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The International Writers Magazine: Matlock

A week in the sticks…
Darren Skelton
Is the internet not a wonderful thing?
Well, yes it is and no, it isn’t, but for the most part it is certainly not a bad thing! Most certainly it is definitely not a stain on society like the rioting by youthful reprobates in Manchester this summer gone by, 2011.


When you live like I do, which is out of the way in the People’s Republic (of China) the WWW is most definitely is a good thing. You can read the so called ‘proper’ papers such as ‘the Guardian’ on the net for your daily and supposedly unbiased news, although one could argue these ‘proper’ papers are going downhill somewhat. You can catch up on ‘Match of the Day’ (like any good expat) via either the ‘Youtube’ rip off site ‘Youku’ or the imaginatively titled ‘Mr Potato’ website.

A couple of years back whilst trawling through websites in one of my more eco-friendly / environmentally friendly / ‘world-peace for all’, moods I discovered a website doing some ‘good’ for local communities in China though promoting local tourism and that sort of jazz. It was imaginatively called ‘ and is worth a little peek for sure as it has quite a range.

We took advantage of one of the trips we found down in the sprawling south-western expanses of China, one of those ‘good’ things about it being only local resources are used, local labor is used and all profits are kept and recycled back into the local community / economy (or so they say, no one can ever really tell in these parts of the world).

That would be another story, which it is.

Yet, having signed up to the ‘sign up for free updates emails’ that accompanies any half decent website nowadays, we found a one-week holiday break for the summer 2011 back in sunny old England. We had blanked out 6 weeks of the summer that needed filling you see.

We had found a place called Hoe Grange holidays, located in Derbyshire, the Peak District.

A week in a log-cabin in the peak district on a farm in the middle of nowhere sounded like a winner indeed. So much so, that I did not even have to “sell” the idea to my wife, who is petrified of the open out-doors. Greenery, fresh-air, a few sheep and ‘moo-cows’, horses, deafening peace and quiet, a few stars and couple of crates of John smiths and we would be set. As I live in a grey concrete jungle in the North East China, all of the above are unavailable on a very, very regular basis.

A few email enquiries with the attentive owners of said mentioned long cabin, and a couple of conversations with the old man, and we had a provisional booking set up fairly sharpish.

An even better result was that the old man volunteered to pay for it, so pay for it he did as I’m never one to look such a gift horse in the mouth. In addition, he acted as lead scout for the trip, going on a few Sunday drives out there to the Peak district (with Mother) checking out local boozers / gastro-pubs, parks and walks, rivers and lakes, chippies, pie shops and sweet shops, places of interest and such like. Jolly nice of him to put him through all that leisure time of his eating mixed grills, drinking local ales and generally slacking around in the pleasant surroundings of the culturally rich English countryside slurping on ice-creams. A jolly decent fella indeed.

The trip was penciled in for the wife, our 2 and a half year old daughter named (little) Mary, and of course mother and father. My brother opted out of it. You see, my brother is a city person who needs his bright lights and things to keep himself occupied, not to mention the access to fast food take-away establishments, an addiction to the sofa watching SKY SPORTS, plus he is one who will drive to the public house which is approximately seven or eight minutes down the road rather than use his own two feet to get there.

However, once his son, my nephew nonetheless, Kai, found out about a free holiday away doing stuff out and about, larking around, he cunningly managed to talk his way onto the trip.

Fortunately, we had booked a log cabin that was well equipped to handle the 6-persons party we had now become. The log cabin seemed to tick all the right boxes that wife and mother had been looking for, along the lines of cleanliness and being fully-furnished (cot-bed for example). My Dad seemed well impressed by the scouting mission he had been on with regards local things to do, the safety and layout of the farm itself in lined up next to the log cabins, also with the friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable owners of the farm we would stay on. In addition, he is an ex-farmer, so a farm is a farm is a farm that is good for him. Kai seemed to be happy he’d have some freedom away from school and that he’d likely get spoiled by both grandparents and his Aunt and Uncle, plus he could go biking! I had contented myself that little Mary loves animals, so being on a working farm, with access to sheep, cows, chickens and horses at all times would be more than enough for him no matter what else was on the cards. 

Day one – Arrival and an evening settling in by settling out! 

