The Derbyshire Dales
The Derbyshire Dales
The Derbyshire Dales
Places to Visit by Car or Coach
Ashbourne is a small market town close to Dovedale and Izaak Walton country, on the southern edge of the Peak District National Park. Some lovely Georgian and Regency houses, a cobbled, triangular marketplace, and the sign for the Green Man and Black’s Head inn stretches right across the road. It is famed for its gingerbread and its annual Shrove Tuesday football match between the ‘Up’ards’ and ‘Down’ards’. There are no rules, but the goals are 3 miles apart, the walls of Clifton Mill at one end, and those of Sturston Mill at the other. The game is rough, raucous, and boisterous. The town of Ashbourne itself is none of those things, it is a most gentle place. It has what was probably the first rhyming epitaph which is to Sir Thomas Cockayne, ‘And did his house and name restore, Which others have decayed before’. Nearby are the thatched cottages at Osmaston, Parwich and Fenny Bentley where, in St Edward’s Church, you can see the monument to Thomas Beresford, his wife and twenty-one children, all carved in alabaster in their shrouds.
Dovedale is very close to Ashbourne and was a favourite haunt of Izaak Walton. If you drive down to the car park at Dovedale, as I did, you will wonder what all the fuss is about. Is this really the ‘Little Switzerland’ you have heard so much about? At weekends and Bank Holidays the car park is filled to over-flowing, and the only refreshment is from an ice-cream van and an unprepossessing coffee and biscuit trailer, so be advised to take your own. Do not be put off by your first impressions, get out and walk and very soon you will come to know why Dovedale has its special reputation. One of the beauty spots of the Dales: rocky cliffs. gnarled and twisted, reach up from the grass floor, grey-white pinnacles of limestone are grouped above you. The Twelve Apostles, the sharpened 11am Rock, Lover’s Leap and Lion’s Head Rock, which from one side resembles a lion with a rough mane, and down below them the river trickles along – ‘the finest river that ever I saw and the fullest of fish’, wrote Izaak Walton in the seventeenth century.
To miss the crowds try walking the Dove past Lode Mills and Irons Tors to Wolfscote Dale. Charles Cotton lived at Beresford Hall, now a ruin, in Beresford Dale and his famous Fishing Temple is still there.
Matlock and Matlock Bath (served by a branch line) have been turned into a popular inland resort with their fair share of ‘attractions’ from the Heights of Abraham Cable Car Rides to Gulliver’s Kingdom and Royal Cave, and Dales scenery is pretty stunning around Matlock and through the wooded Derwent Valley. There is also a mining museum, waxworks, pleasure gardens, fairground, a petrifying well, amusement arcades and Riber Castle, a ruin, on the hill overlooking everything.
Cromford is just along the road and it was here that Richard Arkwright drew on the local labour to work at his water-driven cotton mill, the first mechanised textile factory in the world. At Cromford are the rows of cottages he built for his workers to live in.
Crich has a marvellous Tramway Museum built in an old quarry which has a workshop, a resident tram-pulling mare and a wonderful atmosphere. Bakewell is a warmly welcoming, small market town, much of it medieval. You will not leave without being made well aware of the fact that what for years you have believed to be a Bakewell tart has nothing in common with the local Bakewell puddings which were ‘invented’ by a cook, some say a kitchen maid, misunderstanding the orders of Mrs Greaves, the mistress of the hotel. Instead of stirring the egg mixture into the pastry and topping the tart off with jam, she did it the other way round. Ever since 1859 the resulting pudding has been sold in the shop which lets you know that is THE ORIGINAL!
Eyam is conscious of its place in history as the village which cut itself off from the rest of the country when it was infested by the Great Plague of 1665-6. The story of Eyam is one of heroism, nothing short of that, by the vicar, William Mompesson, who completely isolated the village to prevent the infection spreading across the country. The Pulpit Rock is where he preached, the names of the victims are recorded on plaques by the doors of the Plague Cottages. You can walk along the village streets and learn the remarkable story of a remarkable man and his people. At the end of August each year a commemoration service is held before the Well Dressing.
There are great houses to visit such as Chatsworth, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Haddon Hall which is one of the most complete and authentic examples of a medieval manorial home in England, and Sudbury Hall, a National Trust building with a children’s museum with all manner of toys and playthings.