Hardwick Hall was one of those places I’d heard others talk about often, but had never properly visited. It’s relatively close to where I grew up – just under an hour’s drive – and to call its leading lady of history “interesting” would be a […]
Which other gardens can you visit and find yourself walking leisurely from one country to another? Biddulph Grange is that garden. Of course, all gardens in modern times are a journey across continents. Even our most pedestrian suburban plots probably have several international guests. Rudbeckia […]
What are your views on Fate? I’m quite a strong believer in the idea that opportunities are laid at your feet, though it’s up to us as individuals to step out on each path or not.
Why do I say this? Well, the Sunday just gone was booked in for absolutely ages for Matt and myself to meet my friends Jen and John for the Go Ape Treetop Adventure in Buxton. Tickets were paid for, a start time of 11:00 set, and outdoor gear prepared.
Then things began to go awry. We got stuck behind cyclists, then a tractor, and then Macclesfield had two road closures and thus diversions. We made it to Go Ape eventually – at 11:07, just as the safety briefing had got underway. Matt and I were too late to join the group, although fortunately Jen and John got on with the experience.
Go Ape kindly offered us a refund in the form of two gift vouchers, which we’re sure to use at one of their sites. Maybe not the Buxton one, as it seems to be cursed for poor Matthew, who has failed to enjoy it on more than one occasion…
So how did it happen for a reason? Matt and I have a list of Things We Plan To Do. It’s an ever-growing list, but we’re certainly ticking things off too. One item on the list was The Chestnut Centre between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Castleton in Derbyshire. I’d driven past it plenty of times, but it took Matt researching to inform me it’s an otter sanctuary/wildlife conservation space. I’d always assumed it was a children’s activity centre/youth hostel-type place!
We drove from Buxton to the Chestnut Centre and I loved it. Such a good cause and so entertaining. You wander through a simple yet well-stocked little gift shop and café to buy tickets and head out through the gates to the modest deer park.
Down the hill you pass through more gates to reach the side of the stream, which feeds several small enclosures. A few of them are occupied by lively or loud (or both) otters, ranging from energetic asian short claw otters to entertaining giant otters.
One giant otter in particular was eager to have fun and please the crowds at feeding time (from 12:30, including polecat feeding too). This otter loved his metal bowl, and must have spent at least half-an-hour splashing about with it and wrestling it up the bankings.
Besides the otters and polecats, the centre houses various owl species, foxes, Scottish wildcats, pine martens and rehabilitating badgers (some you may not spot).
It was totally different to Go Ape – well, maybe as wet as Go Ape would have been with the rain – but totally meant to be. I’m pleased to have been able to contribute to the wellbeing and recovery of so many different creatures through my ticket purchase. Adoption is an option for the visitor too. I strongly recommend this little gem tucked away in a valley to anyone and everyone.
As for Jen and John… They had a great time at Go Ape, and we managed to catch the, afterwards for a couple of hours eating and drinking in The Bull’s Headin Castleton.
Do you find that every now and then you just need a totally chilled weekend?
That’s what I was in need of this time, and that is what I got. Not boring or empty, but relaxed and satisfying. I’ve been chock full of cold since Tuesday evening, and I’m still today experiencing the occasional snuffle, sneeze or cough. I needed a less strenuous couple of days.
It was the first weekend in a while where I haven’t driven over to Matt’s straight from my work experience with Bestall & Co., something I normally don’t mind doing, but which would have taken it out of me this weekend. I don’t know if you ever suffer with this when having a cold, but I always end up feeling slightly tipsy; my head feels light and disorientated when I move it while suffering a cold. So driving is fun!
So what has this past weekend involved?
On Friday evening I visited my sister at her place to discuss life, drop off a rather belated birthday present for her, and have a look over a couple of areas of her back garden which she’d like my input with – something I’ll move onto doing after typing this up (it’s Sunday morning as I write).
Afterwards I hurried home to get changed and grab a taxi over to my friend Chris’ surprise 30th birthday party, brilliantly organised by my school friend Rach. Shame that Chris slipped out of the pub earlier than the deadline for guests to all arrive, so the SURPRISE! part was a little unsurprising. He seemed to enjoy himself nonetheless, as did I. It was fantastic catching up with old friends and meeting some new people too, despite me having to leave quite early to avoid making myself more ill again.
Following a relatively early night in bed for a Friday, I was up and about Saturday tidying and then driving over to meet Matt in Tideswell, town home to the “Cathedral of the Peak”, the parish church of St John the Baptist.