A two car operation was required to get us and our gear all there safely on the Friday afternoon. They key things to bring were of course sun hats for daytime ops and beany hats for cooler evenings, super-cool purple body warmer for Mary, a pack of UNO cards for family entertainment, enough bacon to feed a rebel army, a box or two of cheap Australian white wine, and of course the I-pad, my toy of the moment for its ability to multi-task exceptionally well (a god-send on the long international flights – download some ‘Peppa-Pig’ story books and Mary is as content as can be when flying for 11 hours in a tin can in the sky). 

Mary and the wife bolted in the family Skoda (with Radio Lincolnshire for company (urgh)) with the parents for the drive out from Yorkshire, which is only an hour and a half or so. They all went for the clean family car, the one that was not littered with Gregg’s sausage roll wrappings, without car seats oily from greasy KFC chicken buckets and were not smelling of old socks and very-worn cricket whites. I suffered in the other car my brother owned (who was roped in as taxi driver to deliver us on that first day only) that had its own redeemable qualities, but being clean and smelling alright were not one of them. The only slight benefit is that both Kai and I love very little more than drinking cold ‘Dr Pepper’, eating Jelly babies and listening to (Radio 5) cricket as England were giving the Indians a good going over for once.  

A sense of pride and my brother’s ‘Tom-Tom’ (satnav) got us to the farm in good time, only 5-minutes after the folks had got there, even though they had set off a good half an hour beforehand. First images of arrival in the Peak District was of lovely little windy roads that meandered  through quaint villages, little copses (do not get to use that word often) and sloping fields of cows / sheep in picturesque valleys, with a spattering of light rain and greyish clouds for that real English feel. First thoughts on arrival on the farm and the log cabin was that ‘yup – it looks like what it looks like in the pictures’ on the website and that is what we were hoping for, and Mary was off, exploring this and chasing that.

Unpack the supplies into wherever it needed to go and within 5-minutes my brother was off,  with all that wilderness making him feeling all too uncomfortable. Within 10-minutes ‘Twix’ and ‘Crunchie’, the two farm owners dogs had arrived and Mary was off playing happily with them on the grass with Kai and Dad. Within 15-minutes, my mother, the wife and I were sipping on some white wine on the wooden balcony, nibbling on some home-made biscuits provided kindly as a welcome treat, listening to the NME radio via the I-pad and renaming some local cows as amusingly as we could after various family in-laws and out-laws (the mother in law was aptly named after the evil looking one with the white lightning stripe – like Gizmo on the Germlins).

Home-made bread had been baked as part of the welcome pack, also containing fresh milk, a bit of butter, coffee and tea also. Nice little touches that make a difference. A welcome bouquet of flowers set up by my Dad for the wife too went down well

One thing I had had my eye on was cooking up some freshly laid eggs from the chickens on the farm for the first breakfast the next day. Yet, fortune was not to favor us on that one as ‘Mr Foxy the Fox’ had been doing his nasty work they night before, so no eggs. Such is life.

A unanimous vote was held for England’s finest cuisine on night one, so take away ‘fish and chips’ was obtained from a place some 15-minute drive away as recommended by the farm owners. A lovely battered fish soaked in vinegar and a dashing of salt is just what a Friday evening is all about is it not? Little Mary had her sausage as she is a big sausage fan and essentially stole bits and bobs of whatever else was on offer. Well, you can do that at that age you can. We opted to eat out of the paper in the kitchenette area of the main room to save on doing as little washing up as possible and so as to save the world by minimizing using water and cleaning products. Or, alternatively, Kai was skipping out on his washing up chores, the lazy little toe rag.

An enjoyable evening was passed with Mary playing will all sorts of toys on offer from within the cabin as provided, Kai and I battling it out at Uno and the others doing other stuff I guess such as watch dreary soaps on TV or tired, outdated reality shows.   

Day two – A day to chill out!

After an egg-less (almost) full English fry up to start the day, we split into two teams. The A-team consisted of mother, wife and Mary, and they were tasked with hanging out on the farm, chasing the chickens and stroking the dogs and such like. The ‘other’ team were tasked with heading off to Matlock Sainsbury’s to stock up on perishable supplies.

