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A cycleway through our World Heritage Site would provide popular sustainable access

Derbyshire, and its partners, aim to be the UK’s most connected cycling county but the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Derbyshire (and in the East Midlands) currently has a totally inadequate cycling provision.

England has only 18 sites inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Derbyshire is honoured to be the location of one of them, the Derwent Valley Mills, which is recognised for the birth of the factory system and as the first location worldwide to see large scale industrial activity in a rural landscape.

The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site is 15 miles from end to end and cycling would offer an excellent and sustainable way for visitors to travel between the various attractions. However, uniquely amongst the English World Heritage Sites, the facilities for cycling are totally inadequate.

Derbyshire County Council, and its partners, have declared that they want Derbyshire to be the “most connected cycling county in England”. Until there is cycle access through the only World Heritage Site in the East Midlands that goal is unachievable.

Richard Thoday, from Matlock, who is officially the fastest man on a penny farthing,  is lending his support to the project and said ‘I have lived in the area almost all of my live and travel up and down the Derwent Valley daily to get to work, to do shopping, to visit family or just for leisure. Cycling is a great way to travel but the A6 is an intimidating and difficult place to ride. For many people who are not confident cyclists it is just too scary to contemplate riding in this environment and so feel resigned to using the car for all journeys.

Having a safe, traffic free route through the Derwent Valley would be such a wonderful thing. It would allow people to walk and ride in a quiet, safe and sociable environment helping them to become fitter, healthier and happier.

Looking at the success of traffic free commuting routes in Europe, this project would clearly be of massive benefit to local people - I can't understand why it does not already exist’.

The National Cycle Network has good connections to Derby at the southern end, and at the northern end, the High Peak Trail (NCN 54) from Cromford connects to the Peak District, and there is a new route north from Matlock (NCN 680). However, apart from Darley Fields at the southern end, there is no National Cycle Network within the World Heritage Site.

The World Heritage Site at Ironbridge is similar to the Derwent Valley site. It is based on industrial heritage, lies within river valleys and offers a number of attractions but can be accessed sustainably via the National Cycle Network that runs through their site, enhancing their tourism and visitor offer.

The Derwent Valley Trust is calling for a high quality, traffic free cycleway to be built through the World Heritage Site to enable Derbyshire to deliver on its “most connected cycling county” goal and for all the commuting and tourism benefits that the route would provide. The economic case for the route is already established and shows a Very Good 4.8:1 return on investment.

The UK Government would want to demonstrate their commitment to cycle travel by providing good quality access to, and through, all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country? But they can only achieve this in response to local authorities, in this case Derbyshire County Council’s, commitment, applying for funds and implementing the route. Until then they cannot claim to be the most connected cycling county whilst they remain the only English World Heritage Site without good cycling provision.

The Derwent Valley Trust is asking readers to show their support for the proposed cycleway by joining their Campaign Ride. Whether you are a keen cyclist, a novice, a family with children, or just a motorist who would prefer to see cycles off the road and on their own separate route there is a role you can play or simply show your support on our website by registering or donating.

Campaign Ride:

The campaign ride, on the morning of Saturday 18th May, will show support for a dedicated, safe, off-highway cycleway all the way up the valley from Derby to Chatsworth and connecting to the High Peak Trail and the Monsal Trail’s White Peak Loop to Buxton.

Experienced riders are asked to cycle up the A6 from Derby University to Matlock to highlight the lack of alternative provision for cycles up and through our World Heritage Site.

On the same morning we are organising an alternative campaign ride from Rowsley to Matlock for families, and less experienced cyclists, along the only section of separate safe cycleway, to highlight what can be achieved and how the extension of this south to Derby and north to Chatsworth would provide such a popular facility for visitors, tourist, and commuters within the valley.

Both rides will meet up in Hall Leys Park Matlock, where in addition to a presentation and group photo, there’ll be a safe compound for bikes, competitions for silly cycle hats, generating energy on a bike, and penalty shoot-outs. There will be a brass band and a pop duo, a hog roast and other refreshments, plus the existing play facilities and miniature railway. Families will be able to return to Rowsley Via Peak Rail’s Steam Railway with a discounted ticket if they wish.

Registration for riders and volunteers is now open so sign up now at

Picture caption: Richard Thoday on the Penny Farthing

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