This is Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire. I am resurrecting, rejuvenating, no longer ignoring my Derbyshire blog and this is the start of that process.
We now spend a lot of time in rural France and our bit of France is very much like Derbyshire, lovely hills, rivers, valleys and villages. Having returned home from a long spell in France I couldn’t help but be aware of some major differences between the two places we have chosen as our homes.
First of all – the traffic. Everywhere here is so incredibly busy and drivers are much less careful and considerate than in France.
Second – the litter. Here the hedgerows and lanes are littered with rubbish whereas in our little corner of France it is rarely seen.
Third – and this upsets me most – how rude Derbyshire people are. You see it in every activity, every day. Drivers are aggressive and inconsiderate. Supermarket staff are unhelpful and indifferent. Shoppers are arrogant, pushing and shoving their way past other people. What ever happened to manners? In France we rarely encounter rudeness. Polite indifference occasionally but generally people treat each other with respect and they have good manners.
Within an hour of arriving home from France I had an experience which upset me a lot. We took our dog Lulu in the car to one of our favourite walks. Driving along a narrow lane we met a horse box coming the other way. The lane is wide enough for two cars to pass comfortably but this horse box was far too wide to pass anything. I dived as close to the hedge as I dare, not wanting to damage the car wheels on any rocks in the gutter and not wanting to scratch the side on branches of trees.
The horse box came to a halt and the female driver leaned out of the window and said “do you think you could reverse back a bit?” The word please did not come into it. So I reversed rather gingerly, as did the cars behind me, to get to a wider bit of the lane. As I reversed the horse box continued to drive forwards and I could see the lights sticking out of the side getting closer to my car. I looked up at the driver but she looking ahead, not at my car, so I sounded the horn.
She stopped and looked down at me with one of those looks that can only be described as a sneer or a smirk, curling her lip as if in disgust. A male voice from inside the cab said “ silly cow, there’s loads of room. Silly cow.”
So these people had brought a horse box down a lane where they knew it could not pass other vehicles, I had reversed back to make way for them and they called me a silly cow when I showed that I was concerned about it. Why couldn’t they have shown me some gratitude and respect, and said something like “don’t worry love, there’s plenty of room”? There’s a world of difference.
As we drove on to our destination I was feeling bruised and upset. “Welcome home Jean, I thought, welcome home.”
I can hardly believe that, having lived in Derbyshire for most of my life, and being National Trust members for over twenty years, I have never been to the Longshaw Estate until this year.
My friend Ruth, who now lives in Devon, came on a visit to Yorkshire to catch up with her friends and colleagues and hired a small cottage north of Sheffield for a couple of weeks. She brought her little dog Charlie with her. She suggested meeting at Longshaw as a half way point, having a walk and lunch at the estate tearooms.
I was almost embarrassed to admit I had never been there before! And I now realised I had been missing out. Except that in previous years we would probably have only been able to visit at a weekend, when, being so near to both Sheffield and Chesterfield, it would undoubtedly be heaving with visitors.
On a Tuesday morning in early June we had it pretty much to ourselves, although the tearoom was busy by the time we got there. We rarely go to the popular tourist spots at weekends these days – doing battle with the crowds is something neither of us enjoys any more. Now we are retired we can do our visiting during the week when the hordes are at work and their children at school. Much more pleasant.
It was a rather chilly day for mid June. We all wore fleece jackets and were glad of them. The temperature seemed to be several degrees cooler than in Chesterfield. The trees and plants also looked much further behind than at home, more like you would expect in the middle of May. Which is one of the reasons that life was tougher for people living up on the moors – spring and summer come later, winter is longer and the weather is generally cooler and wetter.
Three quarters of the way round on our walk we stopped for an ice cream and sat on a bench to enjoy the view. It takes more than a cool wind to put us Derbyshire (and Yorkshire) folk off our ice creams !!
The rhododendrons were in full bloom around the estate and provided a fabulous back drop of purple colour. That in itself was interesting because the rhododendrons at Lea were already past their best by that week.
It was lovely to meet up with Ruth again. It’s ten years since we actually met face to face but she’s one of those people with whom you can ease into a conversation just as if you last met yesterday. I hope it’s not ten years before we get together again and we plan to visit her in Devon later this year if we can arrange it. And we will certainly be visiting Longshaw again soon. It’s a beautiful place and now that we are free to do what we want mid week it’s on our list of places to go for a stroll and a picnic.
Steam trains have always fascinated me, which is lucky considering the number of Sundays and Bank Holidays we spent visiting steam railways up and down the country as a family. My dad was very much into steam and in fact has built several his own steam engines in his garden shed. Models of course!
So on Bank Holiday Monday, after our trip to the Well Dressings, we headed off through the Derbyshire villages to somewhere where we knew we would be able to get a cup of tea - the buffet car on platform two of the railway station at Wirksworth.
Unlike in France, dogs are rarely allowed in restaurants and cafés in the UK, so we took our steaming mugs of tea and sheltered from the drizzly rain on the platform.
The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway is one of the many railway societies up and down the country run by volunteers and donations. It operates a mainly tourist service along a few miles of line between Wirksworth and Duffield which is very popular. You can read all about it here.
When I was a little girl in the 1950’s we often travelled by steam train, regularly getting the bus to Cromford station and then the train to Derby for a day out shopping. When my dad was in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm the steam train from Cromford would be the first stage in very long journeys by rail to Scotland or Northern Ireland to the Naval base. We lived in the “married quarters” near to the base.
The railway station at Cromford was also a favourite destination for me and my male cousins to go on our bicycles in the school holidays, messing about on the platform and standing on the footbridge as the trains came and went, tolerated by the station manager, so long as we didn’t get in the way.
In my twenties I was a member of the Middleton Railway Society near Leeds and actually got to ride the footplate and assist in driving shunting engines – as close as I would ever get to driving a steam engine by myself!
So it was on platform one at Wirksworth that I had to go and “spend a penny”. Otherwise known as “going to the ladies”. The original ladies loo would often be engaged and a queue would form at busy times hence the following little notice fixed to the old post box.