Ashford and the Monsal Trail
Earlier in the year, the Monsal Trail had been made more accessible by the opening of the tunnels between Hassop and Millers Dale. Including the one exiting on the spectacular Monsal Dale bridge. The Ring and Ramble would give us an opportunity to explore this section of the trail and experience the walk through the tunnels.
Towers were limited, but two seemed possible. Ashford, of course, and Taddington. We had not been to the latter before, in fact very few of us had actually been to Taddington which lies just to one side of the A6 near it’s highest point.
We were given permission to ring at Ashford quite readily, but had to dovetail our visit between quarter peals - we had chosen the Peak District quarter peal day!
Taddington was a bit more of a problem. No one seemed to know who the contact was. The vicar had just retired and they were in an interregnum. Eventually we made contact with a church warden, but learned that there was a crack in the headstock of the third (there are only three bells) and they were waiting to get this fixed. However we were welcome to visit the church on our walk and the door would be open.
A suitable eating place was also required. We had thought of the Ashford Arms, but this did not open until well after our finish time. We had reports that The Queens Head in Taddington was good and this would be open at a suitable time. A quick call confirmed that this was the case.
Now for a route. Walking the whole way would be too far for this time of year so we opted for a bus ride at the start - between Ashford and Taddington. We could then walk down into Millers Dale and pick up the Monsal Trail at Millers Dale station.
On the day, we all met at Ashford and arrived at the church just as the quarter peal band were leaving so had a quick instruction session about which bells were which and how to leave them. A short pleasant ring on the six bells and a lower brought us to 11-45 am and just enough time to get to the bus stop for the 4 minutes past bus to Taddington. This was a good twenty minutes late due to road works around Nottingham (It was the Nottingham to Manchester bus). There was just a little more delay as we sorted out the fares for 17 adults, three children and two dogs. The ticket machine would only deliver four tickets in one go! Eventually, after a short and sociable ride, we arrived in Taddington with a drop off in the village wherever we wanted- we opted for the Queens Head and called in to arrange our visit later.
The walk proper started from here. Through the churchyard where we found the church locked - we were late anyway. Then across the A6 to join a track through the hamlet of Priestcliffe to the winding track dropping down to Millers Dale with good views down into the dale. More pleasant walking brought us to the road by the viaducts over the river Wye and a short walk up to the Station car park where we could enjoy our lunch before continuing along the trail back towards Ashford.
The opening of the tunnels has made a great difference to this track It is easy going without the need to pick your way over the tunnels and, as a result, it has made it much busier! The tunnels themselves are well lit and mostly dry. It makes for an interesting walk and avoids the weather - not that we needed to do that on this occasion.
The final tunnel section was entered from the impressive bridge across the river on the bend of the Dale and we were soon at Great Longstone station were we left the trail to pass Thornbridge Hall and take the country lane back to Ashford.
Here we collected our cars and made our way back up to Taddington and the Queens Head Inn for our well deserved meal. We had given the Inn warning of our coming and they had lit a very welcome fire.
We said hello to the talkative bird outside and settled down to a fine meal and very cosy surroundings. What a good way to finish a really pleasant day out!