Trails providing a range of opportunities in the Peak District National Park are playing host to more than half a million visits each year from walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Data revealed by the National Park Authority recorded 519,000 visits across key routes including the Monsal Trail, Tissington, Manifold and High Peak trails.
A number of the popular ‘multi-user’ routes managed by the Peak District National Park Authority follow former railway lines, which were closed during the 1950s and 1960s.
These routes were opened for visitors from the 1980s onwards, although safety challenges meant that key tunnels on sections of the Monsal Trail, were only made accessible from 2011.
Often with relatively modest inclines due to their railway heritage, these trails have proved increasingly popular with families and those with limited mobility, with cycle hire facilities at Parsley Hay and Ashbourne now offering a wide range of mobility equipment for visitors to hire.
More than half of visitor movements analysed – 330,000 – made use of the Monsal Trail, running from Bakewell to Blackwell Mill.
The High Peak, Tissington and Upper Derwent routes consistently attracted in excess of 50,000 visits a year.
Sensor technology used in electronic counters is able to detect both walkers and cycles separately, allowing a detailed breakdown of the visitor profile. More recent additions include a horse-rider counter on the High Peak Trail, which forms part of the Pennine Bridleway.
Emma Stone, head of visitor experience development at the Peak District National Park said: “These latest figures show just how important the National Park’s multi-user trails are to our millions of visitors.
“For many, a day’s bike ride with the family or exploring the wildlife and heritage alongside the trails is their first taste of the Peak District, and the accessibility of many of these routes makes them even more valuable for those who live within our neighbouring towns and cities.
“We are continuing to invest in facilities – such as the current renovations at Millers Dale station – and also looking at how we manage the trails with their ‘environmental footprint’ in mind, such as using sustainable and recycled surfacing materials.
“For the last five years, we’ve also been undertaking special mowing and grazing regimes which keep the route safe and practical to use, whilst ensuring that wildflowers and native grasses can also flourish to support wildlife.”
Traffic-free trails are ideal for families.
Improvements to over a mile of the Tissington Trail are expected to re-open in February, with the Millers Dale station café and information point set to open in Spring. A further £600,000 is to be spent on essential repairs to iconic structures along the Monsal, Tissington and High Peak trails.