One of the most popular things to do during a stay in Derbyshire or the Peak District is a visit to one of the numerous caverns we have in the area. Discover some quirky facts about Derbyshire’s caves.
From north to south (with one thrown in for luck);
Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern, Castleton
The only two mines in the world where you can find the semi precious Derbyshire Blue John mineral. The stone is a kind of flourite with yellow and blue crystalline bands running through it.
The mineral is still mined in small quantities and you can have a go at polishing your own piece of Blue John stone.
Don’t put your piece of blue John in the oven though as the blue colour will disappear!
Speedwell Cavern, Castleton
Speedwell Cavern came to be because of the lead mining that took place here.
The entrance to the cave was some way from the excavation area and, due to the flooding in the mine, the journey was made by boat, which still happens for the visitor today
Despite sizeable investment, the mine was never very successful as a source of lead but due to the quirky means of travelling in the cave, it’s always been popular with tourists.
Peak Cavern, Castleton
Peak Cavern is the largest cave system in the Peak District and is almost all entirely natural.
The cave was inhabited by ropemaking cave dwellers until the early 20th century. Up to 40 families in two rows of cottages in the cave entrance. There were also stables, an inn and three small shops – wow!
Ropes were made in the enormous mouth to the cave (the largest cave opening in Britain) and you can see a demonstration of this on a visit, The ropes were made for; lead miners; as window sashes, tow ropes for barges, bell ropes and the odd hangman’s noose too!
Traditionally every bride in the village was given a rope, a washing line, on her wedding day
Poole’s Cavern, Buxton
Lead was also mined at Poole’s cavern in Buxton but the supplies were dwindling. The town was a popular visitor destination during Victorian times and earlier due to the spa waters and the visitors were quite keen to look around the cave. You can still see the Victorian turnstile that allowed visitors to enter the cave and the neighbouring country park
Heights of Abraham
The Heights of Abraham must be one of the oldest tourist attractions in the country. It opened its doors to visitors in the 1780s. There are two caves at the site. At one, Rutland Cave, you can experience what leading mining in the 17th century might have been like, the atmosphere, the sights and the sounds.
and the one thrown in, Cresswell Crags
Cresswell Crags caves were inhabited by prehistoric man. We know that because tools have been found at the site. What the archaeologists have never found, however, are human bones. What did the humans that were there use the caves for? We’ll never know for sure but it looks like the caves were used by travellers on hunting trips, perhaps they could be thought of as the first self-catering accommodation!
If you are thinking blue porcelain with white motifs when you think of Wedgwood then its time to think again. There is just so much more to know!
Josiah Wedgwood – what of the man?
Josiah Wedgwood (1730 to 1795) was not the first potter in his family but he was the most successful. He was innovative, diligent, an incredibly successful businessman and probably a bit of a perfectionist.
Josiah also had a clear social conscience. He understood that in treating his workers well, they would repay him with loyalty and hard work. Both he and his business partner, Thomas Bentley, were against slavery and used their pottery to actively campaign against it
Wedgwood invented the pyrometer, a device used for measuring the temperature inside a kiln, an accomplishment that earned him an invitation to The Royal Society
He was a very astute businessman, creating efficiencies within the factory that allowed costs to be cut and effectively led to the industrialisation of the manufacture of pottery
He was also a marketing genius of his time, pioneering direct mail, money back guarantees, illustrated catalogues and travelling salesmen, free delivery and ‘buy one get one free’.
His early customers included Queen Charlotte, queen to George III which sealed his reputation as a producer of the highest quality porcelain. What he did so well, though, was to also produce a cheaper version that he could sell to the aspiring middle classes.
Wedgwood and some of his business friends commissioned the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal. Having inside knowledge as to its route, Wedgwood then built his factory right alongside it. There were certainly fewer breakages when transporting the goods by water rather than by packhorse!
Not only was Josiah Wedgwood a remarkable individual but his heirs include some amazing characters too;
His youngest son, Thomas, was a scientist and, arguably, has a right to be called the first photographer. Thomas discovered how light reacts with certain chemicals to create an image. Unfortunately, he never learned how to ‘fix’ the image;
Wedgwood’s eldest son, John, was very interested in botany and founded what was to later become the Royal Horticultural Society;
Josiah’s daughter, Susannah, married Robert Darwin. Their son was Charles Darwin!
The great-granddaughter of Josiah and niece of Charles Darwin gave birth to Ralph Vaughan Williams, the composer.
Wedgwood remained a family run business for more than 200 years, until the late 1960s.
What a family!
We cannot talk about Wedgwood without a brief encounter with jasperware, that iconic unglazed, coloured stoneware with white figures in relief, pressed on to its surface.
It took three thousand experiments before Wedgwood was, at last, happy with his efforts to perfect the porcelain. You can see just a few of the attempts, meticulously catalogued, in the Museum today.
Jasperware is named after the natural stone jasper, which it resembles in its hardness after firing. The blue actually comes from cobalt oxide and the colour only comes out after firing.
Wandering around the Museum, you see very little of the famous jasperware. At this point, you realise how diverse the product ranges have been over the years.
The company’s fortunes have fluctuated in recent decades but are now assured. By selling off part of the estate for housing, £34m has been invested in the business, new museum and visitors centre. The future looks rosy.
