When I was a kid I used to love the cartoon Ivor the Engine. There was Jones the Steam and Idris the dragon and, of course, Ivor, the steam engine who sang in the choir (You can see the first episode on YouTube here)
I also loved both the book by Edith Nesbitt and the film The Railway Children. Jenny Agutter waving her red flannel knickers standing on the railway track was very dramatic. I’d breathe a huge sigh of relief when the train stopped in time.
Maybe that’s why Number 27 on my Fifty before Fifty challenge was to go on a steam train :)
Yesterday was probably the first glorious spring day I’ve seen this year on a day off, so Man and I headed to Matlock, historic county town of Derbyshire, and a beautiful drive away across the Peak District.
Matlock is absolutely lovely and has the very best park I have ever seen. This is a bridge in two halves. This side is 14th century, it was big enough to get a horse and cart across but that is probably it. If you look carefully underneath the arches, you can see the join where the bridge was extended. The other side is about 500 years more recent and it has been spliced together so you can get single lane modern traffic over the top.
On one side is Hall Leys Park, which is just amazing and has absolutely everything. Yesterday there was a Farmers’ Market there. We bought some amazing cheese, a huge scone and a sausage roll AND marmite sausages – oh my goodness they are amazing. We had some last night for dinner and then made some marmite bread to have sausage sandwiches for breakfast :)
This park is the most spectacular park and it has something for everyone. It has a bandstand, a sunken garden, a putting green, a boating lake, a miniature train, open areas where you can sit or kick a ball, an amazing kids play area with fountains, tennis courts, a bowling green, skateboard park, toilets and a cafe … all alongside the side of the river. It was fabulous.
We went for a walk along the river and found …
But the real reason we went to Matlock was to visit the Peak Rail steam railway and check off Number 27 on my list. It’s not quite Platform 9¾, it’s actually Platform 2 but this is real and not fiction :).
At Matlock Station we found the Peak Rail Station master.
Peak Rail is staffed and run by a team of enthusiasts who lovingly recreate the golden age of the steam railways. They are knowledgeable, cheerful and help give visitors a most memorable day on the trains.
For just £7.50 per adult you can ride the train all day, travelling a short stretch of line from Matlock through the village of Darley Dale to Rowsley South and back again, getting off where you want and hopping back on again.
We jumped on at Matlock and rode at a civilized chug chug speed through the most beautiful countryside to the end of the line where we got off and had a quick look round.
And a very nostalgic-looking photo of Man when we managed to commandeer a First Class carriage for our journey. So comfortable with sprung seats and doors so you could shut yourself in. So much more civilized than the hustle and bustle of today’s railways.
This used to be the Midlands Railway line between Manchester and St Pancras. It closed in the late 1960s. Some of it now forms paths, bridleways and cycle paths through the Peak District but I’m glad they kept this bit.
We hopped off the train again at Darley Dale. This old gothic-style railway building has an exhibition of old photos and other railway memorabilia. You can check which engines were in use when, see the staff lists from years gone by and look at amazing photos of Land Girls at work on the railways during the Second World War or retired railway staff on their annual day trip. It was a lovely little exhibition.
Darley Dale itself is quite small. It had another fabulous park (probably bigger in area than the rest of the village) where we sat and devoured the Eastern scotch eggs we had bought earlier at the Farmers’ Market.
Darley Dale was the home, and is the final resting place, of Joseph Whitworth, Victorian engineer and philanthropist who was described when he died as a brilliant man but also a man with a huge ego.
He devised the British Standard Whitworth system, which created an accepted standard for screw threads – not a lot you can say about that really – and the Whitworth rifle, renowned for its precision.
Anyway, he lived here and his home is now a hotel and restaurant.
Then we hopped back on the train for a pleasant chuff chuff chuff back to Matlock.
It was a day of slowing down the pace and stepping back in time, a day of nostalgia and beautiful countyside on a bygone mode of transport through lovingly restored stations. It really was just lovely and, if you are ever in the area, I couldn’t recommend it more.
… And if you get a chance to buy the marmite sausages then make sure you do because they are amazing :)