I was ridiculously early (a trait of mine), but it worked out fine as I went for a little stroll alone around the town centre, passing up some side streets I’ve never bothered with before. I loved the following rows of houses with their floral fiesta (the photo sadly doesn’t do it justice):
The bench in the bottom left of the above photo is in more detail below, with its curious little notice which I imagine relates to the fact it’s not the sturdiest looking of benches!
I walked past this old chapel, now converted into what I assume is holiday cottage-type lodgings, but the sign left me wondering if it was a rentable function space instead/as well:
At the end of the same street you came face to face with the following little white gate, and I wonder what the house and garden behind the high hedging are like. Sadly as you went along, you couldn’t tell, as the sides of the garden were as overgrown as the front boundary…
Matt’s arrival was precluded by the racket of a car driving along the main road of Tideswell. People stopped and looked for the cause of the noise, and upon hearing it, most waved their arms frantically at the driver, who bizarrely carried on in blissful ignorance. He had two bikes attached to the back of the car, and one had dropped down, for its handlebars to be dragging along the road surface. I hope he pulled over eventually, as he’d have no handlebars left once he hit the 50mph zones!
Nevertheless, Matt’s arrival was the main event. You see, Tideswell has special significance for us. We both love the outdoors and country walks, and after talking online, we eventually met at the sort-of midway point between our homes, in Tideswell. It was a freezing cold January morning, snow was forecast, but we thought “what the heck, let’s do this!” We made it around halfway around the designated walk (I had a map) before the snowflakes started to descend, and quite rapidly it became a blizzard, blocking out the view all around us. Too late – we were too far to turn back.
It was great fun, even if my mobile did run out of battery, leading me to worry that my mum would be worrying as to my whereabouts and wellbeing. I got back to my car, said a hasty goodbye, and left a confused and then pessimistic Matthew behind to make his own journey over to Lymm. Not even the chance of a coffee or cake. Whoops.
Well I obviously made it clear I did actually want to see him a second time, as we were on date number two by the Saturday (two days later!).
But here we are, in a less freezing photo, from a carved stone bench at the midway point of the walk we re-enacted for the most part this weekend:
The route we followed this time takes you down out of Tideswell and along Brook Head into Miller’s Dale (on the banks of the River Wye). You go from passing cheerful local dog walkers to encountering hikers and razor-keen rock climbers, tackling the sheer faces of the cliffs.
You go through the post-industrial houses and apartments of Litton Mill…
…and on until you reach Cressbrook.
Here we deviated from our winter route and kept to the country lanes, heading high up through Cressbrook and past it’s Hall (whose gardens are usually open, £2.50 for adults, but typically not on a Saturday – bad luck!). The sun shone and the grey stone cottages looked characterful and magical. Even the most simple and pragmatic of old properties around the area appealed to me, and Matt too.
Our end goal (besides our cars in Tideswell, of course!) was the little village of Litton and its pub for a spot of late lunch. It’s called The Red Lion and if you want to visit a small country pub retaining its separate rooms and so its original personality, go there! The bar lady (I’m not sure if she was also the landlady, actually) was friendly and enthusiastic, and the food was delicious (and that was just cheddar and tomato chutney sandwiches and fat chips in our case). I wouldn’t mind it being my local.
We followed up our lunch with coffee and cake across the village green and road at the little store. The proprietors here were friendly too. In fact, I can’t think of coming across any bad sorts while out there. The range of cakes on offer was fantastic too: Matt had carrot cake, I had a raspberry and pistachio frangipane tart, but there was coffee cake, chocolate cake, brownies…. The list goes on. Carrot cake is only available one day a week though – be warned!
We polished off the day by visiting three of the pubs down in Tideswell, although we were both sadly disappointed by the George Inn and The Star Inn. They seemed popular with residents, but they had been “modernised” (read: painted neutrals, greens and magentas) and had lost any sort of character.
The last pub, The Horse & Jockey, kept its dark beams and nooks and crannies, and was much the better for it. I wish we’d sampled their food too, but we were both quite full still from our lunch and cakes. Or at least Matt was. I got home that night and devoured an Indian takeaway…
And so it brings me to Sunday, and to typing this, before getting on with some garden designing and some pottering around. I hope you’ve had a fulfilling weekend, whether it’s been quiet or action-packed.
Always remember to make a bit of downtime for yourself though; we don’t have limitless power packs that don’t need recharging now and again.
I read on the Pentreath & Hall Inspiration blog earlier this year how the author, Ben Pentreath, was aiming to do one new thing every weekend. Unintentionally I have been doing much the same thing.This weekend just passed was a much more sedate affair, but […]