Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

Derbyshire: Not Just a Home to the Peak District

Serpentine, Pavillion Gardens, Buxton, Derbyshire, England

Though I have been to outlying places like Buxton and Chesterfield, it has been its portion of the Peak District National Park that has drawn me to exploring Derbyshire's countryside. Its proximity to my home in Macclesfield has meant that it has been where I furthered my experiences of hill walking before my excursions expanded their reach to other parts of the north of England.

To me, the county has a curious location since it feels as if sits outside of the usual English regions. Ostensibly, it is part of the country's east midlands but it also bounds on the northwest and Yorkshire so it adds in characteristics from those areas too. In short, the place is a crossing point between the midlands and north while not feeling part of either.

The character of the place is just as intriguing for it essentially is rural albeit surrounded by major cities like Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester and Sheffield. That makes the place a magnet for those living in those cities but it never feels totally overrun once you get away from traffic pinch points like Bakewell. There are workable public transport links too despite the closure of some of the railways that once passed through the county.

The location and mixture of character almost ensures variety so that should ensure that there is plenty more to be found after all of my explorations there to date. There remains new localities to explore and old favourites should continue to see visits. What you find here should continue to evolve if I can help it.

Surveying Delights

In a lot of ways, Derbyshire may be compact yet finding where to start when coming from further afield still takes some effort. It is one thing to explore what you find on your doorstep one piece at a time like I have been doing but it is another matter when you are planning an itinerary from afar as I have found with my overseas trips. Therefore, I have collected these to help such things along.

The National Park extends into Yorkshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire but Derbyshire is the main focus. After all, it does host most of the area protected by the National Park. Of course, other counties like Cheshire and Staffordshire are getting in on the act too and the Boundary Walk route created by Friends of the Peak District goes through all of them.

Moving away from the matter of geography, these website press all the right buttons when it comes to planning a visit from afar. It makes me wonder how different things might be for me if it wasn't on my doorstep here in Macclesfield. As things stand, I am but one of the hoards of day trippers that pour into the place from time to time. It might be worth staying longer.

These three are bundled together for the reason that they are part of the same visitor information website network. Among them is a city that seems to get overlooked: Derby. Then again, that's not hard to fathom with the countryside that lies to its north.

Places to Linger

Towns and villages ensconced in pleasing countryside offer places to stay and rest a while. For those wanting a more sociable outing, they are often the only places in a honeypot area that are visited. Though that can leave the surrounding countryside free for exploration by those of us seeking quieter places, these more urban spots can be a delight in themselves and that can be said for all the ones you see collected here.

Here are three interesting towns lying only just outside of the national park. Buxton is a former spa town with the architecture and landscaping to match. While I have frequented Buxton many times, Chesterfield is a place that I have only passed through on an indirect journey home but the website does the place justice; a proper visit might be in order. Ashbourne too has seen summary visits from myself, first on a spot of walking reconnaissance and then at the end of a long walk along the Hight Peak and Tissington trails. Like Chesterfield, I reckon that another visit is needed.

Visit Amber Valley

It seems to be me that the Amber Valley lies between the southern reaches of the Peak District National Park and the city of Derby. While it takes its name from the river Amber, the Derwent also passes through the area. There's a World Heritage Site in the form of the Derwent Valley Mills to go with other heritage attractions (such as the Crich Tramway Village above) and any pleasing countryside that is there to be savoured.

Both of these websites appear to be maintained by the same people so I have gone and grouped them together. As it happens, these were places that I frequented a few times, especially near the start of my explorations of the English countryside on foot. Now that I think of it, maybe it's high time that I revisited their respective charms. For that, these websites may have a role.

Visit Tideswell & District

Tideswell is famous for its church, which has earned the name "the Cathedral of the Peak" on account of its grand architecture. Surrounding it is a pretty village as well as some equally attractive countryside. Because this website is maintained by local accommodation providers so a listing of places to stay should come as no surprise but there's history and suggestions regarding things to do around the place.

Tissington

This is an estate village huddled around its hall and appears to keep modernity away from its gates. The big house dating from Tudor times rarely is open to the public though it does host weddings. Most potter about the nearby village and the former railway line is now a recreational trail leading to nearby Ashbourne.

Youlgrave

The name of Youlgrave (Youlgreave on Ordnance Survey maps) is being misspelt on has two main derivatives nowadays but there have been far more during the history of the place and there is a list of these on the website. Personally, I prefer the one with the extra "e" in there but the locals are expert on these kinds of things so I'll defer to them on the matter. Also this is a parish website so nearby villages like Middleton and Alport also are featured. Of these, only Alport has seen my footfall thus far but I also fancy seeing how the others nestle by the River Bradford too. There may be time for that yet...

Selected Attractions

While attractive countryside hardly ever fails to be the main reason to go anywhere, there also is something to be said for locations where you can spend a while in preference to moving along a path or a trail. Much of what you will find below will do just that and living in a town without such a stopping point at its heart makes these shine all the brighter for me. Others will take you deeper into the story of a place and that is part of exploring too.

The first of these country houses needs so little introduction that it can trade on a one word name, Chatsworth. It also is the only one of these that I have seen in person while on a passing through its grounds on a walk from Baslow to Matlock that shadowed Derbyshire's River Derwent. Haddon Hall is not so confiding so I was content to see it from above while walking from Monyash to Bakewell via Lathkill Dale. All host their share of events so it is not solely their intrinsic charms that are there to attract visitors though there are plenty of those too.

The idea of a National Forest covering an area of around 200 square miles must have seemed outlandish when it was suggested more than twenty five years ago but it is maturing nicely now with parts of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire coming under its writ, Much of the land was industrial so it is good to see what regeneration can achieve and it clearly has become an amenity for many with even a dedicated long distance trail passing through it.

Crich Tramway Village

This is the home of the National Tramway Museum and there seems to be an air of a heritage park to the place too as well as a woodland area. All in all, there looks to be a lot to see and it does sound varied.

Eyam Museum

These days, Eyam is a pretty village where you might stop a while but it has a grim side to its history and that is part of the story that this museum relates. The tale of how bubonic plague visited the village and the human suffering that it caused may not be one that you want to hear every day but history is also the story of ordinary people and many have been engrained into the narrative by this event.

The Pavilion Gardens

These are one of Buxton's special places with a pleasing pleasure garden and a splendidly maintained complex featuring an opera house, a concert hall and much more. Naturally, their website lets you in on all of these delights so it's well worth a look.