Cromford and Matlock

As part of my birthday weekend, we went for a lovely walk down in Cromford. I had a WI meeting to go to in Darley Dale for a couple of hours that afternoon; we decided we’d make a day of it, with a walk first, and then our packed lunches, and then we’d go get my birthday cake and then come home.

I’m partial to ice cream cakes, which we’ve tried to make but failed at a few times, so given up. We were absolutely delighted to find that we could, after all, get them here in the UK, in a few select Baskin Robbins locations – and thankfully one of them is near enough to us to make this a viable option. So that last stop was in Sheffield.

It’d been raining all weekend, so we reckoned the ground was all muddy, and more rain threatened still, so we opted for walking along the Cromford Canal, which would be graveled or paved or the like, and less muddy (mostly) than hill walking. It did mean walking in a straight line for awhile and then turning around and walking back, but it was pretty.

We naturally forgot the umbrella in the car, so when it did decide to pour down, I held part of Chris’ coat over my head (he was still wearing the other part) so I could still be vaguely presentable at my afternoon meeting – I’m sure we made quite a sight! It worked, at least. 😉

We had our lunch, the meeting was less useless than I expected, and then the time had gotten away so I decided we’d have dinner there in Matlock before going on to Sheffield. I regretted this decision later on, but hey ho. We wandered around Matlock til the restaurant opened – I’ve never had a chance to explore Matlock before; now I’m quite familiar with it. We got the cake, which was lovely, and headed home. It was a nice day, overall. Have some photos from the walk.

A Murmuration of Starlings

Our first outing in the new car!



Originally, I thought we’d spend our first weekend figuring out all the things the car can do – reading the manuals and playing with all the gadgets.

But then, I read in one of the local papers about a particularly impressive flock of starlings worth seeing. I’m no bird watcher – I haven’t the patience – but I’ve seen videos of the acrobatics that starlings get up to, and it seemed well worth going to see. So I marched right up to Chris, thrust the paper at him, ignored the look of confusion on his face, and announced that we’d be going to this the very first weekend we had the car – and hoping it wasn’t too late.

The paper says they roost in this spot from October to March, and this would be the first weekend of March. I didn’t know a thing about the birds, and English being the ambiguous language that it is, and nature not paying attention to a calendar anyway, I didn’t know if that included March or not. We just went and hoped for the best. Saturday was a gloriously sunny day, so we went then.

On our way up the hill.

On our way up the hill.

Once I got home, I looked up starlings a bit, and discovered that they flock together in these huge murmurations in the non-breeding season; they’re at their largest in the winter, when joined by birds that have migrated over from Europe (for the milder climate). Aha – so we just caught the tail end, that explains why we didn’t see the 40,000 to 70,000 that the paper talked about. No matter; we’ll go back later on this year, in November/December, and hope to see more. It was really peaceful and pleasant as it was, so we both enjoyed it.

Awaiting the starlings

Awaiting the starlings

Unfortunately, none of my video came out well – it is not a Serious Camera, and it struggled with the birds as far away as they were, in the low light. Go watch this one from the RSPB instead.

Apparently, they’re choosing a place to roost while they’re doing their acrobatics. Chris reckons the sounds they’re making are, “I call dibs on that branch!” “No, I do!” and so on. 😉

The drive was really pleasant. It’s about half an hour’s drive away, through our rolling countryside. Since we were driving, we were able to scope out Chinley, a nearby town, since I need to drive there in a fortnight, on the way back.

Roost chosen - they're settled and we're cold. One more photo, and then we're out of here!

Roost chosen – they’re settled and we’re cold. One more photo, and then we’re out of here!

I’ve read about these starling roosts in Derbyshire for years, but never been able or willing enough to get there. This particular one, it turns out, we could’ve gotten there on public transport, if we were really, really interested. The 18-mile, 30-minute drive there would’ve been 2.5 hours: one and a half hours by bus plus another hour of walking. Then, after watching for the display, we’d have had a 6 to 6.5 hour trek home. We could actually just walk home in that time, or we could:

  • Walk an hour,
  • Wait half an hour,
  • Take a bus for 20 minutes,
  • Walk 15 minutes,
  • Wait 45 minutes,
  • Take a train for 1 hour 5 minutes,
  • Wait 1 hour 35 minutes,
  • Take a train for 35 minutes,
  • And then either:
    • Walk another 30 minutes, or
    • Take a cab for 5 minutes (and about £4).

All of the walking, except that very last 30 minutes (where we’d likely end up in a cab anyway, my feet having given out long before), would be along roads with no sidewalks (pavements), no shoulders, with cars zipping by in a 50 mph speed limit (so, y’know, generally going more than that, as they do everywhere). The trip back would be in the dark – and the countryside, of course, has no streetlights. We could, of course, have walked through the fields, as public footpaths crisscross the countryside, but one false step in the dark and we still might not have made it back. I’m afraid we’re really not that interested in birds – or anything else – to have made that trek.

