Steaming in on High

Recently I had a walk up to Middleton Top with the Matlock Mavericks to take a look as some industrial history in limestone country near Wirksworth and Cromford.

Middleton Top is the last surviving winding engine from the now defunct Cromford and High Peak Railway. The railway has now been converted into the High Peak Trail.

Middleton Top

Middleton Top

The stationery engine was used to wind trucks up and down the Middleton Incline, which has a gradient of 1 in 8, and is a beam engine built by the Butterley Company in 1829 – these are the original engines for the railway began operation in 1830. The incline was in use until 1963.

Waggon on the track

Waggon on the track

Outside the engine house you can see a pulley wheel under a grille in the centre of the track. There was a similar pulleys at the bottom of the incline and a loop of steel cable was attached around them. The wagons were then attached to this by chains and usually the engine would have one set of wagons descending the incline and another on the other track ascending – in order to counterbalance the load. A maximum speed of 8 miles per hour was permitted because it was very difficult to control a set of runaway wagons loaded with limestone.

Winding gear

Winding gear

Also outside the engine house you can see a sample wagon from the old railway, and a short section of the original track, with a distinctive type of rail. Originally these were attached to blocks of stone rather than the usual sleepers.

Incline sign

Incline sign

Inside the visitors centre there is a splendid working model of this section of the railway and a short video. Just be on the lookout for any time lords!

Haste ye back!

Haste ye back!

Castles, Barons and Cheese

Fortunately I chose a lovely sunny day to visit Lincoln with the particular purpose of seeing the newly refurbished Lincoln Caste.

Cathedral and Observation Tower

Cathedral and Observation Tower

Arriving by train there is no way you can avoid the climb up to the Castle. The well beaten path is through part of the town, via Stokes Coffee house and then up Steep Hill. Apparently there is a “Walk and Ride” bus but I’ve never been able to find it, and it’s certainly not well publicised at that station. But no matter, it was a lovey morning and the walk is always fascinating.

This time I chose not to go straight up the hill but took a detour via the Cheese Society café* and made my winding way from there. The Cheese Society is awesome, a must stop for a cheese lover (But no Peakland White that I could see!)

The Castle was very busy with lots of people enjoying the sunshine and new facilities. You can purchase a duel ticket for the Castle and cathedral, but I’d find visiting both in one day a challenge as there is so much to see.

In the Castle grounds the Prison was fascinating in the usual gruesome way. The historical interpretation is very visual and effective though. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but its history offers a fascinating insight into local social history. I found the prison particularly poignant as even at prayer the prisoners were kept separate as part of the prison regulations.

Former Lincoln Prison

Former Lincoln Prison

Prison Chapel

Prison Chapel

My favourite part of the Magna Carta vault was not the document, but the interesting film that runs in the film theatre. Very entertaining and informative and not too dumbed down. As an aside all around town there are Barons to find, each one representing a Magna Carta Baron, but also they are depicted with a local Lincolnshire theme. It is of course the 800th year of the Magna Carta celebrations and if you love the idea of trailing the Barons here’s the brilliant website

Lincoln Baron Trail

Expansive Place Baron

Expansive Place Baron

Bomber Baron

Bomber Baron

The spectacular part of the visit has to be the walk around the castle walls (if you don’t suffer from vertigo!) as the views of the cathedral, the town, and the countryside are spectacular. If you take the audio tour up onto the walls with you then you are in for a very long third of a mile walk. But if you have the time it is fascinating to hear the history of Lincoln through the ages. It was a bonus to see the west side of the town for once. (One of the features of all the walls being open now)The windmill in the distance and a lot of interesting local back yards (can only hope the locals don’t mind lots people peering down at them!)

Castle Westgate

Castle Westgate

The Lucy Tower had an unexpected eerie feeling as there are quite a few graves of executed prisoners within those walls. I hadn’t expected that, why I am not sure as they had to be buried somewhere.

Lucy Tower

Lucy Tower

Please release me....

Please release me….

I didn’t feel brave enough to climb to the Observation Tower as it was a little too busy for me and I will wait for another opportunity to enjoy the view in less haste (Another nice touch with the admission ticket is that you can return within six months for another visit. Handy for locals or holidaymakers who run out of time looking around)

Walking down Deansgate

Walking down Deansgate

Once back outside the caste walls it was very busy in the shops and tearooms around the area. I would have loved to have lingered a while longer but I was really out of time. On the way back down the hill I avoided Steep Hill again and wandered down a different way seeing part of the city that I hadn’t before.

