It was a sight to behold, Richard Thoday, Britain’s leading Penny Farthing cyclist, leading a line of green clad cyclists up the Derwent Valley. It was all in support of a campaign to create a dedicated off-highway cycle route through the valley, alongside the River Derwent from Derby to Chatsworth and beyond.
Around a hundred experienced cyclists set off on Saturday morning, all wearing green #DERWENTVALLEYCYCLESAFE T-shirts, from Derby University’s Kedleston Road campus, with a TV news crew filming them. Shoppers at Park Farm were surprised to see them, many of whom were wearing silly helmet covers to show that they cycle for fun as well as fitness, wending their way through Allestree to join the A6 close to Allestree Park and onward up to Matlock.
Organised by the charity, Derwent Valley Trust, these cyclists had to be experienced, because the only current route available up the valley is along the very busy A6 trunk road. Care was taken not to upset car drivers and other vehicles along the route, many of whom waved in support, as it would be better for them too if there was an alternative route for bikes, both leisure and commuting.
At the same time, around 50 family and inexperienced riders cycled down the only section of cycleway so far constructed, between Rowsley and Matlock – the only section in the valley safe for them to cycle along – to meet with the Derby riders in Hall Leys Park by the river in Matlock. There they gathered in festive mood around the bandstand, munching on hog roast, where ‘The Saxaphones’ were playing. They were joined by Pauline Latham MP and Emma McLarkin MEP who supported the case for the cycleway and presented this to Leader of Derbyshire County Council, Barry Lewis. They urged the County to treat the creation of the cycleway as a high priority for funding from government. Barry explained that shortage of staffing resources to prepare the complex bids necessary prevented the County from responding immediately, but promised to support the realisation of the Derwent Valley Cycleway wherever possible.
Derek Latham, Chair of the Trust explained, “The Derwent Valley Cycleway will benefit commuters into Derby from Belper, Milford, Duffield, Little Eaton and Allestree, as well as leisure riders and visitors to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. It is not only much safer to cycle off-highway, but it reduces carbon and, through good personal health and fitness, reduces obesity too. In fact Derby City Council calculated the costs benefits of construction the Derwent Valley Way to be nearly 5 times the investment! – a very good return on taxpayers money!
“The ultimate aim”, said Derek “ is to create a safe cycle route all the way from Shardlow, by the Trent, up to the Howden reservoir in the Peak District, and then a safe leisure canoe route down the beautiful Derwent River, seeing and understanding, from the water as they pass by, the role the river played in creating Chatsworth and the Derwent Mills. A truly world class tourist experience requiring participants to stay and eat in places along the route and strengthening the tourist economy of the valley.”
The city council are to construct the first section linking the Silk Mill with Darley Abbey Mills via Darley Park later this year. And The Derwent Valley Trust have been awarded a grant of £1m from Highways England Discretionary Fund to construct, with the agreement of landowners, the section from Darley Abbey alongside the river to Little Eaton. The Trust will also be applying for funding from the same source to extend the route up to Duffield. It now remains for the County Council to seek the funding from Government to continue the route from Duffield to Matlock.
To find out more visit www.derwentvalleycycleway.org.uk
Header photo: The riders in Hall Leys Park, Matlock