As we start to descend through the wooded area, the roar of Monsal Weir starts to become very prominent.

I enjoy being alongside water, being lakes, the sea of rivers, just as much as being out in the hills and on open moorland etc.

Even today, the roar of the Monsal Weir is still fantastic, but I guess it’s those happy childhood memories taking over….

Monsal Weir

The bridge crossing the River Wye, Monsal Dale
 About 100 metres downstream, there is a bridge to cross the River Wye, to continue the walk to the A6

Here Monsal Dale becomes very peaceful until you start to get closer to the A6 main road. Also, the River Wye water is clear and generally very clean and if you take the time to sit and watch, you will see the trout in the water, often, feeding on what’s being fed downstream or the insects that sit on the water surface.

It wasn’t long before the roar of traffic from the busy A6 Dukes Drive started to break the tranquility of Monsal Dale.

Looking upstream to the weir

The weir, zoomed in on the camera

Tranquil section of the River Wye, Monsal Dale

Trout in the River Wye

I guess it was called the Dukes Drive because the Duke of Devonshire, resident at Chatsworth House, had a lot of claim to the land there. There are quite a few references to the Duke, along with a few pubs using the Duke of Devonshire, either as part of entirely in the pubs name.

If you see a pub called the Devonshire Arms, the brewery hasn’t got their geography wrong; it’s all to do with the Duke of Devonshire.

Incidentally, the Ashford Arms in Ashford in the Water, used to be called the Devonshire Arms!

I’ve digressed….

We crossed the A6 to head for Great Shacklow Wood, now here is new ground for me, or at least I don’t recall walking through here.

Walking up through Great Shacklow Wood

Walking up through Great Shacklow Wood

Nice and sheltered from the sun, we were getting away from the road for a good while, though there is a steady climb as you follow the path through Great Shacklow Wood.

As we reached the pinnacle of the woodland walk, we start to descend towards Little Shacklow Wood, where we re-join the River Wye. It was still sounding nice and peaceful, even though we were getting nearer the main road.

I mentioned earlier that the River Wye supplied the water to power many mills, well as we approach a bridge that crosses the river, there is some form of lifting and conveying tackle across the river.

For what this was used for, I’m not sure and an internet search hasn’t brought anything relevant up either. Especially as the bridge which was only a few metres away and would have been substantial enough for most, if not all, traffic going to and from the mill a little further downstream.

Unless: the bridge was indisposed at some point?

But then there was road access at the Ashford end of the walk….

I’m intrigued, as I know Geoff was too….

I took this photo, because it just looked artistic and no other reason.

We continued to stay on the south side of the river and follow the path in to more woodland, this time Little Shacklow Wood. Soon after walking down the path, we encountered the first of many mills between here and Bakewell, Ashford Bobbin Mill.

There are two buildings to the mill, though on ly the one with the water wheel is Grade Two listed. I managed to find some details on the web, but not a lot. However, I managed to find this little piece of information about Ashford Bobbin Mill, West Building, Sheldon.

Ashford Bobbin Mill

Ashford Bobbin Mill

Th ewaterwheel on the Grade II listed building of Ashford Bobbin Mill
After a good look around the mill, we continued along the path, soon leaving Little Shackleton Wood, walking down the lane, getting closer to the main road and Ashford in the Water.

As you arrive at the main road, Dukes Drive, you’re blessed with a view of probably one of the most photographed bridges in the White Peak, the Sheepwash Bridge, at Ashford in the Water.

Not only that, I typed in to Google Sheepwash Bridge and “sheepwash bridge ashford-in-the-water” came up almost immediately in the search box!

The Sheepwash Bridge was originally a packhorse bridge at the western edge of the village of Ashford in the Water, with attached stone pens for gathering sheep that were to be dipped, or washed before shearing.

Sheepwash Bridge, Ashford in the Water

The method employed to ensure the sheep didn’t escape, was to separate the lambs from the ewes in one pen, while the ewes were made to enter the water, where they would have their whole bodies pushed under the reasonably fast flowing water of the River Wye, thereby washing the fleece and the ewe’s would swim across to reach their calling lambs.