Well as Neil Young once sang ‘Hey Hey My My’, we came back with a plethora of cool stuff as one expects when handed a vast sum of cash that was the housekeeping and told to ‘get whatever you want as long as it contains some strawberries at least’. Amongst our better purchases were three 2-litre bottles of Dr Pepper, three ‘family’ packs of Pringles, a Shaun the sheep DVD, a Frisbee, a Thomas the tank engine beach ball, and lots of doughnuts.  

Upon return I took Mary on an exploration of the farm (for the umpteenth time by now) whereby she enjoyed very much checking out the rather lovely horses on the farm as I took her around, the cows and sheep were of passing interest only, and once again the two dogs won by a country mile! In other good news, a new flock of chickens had been bought and better caged in than before.

I ended up going for a decent afternoon walk up the back of the farm out up to the trail on the ridge with Kai, whereby we enjoyed the scenery and the views very much. Plenty of cows were eyed up and avoided, and cow pats even more so.

A healthy dinner option was provided by mother on this occasion, consisting of baked potatoes (courtesy of Mr LinRoyale, the finest potatoes in the land by far!) and a selection of cold meats, tuna, cheese and salad. I offset that healthiness by sitting out on the balcony drinking some Smiths and watching the sun go down whilst listening to the Smiths, a spot of cow spotting and then star spotting.

Dad and I roughed up a plan for the next 4-days out and about on scraps of paper after reading through the many leaflets kindly supplied by the owners, and then moving onto booking the hot-tub experience for the ladies, the pit fire experience for an evening and the hire of mountain bikes from the farm.

Kai had the fun time of sleeping on the sofa bed you see as he was the late addition, but for an 11-year old this was a super adventure for him, and others in the gang seemed almost jealous. Anyway, I forced myself to stay up late with him to accompany him watching Match of the Day and then some random Bruce Willis action adventure film. Why not eh?

Day three – Crich transport museum, a themed day at that! 

Time to get things done, so a Sunday out at a 1940s themed day at Crich transport museum it was. All in all a very good choice and something my Dad was very much looking forward as he has a somewhat addictive personality to looking at (old) lorries and other such (old) vehicles from the past (he is a lorry driver you see, and thinks that ‘truck fests’ are the best thing ever, aside from perhaps the local ‘festival of the plough’!). It ended up being a better day out than first thought about personally.

You could get in for free if you were dressed up in 1940s clobber, but alas we were not, we were just a bunch of unfashionable northerners out for the day. There were a lot of people dressed up in 1940s clobber, far more than I had imagined. There were civilians in their ‘civvies’, a whole bunch of people in military attire, from navy sailors to paratroopers, there were fireman and ‘boys in blue’, there were nurses and doctors, drivers and mechanics. Really, people had really got on top of this one.

Well, Mary loved her ride on an old tram she did, sat there happy as happy can be with Grandma and Grandpa holding her and feeding her up with endless sugary snacks. They keep their trams immaculate at this place they do. Plus, there was a collection of old cars dating back to approximately the 1940s that my Dad purred over for some time, whilst Mary simply slurped on the finer pleasures in life – the humble ice-cream.

A popular little place of interest in this what is essentially an open air museum, was an old style sweet shop, which was loaded up with plenty of sweets of all description going back through the decades. It was rammed with people queuing out the door, but this was not going to stop my Dad and Kai on a hunt for some good eating. We waited a good half hour watching the ‘strangers’ walk by, getting busted by the cops (for not filling in our ID cards), chasing yet more dogs and essentially sitting in the shade. Finally, they returned, their wallets lighter but with a paper bag filled with treats. Mary loved the old style sherbet dips, sharing with Granddad, absolutely loved them she did – much to my surprise as they are sour indeed, Kai busted up some old style bon-bons, mother and wife ate from an allsorts dip and I scoffed on my favourite of all time – cinder toffee (better than bonfire toffee – just).

Old style entertainment was provided in the form of a juggler, and he was both good and amusing (if you are 7 years of age, or Chinese), a magician and an old wind up monkey playing harmonica. Awesome is a word too often used, but here it was. They put my limited juggling ability to shame.

For the nerds amongst the gang – which was basically me, there was a detailed display of model warships set up quietly hidden away. Kai came with, but struggled to feign a real interest. Much more of interest was the nature walk that we all enjoyed, taking some nice family photos along the way.

