Nov 13, 2010


Derbyshire boasts many a cafe and teashop. This was the spread at the Tea Gardens at Lea Gardens recently. I treated myself to a cupcake and a cappucino. They were delicious.

However, on that day, I learned something important about cupcakes. There was a car parked outside the entrance to the gardens blocking the single track lane completely while it was being loaded up with plants.
This was no problem, but while I was waiting for the car to move, I looked in the vanity mirror, which I don't do very often. What did I see? Glitter. Lots of it, all over my face.
Which just goes to show, never eat a cupcake that has glitter on it if you want to deny the indulgence afterwards.

Nov 11, 2010


A barrow full of beautiful cooking apples were left at the entrance of the nearby farm.
Combined with the blackberries from the hedgerows, now languishing tantalisingly in our freezer, free puds for the months ahead.

Sep 20, 2010


In north Derbyshire there is the small market town of Clay Cross. It's not by any means a pretty place but from Monday to Saturday it is bustling with activity.

This is shortly going to change. Clay Cross is being regenerated. This means that a huge new Tesco supermarket is being built in the middle of the town adjascent to the existing main shopping street. There will be a new road into the town that takes you right to the new Tesco front door and the main carpark will be........Tesco's car park.

They are building a new bus terminus. At the moment, buses stop on the road alongside the shops. The new bus terminus will be ............right outside Tesco.

At the moment you can get everything you could possibly want in Clay Cross. The selection may not be as up-market as in posher towns but you would not starve or go short of anything you need if you only ever shopped there. There are butchers, greengrocers, bakers, pharmacies, opticains, a card shop, pet shop, electrical shop and much more. These are all the items that will be sold by Tesco.

The new store will be huge. It must be to house all the "departments" advertised on the fences around the site. The fact that there will be a pharmacy and an opticians means that the floor space must be enormous to house all these things as well as the groceries.

I don't give much for the chances of the current shops in Clay Cross. This has happened before, notably in Staveley, where most of the shops disappeared one by one soon after Morrisons arrived in the early eighties. Pretty soon, all that will be left in Clay Cross will be betting shops, charity shops and hairdressers, everything else being wiped out by Tesco. The excellent wool and craft shop, along with a few other miscellaneous businesses, might survive if they can grab enough passing trade to keep going.

The question is, is this what people really want? Do they prefer the one-stop shopping experience to the old fashioned idea of going from shop to shop to buy the things they need? Are they looking forward to having the range of goods that Tesco will stock? Once Tesco completes it stranglehold on Clay Cross they will have no choice.

Another question is, how many Tescos do we really need? If you go for 5 miles from Clay Cross in either direction on the A61 you will find two other Tesco stores and a Sainsbury. There is a third Tesco 12 miles away at Clowne and several Tesco Express shops dotted here and there.

It would have been really nice to see a genuine regeneration of Clay Cross. Some of the existing shops are in premises that would definitely benefit from a face-lift. If half of them are still there in two years' time I will be very surprised. The regeneration scheme proposed some new retail properties behind the new store but where this has been done in other towns, they have not succeeded due to lack of trade.

They might as well take down the Clay Cross town sign and rename it now - Tesco Town.

Sep 19, 2010


Last Sunday we decided to go to Hayfield Show. There would be sheep-dog trials, a farmers' market, craft stalls and trade stalls, plus other attractions.

Hayfield is between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Glossop. It was drizzling on and off in the morning but the sun was making an effort to shine. So we packed our waterproof coats, umbrella, dog, flask and sandwiches in the car and set off for what would be a fifty minute drive, according to Google.

Wet and dreary weather in Derbyshire.

Before long we were reminded of why we don't drive around in Derbyshire on a Sunday any more. Along the whole of our route there was an endless stream of cars. Goodness knows what it would have been like if the sun was shining and the rain had not put some people off. The drizzle turned to proper rain but we fought our way through the villages, negociating the numerous cycists, horse-riders and walkers that had braved the weather and got to Hayfield in just over an hour. Only to find that the event had been cancelled due to the weather.

These horses looked as miserable as we felt, just waiting for the rain to stop.

