A Taste of the
Peak District, Derbyshire Ashbourne (Tissington Trail) bike hire centre, B&B, self catering holiday cottage accommodation, hotels, tourist attractions, walking, climbing, mountain biking history, towns, villages, geology, mining, local information, Derbyshire businesses and much more …
Mainly Traffic free cycling from Waterhouses to Hulme End (or vice-versa) along the Manifold Way.
General Peak District cycling books ...
in the Peak District: Off Road Trails and Quiet Lanes
The Manifold Way offers about 9 miles of almost traffic free cycling through the White Peak in Staffordshire. We prefer to cycle from Hulme End as that means that the finish is flat rather than slightly up hill (unless you do the trail in one direction only of course). The Manifold Way follows the route of the failed Leek and Manifold Light Railway. It is perhaps the earliest example of a former railway being converted to leisure use. It offers a good tarmac surface and so is suitable for occasional cyclists as well as for wheelchair access, however please be aware that there are some patches where the tarmac is breaking up and becoming uneven.
The Manifold Way is often mistaken for the Manifold Trail, which is a medium distance walking Route from Flash to Dovedale. The Manifold Trail does use parts of the Manifold Way but cannot be legally cycled for much of its length. The Manifold Track, however, is fully open to both cyclists and walkers.
The Leek and Manifold Light Railway was an ambitious project conceived in 1896 by businessmen in Leek who were worried that the new Buxton to Ashbourne railway would take away local trade. £70,000 and 8 years later the line opened (June 27th 1904). It was a narrow gauge (2' 6") which saved costs and took advantage of the new Light Railways Act which was designed to encourage the building of railways in rural areas. The North Staffs Railway operated the line and built a connection from the Macclesfield to Uttoxeter line and this one, meeting at Waterhouses. It was constructed by the Railway Engineer Everard Calthrop who had gained his experience in India. The two locomotives were actually designed for use in India rather than the UK. The line had 10 stops, only 2 of which served villages directly - the two termini, Hulme End being the HQ of the line. The rest were just basic platforms with wooden shelters; to reach the nearest villages one needed to mount steep unpaved paths up the sides of the Manifold Valley to the plateau above. A couple of these halts offered refreshments (Beeston Tor and Thor's Cave). Calthrop included 'transporter' wagons amongst the rolling stock, wagons that could be used to carry standard gauge rolling stock along the narrow gauge track. This saved time and costs of transferring the main cargo of the line - milk from Ecton Creamery. The line was completely unviable and the track was removed in 1937 at which point it was given to Staffordshire County Council who spent £6000 repairing fences, parapets and resurfacing in order to create the 'National Pedestrian Path' now known as the Manifold Way. It also became popular with cyclists who were officially banned from using it until 1981. It seems strange that 30 years earlier part of the route was opened to cars - or maybe they were not as dangerous as cycles at that time!
Starting at Hulme End, where you find a souvenir shop and toilets, the route leaves the car park on a well surfaced track, wide enough for two people (or cyclists) to pass side by side, so cyclists, please be aware of this and show consideration for other users. This widens out and brings you to a road section, at the entrance to the tunnel. Please remember that you are sharing this with motor vehicles, motor cyclists can be a real pain here as some of them seem to enjoy making multiple passes, throttles wide open, so apart from the danger of collision, there is the painfully loud roar of the engine. One time I was there, a couple of motorcyclists decided that the noise was not loud enough for them whilst they were at normal speed and half way trough, they gunned their engines. The noise level naturally increased and my wife, not a confident cyclist, was quite distressed. But worse, these selfish motorcyclists badly scared and disorientated a small child with the family cycling just ahead of me. She struggled to stay on her bike and was so upset that she was left sobbing. The motorcyclists turned at the end and went back for a second run.
After completing this road section, the route takes you past Ecton Creamery, where you can still see the raised loading platform. There is a bench so you can rest a while and soak up the atmosphere of the place. Looking up the hillside through the trees, at the top of the village you can just see an impressive copper roof. This belongs to the former Ecton Copper Mine. It was the manager's house. As you leave the Creamery halt, look up to the hillside on the east and you can discern some of the remnants of the Ecton Mine. Cavers frequently visit the mine and there is a footpath that takes you past one of the old entrances. This mine furnished the money used by the Duke of Devonshire who built the impressive buildings of the spa town of Buxton.
Further along the trail, you will find a pleasant tea room at Wetton Mill. There is limited seating inside but in decent weather, there is plenty of outside seating including a large grassed area. Carrying on southwards, the next point of note is Thor's Cave. Thor's cave has yielded artifacts that suggest it was occupied from the neolithic to Romano-British times, finds include pottery, amber and bronze items, worked antler tools and a polished stone axe. Many of the other caves in the vicinity show similar evidence. The views are pretty good from up there and, in my opinion, it is worth the steep climb but note that the path up is muddy and slippery in wet weather. It can be quite a popular spot in the summer holidays and at weekends.
At the caravan site, the route bends round to the west, to
follow the course of the river Hamps to Waterhouses. From here, you can discern
Beeston Tor, one of the traditional limestone climbing crags of the Peak
District. It is unbolted and offers a few classic lines and great views from the belay ledge above the main concentration of routes. The Hamps valley is a pleasant rural valley, wooded in places.
When the line was built, the valley was devoid of trees and to any tourists
travelling the line to visit Thor's Cave or Beeston Tor, would have seemed
a wild and empty place indeed. This part of the route has an uphill gradient, steady
rather than steep. There is a farm offering teas part way along. Just as
you approach Waterhouses, the
Macclesfield so some care is needed. A final short climb brings you to the
Waterhouses terminus, where you can find toilets and shop plus a cycle hire
centre. If you don't have your own bike, you will need to start from Waterhouses.
In Waterhouses, you will find a couple of pubs, one close to the car park,
the other near the top of the hill leaving the village, and a cafe/chippy.
Turn right by the pub at the top of the hill to waterhouses and you will
find the village of Waterfall a mile or so up that road, with the Red Lion,
another option for a great welcome with good food and drink. But we are not the only ones who appreciate this pub, Mark Longson of Stoke on Trent rather likes it too; he emailed us to say ...
I recently visited a great pub and restaurant on the edge of the Peak District while I was taking a short break in the area. The Red Lion Inn at Waterhouses was a really family friendly pub that served real ales and great homecooked food. It was ideal for me as it was one of the few places where I could take my dog too.
Cycle Hire Centres in the Peak District of Derbyshire (click on the name to find out more) ...
- Ashbourne (Tissington Trail)
- Derwent Dam (Ladybower Reservoir)
- Hayfield (Sett Valley Trail) - the cycle hire centre here has now been closed, we have included it for information just in case you are trying to find out about it.
- Middleton Top (High Peak Trail)
- Parsley Hay (High Peak and Tissington Trails)
- Waterhouses (Manifold Way)
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Peak District Cycle Hire page
Disclaimer - The information on this page is believed to be correct and is given in good faith. It may have changed since our research. Use of the information on this page is at your risk, we cannot accept any liability for any problems or incidents arising. Any maps are based on the postcodes of the centres. We recommend that you confirm the location and other details before travelling.