Towards Steep Hill

Towards Steep Hill

*I couldn’t visit the cheese society and not buy a cheese. Gould’s extra mature cheddar if you are interested. Nice and creamy, probably not the most daring selection I could have tried, but I liked it!

Here be dragons

On my recent trip to Norwich it was dragons galore in the city with “Go Go Dragons 2015” running in the City and “Snap” reinstalled in a new reinterpretation in the Castle Museum. Go Go Dragons is an interactive arts sculpture trail that brings 84 large painted sculptures and 120 baby drains to the streets of Norwich. Hopefully lots of money will be raised for local charity. There’s more information on the website. Go-Go Dragons Information Here are just a few of them. Dragon 1 Dragon 2 Dragon 3 Then it as on to the recently refurbished Castle Museum. The building is one of the finest surviving secular Norman buildings in Europe. The Castle Mound is the largest in the country and after being the country gaol it was converted into a museumin1894.It contains a very varied collection of historical artefacts, natural history, fine art and modern art. In the Castle Keep the history of Norwich through the ages is represented, and surprise, surprise, here be another famous dragon, Snap! Snapdragon was used as the herald of the grand annual Guild Day procession held at the inauguration of the new Mayor. The cavorting dragon was an obvious source of amusement and entertainment for the crowds watching the procession but in earlier times it had a religious significance as part of a pageant performed by the Guild and Fraternity of St. George of Norwich. Last time I saw Snap he was hanging from the roof, but he now has a jolly tableaux and a ginger haired person bringing him back to life! Snap 1 Snap2 Snap 3‘Snap, Snap, steal a boy’s cap, give him a penny and he’ll give it back’   The whole of the castle collection is fascinating and I found two locals taking time out to put the world to rights in the garderobe.

I think you'll find

I think you will find…..

A more surreal detour on the way out was the Jeff Coons exhibition that is in the museum for the summer. I am not sure what the locals make of it but you can’t say that there isn’t variety in the Museum.

Jeff Coons exhibit

Byeee, come back soon

A racket or two

My yearly annual trek to Wimbledon for the tennis tournament was on a beautiful warm day, but thankfully not the overwhelming heat of the previous day.

For me, I just like to see Tennis in the summer, not everyone’s cup of tea I know, but each to their own.

The Wimbledon Tennis club was looking as gorgeous as ever. The grass immaculate and the lovely Aorangi terrace decked out like a lovely flower show. They don’t often show you that on the TV.

Tremendous excitement this year as I was finally going to see Rafa Nadal play on Centre Court. It’s the luck of the draw who you get to see, but year after year I had not seen him. For me it completed the set as I have now seen most of the top ten men play.


Sadly it wasn’t to be Rafa’s day, not 100% against an inspired opponent. But there were no tantrums, or spats. He never gave up the game but good wasn’t good enough. He was gracious enough to admit that in defeat.

The Swiss Fed Express was just his usual best. Certain to be acknowledged one of the all-time greats, he just defies explanation when playing. He’s got the shots and the time to make it look too easy. He probably won’t have the power to win it, but he’s a joy to watch.


And that was it for another year for me. The day over all too soon. Plenty more to watch on the TV, but it’s not the same as being there. Advantage Wimbledon………

Centre Court

22nd Park Trail

How time flies, every 2 years the Park Garden Trail happens, so here we were again.

A beautiful sunny Sunday to take the short walk from the city centre to take in the grand Victorian Houses, wide boulevards, tree lined terraces and one of the world’s oldest gas streetlighting systems. (Not that was needed on this particular afternoon) 23 gardens to cover and I think we did manage them all.

The hub of the activities were at Newcastle Circus; children’s activities, stalls etc. and although it would have been more that a pleasant way to spend the whole afternoon we were here to see the gardens.

We started at Pelham Circus and worked our way down and around, pausing at the tennis club for a cuppa and homemade cake, then on for strawberries and cream and a quick glass of fizz. It’s thirsty work, tramping around all those gardens!

A grand afternoon, the weather etc. really brought everyone out and I think well over 16k was raised for local charities. Good work! Here is a selection of photos.

