Four former railway tunnels in the Peak District National Park will reopen later this month to walkers and cyclists after laying disused for more than 40 years. The £2.25 million project has been undertaken by the Peak District National Park Authority as part of its Pedal Peak District project and has been funded by the Department for Transport.
The four tunnels – called Headstone, Cressbrook, Litton and Chee Tor – are each between 400 and 500 metres long and housed part of the route of the Midland Railway prior to their closure in 1968.
They have now been cleared, repaired, resurfaced with environmentally friendly materials and provided with long-life lighting ahead of their official reopening on Wednesday 25 May by Transport Minister Norman Baker.
Together they will provide an extra 1.5 miles of public access through creating an extension to the Monsal Trail which links Bakewell and Buxton. The reopening of the tunnels is the first phase in a long-term project to create a circular cycle link between those two towns and Matlock, although for that to become reality, further funding is needed.
One of the aims of the Pedal Peak District project is to encourage people in the area to take up cycling, with training, bike maintenance courses and a variety of events on offer.
It is also designed to provide a boost to the local economy, in part through employing local contractors to carry out work.
A further sign of economic benefits to locals is the creation of two privately owned cycle hire businesses along the Monsal Trail, Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire and Hassop Station Cycle Hire to cater for cyclists expected to be attracted to the Peak District by the tunnels.
Along the trail, interpretation panels and audio listening posts have been put in place to give information regarding the trail itself, the tunnels as well as the route’s history as part of the Midland Railway.
Jim Dixon, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, commented: “This has been a huge engineering project and is generating a lot of interest and excitement among local residents and visitors.
“Through this project we are opening up the important limestone landscape of the Wye Valley with all its industrial and environmental heritage so that more people can come, experience and learn about it.
“By investing in the new route we increase opportunities to go cycling, walking and horse riding instead of using the car. Some local residents will use the new route for commuting or a social ride, while for tourists it offers a safe, traffic-free environment to enjoy what is so special about a national park.”
More information on the Monsal Trail can be found here.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.