If you have the time, it is worth taking a wander through Ashford in the Water, with its Norman Church, quaint streets and pubs.

However, after a detour for a quick photo shoot of the bridge, we quickly re-joined the A6 to head for Bakewell.

We had now reached the eastern edge of Ashford in the Water and entered the public footpath that takes us alongside the River Wye for most of the walk in to Bakewell.

The public footpath to Bakewell on the eastern side of Ashford in the Water

The public footpath to Bakewell alongside the River Wye in the early stages

One of the many weirs on the River Wye as it approaches Bakewell

Another weir on the River Wye as it approaches Bakewell

Yet more memories here, I used to walk alongside the river as a child, in to Bakewell, passing the weirs. However, what I recall being the original path, is now closed and you are lead uphill and away from the river.

However, you are still given good views of the river and weirs that adorn (if that is the right word).

The footpath takes us through a gap between some houses, then, we’re soon back in to a field again. However, its not long before we start to veer to the right to pick up the A6 in to Bakewell.

The A6 Buxton Road, in to Bakewell

Now here, the road IS called the Buxton Road….

A bit of information, the name Bakewell is nothing to do with baking or the famous Bakewell Puddings or tarts. It is supposed to be derived from the fresh water springs in the area, with Doomsday book entries calling it the town of 'Badequella', meaning Bath-well!

Walking along the path, we take a left turn at Victoria Mill, easily identified by the rather large vets sign facing you.

As you turn in to the road, take a look at the Victoria Mill, there is a rather large water wheel, restored for decorative purposes in the car park.

Here we turned left, with Victoria Mill on the left and the large Mellors Elliot vets sign on the right!

The waterwheel in the car park of Victoria Mill

Continue down this road for a short distance, and you see a path that takes you alongside a river, one of the many tributaries from the River Wye.

This is quite a pretty walk, taking you right in to the town centre of Bakewell, where you join up with Bridge Street.

The start of the ornate river walk foot path in to Bakewell

This bridge marks the end of the riverside footpath

If you look left up Bridge Street, you see the famous Bakewell Bridge, which spans the River Wye.

Looking to the right, takes you into the town centre, where you are treated to a great many shops, both tourist and practical. Oh, and a damned good outdoor shop….

Again, I’ll let you guess how much was spent there….. But remember, we were walking, so any gear bought, would have to be carried, not put in a car!

Here we split in to separate groups, with the aim of meeting up together in the hour to start walking back to Monsal Head.

Looking up Bridge Street, to the bridge over the River Wye

Looking down Bridge Street towards the shops

Lunch over, we regrouped, then set off towards the market Square and headed for one of the many river crossings and towards the Livestock Market.

Incidentally, they do a mean bacon butty in there, with all food locally sourced!

I can recall the days before the current livestock market was built, where the Co-op and Spar stores are now, which is where the old Livestock Market used to be.

For those interested, market day is Monday.

One of the many crossing in Bakewell over the River Wye

As you walk over, stop to look at not just the ducks, but also the numerous trout feeding

Bakewell Livestock Market, they do a mean bacon butty in there
and all the food is locally sourced

We walked around the outer edge of the Livestock Market, to pick up Coombes Road, where we turned left then almost immediate right to pick up a track to leave Bakewell and reach the Monsal Trail.

We reach the point where a bridge crosses the Monsal Trail, crossed over and went through the gate immediately to our left. Walking down this path, we soon were on the Monsal Trail.

Now I’ve often pondered about walking the trail, I’ve seen videos of it, both people walking and cycling it, heard stories and even read many leaflets about it, but just never got to doing the trail.
Walking up to the Monsal Trail

Crossing the bridge to access the Monsal Trail

Looking down on to the Monsal Trail

.... "We reach the point where a bridge crosses the Monsal Trail,
crossed over and went through the gate immediately to our left
" ....

The steps down to the Monsal Trail

Walking the Monsal Trail
I wasn’t disappointed, nor was I surprised, after all, it was an old railway that suffered the Beeching axe…..

