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Derbyshire Coat of Arms

Sep 2017

mæðel assembly, council + āc (an) oak tree + bæð Old English bathing-place.

Population - 753.

Derbyshire Coat of Arms

Not to be confused with Matlock itself or Matlock Bank or Matlock Green or Matlock Dale although it's all just about joined up, nowadays, but with a bit of a gap to the bath.

Head south from Matlock through the gap and past High Tor, a mini-Matterhorn of sorts from which people can be seen dangling most days and a taster to the 'Switzerland of England'.

Near Matlock Bath - High Tor

Not that cheese and chocolate are on the menu, more like cheesy chips and choc ices, for this, it turns out, is one of the strangest places this pair have had the pleasure of and that's not meant entirely in a bad way, by the way.

With the mountain comparison already covered, the Royal Well suggests 'spa' and a hint of the hydrotherapeutic heyday.

Matlock Bath - Royal Well

It's the site of one of the original springs, in the grounds of a now-demolished hotel, and acts as today's parking provider having been turned away from everywhere else in town.

That's initially strange but not nearly so much as the screaming that seems to be coming from the trees?

 
Gulliver's Kingdom (Temple Walk)

It's now known to come from  Gulliver's Kingdom, a kiddies theme park that's halfway up a steep hill and couldn't be any more out of place if it was on top of the Matterhorn.

The 'Best Family Day Out in Derbyshire' caters for the niche two to thirteen-year-old market. Yes, everyone's seen the signs on the M1 but there was no idea it was actually here and it occupies two levels that start 300 foot up.

Gulliver himself would be up in two strides but advising trippers complain that it's not 'buggy-friendly' even though they've laid on a chairlift and a 'travelator' for them.

Heading north up South Parade, there's a faintly-greasy whiff in the air and it's not from the hairy bikers[1].

Matlock Bath - Kostas Fish Bar Matlock Bath - North Parade Matlock Bath - Derwent Amusements

No, fish & chips and at least seven of them clocked on this watch and what with the ice creams, the ' musements and rock of both minty and fruity varieties, has an accidental wrong turn been made and this is Blackpool?

[1] Mostly bald and in their fifties anyway.

 
Riverside Fish Bar (South Parade)

There's no claim being made that this one is any better than Rita's Fish Bar or Charle's Fish and Pies or Kostas Fish Bar or the Promenade Fish Bar or Halls Traditional Fish & Chips or Tucker's Fish & Chips or Taste of the Waves.

Matlock Bath - Riverside Fish Bar

None of them warranted a comment, actually, other than the business was brisk in all. It's just that the Riverside was, quite simply, the pic of the bunch.

The Swiss chalet-style construction of the train station is another hint to the well-to-do spa resort but by the end of the nineteenth century that had fallen out of fashion[1].

Matlock Bath - Train Station

Seaside resorts were on the rise but this is just about as far away from the sea as it's possible to be in England. It is, however, far easier for the not-so-wealthy workers of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to reach rather than chugging over seventy miles to Skegness.

[1] When it was realised that the idea behind the benefits of hydrotherapy was, indeed, a stinker.

With the train already here, and sensing an opportunity, the place was then promoted as an 'inland resort', which is why North Parade is now being wandered along.

Matlock Bath - Train Station

That furthest-from-the-sea fact, by the way, is very nearly true. It's actually credited to Coton in the Elms, which is still in Derbyshire, and about twenty-five miles south or thereabouts.

 
Life in a Lens Museum (North Parade)

Hidden behind the Victorian Teashop, which itself is sandwiched between the fish & chips, this small photographic-history museum includes some vintage clothing and it's all done with a period feel.

Something was glimpsed earlier high up and glistening in the distance. It looked from back there to be a heavily glassed café and terrace that affords terrific views back down to town but how to get up there?

Matlock Bath - View up to the Heights of Abraham

Only by heading behind the train station and by gondola, of course, and no, not that sort, silly.

Rather a cable car, obviously, up to the  Heights of Abraham hilltop park.

