23 October: A day of lasts in Truffy….

Author: Mrs A

Location: Bakewell, Derbyshire & Hatton, Nottinghamshire, UK

It was a finger-numbingly cold morning as we packed up and left the Chatsworth Estate and drove the short way back to Bakewell, Truffy’s thermometer reading a mere 3° centigrade. We’ve not seen temperatures that low since central Australia last year.

The forecast was for no rain, so we decided to enjoy a last cycle ride before we lock Truffy and our bikes up for the winter. Starting in Bakewell is the Monsal Trail, 14.5 km (9 miles) of traffic-free cycleway, following part of the old Midland railway between Bakewell and Chee Dale.

Parts of the UK have their half-term school holidays at present, so it was fairly busy with cyclists, despite the chilly temperatures. We can only imagine how crowded it would get on a warm summer’s day.

An old bridge dating to 1863 when the railway was first opened

The original train line ran from Manchester to London, and was closed in 1968. The railway passed into the hands of the Peak District National Park in 1980 and the trail developed.

Mr A warming up with a cup of tea

The trail follows the River Wye valley, cutting through some lovely scenery. At one point we looked down on a collection of buildings, learning these were the sites of textile mills in the 1700s. Cressbrook Mill, set up in 1782 was notorious for unsavoury work practices, specifically bringing orphaned children up from London and forcing them to work as ‘apprentices’ for little or no wages.

Showing that everything in life is somehow linked, in 1860 the owner of Cressbrook Mill, David Cannon McConnell emigrated to Queensland, Australia, and the settlement of Cressbrook is named after this area.

Cressbrook village
Cressbrook, Queensland, Australia
The Cressbrook Tunnel, opened to cyclists and walkers in 2011 after great investment
Enjoying the view through the valley

We continued to the end of the trail, tagging on a little extra ride along a quiet road along the River Wye, before turning and retracing our steps back to Bakewell.

Some of the trees have lost their leaves already, making it look quite wintry on this grey day

Back in Bakewell we treated ourselves to fish and chips. It is getting to that point in our trip where we are relishing the ‘last’ of everything – this being the last authentic chips and curry sauce this year! Mr A had mushy peas and a pickled egg too…we didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day!

Our last cod and chips for a while…very tasty!

We left Derbyshire and drove across the country, picking up a few storage bags at Ikea in Nottingham, before driving to Hawton Waters near Newark in Nottinghamshire.

Hawton Waters has a small number of camp sites near a lake, as well as being a gold accredited storage area for caravans and motorhomes. It Is here we have booked Truffy into for the winter, so in addition to staying the night, it was a good opportunity to have a look at where he would be living for the next four months. They’ve just extended their storage facility, so if you’re looking for somewhere secure to put your van or truck, this could be an option for you.

There’s plenty of security, with two gates to get through and many 24/7 CCTV cameras as well as lots of people around. We feel very comfortable with our choice.

We found a hard standing spot to spend the night, and settled down to our last sleep in Truffy this year.

Lovely sunset at Hawton Waters

21-22 October: Into Derbyshire…

Author: Mr A

Location: Bakewell and Chatsworth House, Peak District, Derbyshire, UK

Sunday: We left our hotel in Chester behind, but not before enjoying a final long, long, shower – then heading back to our life of short showers in the motorhome or disappointing shower blocks on campgrounds. Well, it rains enough here to never have to feel guilty about water usage!

We left Cheshire headed into Derbyshire and over to the small town of Bakewell, famous for its tarts. Not the short skirt wearing variety, but the yummy decked-out-with-butter-pastry type.

The sun and blue skies are replaced with grey as we enter into Derbyshire
Stone walls and fields of sheep

We tried to set up to stay the night there, but after all this rain we couldn’t get on our ramps as they just sunk into the mud. So it was a quick tour around town instead, and some power shopping for yet more warm clothes, before heading off for the night to a campground adjacent to the estate of Chatsworth House, famous for being the filming location of Pride and Prejudice and the Colin Firth version of Mr Darcy.

Our visits to Chester and Bakewell have encouraged us to reflect on what we’ve enjoyed though about these small English towns, as we prepare mentally to leave them behind and head back to Australia. There have been a number of really standout examples of vibrant little centres like this one at Bakewell. There were so many niche stores, from cheese shops to gin emporia, and quality independent clothing stores, cosy cafes and enticing pubs, all bustling with people.

