JANUARY is one of the worse months for cycling, weather-wise. Today I’m relating a trip done before the weather closed in for the winter and which hopefully will inspire you for some exploration in the spring. I based myself at Monyash, a small village between Buxton and Bakewell. Buxton is a Spa town, (think Harrogate on a hill). Meanwhile, Bakewell, together with nearby Ashbourne, are both market towns. So there’s a lot going on in the area to keep any non-cycling partner amused.

Monyash doesn’t have a shop, but the Bulls Head pub is very popular for food and there’s also the Old Smithy cafe next door. We stayed in a self-catering cottage; Mere View. There are others in the village, and B&B locally, but no accommodation now in the pub, which is fully occupied by the licensee and her family.

The White Peak area is notable for having two high level (about 300 metres altitude) disused railway lines, the Tissington Trail and the High Peak Trail. These converge at Parsley Hay, about two miles south-west of Monyash, meaning that both can be sampled without having to travel further. Remember that these are shared bridleways, so the etiquette is to give way to walkers and horses.

My first ride was south, to Parsley Hay, where cross the main A515 with care, then follow the sign for the car park to access the trail. Turn left (south) onto the hard packed surface, and quickly arrive at a junction. Take the right fork. A sign indicates Thorpe (lunch stop) 11-and-a-half miles.

The route is level with no climbs, but passes through a sequence of cuttings and embankments. The first of the embankments is when passing a farm down to the right, so take care to keep away from the steep edges of the trail.

An old signal box quickly comes into view. This is all that remains of Hartington station, opened in 1899, which served the village of the same name, some two miles down to your right (west) but out of sight.

Next, you’ll see the village of Biggin, away to the right. As you pass under a bridge near here, spot the nostalgic verse cut into a steel plate.

The trail then passes a blue Sustrans marker, (Route number 548). You can exit the trail here and join the road down to Biggin, where you’ll find the Waterloo Inn (closed Mondays) should you be in need of refreshment. Continuing on the trail however, you next pass under a magnificent tall bridge. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is an important link to a village, but no, it’s simply a farm access.

Next, run alongside the A515 for a while on an embankment. I took great pleasure here on the traffic free trail, as motor vehicles hurried past a hundred yards away. Go under the main road and you arrive at a car park which is all that remains of Alsop station.

In two miles you arrive at another car park, occupying the site of the station yard at Tissington. Here, it’s worth a little diversion into the village which is very attractive. So take the car park exit, then turn left onto the road, and drop down to the village green. Spot the duck pond on your left, and just beyond is the old village school, with interesting Gothic architecture. This had closed down, but more recently reopened as a Kindergarten, which I think is very appropriate.

On the opposite side of the road is Rakes Lane, which takes you past Herberts Cafe, up to the front of Tissington Hall. Built in 1609 by Francis FitzHerbert, it is unusual in having been occupied by the same family for the last 400 years. The current incumbent, Sir Richard FitzHerbert, inherited the Hall and estate (of some 50 properties in and around the village) in 1989.

Opposite the Hall stands St Mary’s Church, built sometime in the 12th century. You’ll also see one of the village wells here. Tissington is one of several locations in the Peak District that maintain the ancient Christian custom of Well Dressing. Similar to a Harvest Festival in Autumn, the act of dressing the wells with flowers is a way of giving thanks for a clean water supply. The dressing of the wells takes place on Ascension day each year, and the decoration remains in place for a week. Ascension day in 2018 is on May 10 and dressings will be taken down the following Wednesday evening on May 16.

Return to the village car park, to rejoin the trail and continue in the same direction as before. A mile out of the village the trail crosses the A515 on a relatively new (2005) steel bridge. This is your signal to be alert for the next disused station and car park.

On the day of my visit, the Old Dog pub had a signboard out on the trail at this point, to encourage visitors. Turn right off the trail, and go straight ahead to a T-junction where the pub is facing you. The Old Dog has been totally refurbished, but retains the atmosphere with flagged floors and candle lighting. Local CAMRA pub of the year 2016.

I had a big choice of real ales; too many to mention, but from as far away as Adnams (Southwold). I was intrigued by the Mudpuppy from Salamander brewery in Bradford, but settled for Goats Milk (3.8% ABV) from Church End Brewery, Nuneaton, Warwickshire. I later discovered that a Mudpuppy is in fact a type of salamander. They bark (apparently) and that’s how they get their name. I can see why it’s served at the Old Dog. The food menu is weighted towards burgers and hot-dogs, supplemented by various salads and types of chips, including skin-on, or sweet potato.

The return trip to Parsley Hay, and beyond to Monyash if you are staying in the village, is a simple matter of retracing the outward journey.

In next month’s edition, we’ll travel the route of the High Peak trail, with lunch at the Sycamore Inn, Parwich. This is a 20 miles return trip from Parsley Hay.

Cycle ride facts

Date of ride: Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The map: Ordnance Survey Landranger No.119, Buxton & Matlock

The accommodation: Mere View, Rakes Road, Monyash, Bakewell, DE45 1JL

The pub: The Old Dog, Spend Lane, Thorpe, Ashbourne, DE6 2AT. Tel 01335 350990

The bike: Classic 1971 Jack Taylor, Super Track model, built in Stockton-on-Tees. 23c Continental Gatorskin tyres

Distance: 27 miles starting in Monyash (or 23 miles round trip from Parsley Hay)

Car parking: On street in Monyash (free), or National Park pay and display at Parsley Hay, SK17 0DG