If we made it, we’d have gotten home utterly exhausted, grimy, irritated beyond measure from the people, noise, and waiting we’d have put up with, and it would have been such a horrible experience, no matter how impressive the birds were – or whatever was at the other end of that trek. To add insult to injury, we’d have paid through the nose for it: the public transport would’ve been £50.20 (or about £55 with optional cab fare); the diesel for the car should have been about £4.72. Naturally, there are costs beyond the fuel, but they don’t add up that much, of course. The public transport companies are making money hand over fist.

So so so very glad we have another car, at loooong last!

Crich Tramway Village (Part 1)

Just on the other side of the Peak District is the Crich Tramway Village, home of the National Tramway Museum. From the website: “Nestling on the edge of the Peak District this award-winning museum takes you on a mile-long scenic journey through a period street to open countryside with panoramic views over the Derwent Valley.” Tram enthusiasts started putting it together after a group of them went on a tour to see trams in different parts of the country, and discovered the serious state of decline many tram lines were experiencing. They found the home at Crich in 1959, and right away started buying up trams and storing them under cover.

Countryside, Woodland, and a Labyrinth, Oh My!


One day last week, I went with some of the members of Charlesworth WI for a visit. It’s only 40 miles away, but it took an hour and a half each way by private car (we went one way and came back another); the winding, narrow roads of the Peak District really impact speed. (As an aside, Google Maps is generally wrong on travel time by car in England. Sometimes not by much, as here; sometimes vastly so.) Thankfully, the view along the way is of pretty countryside. We set off around 10am and got there about 11:30.

Once we arrived, I split off to wander on my own, because that’s how I like to roll. The village has several attractions, but perusing the map, I saw it basically divided into the Woodland area and the townscape area. The entrance is about in the middle of the village, with the townscape to the left and the woodland to the right.

I took nearly 400 photos on this trip, and while you’re not going to see most of them (I nearly always take duplicates in case of blurring, for starters), there’s still quite a lot. So this entry will be in multiple parts – once it’s done, click here to see all the parts.

I decided to explore the Woodland first, while my feet (which have all sorts of issues that mean that they frequently hurt) were still fresh, and I could get the most out of it. I didn’t realize it would really be quite woodsy – I found myself dearly wishing I’d brought my bug spray!

Then I found a labyrinth!

That was the end of the woodland. It was about 1pm by now, so I was hungry for lunch. There were a couple of picnic tables here at the tram stop, so I decided to stop here and eat. Not the most scenic choice, but it was handy, and quiet, and bug-free as far as I noticed, and I even got a bit of shade.

Right, that’s as good a place as any to stop for now. Stay tuned for the next installments!

The good ol’ county council

Cllr John Owen spkg eloquently abt Turkish mining tragedy given Derbyshire’s links w coal mining; Tories chatting to themselves #Shameonthem
— @CaitlinBisknell 4:36 PM – 4 Jun 2014

I saw this tweet earlier, and couldn’t fit my reply into 140 characters, so I’ll put it here instead.

First off, people chatting amongst themselves while someone’s speaking during a meeting is one of my biggest pet peeves: they shouldn’t be doing it – especially when they’re being paid to attend the meeting – and the chair shouldn’t allow it to happen. One of the best lines I’ve heard to deal with this is, “Can we please have one meeting?”

So, while the chatter’s completely unacceptable, so too is talking about this, tragic as it is, during a Derbyshire County Council meeting. When I went back to Caitlin’s twitter page now to find this tweet, I saw that some of what was said was focused on how and why it happened. That would make sense, if the point was for the county council to take some action(s) to avert a similar disaster here within Derbyshire. But I’ve just had a look, and it seems Derbyshire has no mining taking place anymore. In that case, this “link” is so tangential as to lead to these sorts of ideas…

  • “How bout that missing plane from Malaysia? Planes fly over Derbyshire — let’s talk about this tragedy at the next county council meeting!”
  • “They’re talking about sending people to Mars to set up homes and grow stuff and live there? People grow stuff and live in Derbyshire — let’s talk about this mission at the next county council meeting!”
  • “They’re talking about pulling up the Titanic from the ocean floor? Boats go on bodies of water in Derbyshire — let’s talk about the Titanic at the next county council meeting!”

And so on. Really, councillors, can you please actually focus on Derbyshire in the Derbyshire County Council meetings? That’s what we pay you for. The only time any place outside the county should factor into your discussions is if it’s DIRECTLY RELEVANT to something YOU, THE DERBYSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL, can impact. Even if a thing is massively tragic, if it’s not actually relevant to your business at hand, it shouldn’t take up valuable minutes in your meetings – focus on what you can do for Derbyshire, and do it. Save your sob stories about tragedies for cocktail parties.