Matlock Bath - Up to the Heights of Abraham Matlock Bath - Up to the Heights of Abraham

This is the strangest sight so far but it still makes more sense than that funfair since it's a steep walk up to this former, Georgian pleasure garden. The cable cars didn't arrive until 1984 and you can still walk it if you want but a 'clippie' will nab you on your way in at the top.

 
Heights of Abraham (Dale Road)

The cable car ticket covers the entrance fee for access to the café and viewpoints. They used to mine lead up here and the network of caverns and passages is one of the main attractions. Yes, everyone's seen the signs on the M1 but there was no idea it was actually here.

As for the name, the Plains of Abraham near Quebec, Canada, was the site of a famous English victory over the French in 1759. One of the conquering officers later mentioned the geographical resemblance and as soon as you could say 'Trade Marked', the early resort was born.

Heading back down North Parade, some rather marvellous lavs have been laid on for your convenience next to a war memorial that's worthy of a mention, not shown.

Matlock Bath - Public Lavs Matlock Bath - Derwent Gardens

This soon leads, on the left, into Derwent Gardens, a prime piece of greenery and relaxing, formal garden that, once again, hints at the heyday.

Several of the original springs provide the fuel for the fountains and other highlights include, what's believed to be, a grotto which might well double up as a 'Petrifying Well'.

Matlock Bath - Derwent Gardens Matlock Bath - Derwent Gardens

There are several here, supposedly, where the mineral-rich water calcifies any clinker that's thrown in although impatient kids will be disappointed to discover they'll have to wait a year to see the full effect.

The  Matlock and District Swimming Club have been known to take a dip in the River Derwent although that's not recommended today, not after that whale of a cod you're still digesting, eh?

Speaking earlier of Blackpool, that's not the only connection since they host their own 'Illuminations' here September-thru-October. It's the 120th anniversary of this  waterier version of events and it's only the opening night so that'll explain being banished to the outskirts.

All of this is entirely accidental but the late-afternoon crowds are now starting to arrive and in two hours time, it'll be £7.50 for entrance to the Derwent Gardens.

Last year's comments weren't too kind and the flotilla of brightly lit boats sounds better than it looks, probably. It's mostly council funded, you see, and in these days of cutbacks, there are complaints that most of the candles have gone out.

Matlock Bath - Near Derwent Gardens Matlock Bath - Near Derwent Gardens

The Heights of Abraham help out with the fireworks but the screening off of the river to prevent people from getting a free peep is all a bit shabby and a right old shame.

This is a tradition that goes back, well, 120 years, remember, but what with this age of austerity all but over, won't it be great to get back to how it was in the '70s, right kids?

 
Peak District Mining Museum (Grand Pavilion)

At the entrance to Derwent Gardens, it's a museum of mining in the Peak District in a grand pavilion, all right.

Matlock Bath - Peak District Mining Museum

It's largely about the lead they used to plumb the depths for round here and they've even recreated some subterranean tunnels. There's a guided tour in some genuine ones over the road where you'll go down just as well as the variety acts who used to perform in the Grand Pavillion back in the day.

All of the town's buildings line the west bank of the River Derwent since they decided they wouldn't-couldn't excavate opposite.

Matlock Bath - South Parade Matlock Bath - River Derwent

Over there are the cliffs of the steep gorge that define the local landscape and promenaders are catered for by the Lovers' Walks, a series of footpaths along and up to look down on the Derwent.

That would normally invite investigation but with the light dimming, there's not even been time for a chip cob, or whatever it is they call a bun here. That and a ninety-nine and none of that  Monkey's Blood, neither, awful stuff, but do you have crushed nuts?[1]

This might all be landlocked as well but with the surroundings more seaside than spa, these days, the 'Switzerland of England' description is defunct. More like the 'Weston-super-Mare of the East Midlands' and do you know what?...

The Matlock Bath Tourist Board can have that one, for free!

[1] No, it's just the way I talk. © The early '70s.