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Derbyshire & the Peak District

May 1999


 We visited the Peak district during half term and stayed in a Hoseasons Lodge at Darwin Country Park. The picture above shows 'Mam Tor' on Lose Hill Ridge. This ridge of hills rises between Castleton and Edale and is almost four miles long. This view is taken from Mam Tor looking out towards Black Tor and Lose Hill with Win Hill just visible on the far horizon. This ridge divides grit-stone from limestone country and is unique in the Peak District. This area is very popular with walkers. The holiday park was very secluded and had a small indoor pool, mini-golf, a field for football and a pub/restaurant with a games room full of slot machines and table football. The downside was the pool policy for all children to be accompanied by an adult unless they were over 14! This was a pain as I thought this holiday would be one where the twins could go off on their own and have some independence from Dan and I and swimming was something they have always enjoyed on other holidays with no supervision as they are both competent. Adults had to sit at the poolside and as it was indoors and heated you got really hot and sweaty unless you were in your costume! Needless to say, I soon began to swim with them, which defeated the objective somewhat.

The wooden type chalet we hired was really nice but rather cramped in the twins bedroom. It did have a nice kitchen and lounge area though so you really felt as if you were in a home rather than a hotel or guest house. Its also a lot cheaper to cook sometimes rather than always eating out.

The weather was not very kind to us but we did have some nice days without rain so we visited the town of Matlock Bath in Derbyshire. This is a good destination for souvenir shopping and just walking around 'people watching' and having cream teas. The River Derwent also runs through Matlock Bath which is positioned at the bottom of a steep valley. There are some nice walks along the river and a few pubs can be found where you can sit outside and eat lunch while the river runs lazily along beside you. It's very pleasant if the weather is with you, which it was for us.   

There is also a cable car you ride up to the top of the Heights of Abraham. Here are Robyn and I arriving at the cable car station. You had to jump on as the cars were continually moving, a bit like the ones at Needles Point on the Isle of Wight, except that these went higher and had doors whereas the others were like a swing with a chain across!
As you ascend, the view from the cable car to your right takes in the River Derwent and surrounding environs. The whole area is really a gorge cut out of the rockface. The view to the left looks towards High Tor, a big limestone rock escarpment on the side of the gorge. The view from the summit area of the tor is very impressive, all the more so because the cliff edge is totally unfenced and even those with a head for heights are likely to find the drop unnerving. For those with strong nerves a narrow walkway called 'Giddy Ledge' winds around a section of the cliff and even though this is not the highest buttress of the tor, the situation is impressive. Behind the tor summit are Fern and Roman caves, deep clefts in the rock which are not natural caves but lead veins which have been worked to a depth of up to 10 metres and a width of between one and two metres. These workings are un-dateable but are probably among the oldest in the area and may even be Roman in origin.

When you get to the top of the Heights of Abraham there is a park area and restaurant where you can sit and have a coke or ice-cream and look out across the valley. Or, if you're like me, you can soak up the late morning rays in case that's all you get that day! This is the actual view looking straight down the valley. It was very scenic and gave the impression that you were much higher up than you actually were. It was also very peaceful as there was not much tourist traffic. This was especially strange as it was May Bank Holiday weekend. Perhaps  everyone had gone 'down south'!

Robyn and Ben had nice cool drinks before setting off to enjoy the rest of the park area, but first stop was the gift shop!

Here's Dan taking a break at the top of the cable car station. These wooden seats overlooked the view of Riber Castle and gave you a great platform for photo shots right down this side of the valley. So everyone whipped out their cameras and snapped away, apart from Ben that is who does not like using cameras!

And here are the remains of Riber Castle which can be seen in the distance.
Riber Castle is not very old. It was originally built in 1862 by John Smedley but now the whole area including the castle ruins is home to a wildlife park. I guess John Smedley must have gone bust or something!

