“Millers Dale for Tideswell….”
The song starts with Donald Swann singing the names of the first three stations by himself before Michael Flanders joins in later.
Millers Dale for Tideswell (1863-1967) is in the beautiful Peak District National Park and is one of two in the song that is in Derbyshire. It was an important junction on the Midland Railway line between London St Pancras, Derby and Manchester Central. Millers Dale was where passengers from the south changed from their Manchester-bound trains to reach the spa town of Buxton.
It was built, not to serve any significant settlement, but just because the railway needed it as a junction. It opened as plain old “Millers Dale”, but after a while it was linked with the pretty village of Tideswell a few miles to the north.
The station disappeared a year before the line was closed between Chee Dale and Matlock. One of the more controversial of the Beeching proposals, the cut removed an important link between Manchester and Derby and left the large town of Bakewell without a station.
Some of the line down to Chee Dale and most of the Buxton Branch has been retained for the significant freight traffic generated by local quarries. The middle section of track bed between Chee Dale and Bakewell has been converted to the popular Monsal Trail and attracts many cyclists and walkers each year. A section between Matlock and Rowsley (South) has been restored by enthusiasts and now operates as “Peak Rail”.
The X on the map shows the approximate location of the station in relation to the current British Railway network.
On the map below: passenger lines (currently open) are shown in black; freight-only lines (currently open) are shown in red; the Monsal Trail, between Chee Dale and Bakewell, is shown in green; the “Peak Rail” heritage line between Matlock and Rowsley is shown in brown.
The red dot on the map below shows the approximate location of the station in relation to the local area.
Services: Past, Present & Future?
Back in 1962 the station was served by trains roughly every two hours. Manchester was around 50 minutes away and the journey to Derby took about 45 minutes. There were also direct trains to London St Pancras including the Palatine Express which made the journey in 3 hours. There were also about 18 trains a day along the branch line to Buxton (just 10 minutes away). The journey from Buxton to London today involves a detour up to Stockport or a bus to Macclesfield.
Peak Rail has long harboured the ambition to raise enough funds to re-open the whole line between Matlock and Buxton and run it as a heritage operation. Meanwhile another group, MEMRAP , is campaigning to get the whole line opened and restored as a full passenger/freight operation. The line is one of the most prominent of the current “Reversing Beeching” movement.
Hopefully, something will happen one day although it remains to be seen how a modern railway, the steam trains of Peak Rail and the Monsal Trail can all be accommodated.
The station site is a major stop on the Monsal Trail which starts a couple of miles west at Chee Dale and ends around eight miles east just after Bakewell.
There was a car park for the trail at Millers Dale and even early on a Sunday morning in July it was quite full up with cars. The Monsal Trail is well publicised and very popular with visitors to the Peak District.
We found that the station itself was in quite reasonable condition: the platforms had been retained and an old station building on the most northerly one was being used as a café; it was very busy with cyclists and walkers during our visit.
They had put a lot of tables and benches where the old track used to be and people were sitting there, enjoying the sun, and getting ready to set out on walks or cycle rides. We got coffees from the café and sat drinking them on the edge of the old platform.
There was a lot of signage for the Monsal Trail. It was all very tastefully done using a shade of maroon close to the old Midland Railway colours and it was accompanied by information boards that told the story of the old station and featured old photographs of it when it was in its prime.
I always find visiting walking trails on old railway track beds a bit of a bittersweet experience. My visit to Millers Dale was no exception; it was nice to see the old station being preserved and put to a new use, great to see that the track bed was still intact but at the same time very sad not to have trains running through it.
Having made the trip especially, we spent the rest of the day walking almost all the Monsal Trail. We had walked parts of it twenty years ago, but since then all six tunnels on the route had been opened with lighting inside specially for pedestrian use.
We had started at Chee Dale, and there had already been three tunnels to enjoy on the short section before we even reached Millers Dale.
Just to the east of Millers Dale there were incredible double viaducts station with vertiginous drops to the River Wye and the road below.
Later there were three more tunnels of varying lengths.
The amount of civil engineering required to forge the line through this park of the Peak District was pretty awe inspiring. Walking through deep rock cuttings and long tunnels, it was incredible to think that most of the work was done with simple picks and shovels.
Along the way there were incredible vistas to enjoy as well, including one across the valley to Millers Dale itself, another across to Arkwright’s Cressbrook Mill and perhaps the highlight of the whole trip: the view of Monsal Dale from the great viaduct that gives the trail its name.
The trail was incredibly busy with a mixture of cyclists, joggers, and walkers. At Hassop they had opened the old station building as another café and it was doing excellent business with most of the outside tables full of families eating lunch.
We finished our trip, just short of the end of the trail, at Bakewell and then went into the town in search of a reward for walking: a delicious Bakewell Pudding.
Given the considerable distance that the village is from the station, it feels a little cheeky to have referenced it on the name. Yet this kind of thing happened a lot in the 19th century when advertising a connection to the blossoming rail network was extremely important to most settlements.
Tideswell was a pretty Derbyshire village. We had a good walk around. There was a lovely church and several shops and cafes, one of which was producing almost irresistible smells of bacon and another advertising its homemade pork pies.
There was plenty of information on the history of the place too. The local cooperative society window was decorated with a large photograph of how it had looked in the early 20th century and there was a little notice board told the story of the village mentioning, along with its male voice choir, and the station back at Millers Dale.