Stopping for a light late picnic lunch, we ate some famous ‘Brenda’ sandwiches. Brenda being my mum’s name – and essentially means we all get pretty ‘naff’ sandwiches as she is certainly no great sandwich maker, and I am fussy about my sandwiches as the wife will attain to. I’d ordered a tuna and cheese and all the salad trimmings for me on brown bread – and let us just say it was missing the brown bread, the cheese and any form of salad. Still, Mary was happy with her corned beef sandwich, pringles and strawberries, and that is the key to a quiet lunch – keep the youngest kid well fed and watered. Another mistake was not bringing a flask of tea of coffee. Those ones that had gone to the length of dressing up all seemed to have these cracking old basket and cloth picnic hampers, with full sets of silverware, china plates and flasks of steaming coffee to go with their champers, cucumber sandwiches and rich tea biscuits. Some had gone so far as having chilled bottles of champers and real crystal glasses too. It made me a little jealous as it all did look very good, very English and just the way to do it. Don’t remember seeing any scones though.

Off to the Red Lion pub, all decorated up in 1940s garb, for a nice cup of tea was decided to be the order of the day post-picnic. Unfortunately it was packed with people doing the same, both inside and outside people enjoying their drinks, the day out and the chatting with their respective family, friends or even acquaintances. As Churchill and Montgomery were due for a drive past in some 15-minutes, and a crowd was gathering, we did opt for some form of cold liquid refreshment from the Red Lion, so my mum got a round of drinks in for us all - but certainly not at 1940s prices unfortunately (my 500ml bottle of San Miguel costing a whopping three quid fifty). Plus, there were no funky sounding British guest ales as I had hoped for, you know perhaps something brewed and drunk back in the day – just overpriced French and Spanish lager.

I did my bit for charity buying a couple of secondhand books from a scattering of charity stalls that had set up stalls mainly related to helping ex-service men / women or disabled / injured service men / women. I picked up a corker of a book on the history of the Royal Navy in the last 100 years or so, and one of the many available biographies on the Beatles.

My treat for dinner it was, so off we drove in a roundabout way to find the ‘Blue Bell Inn’, again on recommendation from the farm owners. It was only a small place, located on a quite road, on a quite hill, with nothing else around it at all – bar the sheep, the fields and such like.

It was full though, so it must be either good or the only place around on that road. Anyway, we ordered a round of drinks at the bar whilst a table of six finished up to leave and we moved in. We were tucked away in a corner, just as I like it so as to not be bothered and be of a bother to us. The unfathomable news to me was the ‘beef and real ale’ pie was off the menu today – sold out it was, a not so minor set-back indeed as in pubs I can be a little predictable and I always go for the pie option, always. Alas, as we were settled in with drinks half drank up, I thought I’d go for another old steadfast of English eating – the trusty old ‘ploughmans’. As my flexible friend was paying, most members of the gang broke from their regular routines and opted to have a starter, a main course and for those who could a desert, just to fill their boots!

I moved through three different local ales, from the first being a tad too strong and a tad too bitter, the one in the middle hitting the spot indeed and the third one a ‘fair to middling’ affair in aspects of taste and strength. I cannot remember their names though, something along the lines of ‘H & H’ perhaps.

Interestingly, this boozer turned eatery ran out of Yorkshire puddings for those coming later on after wanting a roast dinner. Who runs out of Yorkshire puddings was my quandary though? Anyhow, a fine meal indeed was consumed, including a delightful cheeseboard and big fat chocolate cakes for us all.   

Day four – Matlock and Matlock baths!

A tacky ‘bikers’ seaside town it is, but just not by the sea. It is in fact in a valley, a rather nice valley indeed, next to a lovely little stream / river / brook (depending on how you look at it – both literally and metaphorically) and of course it has a history based on spas.

We kicked off down at Matlock and spent a good, long morning in Matlock park, a place we had discovered driving to the supermarket on the first day. A truly splendid park indeed, a jewel of a park full of folks aged in months and wearing nappies to aged knocking on for a ton and wearing their false teeth with pride.

