Monday 31 May 2010

The Dolphin

Did you know that the Romans were the first to build pubs in this country? They were small shops serving food and wine. Customers would eat and drink, seated on stools around a communal table. 

This establishment does not date back quite that far, but the Dolphin Inn does hold the title of Derby's oldest pub. Situated on Queen Street just above Derby Cathedral, the original part of the building was constructed in around 1530 with an extension being added in the 18th Century. The extension is easy to spot, being the left hand side of the building as photographed, and was originally a doctor's house.

The choice of name is interesting. The dolphin was a well known Christian symbol in medieval days, a fact which supports the dating of the pub. After the Romans, there is little evidence of the pub tradition until the Middle Ages, when inns were run by monks offering food and shelter to travellers.

Being so old, the Dolphin has a few interesting stories to tell. In 1738, highwayman Dick Turpin is said to have been a customer, while it is almost certain the Bonnie Prince Charlie's men would have drunk here on their march towards London (little knowing that they had almost reached the most southerly point of their journey).

Of course, there are also the associated ghost stories. A Blue Lady is said to walk through the lath and plaster walls and a poltergeist is associated with the extension which, being a former doctor's house, would have been the scene of many post execution dissections. YUK :(


Sunday 30 May 2010

Belper Hilltop

Belper, the village which exploded into a town, thanks to the mills of Jedediah Strutt, is nine miles north of Derby up the Derwent Valley. In the time of Strutt, it grew to have the second largest population in Derbyshire, a position which has now been claimed by Chesterfield (of the crooked spire). The centre of Belper town is in the valley, close by the river and the main mill, but the residential areas have spread up the valley sides onto the surrounding hills.

Towards the top of one steep hill is, the very appropriately named, Belper Hill Top pub. It isn't one of the towns trendy establishments (they tend to be in the centre), but this place does a very good midweek lunchtime offer on meals . So, on a day when I am not working, my Dad, aunt, uncle and I sometimes head up here for lunch. The food is always good...

...and, I'm sure you'll agree, the views are beautiful.


Saturday 29 May 2010

Jedediah Strutt

Jedediah Strutt is the fourth (and last) of the statues above the shop which was the original Boots the Chemist in Derby, and he actually was born in Derbyshire; to be precise, in South Normanton, in 1726. His parents were farmers, but Strutt is yet another son of Derbyshire who is famous because of his association with the textile trade; being the first to refine a frame capable of making a ribbed stocking.

For a while, his frame was in use at the Derby Silk Mill, preparing silk thread to be made up into cloth, but in 1771, Strutt formed a partnership with Samuel Need and Richard Arkwright to build a cotton mill in Cromford, which combined the technologies of the Strutt Derby Rib with the Arkwright Water Frame.

Following this success, Strutt went on to build mills along the Derwent Valley; in Belper in 1778 and Milford in 1782, both accompanied by a row of substantial houses for his workers; just one of the reasons he was considered to be a good employer. Over time, Strutt built a total of eight mills in Belper and the village grew to a population of 10,000 , becoming the second largest town in the county after Derby.

Strutt died in 1797 and is buried in a vault under the Unitarian Chapel he had built in Belper.

Friday 28 May 2010

Florence Nightingale

Back to Derby and one of the most famous historical figures associated with our county.

Let's come clean straight away; Florence Nightingale was not born in Derbyshire. She was actually born in Italy on 12 May 1820 and named after the city of her birth, but her father, William Shore, inherited the Lea Hurst estate (south of Matlock in Derbyshire) along with the Nightingale family name and arms.

In February 1837, Nightingale was inspired, by what she was believed was a call from God, to enter the nursing profession. This was not a popular move with her family because it flew in the face of the expectations for a young lady of her time and social standing. Undeterred, Florence applied herself to her studies in the art and science of nursing.

In 1853, Nightingale was appointed as superintendent at the Institute for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Upper Harley Street, London and held this post until 1854, when she and a staff of 38 volunteer nurses travelled to the British camp in the Crimea war. It was during this time that she began to understand the affect of poor living conditions and sanitation on health; recognising its part in the spread of disease and sickness. This discovery was to shape her later career, and her influence on the sanitary conditions of hospitals radically changed the face of health care in England. It is from her time in the Crimea that most people recognise her name; especially the association with her as 'The Lady with the Lamp' - a nickname which stemmed from a war report in the Times newspaper.

On 9 July 1860, the Nightingale Training School was opened at St Thomas's Hospital, Westminster. Now named the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, her establishment continues to train nurses as part of King's College, London. (The grounds of St Thomas' hospital, house a museum  in her memory. To discover more, click here.)

During her lifetime, Nightingale received various awards:

  • 1883 -  awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria.