Talking about going bust, the latest link I have to this site now informs me that this whole area, wildlife park and all, was closed in 2000 and has now been sold off to developers!
Perhaps they will renovate the old ruined castle shell and build luxury apartments for the rich and famous. Or they could just build 'little boxes on the hillside' which seems to be happening all over the U.K. at present.

 

Those seats were also a great place for taking a nap, eating your sandwiches or just generally having fun. This is the sort of shot only a dentist usually sees. Good job there were no low flying birds around!

The park area has some nice amenities and amusements for children and if you choose to walk down there are slides along the way so that the young at heart can have fun. Robyn and Ben tried out these slides which went part of the way down. They gave their approval, especially to the very long slide seen here.

There was just enough time for a quick cuddle........... 

  

 

 

 

 

and an ice-cream, before we descended the very steep path which would take us back to the valley floor and into the gift shops of Matlock Bath.

The rest of the way down we sang silly songs to keep ourselves amused. Finally we reached the bottom and decided to find a nice pub along the river where we could have lunch and perhaps watch the world go by for a few hours.

Another visit took us to Chatsworth House which is the family home or 'seat' as we say in the U.K. of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. This is a fabulous place and the grounds are huge and absolutely stunning. You would have trouble seeing it all in a day so we didn't try. 

We simplified our visit to the some of the grounds, part of the house and the small home farm. We were lucky to see some new babies at the farm including piglets, lambs and foals.

 

Here we are leaving Chatsworth House after a great day out. We were very tired at the end of the day but it really is worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Derbyshire. Just give yourself lots of time to see everything!

On another rainy day we visited the Museum of Childhood at Sudbury Hall. The house and grounds would have been worth seeing even if they didn't have the Museum there. There was an old barn which they had converted into a gift and tea shop but because it was raining heavily it spoiled walking in the grounds and all exploring had to be done indoors. Here are a few shots outside. Robyn is being her shy self as usual!

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The museum and hall are now run by the National Trust and it is very interesting especially if you take the small tour offered. There are some really old children's toys on display and they have a complete Victorian schoolroom which is shown below. Very different from any I have taught in  I can tell you, although Milbourne Lodge would come close. That was a great place for traditional values and classrooms. I miss being there.

They have a tradition in the towns in this area of Derbyshire which is called 'Well Dressing'. Every year all the wells are decorated with pictures made of flowers and other natural objects and then they vote which town has the best dressed well. This tradition can only be found in the Peak district and it has its origins in Celtic mythology as a form of thanksgiving for the gift of water, especially in times of drought. Many tourists come to see the colourful displays of 'dressed wells' during the summer months.

This picture shows one of the six wells that are dressed annually at Tissington which is considered to be the original village where this custom started  The festival usually starts there  on Ascension Sunday and continues throughout the area until Autumn. This well is aptly called 'Coffin Well'. Apparently, there were only five wells in Tissington until 1980 but then Granada Television wanted to make a documentary about how these wells are made so they decided to make a 'Children's Well' so now every year there are six.

This queue was for 'fish and chips' in the town of Bakewell! I had quite forgotten how traditional they are up in the North. We didn't partake as we were not hungry at the time, but perhaps we should have done, just for old times sake. I haven't had a fish and chip supper since May 1997 when we visited Bude in North Cornwall. 

Talking about Bude and the West Country, this picture of 'Noe Stool' on Kinder Scout in the Peak District really reminds me of 'Rough Tor' on Bodmin Moor. These places always look so desolate and cold but they are always worth a visit especially when you need some solitude and quiet.

So as we prepared to say goodbye to Derbyshire and the Peak District, we took one last parting shot. In the Midlands you see sheep and lambs everywhere; in the fields, on grass verges, along the sides of the motorway, but these little creatures never fail to make you let out a big ahhhhhhhhh.

The twins really enjoyed this half term. They had never been 'up north' before and it was a pleasant place to visit with lots to do and see and nice friendly people who always said good-morning to you.........not like 'down-south' where everyone ignores everyone else. Ah well, that's the price you pay for nicer weather I guess. Anyway, we had a nice May half-term, so until next time.............


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