At the very far end, where there was street parking available it was all full, yet interestingly enough there was an achingly old 2-pump petrol garage by the roadside that looked well out of place to be honest. Interestingly, the old fella running it, a greasy old mechanic fella, flat cap touting chap, wearing a thick woolen body-warmer under his thick greased up old overalls on a hot summers day, was one of those kind old bods who if you ask nicely and pleasantly and in a think Yorkshire accent, he’ll let you park up on his pretty much disused forecourt for ‘nowt’ but a pleasant exchange of words. It turns out he was (and hopefully still is!) in his eighties and is essentially just keeping himself busy running these two petrol pumps and a seriously small old wooden shed of a car supplies shop just to keep himself busy, just for the fun of it and just to keep himself alive I guess by giving himself something to do. So he says, he rocks up late to his little old place of work sometime mid-morning after cycling down from his little village cottage, puts in an hour or two of “work” there and when he feels he has earned his pocket money for the day, he locks up, puts his flask in his knapsack and rides back home for the day. There are indeed not many happier / more contented eighty-odd year olds kicking around.

In the park, ducks were fed once more, and fed well (there was no green mossy stuff on the bread) once again. Then, Mary and Kai splashed around in the fountain and paddling pool play area for a good half an hour or so, drying off whilst consuming large, exceedingly large chocolate cream buns freshly acquired from a ‘bun’ man nearby, or I guess you would call him a ‘bun’ man, not sure. A good niche business though.

Mary piloted us around in a dusty, paint falling off, old petrol driven boat on the small duck pond, a couple of quid for a seven minute blast was a good laugh as we tried in vain to mow down a few of the fatter, well-fed and theoretically slower ducks. 

We spent 60p nicely on a miniature train ride through the park.

We bought, constructed, flew, crashed and destroyed a number of those 35p airplane kits.

We found some scones and tea and little white patterned tables to take mid-morning tea and cakes on. I went for the flapjack option as they were another blast from the past of my childhood.

We headed down into Matlock baths for the second part of the day, enjoyed a stroll down the main street, a hunt around a bookstore, a clamber around a souvenir junk gift shop or two, a sit down outside a take away place eating hot dogs and chips, walking and nattering and an ice-cream of course. Lovely little place is Matlock baths. It would be better if you took away the noisy bikers.  

Dinner was a help yourself as you pleased kind of affair, with left overs and whatnots from the night before and what was brought in carrier bags from the fridge back home. Everyone was happy though. Kai eating chip sandwiches, Dad eating door stop sized sliced meat sandwiches and Mary doughnuts. I had ventured onto Boddingtons beer for the night, reminiscing on my university days over in Manchester, and a self-made sandwich made fit for a Knight!

The wife and mother had treated themselves to a few hours under the stars in an old wooden, log fired, hot tub. They sipped on their cooled wine, snacked on local chocolates and probably gossiped a good gossip. 

Day five – On yer bike!

A day of Kai’s choosing is this one, fully supported by myself and ignored by all others in the gang. All we required were 2 bikes and accompanying helmets, a knowledge of how to ride a bike, knowing where the high peak trail led to, and a shoulder bag containing supplies both healthy (apples and oranges) and not so (boiled sweets). At five English pounds each for a full days hire, it was a bargain. We had had our splendidly cooked bacon ‘butties’ for breakfast and a hearty amount of sugar leaden-tea, and off we trudged and pushed our bikes up the steep incline out of the back of the farm to reach the High peak trail. We were blowing quite hard by the time we reached the actual trail at the top of the ridge after all that pushing, we had our first rest stop, snacks of the day, took some snaps of the day and then got going proper.

The plan was to get to ‘Middleton Top’, some 5-miles away, have a rest and then head back. However, as Dwight D. Eisenhower once mentions, plans are all but useless once the battle starts, and although this was not a battle as such, it was a plan, and it was a plan that went out of the window.

Once up top, we set off proper, enjoying the peace and tranquility as grey clouds fought with blue skies for supremacy of the skies. We passed by ‘Harborough Rocks’, a nice enough little rock strewn hill of a place, then we sped onwards to a deserted old farm house, passing the other odd cyclist or walker out and about, some were ‘nodders’ and some were ‘grunters’ and some were the happier greeters offering up pleasant pleasantries as greetings (likely Americans). 

We got to Middleton Top in no time at all. It was a lovely little ride along a disused railway track, nicely graveled and stoned over. The riding was moderately easy, and we could gently drift along at our own pace. The views were wonderful, truly wonderful, sloping green valleys, clumps of trees, hedges and bushes, the odd farm, plenty of sheep and / or cattle.

We rested up at Middleton Top, ate a Yorkie bar each and just sat, rested and shot the breeze, as well as one can shoot the breeze between a 34 year old and an eleven year old.