Still, at least it had saved us the £6 each entrance fee, plus the parking fee. At events like this you have parted with almost twenty quid before you have set foot in the mud.

Not being too keen to pay the parking charge in the middle of Hayfield, we set off towards Glossop in search of a quiet lay-by where we could eat our packed lunch before we came home.

Sitting in a lay-by, listening to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof and the continuous splash of cars passing by, I was reminded of many a miserable day out in my childhood. The whole family would go out for the day in our Sunday best, and , determined to enjoy ourselves in spite of the weather, would sit in a lay-by somewhere to eat our sandwiches and home-made jam tarts. Then we would go home, having seen nothing but rain on the car windows and dry-stone walls passing by. In those days, there was infinitely less traffic but the weather was just as bad.

Last Sunday we passed lots of things that I would have liked to have photographed for the blog. Except that it was impossible to stop anywhere. There was hardly anywhere to pull in off the road that wasn't already stuffed full of cars or where you had to pay. There were white and yellow lines all along the road and the continuous traffic made a quick stop to snap a picture out of the question.

Eventually we spotted a deserted place to park with some kind of a view worth photographing. We had to go a mile or so further on before we could safely turn round and go back to it. The pull-in had a nice view of a waterfall, pot-holes, bags of old rubbish and bottles. The view down the hillside was obscured by the mist and rain.

A waterfall, somewhere near Glossop.

We got Lulu out of the car for a short walk on the lead, then headed on towards Glossop and continued on our circular route home. We fought our way between the parked cars that litter the streets of Glossop - whose terraced houses were built long before each household had two cars - then along the A57 towards Ladybower. It was very slow going. Even in the week it's not much quicker due to the enormous lorries picking their way along the twisty and narow road. That's if it's not closed altogether due to snow or to some hapless motorist having to be scraped off the road after trying to overtake one of the lorries before being taken away by the air ambulance.

Lulu was quite happy to get back into the car.

Towards the top of Ladybower reservoir we found another lay-by with a space so another photo opportunity presented itself, so long as I was happy to sprint across the road between the cars and peer into the mist.

Ladybower Reservoir.

It was a day when we definitely did not see Derbyshire at its best. It is always a battle with the traffic at weekends and we are plagued with signs every few yards telling us what we can and can't do. No stopping here, no parking there, look out for bikes and horses, take your litter home. All the roads we used had a 50 mph speed limit and lots of speed cameras. Not that we like to speed but we just hate the fact that the traffic is so bad that all this stuff has to be there.

Surely, the people who dump rubbish in the countryside already know that they shouldn't.

It's all so different from how I remember it until even 15 years ago, when moving about in the county was much easier and you didn't have to pay through the nose to park the car or have a cup of tea.

The thing I don't understand is, if they have to load the van with rubbish and drive out into the countryside, why don't they just take it to the tip? It's probably nearer.

It's also completely different in France. Moving around rural France is an absolute joy compared to Derbyshire. The traffic is lighter. The roadsides are neat and well-tended. It is most unusual to find rubbish dumped in the hedgerows or by the road, unless it's next to a bin that hasn't been emptied yet. You rarely have to pay to park the car and there is usually no entrance fee for the events.

Sometimes I find it really hard to love the place I live.

Sep 10, 2010


Some photos taken on a walk in Derbyshire at the end of August.

I love this time of year, when the days are shortening, the sun is more mellow and the blackberries have arrived.

Aug 16, 2010


The weather in Derbyshire is challenging and difficult to predict.
There are some ancient and very curious ways of forecasting it.
I came across this one at Milltown, near Ashover.

It's called the Milltown Weather Stone.

You can't argue with that, can you ?

Jul 28, 2010


When I was a child, every summer the whole family would go for a day out to visit the well dressings somewhere in Derbyshire. It was something I enjoyed and looked forward to, mostly because it involved a cream tea at some point. It wasn't until I was grown up that I realised not everybody has well dressings.

Wells are dressed by creating pictures or scenes out of petals, leaves, twigs and other natural things such as wool and string. These are pushed into wet clay and it is quite an acquired skill. Volunteers will spend many hours working hard to get the picture finished on time, often working through the night in shifts. The whole thing is mounted on a framework and this is erected at the site of the village well (or at several wells in one village).

