Microadventure: Local End to End

‘End to End’ is often associated with the larger scale adventure from Land’s End to John O’Groats. But applying the ‘micro’ aspect to this adventure can create a really fun half day, full day or even weekend microadventure in your local surroundings or further afield. Check out some more examples on our microadventure page.

Finding the trail

On a previous microadventure, “27 bridges for 27 years”, we discovered the Cloud Trail. We joined it for a few hundred meters to cross a couple of the bridges before turning around to continue with the microadventure in hand. While making our way back home we discussed the possibility of a new challenge – running the length of the trail and catching the train back some day, presumably once lockdown had lifted.

Since first finding the Cloud Trail, we have completed a few other microadventures that saw us explore the green spaces surrounding our home and find various OS map symbols in and around Derby. With lockdown restrictions being eased, we decided to plan a slightly larger microadventure. A few factors lead to the plan turning out how it did:
– bank holiday weekend (more time for recovery!);
– a long training session;
– lockdown restrictions relaxed;
– some out of date freeze-dried food;
– Gee’s new ultra-running pack; and
– a new trail.

The trail history

After a bit of research, we learnt that the Cloud Trail is a former railway running from Ashby to Derby. The railway initially opened as goods and passenger transport line between Melbourne and Derby. however in the 1930s the passenger trains were stopped due to low volume of traffic. During the war, the southern section of the railway, from Worthington’s Cloud Hill Quarry to Ashby, was used by the Royal Engineers to practice carriage maintenance, the demolition and rebuilding of railways and building of bridges. After the war, lime, limestone and coal were transported along the line from Cloud Hill Quarry and New Lount Colliery meaning that the southern-most section of track to Ashby was no longer needed leading to it being discontinued.

By the 1980s the railway was overgrown which lead to the track being raised between Worthington and the canal. This 10km section is now the Cloud Trail. At the canal, the line would have joined the still present railway between Stenson and Long Eaton. It appears that another fork existed, cutting up from the canal through Chellaston to Pear-Tree. However this line no longer exists either, presumably due to Rolls-Royce and housing developments. The old route is visible on satellite images and is largely accessible, though some detours have to be made.

Adjoining trails

The Canal Path also plays a part in the same piece of Derby’s history. It links up with the Trent & Mersey Canal and follows the in-filled canal to town. The route follows a more easterly path up to Exeter bridge in the middle of Derby. The canal path is approximately 11km making the combined length of the two routes, from Town to Quarry 21km (13mi), as described on sustrans.

We joined the Cow Parsley-lined canal path down to the Trent and Mersey Canal. After 1km we reached Swarkestone Lock and continued along the canal for another 2.5km to reach the start of the Cloud Trail.

The Cloud Trail

Shortly after joining the trail, as predicted by the Met Office, the skies darkened and the rain began. Having seen the forecast (black clouds with 2 drops from 10 – 11) we opted to put our coats on and push on, knowing it’d clear up and become a nice afternoon. The humidity had increased since starting out which made the rain quite refreshing while we ran. It wasn’t particularly heavy, certainly less than forecast but we agreed it was nice to test out our gear.

Perhaps only 20 minutes later, the sun was beaming in full strength again, leaving us with no option but to stop and take them back off. The sun dried the path out quickly but it looked like the rain had caught out plenty of other runners, cyclists and walkers.

Mile markers, signs, posts and even and old station (now house) were still present along the trail. As with most railways turned cycle trails, the paths are long and straight with occasional large-radius bends.

The final section of the route crossed the A42 and runs alongside the quarry, through the woodland. Despite being kept several meters from the edge and the vegetation thickening with spring growth, we caught glimpses of the scale of the quarry and necessity of the railway all those years back. A couple more turns and coming off the Route 6 cycling route, we reached the car park and the start of the Cloud Trail.

End of the trail

So, we had completed our Local End to End micro adventure. We ran 18km to reach the end of the trail – the10km from one end of the Cloud Trail to the other, and 8km just to reach the start. We were super happy to have accidentally discovered this route and chosen to run along it, explore yet more of our local surroundings. But, we knew we had to crack on find a spot to cook up our lunch! We were starving! With a bounce in our step, quite literally, we cut across the countryside for another 4km and found a quiet picnic bench to have lunch and end the run section of our microadventure.

Lunch!

One of the contributing factors that made this a whole day adventure was that we had some un-used freeze-dried meals left over from a trip to the Alps which had gone out of date. We figured there was no harm in eating them, but should probably not leave them for too much longer. Out of Andy’s pack we got the water, Jetboil, Firepot Chili Non-Carne XL meal, and cooked up our meal. We tucked in, starving from our morning’s run of 22.3km!

Walking back home

We packed up lunch and set off with our bellies almost full and Andy’s bag a bit lighter. We walked up the road towards Calke and made our way back through the woodland to Ticknall. From there we headed into the southern end of Robin Wood. We’d previously driven to the wood and walked around, but hadn’t considered walking to it. The wood had a fair few walkers in, all enjoying the shade that the canopy provides.

Taking the correct selection of paths, we navigated to the north-east corner of the woodland. This meant it was a short walk back to Swarkestone to cross the Trent. From here it was an easy and familiar route back home across the fields.

In much need of dinner, Andy ran ahead for the last mile to get home and put the oven on. Feet aching but happy faces, we tucked into a big bowl of pasta after a 41km adventure from our doorstep.


Extra bridge crossings!

An added bonus of the challenge is that we explored further afield and bagged a few more bridges! The top 3 photos were along the trail, though we think we missed a few. Photo 4 is a bridge over the railway we were running on. This section of the railway is sadly overgrown, but perhaps it’ll be made as an extension to the current Cloud Trail. Photo 5 is a small wobbly bridge over a stream at the bottom of some fields we ran across to get to lunch, and photo 6 is the road bridge across one part of Staunton Harold reservoir that we crossed shortly after lunch.

Conclusion

We found this trail by accident. Immediately intrigued, we wanted to learn about its history and explore it. At 10km, or 21km with the old canal path, the trail is short so we decided to use up some of our out-of-date dehydrated meals and make a day of it. We enjoyed our local microadventure, and expected that you can find something similar near you too! Grab an Ordnance Survey map (or OSmaps), make some lunch and head out from your doorstep.

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