Mrs A and I often wonder what the magic formula is, why some small towns seem to flourish and others in a similar geography wither. We had some ideas from our own observations, but I’ve been doing some digging and reading up to see what the experts say . The formula seems to be the creation of what one of the global leaders in urban planning Brent Toderian termed “a sticky street” – places where people want to linger. Structural changes such as pedestrianising areas are in the hard to do bucket, but essential to make them people friendly. It’s something we always comment on when wandering around a new town or village, ‘Who wants to linger in a street with cars and lorries thundering by?‘ Then changes being made that make that environment even more attractive, with entertainment for instance, like street artists. In Chester I stopped for ages listening to a guy playing an electric violin, it was so beautiful. I meandered around even more shops and spent money.

Another key strategy bringing back to life the high streets of some towns is the independent shops selling the non-commoditised goods we don’t see on Amazon. Why would you go to a high street where most of what is on sale you can have delivered? It all seems so obvious, so what’s stopping so many councils from acting and providing leadership? I think of our own little high street in a suburb of Sydney, where several of the store owners I know are against pedestrianising the street because they are afraid business will drop! A half decent councillor with an eye on something more than feathering there own pocket (thinking of several of the ones we’ve met) would be able to show them the data and convince them. It’s just a no brainer. Once we settle back down somewhere I think I may have to have a go at local politics and stop bitching from the sideline.

So it was goodbye to Bakewell and a lovely 6 mile drive over to Chatsworth House and the camp site that was heaving at the seams, with I would guess, over a 100 caravans and motorhomes. There’s a lot of us about.

It’s nestled right next to the 1,000 acre Chatsworth Estate, with its grounds designed by Capability Brown (famous for designing landscapes that look as though they could be natural, while presenting a range of trees, colours and textures to the view).

Trees are given space to grow and spread out as well as being selected for their complimentary colouring throughout the year

Monday morning we walked through to Chatsworth House park and heard a strange noise behind us. We turned to see a herd of deer leaping over a fence. Well the big ones did, the smaller deer had second thoughts.

Chief stag literally prances through the field, jollying up his herd
The herd takes guidance on which way to jump
There is no running up, literally just jump over the fence from standing
It looks almost painful!
The younger ones struggle to get over and get a bit panicky as the adults gallop off into the woods, leaving them behind

We continued through the grounds to the grand house.

The sun breaks through the clouds, lighting up this tree like flames
Not the house – this houses a cafe as well as children’s farm
Chatsworth House
Looking across the gardens at the sculpted landscaped views

Mrs A explored the house while I inspected the cafe in some detail. My ankle was still playing up so I couldn’t really do the place justice.

The grand entrance hall is designed to make visitors gasp with giant paintings and ornate carving on every surface. The first duke was appointed in 1694 for helping put William of Orange on the throne as King of England – royal scenes are depicted.
The balconies overlook the hallway
The grand stairway up to the first level
Dating back to 150-50 BCE, this foot wearing a sandal is thought to have come from a giant Greek wood and marble statue. The right foot is at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin
Incredible stories of gods and goddesses are pictured in the murals
A disliked housekeeper was immortalised by the artist painting this ceiling, using her face on a bad God, holding scissors ready to cut the strings of life
On the first level of the house, an elaborate suite of rooms was designed specifically for receiving King William III and Queen Mary II….they never came to stay….
Chinese and Japanese vases on many surfaces
Spot the trompe-l’oeil of the violin behind the door

The house continues to be lived in by the present Duke and Dutchess of Derbyshire, and in recent years has had a substantial revamp with more than £33 million spent on it restoring the building inside and out.

The royal bedroom is hung with elaborate tapestries
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire portrayed as a goddess
A cosy looking pair of chairs by the fireplace
Bedrooms with Chinese wallpaper
The present Duke and Duchess are big fans of ceramics with many collections around the house
There are many staff to do the dusting
A more modern ceramic installation commissioned by the Duke and Duchess for this space

There is an extensive collection of sculptures and statues, and a whole room dedicated to a collection going back several hundred years.

A handsome bust of Napoleon dating to the Battle of Waterloo, 1815

In the late afternoon we took a gentle walk into the small village of Nether End nearby, and of course a cosy pub beckoned.