After a good rest, we headed onwards and upwards, well … onwards and downwards a bit to ‘Black Rocks’, an obscure collection or rocks on a rocky outcrop that were not really black at all, but definitely rocky. There is only so much looking at rocks you can look at, and the grey clouds had now arrived to dump some of the wet stuff on us, so we cracked on at a pace for a while. As the rain stopped, so we did, as we had arrived at pleasant little hillside clearing, again with picture postcard views outwards across the many villages and other such like hills.

And then onwards and most definitely downwards to ‘Cromford Canal’, because water as we know goes downhill and follows the path of least resistance, and going downhill is certainly the way to go when you are using pedal power.

‘Cromford Locks’ were just down the way, so we thought it best to get down there and see if there was any fuss to be had. There was indeed much fuss to be had. The canal widened out somewhat and had dozens and dozens of ducks that were waiting to be fed, and a grassy little side area full of picnic tables full of families having their assorted selection of sandwiches and flasks of drinks. As a bonus, there was a free model railway exhibition set up in an old building there at the time we arrived, which was awesome – for the nerds amongst us again. We spent plenty of time in there, marveling at the attention to detail and the complexity of the set ups these old boys had put into their displays. There were plenty of ‘nerds’ as Kai liked to describe them in there, speaking the talk of only model train enthusiasts can talk. To be fair, it was good, and it did awaken the ‘nerd’ inside me from my days of model trains and model planes as a kid. 

Finally, we ended up in ‘Cromford’ itself. Just a short hop up the road and we were there. A late lunch time it was. We kept it simple, two trays of chips, one large and one small, one for the one with the larger the belly and one for the one with the smaller the belly, both awash with salt and vinegar were taken by a pond, backing onto a quiet lane, aside a quaint bookshop. 

As the high peak trail is as the name suggest back up high on the hill tops, it was a long, hot, sweaty ride / mostly walk and push the bikes back up to the trail to push on for home. Homeward bound, we put our heads down and pushed on the pedals to get home, which we did by around 4:30pm.

The ‘fire pit’ family gathering is on for tonight. ‘Hoorah hoorah’ indeed as ever since my days in the Scouts, I’ve loved a good fire and a sit down around the fire and all that goes with it. And what goes with a fire? Well, you want those stars to be out and about, none of those pesky clouds, you want lots of glowing embers and roaring logs with flames creeping and crawling around, you want some damn fine hands on fodder, you want some cold beer, a little music and you want people to be able to tell a good yarn too and more importantly to be able to just sit and listen to their yarns being told. There is a lot to be said for simply listening in this day and age, where people do talk, they do feel that need to talk.

For the monetary exchange of 30 English pounds, our kindly farm owners provided us with a ready-made ‘fire pit’ in kind of large metallic bowl on low legs, no scrimmaging in the woods for us for kindling and larger branches, and finally hacking of heavier logs, oh no. He essentially brought it on up on his wheelbarrow, set it up on the grass, loaded it with chopped up logs and set fire to it by adding copious amounts of some flammable liquid and a mini flamethrower contraption so that within 5-minutes it was roaring away nicely. For seats, there were six stool sized tree logs set around the fire, placed atop with blankets to cover yourself if you did get chilly – a nice little touch. In addition, our heard earned cash had bought us a sizeable bag of marsh-mellows, some sticks to stick them on and finally a flask of warm, home-made mulberry wine. I thought it was a good deal indeed.

Although toasted marsh-mellows are a tasty treat, it is not a meal, so I had cunningly wrapped up some smaller baking spuds in foil to bake on the fire. As every good camp fire watcher knows, the devil is in the detail when baking your spuds on the fire. Lashings of butter, a sprinkling of finely cut up bacon, maybe a slither of cheese and a scraping of butter all wrapped up in your foil covered spuds makes for happy days indeed.

We’d also pre-bought a couple of bags of chips with all the scraps to go with it to snack on, and still had limited supplies of Pringles. All in all, it was a bit of a potato attack on the digestive system.

It was a private party out in the open enjoyed by all – some longer than others and some in other ways to others. When it was down to just Kai and I, we even tracked the International Space Station as it flew over up in Earth’s outer orbit. Honestly, we did, we tracked it on the I-pad and watched it go on over. Fascinating stuff.

