This week, I caught a BBC programme in which Julia Bradbury heads off on more of her walks in the countryside. In her new series on BBC Four, she is walking along disused railway routes. It is called “Railway Walks“, with the first of the series being entitled “Peak Express”.
The programme started with a very familiar image to me, the platform totem at Darley Dale Station. A few moments later, Peak Rail’s train came into view driven by regular Peak Rail driver Robin Smith.
It turned out that Julia’s first walk was to be along part of the former Midland Railway route through the Peak District, now known as the Monsal Trail. Those of us involved in Peak Rail know this as the route that we want to restore and run trains on again.
Julia’s walk started at Bakewell station, the main building of which is still in use as offices. Her walk took in the route northwards and included an escorted trip through one of the tunnels – Headstone Tunnel, I think, because they came out onto the famous Monsal Head viaduct at the end of their tunnel walk. She also crossed the twin viaducts by the site of Millers Dale station, as well as the other landmarks of this route. Later she diverted around some of the other tunnels, walking right down beside the river Wye and ending her journey at Blackwell Mill.
Throughout the programme, as the amazing scenery of the route unfolded, I realised that this part of the line is our secret weapon. I know it will take a huge amount of work and a vast amount of money, but it is now up to those of us who are now involved with the railway now to show the same vision and determination as the preservation pioneers who had the original idea.
Imagine riding a train along that same trackbed that Julia Bradbury walked, through Headstone Tunnel and across the viaduct that poet John Ruskin so vehemently attacked at the time it was built:
“You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley — you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton”
Modern views have softened a little since then with the viaduct now being a listed structure.
The whole programme was great publicity for Peak Rail and for our future aspirations to restore the line through to Buxton, almost an advert on prime time BBC.