Park Lamp

Tripping the heights fantastic

I haven’t been on the Cable cars at Matlock Bath for quite a few years. So it was time to do that trip again on what turned out to be a lovely early May day.

A train to Matlock Bath was the easiest way for me to travel to Derbyshire and also enabled me a 20% discount on the cable cars to the Heights of Abraham.

Nothing to be afraid of, climb aboard and off you go. The Car pauses in the middle of the journey for a viewing opportunity and it really is a spectacular view. No need to give any thought to the fact that you are dangling on a steel cable. (Strangely I felt more fear watching the video on how they constructed the cable car ride, now those men were either fearless or witless!)

All aboard!

All aboard!

Once at the top the views were really lovely but there was also the opportunity to have an underground tour of Masson Cave. The tour guide was very friendly and after half an hour and 180 steps or so in the constant temperature of 8 degrees Celsius the sighting of the refreshment cabin was very welcome. From the top deck the views over Matlock Bath were worth pondering over a nice cup of tea.

Riber looking fantastic

Riber looking fantastic

Watching the word go by and dreaming of a mini fish & chips by th river

Watching the world go by and dreaming of a mini fish & chips by the river

Mooving towards the ice cream kiosk

Mooving towards the ice cream kiosk

An older part of Matlock

Starting in Old Matlock Town with my guide, Linda, the walk started through the church yard of St Giles up to the War Memorial on Pic Tor. A fine spot for a good overall view of Matlock. We waved to Fidel on Matlock Bank and walked down towards the crossing over the River Derwent.

St Giles

St Giles

Then it was a walk along the roadside towards Matlock Bath passing a few walkers, a few hardy canoeists and a rock climber or two.

It was reasonably busy in Matlock Bath considering that the tourist season isn’t yet in full swing. Always interesting to walk along the promenade towards a nice fish and chip shop. As one of the essential things to do when in Matlock Bath it would have been rude not to sample a little portion. Anyway, we knew at some point that we would have to climb back into Matlock so it was necessary to fortify ourselves with a bit of carbohydrate.

We continued on towards Cromford via Masson Mills. It’s really too early for any signs of Spring to be showing but the River Derwent was in full flow regardless as we walked by it towards the Cromford Church. Sadly not open to view, but I shall look out for an opportunity to go back when it is open.

River Derwent


Cromford Church

A pause on the walk for a look around Cromford Mills. Always an interesting place but on such a pleasant afternoon it was nice to see a very cheery burst of colour in the courtyard provided by Siddalls plant sales.

Plants & my intrepid guide

Plants & my intrepid guide

Browsing and walking is thirsty work though so although the original wharf café is closed for refurbishment an equally acceptable alternative café has been set up across the canal.

Once we were full of tea it was time to tackle the hill to Starkholmes and back towards old Matlock town. I won’t lie and say that it wasn’t hard work, but I was quite pleased with my attempt. At least the pauses I took I blamed on looking at the view. And the views were lovely.

Overlooking Matlock Bath it was clear enough to see the cable cars making progress towards the Heights of Abraham. It would be nice to return to see it when there is a little more colour in the trees.

Cable Cars

Cable Cars

Matlock Bath

Matlock Bath

We walked on and managed to pass a pub (White Lion Inn), without popping in for a sherbet. Next time it will be different! Then we arrived back in Old Matlock Town, next to Wheatsheaf House. A part of “Matlock” that I had no previously been aware of.

(Thanks Linda, enjoyable day!)


A warming cup

chocolate til

Recently, but before my trip to London, I had the pleasure in attending a lecture on food and drink in the Georgian period. This mainly featured tea, coffee and hot chocolate and the history and social status surrounding these products and the culture in indulging.

The feature at the end of the lecture mostly consisted of free samples! I’d tried chilli chocolate before but the two that followed were new to me and I include the recipes. The one with wine and eggs was a little too rich for me, but the other one most drinkable!

Vanilla Hot Chocolate Recipe

1 pint 600 ml full fat milk

4 oz 100g Dark Chocolate (I use 50% cocoa)

2 tsp/ 10 ml vanilla extract

2 tsp/10 ml ground cinnamon or nutmeg, or a mixture of these

Put the milk into a pan

Break the chocolate into it

Add the vanilla and spice

Heat gently until the chocolate has melted and the drink is just below boiling point.