Since the 18th century, the Wedgwood family have been collecting samples of their work and lives. The collection of 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts, letters and photographs are now owned by the V&A and on long-term loan to the site near Stoke-on-Trent. A small part of the collection is beautifully displayed in the Museum. Entry to the museum is free.
At the fabulous new visitors’ centre, you are also able to take a factory tour and talk to the people who work there. It’s also possible to have a go at ‘throwing’ a pot (great fun!). You can create a design for an item of porcelain (which can be transferred on to the real thing and posted home to you).
There’s also a fabulous shop which is inspirational to browse around, a factory outlet and restaurant. Don’t miss out the beautiful tea room and conservatory, which serves the most delicious afternoon teas (all served on stunning Wedgwood china, of course).
A fun, informative and very indulgent day out!
Approx 33 miles from the cottages, an hours drive
World of Wedgwood
Lyme Park as Pemberley
Lyme Park has become synonymous with Pemberley, the family home of The Darcys, as depicted in the BBCs adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As well as seeing for yourself that amazing view of the house across the lake, there is so much more to see and do at Lyme Park.
For 2017, the story of Lyme Park is being told through the eyes of Thomas Legh who lived at Lyme in the first half of the 19th century, the Regency period. Although born illegitimate, Thomas inherited the estate aged just 5.
The wealth he inherited allowed him to travel and he became one of the first Europeans to travel on the Nile. He visited many parts of the middle East and returned with lots of souvenirs of his travels.
He also used his wealth to comprehensively renovate and restore Lyme to what we see, largely, today
It appears that he was also a bit of romantic hero, saving the reputation of a local heiress by marrying her. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end happily as she later died in childbirth.
Lyme Park in 2017
With strong associations between Lyme Park and Jane Austen’s hero, Mr Darcy, it seems only right to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death in 2017 and celebrate all things Regency!
You are able to dress up in the costume of the time, tour the house and gardens and really imagine what it might have been like to live in that period of history.
During the summer holidays, Thomas Legh’s travels will be brought to life in Lego. There’ll be models of the places that he visited such as Petra and the Egyptian pyramids as well as space and Lego in the gardens to build your own creations.
If you fancy a run or jog in beautiful parkland then Lyme have regular events where you can meet up with other like-minded individuals. There are also have a number of cycle routes that cross the park.
As well as the Lego during the summer, there is also a great children’s play area, a stream running through the park that they can splash in (take wellies) and a children’s trail available.
Lyme Park is just 20 miles from Hayloft and Byre Cottages, 16 miles from Cliffe Cottage and 30 miles from Jasmine Cottage.
“It’s not all about old trams”
That was the introduction on a recent visit to Crich Tramway Village. And they are right. Whilst there is a lot to see if you are engineering minded there is also lots to see and do if you are not!
History and background
The tramways had been declining for decades but enthusiasts around the country had made sure that at least some trams were kept from the scrap yards. But what to do with all these old trams accumulating around the country?
Crich Tramway Village came about after a chance encounter by a tram enthusiast at the site of a disused limestone quarry in the heart of Derbyshire. The quarry, owned by the Stephenson family (of “Stephenson’s Rocket” fame) had its own narrow gauge track that had been used to transport quarried limestone to Ambergate for onward transportation. With the demise of the quarry shortly after the second world war, the family sold the track to a company in Wales. One of the engineers who came to dismantle the track saw the potential, a mile of track was saved at Crich and the Village was born.
So what is at Crich?
- A mile of track that a few of the operational trams trundle up and down, giving the visitors a glimpse of what travelling around by tram might have been like in their heyday
- A fleet of 70 trams, of which 30 are operational
- Internationally renown workshops that you can overlook. See trams being rebuilt and serviced
- Exhibition areas
- Half a mile of woodland walk (no trams at all) complete with fantastical wooden sculptures
- A new adventure playground and indoor soft play area
- The opportunity to have a pie and pint lunch in the Red Lion pub, a tea room and ice cream parlour
Crich is both dog and family friendly. They also have one tram that is fully accessible by wheelchair.
Watch out for special events during the 2016 season including a full week of 1940s nostalgia in August.
Eyam Hall is a small Jacobean style manor built and lived in by the Wright family for nine generations. After the owners decision to retire three years ago the National Trust have leased and run this fascinating property.
Eyam is famous for its role in the late 17th-century plague where the villagers quarantined themselves in order to stop the deadly disease spreading. The Hall was built just a few years later so you’ll find no mention of the plague in the Hall. The Hall has been adapted, modernised and renovated over the years to accommodate the families needs. The underlying spirit of the Hall remains undiminished, however, and it requires little imagination to transport yourself back across the years.
Some of the Hall’s residents and visitors could not resist leaving their marks by way of etching poetry on the window panes. I’m not sure what we would make of such “graffiti” today!
On a guided tour you will hear the stories of the etchings, how the Hall almost left the family and how, by chance, it came back to the right lineage. You will see a fabulous collection of furniture, family portraits and artifacts, all of which seem to have a story attached.
The Hall is open from 2nd December until the 20th December and is beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations from different eras. The Hall will then be closed for winter maintenance and re-opened in mid-February 2016