Walking past thatched cottages, the lovely smell of woodsmoke in the air
Lovely autumn leaves over Bar Brook which winds through the estate and the village
And a cheeky drink at the Devonshire Arms

15-17 April: A brief dalliance with Derbyshire

Author: Mrs A

Location: Dronfield and Newhaven, Derbyshire, UK

After leaving Fuller Leisure on Monday afternoon we headed north, hoping to find a spot for the night not far from where we were to have Truffy’s eye-mask (see previous post!) fitted. We’re pretty new to the travel apps for motorhoming, but both Search for Sites and CamperContact showed a pub 8 miles away which allowed free stopovers.

We headed on up there, just an hour’s drive from Gunthorpe. It was an ‘interesting’ drive with Miss Google Maps directing us down little single track lanes with blind bends…but we made it without incident. We even managed to do our first LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) fill up on the way, meaning we’re all set again for off the grid heating, hot water and cooking.

Our stop for the night was the Hyde Park Inn, a cosy pub opposite playing fields in the village of Dronfield. We called in for a drink before we settled down for the night, welcomed by the publican and locals alike.

A nice quiet stopover

We were joined by another Hymer during the night

Mr A enjoyed a local brew

On Tuesday afternoon (after getting Truffy’s thermal eye-mask fitted) we headed off on the road, leaving South Yorkshire and the surrounds of Sheffield, and heading into the Derbyshire Peak District. Despite working in Derby back in the early 1990s, other than one weekend trip, I have never fully explored this area. Mr A’s previous experience hails back to when the world was black and white and he was in the Boy Scouts.

Our first impressions were very positive – quiet winding lanes lined with dancing daffodils, stone walled paddocks full of skipping lambs.

Truffy heading off down towards his next adventure

Monyash area marker

We called into the village of Monyash for lunch, opting for delicious baked potatoes before we moved on.

Little village of Monyash

Mr A checking out the local pub

We continued on from here to our little farm stay parking spot for the night.

Wednesday morning we awoke to perfect blue skies, an ideal day for a cycle. We had selected our campsite based on its proximity to two of the Peak District’s best rail trails – the High Peak and the Tissington. Our home for two nights was Brundcliffe Farm, a working dairy farm alongside the High Peak trail.

It was a fresh start to the ride as we headed up the trail towards Parsley Hay, before moving onto the Tissington Rail Trail south. These old rail routes were turned into traffic-free walking and cycling routes back in 1971.

Heading north along the High Peak trail

Wrapped up warm as we reach the junction of the High Peak and Tissington trails

Stripping off layers as the temperatures climb from 6-16 degrees centigrade

Beautiful scenery as we ride along

Newborn lambs skipping across the fields

Continuing our ride to Ashbourne

We reached Ashbourne around midday and so set about finding somewhere for lunch. Ashbourne is a pretty market town, its roots dating back to Anglo-Saxon times (around the years 500-1000, before King Harold met his death near Hastings in 1066). Today it looks like a prosperous settlement, with classy boutiques and lovely cafes and shops.

We ate lunch in a sunny courtyard at a Mediterranean restaurant called Jack Rabbits. Mark enjoyed melted Brie on toast with a fig chutney, while I went for the home made sweet potato and tomato soup. Delicious.

Did I forget to mention the sweet potato fries? Naughty but oh so nice!

A very good soup. My only criticism is their menu is a bit heavy on the dairy products!

After a good feed we jumped back on the bikes and headed back on the trail. As it was uphill on the way back we had to make use of the motors on our eBikes – but still had to do plenty of work. It’s a pedal assist motor, so unless your legs are moving, it will not work.

Mr A passing a perfectly mowed field

Endless possibilities for walking here, with public footpaths criss-crossing the dales

Flowers galore along the path – daffodils, celandine, violets, daisies and more

I swear the buds on the trees were bursting with new leaves as we rode

This is definitely one of the loveliest cycles we have done. The scenery was spectacular and the Peak District National Park carefully manages the land through clearing to ensure there is a year round corridor of wildflowers.

The temperature climbed to 16 degrees centigrade – the warmest we’ve been in about three weeks, and we saw our first bees and butterflies along the track.

Bright yellow buttercups light up the side of this cutting

Plenty of old bridges to cycle under, built in the 1800s

Reaching Parsley Hay we saw the track continued north…we could go on and on forever!

We continued on past Parsley Hay to the next ‘station’ where we went to a local pub garden for a refreshing drink.

Our legs were aching by the time we reached Truffy, having clocked up 56km in the saddles (35 miles), and we were pleased to say we had plenty of battery left on the bikes.

This was a fabulous taster of the Derbyshire Peak District and we definitely would like to come back. There is so much to do here. Big tick from us!