Maundy Thursday – 13th
We had a pleasant and uneventful trip up, with Paul taking customer calls on the way, as seems customary. The site is just North of Ashbourne – billed as the Southern gateway to the Peak District. We had explored this town on a previous visit to he Peaks and rapidly passed through on our way to Rivendale, our base for the next 4 nights.
Rivendale is set in a disused quarry and we had a pitch right by the children’s play area, which, long ago, we would have loved but as our child days are over we were a tiny bit disappointed. But not enough to complain and so we set up and got the kettle on and had a bit of a relax. The signal here was a bit patchy/non-existent and you can buy WiFi from a 3rd party provider (which we did) but it was pretty slow. It cost around £5 per day and was just about fit for purpose. Our pitch can be seen on the aerial shot below, marked with a red blob:
As you can see, it’s pretty close to the A515, but there was no noise to speak of.
We had passed a pub on the way to the site where they had bragged that they have the best pies in the Peak District. As it was a nice evening, we decided to go for a drive to get our bearings, incorporating a short walk to work up some appetite and then pop and check out the pies.
We came across an impressive embankment made of rocks and a car-parking area for the High Peak Trail, which is a 17.5 mile walking/cycle track. We had stumbled across the Minninglow point of access and so we parked and set off. It was a sunny but chilly evening and the views were pretty good.
The walk didn’t last too long as it was pretty breezy and we were getting peckish, so we set off on a circular route, via Parwich and Alsop en le Dale, to The Bluebell Inn, just outside Tissington. There were some goats in a paddock adjacent to the car park and so we stopped for a quick chat prior to entering the pub. It was warm and pretty busy, with a nice mix of locals and travellers like ourselves. It is also very dog friendly – always a good sign. We were soon seated and looking at the really quite extensive menu. In view of their boast we both chose pies, mine a steak and Stilton and Paul’s a steak and ale. They were richly filled with – a vital pie characteristic in our opinion – both tops AND bottoms. Neither of us care for those pies that are served in a pottery pie dish with just a top. Wrong! But they were off to a good start! The meat was tender and plentiful and both pies were pronounced excellent and we both thought the chips were proper chips (rather than frozen) Unusual these days. We were happy to agree that their pies could very well be the best in the Peak District!
After dinner, we made our way back to the Van, watched a spot of television (pretty good signal, unexpectedly) and retired for the night.
Good Friday – 14th April
Not so good actually, as it was flipping well raining! We thus didn’t rush to get out. Eventually, though, we decided to go to Matlock, via the scenic route. Matlock is a spa town and the County town of Derbyshire and has a very imposing County Hall, located on the site of the former Smedley’s Hydro. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a grander County Hall, to be honest! It really is huge and sumptuous looking and has a very interesting history.
There was a handy M&S Food, so I popped in for a few provisions and emerged with two coffees and some Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns. I had seen them advertised on TV and, frankly I had thought them a rather ridiculous idea. Well how wrong was I? They were delicious and I highly recommend them.
Matlock’s thermal waters were discovered in the late 17th century but they made a wealthy man of John Smedley, who recognised and capitalsied on the benefits of hydrotherapy in the late 19th century. His family home, the very Gothic Riber Castle dominates the skyline above Matlock. It’s huge and he must have made a pretty penny! Driving through the town we also spotted a tuk-tuk, used as an adornment for an Indian restaurant, which we thought was rather cute.
Our next visit was to Bakewell, where we had a walk round the town and bought a pastie each for lunch. Finally, we had seen (online) a scenic drive from Monsal Head to Longstone Edge, so we thought we’d give it a go. I have to say that the instructions weren’t too specific and we may not have done the exact route but the views were pretty rewarding, so we were quite happy – especially when we stopped and had a chat with the cuties below.As we were driving back to the van, I was looking at all the fields, bounded by dry-stone walls and it struck me that the number of hours of labour they had taken to construct must be absolutely vast. They are often really small parcels of land and look pretty amazing on the OS map of the area.
Easter Saturday – 15th April
Today looked like it would be the best day, weather-wise, so this was the day we made our planned trip to Carsington Water with our bikes. A few years earlier, we had visited there and hired bikes, and that trip had inspired my thirst for an electric bike. We now have one each. We had not cycled the whole route that time but were determined to do so this time.
We arrived and parked at the Visitor Centre. It was a fine but blowy day, especially on the exposed high bits of the trail, and we set off. The trail is roughly 8 miles in length and Archie (who will be 15 in July) loved his run. We had to put him in the back-pack from time to time, as there were sheep and also because he is, after all, an old chap!
We all thoroughly enjoyed our ride, and once again wished we had something similar locally, off road and safe with a great surface. Just the job. To celebrate finishing our circumnavigation, we treated ourselves to an ice-cream each. Yes each! For they had Doggy ice-creams, made by Frozzys. Archie thoroughly enjoyed his.
It was tad late for lunch, but we decided we’d toddle off to Wirksworth, which is also known as the “gem of the Peaks”, to see what we could find. Gem of the Peaks? Hmm. Well – it’s a pretty little town but a tad dead on this particular Saturday afternoon and we left empty handed and slightly disappointed. I was interested to see a possibly controversial (these days) pub sign in the Market Square (see picture) and resolved to find some of the history behind it, which can be found here.
Aficionados of 80’s music will smile when I say that this town made me think – somewhat tenuously – of Tom Tom Club’s Wordy Wrappinghood.
After the excitement of Wirksworth, we repaired to van for a beepy and a quiet evening.
Easter Sunday – 18th April
Rain – again. We couldn’t think what to do so we decided to pop up to Buxton, Big mistake! Aside from the fact that it was drizzly Buxton was dead. Most of the shops were shut and the town was full of disconsolate tourists. We had a coffee and beat a hasty!
We decide to go for scenic and took a trip through to Macclesfield Forest and up on to the moors. It was a pleasant drive and must be really lovely on a sunny day. Visibility was not great though. LOL
We dropped down off the top to Leek in search of sustenance but not a lot was open here, either! Remembering that the Caldon Canal terminated in Leek we had a fairly lengthy and ultimately fruitless search for the Canal. It was not our day!
We decided to run for home and the route took us through some very pleasant countryside, especially Shining Tor.
Returning to Rivendale, we popped in to the on-site cafe as we were still peckish and had a couple of toasties. Not bad but not exceptional.
We then went back to the van and had a game of Qbe – a really quite challenging word game. I’ll leave you to guess who won! We later noticed that the day was clearing up and that the sun was making a tentative appearance. Time to ride the Tissington Trail!
We drove to the nearest access point – the former Alsop en le Dale station car park – and set off. Such a lovely ride – as it was evening we only did about 7 kms but thoroughly enjoyed it. Archie again loved it. Such a great resource and some lovely views.
We returned to the van for dinner and spent the evening doing a spot of packing in preparation for a reasonably early start home and watching the box. I had a pretty uncomfortable night as I had tweaked my back coughing. Really annoying and pretty painful.
I spent the long journey home with the heated seat on, which made the pain a bit more bearable. A miserable end to an otherwise enjoyable long weekend. Here’s to the next one at the end of May, when we are Pembrokeshire bound.