Originally the purpose was a pagan tradition to give thanks for pure water. Nowadays the custom is carried on with a religious theme. There is usually a service in the village church for the blessing of the well when the dressing is erected and it will stay in place for about a week. After that the components deteriorate and the structure is taken down.

There are now many more villages doing this than when I was a child. From May until September you can find at least one village every week that has its well dressings on display. It is also a great attraction for tourists to the county.

Usually there will be several well dressings in each village and some other kind of entertainment going on; typically, at the very least there will be refreshments and craft sales in the village hall.

If you would like to read more about well dressing try here and a list of the villages that have well dressings this year can be found here.

May 11, 2010


There are many peculiar buildings or structures in Derbyshire. Crich Stand is one of them.

It is actually a lighthouse, built on a hill above the village of Crich. The light from the tower sweeps over the surrounding villages at night.

Crich is a pretty village of stone houses, typical of many of the villages around where I lived as a child. Back then I took it all for granted and it never occurred to me that one day these places would become popular with tourists and holidaymakers. I do remember vaguely walking up to the tower with my parents and grandmother and having a picnic on the grass. You are not allowed to do that now. The view over Derbyshire from the tower is superb.

The structure is actually a war memorial, built in 1923 to honour those from the local regiment, the Sherwood Foresters, who fell in the Great War, then later also dedicated to those lost in the Second World War and other conflicts since.

The name Crich is often pronounced incorrectly by those who don't know the area. It makes me chuckle when you hear it on the news, pronounced as if it were "critch". The correct way is to pronounce the "i" as if it were "eye".

Crich has another popular attraction, the tram museum. I always wanted an excuse for another ride on the lovely old trams - maybe later this summer !

May 7, 2010


I could have started my new blog with a post about one of the more famous and glamorous houses in Derbyshire; Chatsworth maybe, or Kedleston or Hardwick. These places are lavishly maintained and attract thousands of visitors every year.

Instead I decided to go with one that few people have heard of. It's a sad place, allowed to fall into ruin in the 2oth century. It attracts only a few visitors, there are no tearooms or gift shops and no-one there to collect an entrance fee.

It was built in 1724 for Nicholas, 4th Earl of Scarsdale and was sold to settle his debts. Two centuries later, its contents were stripped and sold to an American buyer in 1920. After that it was just left to decay, roofless. It is now in the care of English Heritage. It's style is reminiscent of Chatsworth, on a much smaller scale but I bet it was really something in its day.

It stands in a grand elevated position above a wide valley, across the other side of which is Bolsover Castle, also owned by English Heritage and which has been beautifully restored. There is no chance of that for Scarsdale as it is too far gone I fear. Even so, it is a lovely place to visit and wander round inside and out, imagining how life was when it was in its heyday.

The M1 motorway slices along the bottom of the valley between the two great houses. You can see Scarsdale from the motorway and I often wondered what it was. It is only recently that I started to visit it regularly. Lulu and I usually have it all to ourselves and she loves sniffing around inside the ruins of the grand rooms and then running about outside where the gardens would have been.

Not that long ago I stood at the back of the house and watched the endless stream of huge lorries travelling north and south along the mile of the M1 that you can see from Scarsdale. I thought to myself how pointless they seemed, carting cheap foreign rubbish for our shopping centres and then going back for more. I wondered what the Earl of Scarsdale and his fine guests would have made of it if they could have joined me there in the afternoon sunshine.


Bolsover Castle

A while ago I decided that one day I would start a blog about Derbyshire. Today is the day.

The hills above Castleton in winter.

I was born and bred in a small Derbyshire village. As a teenager I thought life in my village was really boring and longed to move away. So I spent most of my twenties in Yorkshire, firstly in the city then in the countryside where I felt more comfortable. But not completely at home.

Ashover village.

After eight years away, I moved back to Derbyshire and I wondered why I had ever wanted to leave. Yorkshire is beautiful too, but for myself I much preferred the softness of the Derbyshire hills to the drama of the Yorkshire countryside and the grim greyness of its towns.

Near Milltown in the parish of Ashover.

So here I am with another excuse not to finish the ironing and to get out and about with my camera. I hope you like it.