Darwin’s grandad pops up again

040bWe went to Derby yesterday, what a lovely city.

Unlike me (who is a huge fan), Man is not overly enamored with lists.

However, spurred into action by my Fifty before Fifty challenge, he has drawn himself up a (short) list of things he’d like to do and one of those is to visit every county town in England. We have done Leicester, Nottingham, York, Lincoln, Winchester but not Derby. And, as it is only just down the road, off we trundled (and there is one of my Churches Conservation Trust churches there … more on that another day).

Now car parks might not be the most interesting of blog topics but the car park we found in Derby was so incredibly amazing I am going to have to tell you about it.

Not only did it have a coffee lounge and toilets (that were also clean), it was centrally located, had flashing lights above vacant parking bays so you could find them easily and was properly secure.


You were issued with a smart card on entry. Each parking bay had a bulb-like sensor on the ground that you parked over and the bays were numbered. Before you left the car park you put your smart card into a machine and typed in the bay number and that secured your car. There were gates on the car park. The only way to open the gates to get the vehicle out was to swipe your card to release your car, pay the parking fee and insert your card in the machine by the exit to open the gates.

And the smart card had to be swiped before you were allowed pedestrian access too.


On top of that, the car park cost us £3.80 for the entire afternoon.

Miraculous, secure and bargainous to boot.

Derby has a very nice cathedral too (more on that another day as well) but the little street next to the Cathedral is called Amen Alley.

How funny is that?


We had a quick look in the museum.

It is really well done.

There is a large collection of paintings by the Derby painter Joseph Wright and a a 3,400 year old longboat, which was incredible.

It was found in a gravel quarry in 1998 and is one of the oldest boats ever discovered.

Actually, there was another longboat in the quarry but that was carefully reburied and electronic monitors now check on its condition. If ever it is found to be deteriorating, it will be excavated and conserved.

Another big plus for me is that the museum and art gallery were free to enter.

Now yesterday was damn cold but Man and I did have a wander around the Cathedral district of the city and beyond.

044bThere was lots of interesting architecture, the Market Hall was great, there were quirky shops and lots of cafes and restaurants. I could have explored a lot more but it was freezing.

We came across the first reference to Darwin’s granddad Dr Erasmus Darwin in the museum, where there was a bust of him. And then in the town centre there is a Speaker’s Corner and there is a plaque with a quote from him.

Turns out he was quite a man. He was a physician (George III asked him to be Royal Physician and he said no), a poet, a philosopher, a botanist and an inventor of things as varied as a steering mechanism for carriages that was so advanced it was used in the first cars more than a century later, a canal lift for barges, a copying machine and an artesian well.

He advocated women’s education, married twice and had several affairs that produced at least 14 legitimate and illegitimate children and was a friend of Benjamin Franklin, James Watt, Josiah Wedgewood (Charles Darwin’s other grandfather) and Joseph Priestly.

049bBut he isn’t Derby’s only famous son/daughter.

This building has statues of the hosier and cotton spinner Jedediah Strutt, silk spinner John Lombe,  historian William Hutton and the Lady with the Lamp Florence Nightingale.

I thought I saw a statue of a lion, like the ones outside the Council House in Nottingham.

045bTurns out it was a ram. Well that makes more sense, since an old folk song called The Derby Ram, organisations in the city have adopted it as their mascot, including the football team.

048bI also ran across this guy who persuaded (conned) me into paying £3 for the Gag Mag that helps unemployed people and is put together by student rag week.

He gave me the adult humour edition :)

Now, if you don’t like these, it’s his fault ok? A couple of examples of clean jokes.

Inkeeper: The room is £15 a night, £5 if you make your own bed.

Guest: I’ll make my own bed.

Inkeeper: Great, I’ll get the hammer and nails.


Diner: This coffee tastes like mud.

Cafe owner: Well it is fresh ground sir.

Oh, come on … I’m just getting you ready for the Christmas cracker jokes :)



By the time we left Derby it was dark and all the trees were lit up with little fairy lights.

We will definitely be returning as we only saw a little of it – but the little we did see was lovely. A bit of history, a bit of culture, some friendly people, nice cafes and restaurants and the best car park in the world.

096bAnd the nightlife appears to be pretty vibrant too.










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