During our stay in Derbyshire we popped into Bakewell for the afternoon as a Christmas market was being held there. While crossing over the river we were treated to a very close encounter with some black-headed gulls in their winter plumage (sans black heads). They were remarkably tolerant of close approach and allowed me to get within a metre for a close up portrait. I think that must be the closest I have ever been to a live gull.
My posts about Derbyshire recently featured dry stone walls once or twice and I’ve had a comment about them as well so I thought I’d post a little explanation for anyone who is not familiar. Walls as field boundaries are not particularly common in lowland England as the cost of construction is too high. But in some upland areas of the country such as the white peak area of Derbyshire, they are a very obvious landscape feature as the thin soil is naturally littered with rocks that need to be removed to improve grazing etc. If they are being moved anyway, they might as well be put to a useful purpose. The walls are constructed using no mortar and can stay upright for centuries, remaining stable using nothing more than gravity and friction (and a great deal of skill employed by the person constructing them of course).
I attended a demonstration of walling many years ago (no photos unfortunately) where the organisers had arranged for a couple of dozen expert wallers hailing from all over the country to build a small stretch of wall each, in the stone and the style characteristic of their own area. It was so interesting to compare the different structures; I had never really noticed before that there were different styles. I was told that an expert would know within seconds approximately where they were in the country just by looking at the walls. And just so you know, all these photos are of walls in Wensleydale in Yorkshire.
When talking about the Peak District, probably the first things that most people would mention would be the beautiful scenery, the magnificent country houses of Chatsworth or Haddon Hall, dry stone walls, quaint little stone built villages with their cosy pubs, interesting small market towns and Bakewell tarts (although they are actually puddings really). That’s because for most people the area conjures up all those qualities that make it the second most visited national park in the world. I doubt that many people would imagine that the area has been shaped by it’s industrial past and has a rich history of both mining and mills.
When I was 18, I went on a backpacking holiday in the Peak District with my new girlfriend Julie. I had hardly travelled before (my family had no car) and my very limited knowledge of the Peak District was restricted to the area easily accessible by train in the north, in particular the gritstone moors of Kinder Scout and the area around Edale. Early in the holiday we walked from our overnight stay in Hathersage, over Eyam Edge and into Cressbrook Dale. It was something of a revelation to me as I had never seen anything like the steep dry valleys and grey crags of limestone country.
I was particularly impressed by Peter’s Stone, tall and upright as if standing guard over the entry into Cressbrook Dale from the north and yet for some reason, in the intervening forty years, I had never revisited it. So as we were staying nearby on our long weekend break in Tideswell, I determined that I would go and have another look at the rock formation. I went with Julie again (now my wife) and friends Pauline and Keith, following part of route we walked before; a trip down memory lane (or should that be memory dale).
The name Tideswell in Derbyshire, I am reliably informed by the good people of Nottingham University through their Key to English Place Names website, is probably derived from the old-English personal name “Tidi” and the Anglian word “wella” meaning a spring or stream. So Tideswell is really “Tidi’s spring” which I think has such a nice ring to it that the people of the village ought to petition to get the name changed.
We’ve just returned from a long-weekend break in the village, sharing a house with six friends and celebrating Christmas complete with presents, a huge turkey dinner, paper hats and crackers, in fact all the usual seasonal eccentricities and excesses. Now I know that may seem a little strange but as the years have passed by and work requirements have necessitated house moves, we have ended up with close friends spread out quite literally, the length of the country from Shetland to Kent. Spending time together at Christmas is impossible generally as we have family commitments that come first of course. So why not have a second celebration on a more suitable day?
Driving through the small town of Ollerton at the weekend I noticed a tourist sign for the pit wood and made a mental note to visit at the first opportunity. Well I didn’t have long to wait for an opportunity to present itself and this morning saw me exploring the site in overcast damp grey weather. Close to the car park there is an information board and nearby a plaque explains the history of the site. Eight collieries had their spoil heaps converted and I’ve only visited four of them; I feel a few more trips coming along.