Today’s blog was inspired by my recent visit to Haddon Hall and the possibility of returning for the Tudor Weekend. Sadly the BB’s couldn’t be with me so the Transpeak adventure materialised.
It didn’t look too promising from the coffee shop window, those grey early morning skies. Across the road 250 people had been queuing since 4 am outside the Arcade record shop. The amused barista had informed us all in the cafe that they were waiting for rare limited edition records.
Well, I had better things to do that queue outside a shop on a Saturday morning and with new rain hat in hand I set off in search of the Transpeak bus (TP) to take me to the Haddon Hall Tudor cookery weekend.
The TP follows an interesting route after the monotony of the A52 and the outskirts of Derby. We travelled through Duffield, passing the grand headquarters of the Derbyshire Building Society and onto Belper. I was quite surprised as the TP turned into the Bus Depot; surely we hadn’t hit a snag? But no the depot doubles as the bus station, all very On the Buses (I hate you Butler!)
After the excitement of Belper bus depot the TP follows a route that is pretty similar to the train. The scenery looked familiar after many train journeys. Ambergate, Cromford, Matlock Bath and Matlock. To say that the UK is in a drought it looked pretty odd to see that the football pitch at Ambergate was underwater.
As the TP approached Matlock a grey cloud hung overhead. A quick sniff determined that it was sooty smoke from the Steam Engine that had just arrived at Matlock from Peak Rail. So rain hat still not required, but it probably accounted for the strange roadside sign at Darley Dale “Coal hole open today”, unless there are strange customs in this area on a Saturday morning.
The TP rumbled on to Haddon Hall via Rowsley where the cheerful bus driver wished me a good day and asked me if anything interesting was happening. I told him quickly in fear that the passengers would riot at the delay over needless chit chat, but no, they were quite happy (not my normal bus experience where a nano second delay elicits loud groans) “Sounds more fun than driving to Manchester duck”, but he didn’t park the bus and join me so I guess the remaining passengers were relieved seeing as they were all on their way to Bakewell and Buxton.
The sun was threatening to appear as I walked through the gate house (rain hat now firmly at bottom of bag). The Wye was rushing under the bridge as I crossed it but with no Brackenfield Bandits for company today I didn’t fancy the tea shop solo. Onwards and upwards, quite literally.
By the time I arrived in the kitchen the food preparation was in full swing. All the Tudor group that I spoke to were more than happy to tell me what had been happening. It’s quite a task to cook for the weekend, as the ovens have to be lit from cold and as any good cook will tell you, knowing how the temperature of your oven behaves is crucial. The lady chopping veal informed me that the suckling pig on her table had been cooked overnight, was now skinned and waiting to be glazed. Next to her another lady was making marchpaine to mould into decorative piglets to go around the pig for the table.
The clerk of the kitchen was busy being officious with instructions and happy to impart snippets of historical knowledge to the assembled audience. I guess I am always learning new facts but of course it had never crossed my mind that although the preparation was being carried out by men and women today, in Tudor times it would have been the men. Certainly the clerk of the kitchen was too grand a role for a woman.
I left the kitchens thinking how nice it had been to see them alive with activity and the ovens lit for bread making.
In the banqueting hall the men were making a right feast out of trying to put up the tables. Earlier they had been hanging around the fire toasting their Tudor buns and looking decorative in an lazy, effective way.
Leaving them to get on with it. This proved a good movement to enjoy some more sunshine in the garden.
By the time I returned the tables had been set, it all looked grand but too nice to eat. And sadly time to leave.
The journey back on the TP was just as entertaining in a friendly way. On arrival at Matlock the bus driver informed us that we had five minutes if we wanted to go to the loo, smoke a fag or pop into the Co-op. Most people seemed to nip into the Co-op as bread rolls had been knocked down to a pound. After the five minutes we had lost a passenger, but we waited until she arrived festooned with bread rolls and we set off for Matlock Bath.
The Derbyshire countryside rolled by and that was it. The TP had been punctual and very pleasant. I’m not sure if I chose a good day or if it is regularly that efficient. It was just nice to be able to go from Nottm to the gates of Haddon Hall without changing buses or trains all for £8.60 which didn’t seem too bad a price.