This weekend we are kicking off our Camping and Caravanning Club DA season with the BCC (British Caravan Club) at their meet in Darley Dale, in Derbyshire.
We’ve stayed with other DA’s here before and it is a good base for the southern end of the Peak District. The field is big and flat and the Peak Rail steam railway chugs right across the end of it, and this is a fine thing to watch from the caravan window.
The only iffy thing here, perhaps, is the water pressure. The Aquaroll fill is very slow. You need the patience of a trappist monk not to flip out while waiting, but at least it gives everyone a chance to meet up and linger at the tap. Whenever I’ve found myself alone at the tap I’ve taken to packing my Kindle, for the chance to catch up on a novel or two. It makes a person very aware of the amount of water we use, though. As one person said to me while we were waiting: we take fresh water for granted. Imagine living somewhere where this is as good as it gets. Where mostly the water is muddy and diseased, dragged up from a well, and you have to make a ten-mile round trip with an urn balanced on your head to get it. Puts my moaning into perspective.
It started raining when we arrived. What else would you expect? Bank Holiday weekend. We splashed around in Bakewell for a while, then bought Bakewell pudding and brought it back to the van. Still raining. I can live with the rain. Plenty time for writing.
On Sunday, Matlock Bath seemed a good destination, but it was all Fish and Chips and amusements. A bit like Blackpool without the pier. I didn’t expect this. Matlock Bath is a Victorian Spa town. It should be sedate and elegant. Who decided it would look better with sad, half-blown strings of lights and binging whooping sirens from the one-arm bandits. Everywhere there is the smell of stale beer and salt-and-vinegar. Maybe it’s just me, though, because it was packed. But then we wandered into the park, which tracks along beside the river. The fish-and-chip smells faded, the arcade sounds receded and the short riverside walk was lovely.We crossed a bridge and came upon the Derwent Gardens, and they are a delight. There are flowers and moss-covered fountains and grottos and we spent a happy hour or so enjoying it. Only the time expiry of our car park ticket lured us away.
Looking for somewhere to eat on Monday took us to the Forest Garden Centre, also in Darley Dale. Garden Centres are often a good bet for food, these days. This one looked small from the road and we didn't expect much. The Tree Tops Restaurant was tucked away in a corner of the Garden Centre, a conservatory with good cushioned seating and excellent service. The clues were there - more than half the tables were reserved. The Tree Tops turned out to be one of the best eateries we've tried in a long time. I had Bree and Onion quiche, very tasty, but we finished with the home made scones. There is a notice in the cafe that warns about the scones. You can only have them in the restaurant, not take away, because of high demand. I had a cherry and almond scone, Sarah had lemon and ginger. We had half each and could not decide which was the nicer. Wonderful. This is a place we will come to again, and we will divert off our route to get here. It will certainly bring us back to Darley Dale, with the caravan, for another DA meet.
I'm writing this before venturing out into the Bank Holiday traffic. The sun is shining. We're weighing up all the options for avoiding traffic. There are few. It could be a long journey home but whatever, it will have been worth it.