The Tissington Trail in the Derbyshire Peak District is 13 miles from Parsley Hay (53.1706°N 1.7828°W) in the north to Ashbourne (53.0196°N 1.7397°W) in the south.
Taking the walker or cyclist along a traffic free route which is mostly suitable for wheelchair users throughout and used to be a railway line, the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) between Buxton and Ashbourne.
The line opened in 1899 and was finally closed around 70 years later. The Peak District National Park bought the line in 1971 and transformed the route into a beautiful carefree place to explore on foot or by bicycle, there is even a cycle station on the trail where you can hire a bike and get a refreshment, an ice cream, a hot or cold beverage and take a break.
The trail is part of the National Cycle Network route 68.
The Ashbourne Railway History
Built by the London and North Western Railway using a section of the Cromford and High Peak Railway (C&HPR) it joined the North Staffordshire Railway at Ashbourne, proceeding to Uttoxeter with a junction onto the main line at Rocester.
The route between Buxton and Ashbourne was not particularly well populated and of course the rugged terrain a difficult area to construct a railway but with competition growing from the Midland railway in Derbyshire and the ever-increasing demand for limestone, which was a thriving trade throughout the area and in need of transportation.
The line went ahead and built a line, southwards across the Midland’s path. Both railways arrived at Buxton almost simultaneously in 1863.
The 13 mi (21 km) section from Parsley Hay to Ashbourne was authorised by the LNWR Act of 4 August 1890 it was opened on 4 August 1899.
Parsley Hay Bike Hire
The Parsley Hay bike hire centre is a lovely spot on the trail and is situated eight miles south of the spa town of Buxton. It is easily reached via the A515 from both Buxton and Ashbourne.
If using a Sat Nav, here’s a post code for Parsley Hay near Buxton SK17 0DG. Parsley Hay also makes the ideal starting point to explore the Peak District.
The centre has a refreshment kiosk and picnic tables and a toilet block too which can be handy especially when traveling with children.
They have all kinds of bicycles available to hire on a first come first served basis, they supply Tandems, wheelchair bikes, hand cranked bikes, dog trailers and child cycles or those with a child seat. If you need an electric mobility scooter, they have Tramper mobility scooters and they also supply Boma all terrain electric wheelchairs too.
You can hire sanitized helmets or bring along your own cycle helmets for your adventure. You won’t need to book in advance but do bring proof of ID when hiring out equipment, some kind of photo ID and proof of address will be needed.
They are open every day from the end of March until the end of October 9.30am till around 4.30/5pm.
Where can I cycle? Parsely Hay is situated on the High Peak Trail and Tissington Trails and it is an ideal centre for exploring the White Peak and South West Peak on traffic-free routes.
Tissington Village and Well Dressings
The village of Tissington is a picturesque place in the Derbyshire Dales where the stone houses are a picture-perfect sight and the village is a part of the Tissington Hall Estate, owned by the FitzHerbert family since 1465.
The village is very popular with tourists especially for its well dressings, also called well flowering. It is a tradition practised in some parts of rural England in which wells, springs and other water sources are decorated with elaborate designs created from flower petals, moss, leaves and other natural decorative sources, making stunning pictures and usually each year a village will choose a different theme.
The custom is most closely associated with the Peak District of Derbyshire and Staffordshire. The custom of well dressing is first attested in 1348 at Tissington and evolved from simple ribbons and flower garlands to more grand gestures with a wider appeal and at times skilled craftmanship.
The reasons for these well dressings could be from Pagan origins worshiping the water source, some say it was to give thanks for a clean water source after the Black plague.
Well dressing was celebrated in at least 12 villages in Derbyshire by the late 19th century, and was introduced in Buxton in 1840, “to commemorate the beneficence of the Duke of Devonshire.”
It was the Duke of Devonshire who made sure there were arrangements to supply fresh water to the upper town because of their distance from St Anne’s Well on the Wye, he supplied a fountain for fresh water at his own expense. I quote;
“A fountain of excellent water within easy reach of all.”
Minninglow Neolithic Burial Site
The scenery is not only photogenic and refreshing but has a lot of hidden history. For example, the Minninglow ancient burial mounds on Mininglow hill, you can see this clearly way marked on the trail and it is an unmistakable site, a raised hill with a woodland copse.
Within the clump of trees there is a Neolithic chambered tomb and two Bronze Age bowl barrows. This is a scheduled monument. The tomb was excavated by Thomas Bateman in 1843 and 1851 and was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as “one of the most impressive of Derbyshire’s surviving prehistoric burials.”
The oldest chamber dates from the Early Neolithic period but other finds indicate the use in the Late Neolithic or early Bronze Age, and during the Roman period. The two bowl barrows were also excavated by Bateman, and date from the Bronze Age and they also show signs of Roman disturbance.
This is a concessionary route, granted by the landowner so keep to the designated signposted path while visiting this interesting prehistoric site.
Another place of interest in the area just one kilometre northwest of Minninglow hill is the massive Minninglow Embankment on the former Cromford and High Peak Railway, the trackbed of which now forms the High Peak Trail.
There is a lot to take in on the route, open fields and limestone walls, the occasional herd of cattle grazing or sheep to see while walking through the Derbyshire Dales.
Dogs on leads when anywhere near the livestock, sheep are easily spooked even with a dog you trust, keep them on a lead. An interesting and beautiful trail that evokes the imagination.