Peak District (Helen Moat)
Blog Words : Freewheeling | 18 May

Forget the bike – take a hike!

Hobbled by her broken wrist, Helen Moat abandons her bicycle and explores the Peak District by other means

So, all because of a stupid stumble on the Lake District hills, I will not be setting off on my bike for Istanbul this July. I am gutted – for this is the moment I’ve been planning and waiting for. True, the cast is off and the stitches out. But I still can’t make a fist with my hand or grip anything. My arm, wrist and fingers feel like dead meat.

It’s not the end of the world, I hope, but I will have to rejig my year. In fact I just need to turn it round. So now I’ll get on with the day job of writing a Peak District guide for Bradt as part of their ‘Slow’ series. Because I’m still typing with one hand (painfully slowly), I’m spending most of the time researching and uncovering some little gems about the Peak District.

Why don’t you come on up to the Peak Park and have a peep? It’s only a couple of hours from London, and being in the Midlands it’s not that far from most places in the UK. But ditch the car: there are far more fun ways of getting around the Peak District.

1. Take a hike

You will not see the best of the Peak District from a car: all the best scenery is tucked away in secluded dales or on the moors and edges where there are no roads.

For dales, try Dovedale, Bradford, Monsal and Lathkill Dale. Otherwise just ‘pluck’ one of lesser known ones from the map and get away from the crowds: you’ll have the dale all to yourself.

For moors, Kinder has the wildest walking, being the highest point in the Peak District. Stanton Moor is also stunning with its bronze age standing stones, and all the edges from Curbar to Stanage shouldn’t be missed.

There are great guided walks in the Peak District, from aircraft crash sites on Kinder to nature, archaeological, historical or geological walks. Take your pick. The Peak Park occasionally organises sunrise and sunset walks too. More information

2. There’s a slow train a coming

Okay, the Peak District is not exactly packed with railway lines, being a National Park, but it’s a great way to approach the area. From the south, the Derby to Matlock line curves through the Derwent Valley before coming to its journey’s end in the steep-sided spa town of Matlock. If you still haven’t had enough of trains, you can always indulge in a piece of nostalgia by hopping on to the Peak Rail steam train and continue on up the valley towards Rowsley. More information

Equally scenic, is the Manchester to Sheffield train that winds its way through Hope Valley. How about combining a railway journey with a spot of music on the folk train? I kid you not. The train leaves every fourth Tuesday of the month from platform 2C in Sheffield, departing at 19.14. The musicians disembark at Edale and make their way to The Rambler for yet more merry-making, before taking the train back to Sheffield. More information

3. On your bike

Where the train tracks have been dismantled, the newly paved corridors are a cyclist’s dream. The Monsal Trail has now been extended for cyclists with the recently reopened tunnels. The High Peak Trail, Tissington Trail and Manifold track, all dismantled railway lines, make their way through spectacular Peak scenery.  And, of course, being dismantled railway lines, they are flat and easy on the heart.

If you would rather have more of a workout, try Carsington Water or the Derwent Valley Reservoirs. And if that’s still too tame, there are plenty of quiet country roads with crazy gradients.

The long term plan is to link all the cycle trails with the towns and cities surrounding the Park, making the Peak District a world class cycling centre. More information

4. Push the boat out

Unlike the Lake District, the Peak District has little in the way of natural lakes, but there are some lovely reservoirs surrounding the Park.

At Carsington Water you can rent sailing dinghies, windsurfing equipment, kayaks, Canadian canoes, stand up paddleboards or rowing boats – whatever floats your boat. More information

One of my favourite reservoirs is Rudyard Lake (a place much loved by Rudyard Kipling’s parents) near Leek. It was hugely popular in the Victorian era and still has an old-fashioned feel to it. You can take a leisurely trip on their pleasure boat, Honey, or hire a rowing boat (ex Regent Park stock). More information

5. And now for something novel

Would you rather travel by a more unusual mode of transport? How about floating across the national park in a hot air balloon? Or take a city tram through the Derbyshire countryside (a Blackpool, Glasgow or Berlin tram)? No, I’m not kidding: Crich Tramway Museum near Matlock does exactly that. More information

You can also experience the Derbyshire countryside from a cable car that heads up to the caves on the Heights of Abraham above Matlock Bath. More information

And for something really different, you can go on a sidecar safari through the best of the Peak Park scenery, departing from Monsal Head, Bakewell or Castleton. More information

Most of the above I’ve experienced and can vouch for first hand. But I’ve not had a go at seeing the Peak District from a classic bike. I sense a phone call happening soon. Now, all I have to decide: pillion or sidecar? Decisions, decisions...