Dr Beeching, or Richard Baron Beeching responsible for reshaping British Railways from his report in the early sixties.

The Monsal Trail runs follows the former Midland Railway line for 8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill, in Chee Dale and Coombs Road, at Bakewell.

In recent years, a lot of money has been spent on creating the Monsal Trail and Tunnels along with the Tissington Trail, to make for a pleasant route for all to enjoy, either by foot or by bike.

As we walked in a westerly direction, we soon encountered what was once a station, then, the open walk was soon to start. A steady stroll, no gradients, no sharp turns, after all, it was once a railway line and the trains would not negotiate any steep incline, nor stay safe on any steep decline.

We encountered many walkers and cyclists while on the trail and the famous Hassop Station, well, it’s now a café and bookshop, would provide a very nice rest spot for many.

Approaching Hassop Station on the Monsal Trail

Hassop Station on the Monsal Trail
Soon, the part of the trail that I was waiting to see was getting closer, Headstone Tunnel.

Now before I go any further, all the tunnels are lit today, but, I understand the lights will go out at dusk, so it is wise to have a torch, or headtorch with you, just in case you get delayed completing any of the tunnels.

The approach was much as I remember it, though modern safety fencing had been utilised to prevent walkers, cyclists and horse riders becoming injured due to any rock falls. Also, when I last walked through, the surface was old sleeper blast, today, a tarmacked surface to make it easier for walkers, cyclists and riders.

Approaching Headstone Tunnel on the Monsal Trail

Walking through Headstone Tunnel on the Monsal Trail

Approaching the end of Headstone Tunnel on the Monsal Trail

The end of Headstone Tunnel on the Monsal Trail

Monsal Trail Viaduct

It was a pleasant walk, with a lot of nostalgia.

The walk took just a little over seven minutes for me, without any stops in the tunnel, which was adequately lit all through.

The video below was taken using my GoPro Hero2, while walking through the tunnel. My apologies for the quality, I'm still on L plates with video!

But, I would strongly advise carrying a torch or headtorch, just in case you don't exit the tunnel before the light switch out.

We soon reached the end of Headstone Tunnel, where we were treated a superb view along the Monsal Viaduct. Not too far after leaving the tunnel, there is a gate and path to the right, which takes you up to Monsal Head, our journeys end.

Just another warning, there is a steep drop to the left on this path of up to 30 metres!

The path off to the right after Headstone Tunnel, taking us back to Monsal Head

The path taking us back to Monsal Head

.... "there is a steep drop to the left on this path of up to 30 metres!" ....

At about halfway up, the path then re-joins the path from Upperdale, where you continue the ascent to Monsal Head.

Once at Monsal Head, you can enjoy a drink in the Stables Bar, Hobbs Teas and Crafts or even enjoy an ice cream in the summer....

It was a superb day, a fantastic walk with many fond memories resurrected.

Shaun, a big thank you for organising this walk, it brought back to me many happy memories and I really enjoyed it.

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler

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White Peak Walk from Monsal Head Sunday 18th December 2011


  1. Lots of interesting history in that account Mike, you've obviously spent some time researching it! The weather now is a bit different to last Sunday isn't it.......

    1. Thank you.

      Some of the info I had known for sometime, like the origin of Bakewell. However, the Ashford Bobbin Mill did undergo a lot of research, especially for that tackle for carrying things across the River Wye, which drew a blank.

      Yes, the weather has certainly changed, a lot.... Still, there will be some pleasant sunny days before September ends...

  2. I well written trip report; I didn't know about the riverside walk at Bakewell - I shall have to try and find it next time I'm there.

    1. Thank you Lee.

      That riverside walk is really ornate.

  3. You got back there at last Mike;-) nice write up as usual, so how much did you spend in Cotswold's, lol

    1. I certainly did. :)

      Would like to get do the Monsal (or Tissington) Trail by bike at some point.

  4. Great second day you had Mike, great trip report with some lovely pics.

    1. Thank you, it was a nice end to a superb weekend.