Buxton, camping, caravanning, Chinley, Duke of Devonshire, Flash, holiday, Huntingdon, Pavilion, Pavilion Gardens, Peak District National Park, River Great Ouse, River Wye, Roman, scout camps, Sheffield, spa town, Staffordshire Moorland, Stffordshire, Testament of Youth, The Crescent, Vera Brittain, war memorial, warm springs
When I was young and living at home with my parents, our summer holidays were camping holidays spent in the UK. I became fairly well travelled in England, Scotland and Wales. We never went to Northern Ireland because not only was the cost of the cross-channel ferry prohibitive and the journey was too far for the five of us travelling in a small car from Kent, but Northern Ireland was not a safe place to go during the 1960s and 70s.
Not only did we go on family camping holidays but we also went on scout camps because my father was a Scout Master for many years. I didn’t like scout camps as I was very shy and a little frightened of all the big, noisy boys but my younger brother and sister loved them and wanted to join in all the fun and were upset when they weren’t allowed. Mum was in charge of the first aid.
R’s family holidays were in bed and breakfast hotels as his mother refused to go camping, having had enough of it in the Girl Guides. He was a Scout and enjoyed going off on scout camps and grew to love the hills, mountains, moors and rivers in the North of England. He eventually became a Scout Leader himself with his own scout troop.
I had camped a couple of times since leaving home and before marrying Richard so we did consider getting a tent. Eventually, after holidaying in rented cottages for a couple of years we decided to get a caravan instead. Our daughter E had just been born and we thought a caravan holiday would be easier to cope with than camping. Camping and caravanning holidays have their drawbacks but we have always enjoyed the freedom they bring.
R and I have just bought a new caravan. Our two previous ones had been second-hand and this is our first brand new one. We are very pleased with it and hope to be able to go away in it very often. That is not to say that we won’t be going to hotels and holiday cottages again, we will, especially as E hates caravanning now she is older.
I find getting ready for holidays quite exhausting. Having a new van made things a little easier as we didn’t need to clean and service it, but making sure the house and garden are left clean and tidy before we go, making sure Mum has everything she needs for the time we are away and trying to remember to pack all we need for the holiday was tiring enough.
I decided to stop feeding the birds just before we left. While I had been in Sheffield during the week before, something had killed one of the three ducklings that were living in the garden. Also, a couple of days before we left, I was admiring a little bird looking for insects in the window box outside my kitchen window, when a kestrel plummeted out of the sky and caught it just in front of me. I felt that the feeders were making the birds I wished to feed more vulnerable to birds of prey and also to the cats in the neighbourhood. I had been having a lot of trouble from the local squirrels too. They had wrecked a few feeders and had been eating so much of the bird food as well. They had become very bold and one had tried to attack me when I attempted to shoo it away from the ground feeder. I wished to discourage this and a period of no food might be good for all concerned.
We all set off in good time on the morning of the 1st July but at Huntingdon we got stuck in a traffic jam for an hour and a quarter because of an over-turned lorry.
This is the view from the car while we were on the stationary A14. The river is the Great Ouse. We were sent on another diversion to avoid another accident involving a lorry when we were only half an hour away from our destination so the journey was very long and tedious. For the last few years we have stayed in the Staffordshire Moorlands right on the edge of the Peak District National Park. The site is at Blackshaw Moor, just to the north of the town of Leek.
A had kindly offered to look after E for the week, so as soon as we had found our caravan site and pitched the caravan we set off again to the nearest railway station on the line to Sheffield. While E and I and her enormous, weighty suitcase took the train to Sheffield, R found a supermarket and bought supplies for the week. He then waited and waited for my return. I meanwhile, got to Sheffield and we found A waiting for us at the station. I handed over E, the suitcase and a quantity of money and then found them something to eat. I decided to get myself a sandwich as the next train back to Chinley, the station where R was waiting, didn’t go for another hour. I eventually got back to R just after 9p.m. We drove the 25 or so miles back to our caravan, unpacked the car, collected the water and plugged the electric cable in and our holiday had begun.
The following day, after a very leisurely breakfast and a restful morning, we put the awning to the caravan up. The awning (a tent-like porch attached to the caravan) is not a large one but we find it useful for hanging coats and towels and keeping shoes and rucksacks etc. We sometimes sit out there and we have used the awning for dining in the past when all four of us were together or when we have had visitors.
That afternoon we visited Buxton, about half an hour’s drive away across beautiful moorland. The views from the road are outstanding especially on a fine day. One of the villages we pass on the road is called Flash which is reputedly the highest village in the Peak District. It is 461m /1514′ above sea level and is often snowbound in the winter. it was once a hideout for footpads, highwaymen and counterfeiters and prize fights took place there even after it was made illegal.
Buxton is the highest town of its size in England at 300m/984′ above sea level and has been occupied continuously since Roman times.
The Romans were attracted by the warm springs which emerge near the River Wye and are a constant 28 degrees C. They built baths here and these springs have been very important to the town ever since. The spring at St Ann’s Well was probably a place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages and by Tudor times it had been established as a spa.
The great period of Buxton as a spa began when the 5th Duke of Devonshire started the construction of the Crescent in 1780. The building took ten years to build and cost £38000, a fabulous sum in those days. It was sited alongside the site of St Ann’s Well. From then until the 20th century many fine buildings and hotels were constructed in Buxton. In 1851-53 a new set of thermal baths were built and in 1863 the railway arrived in the town which made the spa much more accessible. The Opera House and the Pavilion Gardens were built. Vera Brittain, who wrote ‘Testament of Youth’, her book about her life during the First World War, grew up in Buxton. The main industry of the town from the 19th century to the present day is limestone quarrying. The spa declined in popularity after the Second World War but since the 1980’s when the Opera House was re-opened the town has started to come alive again. The annual Opera Festival was established and the University of Derby moved into the former Devonshire Royal Hospital building. There is work going on now to re-open the spa and the Crescent. For the past couple of times we have visited the town we haven’t been able to see the Crescent because of the hoardings in front of it.
The reason why there are so many google images in this post is because we forgot to take our cameras out with us. R was able to take a couple of pictures with his phone and these I will include now.
We did some shopping for things R couldn’t get the night before and then walked up to the Pavilion, looked at the plants in the glasshouse and had coffee/tea in the café. We walked about the Gardens and then walked back down to the town past the War Memorial.
The day, which had started bright and breezy, became cloudy and very humid during the afternoon. We returned to our caravan and rested for the rest of the day as we were still very tired from our exertions of the day before.