We got some cracking photos too we did. Thoroughly well-fed on spuds, all smoked-out, we hit the sack.

Day six – A day at the lakes!

Some few years ago, the powers that be in the corridors of power decided a great, big, man-made reservoir could be and should be created up here, and so it was. Nowadays, it not only does its job of providing copious supplies of clean water, but also is a lake for leisure and pleasure as it comes to one and all – be it sailing or walking or picnicking or cycling or swimming or fishing.

Carrington Lake is the name if you are interested and it is well worth a day out, in particular the well put together visitor center. It is advertised as one of England’s largest ‘free’ days out – which is a bit of false advertising really as it is just a simple lake at the end of the day, plus anything you want to do costs money (except the visitor center), and on top of all that is costs like four pounds and more just to park your car there for a few hours.

Following being enlightened at the visitor center, we purchased a couple of Frisbees and a plastic ball and entertained ourselves no end on the plentiful open grass spaces. Oh, the simple fun of playing Frisbee, playing catch, playing ‘kick-rounders’ and other self-titled games I will not go into. Mary tried her best to disrupt every single organized game we attempted to play, but was fun nonetheless.

With little picnic tables dotted here, there and everywhere, and in no discernible order, we enjoyed a mix-match of a picnic with left overs of the week going by, washed down by overpriced cups of reasonable enough but not great cups of coffee.

Did more strolling around we did, punctured the ball on some thorns, chased Mary as far as her little legs could carry her, took out someone’s eye with one of the Frisbees and lost Grandma in the quicksand. We lolled around more when Mary spotted the play area with slides and swings and castles and forts and dragons and bouncy things and Knights with swords decapitating children from Liverpool for no reason (made that last one up I did as I was getting carried away). Finally, we dragged her away and home to the cabin. 

Chinese for dinner, and a home cooked Chinese at that. As the wife is a 100% Manchurian Chinese from the north of China, we took full advantage of her offering to cook up a few dishes for us common Yorkshire folk to chow down on. A good bean and potato stew dish, a sort of scrambled egg with tomatoes concoction, ‘kongpao’ chicken and the main dish of ‘coca-cola’ fried spare ribs was tucked away in no time.

Kai and Grandad fought out the battles on 3D ‘noughts and crosses’ for a good while, then I took over at playing Kai at cards for a while as we passed an evening pleasantly enough with games and TV, late night TV again.

Day seven – Another day for doing nothing much at all! 

And we really did not do much at all. It was one of those late mornings when people crept out of bed. By the time we had gotten Mary fed and watered it was approaching 11am. Another morning of Shaun the sheep on TV, toast and jam for Mary it was and lashings of bacon and tea for others. It was another morning of sitting out on the porch, listening to my NME radio and starting at various forms of animal life for me.

We did take a small trip once again into ‘Cromford’ with Dad, as Kai and I hit the bookshop again and ate more chips, just for the sake of it really, just because we could. I stocked up on books for teaching and war books for personal interest. Kai bought a book on that annoying toad – Jeremy Clarkson – boy – that man has annoyed more people than MaoZeDong.

Well, father had done a splendid job on his scouting mission of forgetting completely the name and location of the public house he strongly recommended for its ‘three pie’ specials dish that I had decided was a must eat for this trip. Thankfully, some cunning detective work on the I-pad established it was the ‘Grouse & Claret’ over near Matlock way.

We had rocked up around 5:45pm and the place was rammed, we only just man to squeeze in. A spacious old building, dedicated to serving food and serving food essentially on the inside and catering to drinkers drinking out on the porch out back, kids playing in the obligatory children’s play area. There was a man out back, in his tweeds, with a battered old rucksack, with his newspaper, with his old dog sitting patiently by his side, supping on his pint of Ale at what I would guess to be a slow old pace.

Shared starters of seafood platters and meat platters were spot on, the three pie combo with sides of boiled potatoes and cauliflower drowned in gravy was in fact awesome. Again, I was paying, so everyone needlessly hit the pudding tray.

We were done and dusted and back in the cabin by 9pm for one last evening spent as mentioned above pretty much.

Day eight – Get up, throw the stuff in the car, say bye to the farm owners and dogs, and just a simple drive home.

That was a fine, fun, fascinating, family holiday. 

© Darren Skelton November 2011

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