Stir briskly or whisk, serve and enjoy…

And the decadent one…

Hot Chocolate Recipe, with Claret

I bottle (75cl) Claret or similar red wine

I pt 600ml Double Cream

300 gms Very dark chocolate (85% Cocoa beans)

Yolks of four eggs

Four heaped tablespoons of light soft brown sugar

Put the wine in a large saucepan and add the broken up chocolate and sugar. Heat gently until the chocolate melts. Take off the heat and add half the cream. Mix the egg yolks with the other half of the cream and stir that in. Put back on the heat and heat very gently until it just starts to simmer, it will thicken as you do so. Do not allow to boil at all. Check the sweetness is to your taste and enjoy!

This makes quite a lot, so you may wish to halve the quantities.

Sleuthing in the City

My recent day trip to the City of London focused on the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London, a canter around the rest of the exhibits and then a pleasant walk in the almost spring like conditions around the Guildhall in the City.

For me, a focus is the key on a day trip to London as I often miscalculate how long it can take to see places of interest and how long or how far I can walk in a limited time. So the aim this time was to stay within the square mile of the City of London and explore as much as I could that I had previously not seen.

Actually it’s fair to say I haven’t often visited the City of London for business or pleasure, although I have been to the Museum of London once before. The majority of the collection is free to access but a charge is made for the special exhibitions such as “Sherlock Holmes the man who never and will never die”. I wouldn’t say that I was a massive Sherlock fan or expert but, I hate to tell you, *whispers* he didn’t really exist.

I am sure it’s no coincidence that the museum has decided to revisit Sherlock after the success of the recent BBC series and the Benedict Cumberbatch Belstaff overcoat and blue scarf is resplendent in a glass case. The latest incarnation of the character is featured in a fair amount of visual footage running through the exhibition. But almost every other stage, TV and film Sherlock is also represented.

There are also some very interesting literary and Art loan exhibits, such as the manuscript of Edgar Allen Poe’s manuscript for the Murder of the Rue Morgue and Monet’s oil painting of London Bridge. For me the first part of the exhibitions resonated the most. Setting the scene for Doyle’s imagination in creating the character and the Victorian setting of London. For example, the smog, the hansom cabs, poverty, and the Victorian appetite for stories of murder and intrigue. It was a much darker London then thanks to the industrial grime. Visually represented by some superb photographs of the time.

Once I had passed through the exhibits that set the social and political tone for the stories, their progress and popularity are represented by manuscripts and first editions. Interesting to note that the popularity of the stories really escalated when they were serialised in the Strand magazine. Many a poster and original illustrations present the visual interpretation of the character. Lots of illustrations by Paget from the original stories. Some of them lent from the Speckled Band of Boston USA.

And then the final gallery is mostly of artefacts; THAT coat but plenty of deerstalker hats, top hats, evening suits, the pipe, the violin, the silk dressing gown, handguns and historical items that show the emerging scientific forensics (early finger printing kits, chemicals, analytical crime solving items) there was also the automaton ‘Psycho” from the museum collection providing an air of Victorian mystique.


Plenty of Film and TV history to enjoy too. Personally it was nice to see Jeremy Brett recognised, the Guy Richie films and Peter Cushing seemingly fighting a large potted palm in a railway carriage (I am sure that wasn’t the case)

And then all too soon you leave via a video wall of the Reichenbach falls, and Cumberbatch’s Sherlock narrating the exhibition to a close and me making progress to the café for a restorative cup of tea to try and absorb all that I had seen and heard before moving onto the general exhibits in the Museum of London.

After a cuppa I had a dash through some of the exhibits. I wanted to see the Roman exhibits in particular but was actually very impressed with “People’s London”; exhibits from the 1920’s onwards to the present day.

On such a lovely sunny afternoon my visit continued outside and a walk to the Guildhall. The main hall was unfortunately closed for a “special event” but the Guildhall art gallery and the innovative interpretation off the ruins of the roman amphitheatre under the Guildhall were a pleasant and interesting discovery.

GuildhallCity Crest

Almost time to find my way back to the coach, but just enough time to pop into the St Lawrence Jewry. Originally one of the 51 churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren and badly damaged in the Blitz before being rebuilt to some of the original plans. The glass windows are a major feature.

St Lawrence jewryGlass Window