  • 1907 - the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit

  • 1908 - given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London
and this statue, above the original Boots the Chemist shop, is just one way in which she is commemorated here in Derby.

Thursday 27 May 2010

S is for silhouette

I love to see objects silhouetted against the evening sky, whether they be natural objects or man made. The sky has such a rich range of colour and tone that even a total non artist like me can appeciate it.

Last Christmas, we went down to our London family and the boys' aunt and uncle took them to a Go Kart track for their present. They had a great time racing, finishing just as it was beginning to go dark. As we walked back to the car, I took these photos.

Even in the East End of London, surrounded by busy roads, railway arches and multi-storey housing, it is possible to find such beauty!

For more Alphabe-Thursday offerings, visit Jenny Matlock here.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

The sixpence and the stile (Stile 4)

There was a crooked man, who walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile,
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

As you may have fathomed by now, I like stiles, so maybe it won't surprise you to discover that this is my favourite nursery rhyme. Part of the reason, I think, is the visual image of everything being crooked, because crooked suggests traditional, rural and (perversely) safe! And then there is the sixpence and the stile. As a child, the attractive silver sixpence was a huge amount of money, while a stile usually means an adventure; so to find the two together..!

In reality, the nursery rhyme is based in the time of King Charles I (probably around 1644), the crooked man is General Alexander Leslie of Scotland and the crooked stile refers to the Scottish-English border.

Born in 1582, Leslie was the illigitimate son of a Captain of Blair Castle and fostered out to the Campbells of Glenorchy at an early age. After a successful period of military service for the Dutch and then the Swedish, Leslie returned home and was instrumental in securing religious and political freedom in Scotland, leading the Covenanters Army in the Bishops Wars and taking Edinburgh Castle from the Royalists without the loss of a single man.

Throughout his life, he fought against English domination of Scotland. He led several campaigns in the north of England, culminating in Scottish participation in the Battle of Marston Moor; the battle near York which effectively forced the Royalists to abandon the north, weakening them considerably.

Although this new found Scottish freedom was not to last (Charles II defeating the Scottish Covenanters at the battle of Dunbar in 1650), Leslie had already retired before the tide swung against them. During the course of his successful career, he had walked many crooked miles and crossed the crooked stile on numerous occasions, to great effect! He is remembered as the most significant Scottish general of the Civil War.

I wonder - is it too much of a stretch to ask if the crooked cat and mouse might refer to the strategies and tactics of warfare?

(Incidentally, for some random reason, the crooked man in my imagination is always walking uphill! I'm sure that Freud would be able to dig some deep meaning out of that!)

Tuesday 25 May 2010


Last week, I was reading about the Galveston (Texas) tree sculptures, on a blog written by Betty. I learned that on Sept 13th 2008, Huricane Ike severely damaged a significant number of oak trees around the area. Sadly, more then 40,000 were felled, but the remains of some trees have been turned into carved sculptures. The results were quite impressive and, after reading the blog, I was left thinking how good it was to create something attractive out of destruction.

Yesterday, at Cannock Forest, I saw a few examples of a similar thing.

The gorilla is the adopted symbol of Go Ape and they have an active interest in supporting gorilla focussed charities. This guy was just outside their cabin.

This family of carvings was near the end of the course...


Though I did find them a tad bland; the child was the only one with much of interest.

And this final one was just outside the Visitor Centre.

Although it is quite simple, I love this one because it makes me want to go and lie down by the base of the emerging drill and yell "OK! You can stop now!"

Monday 24 May 2010


Exactly six weeks ago, my elder son turned 18. Today, it was the turn of my younger son, Ben, to complete the run of birthdays by reaching his 16th year. He is sitting his GCSEs at present, but, fortunately for him, didn't have an exam today, so we grabbed the opportunity to go out. The place he chose was here...

This is Cannock Forest.

Cannock Forest is on Cannock Chase, in south Staffordshire and, in spite of being close to Birmingham and the other centres of population in the West Midlands, is classed as an area of outstanding natural beauty - the smallest on mainland Britain.

But, we didn't come just for the beauty. Our ultimate destination was Go Ape!

Go Ape is a high-rope adventure course. There are several of these around the UK so, as we have visited the one at Buxton every year for the past three years, we decided to head south for a change.

Upon arrival, we geared up, completed our 30 minute training section and took off on the course.

Go Ape Cannock involves 38 crossings,

5 zip wires (the longest of which - number 3 - is 260m)

(This is the slightly shorter zip wire 4.)

...and 2 Tarzan swings!

...which required us to step off the edge of a platform and drop around four feet before the rope reached full length and began the swing into the waiting cargo net.

The crossings are fun; some because they are particularly high, some because they are particularly challenging and others because they are easy, but with the potential for going no-hands!

The zip wires are brilliant! The higher and longer they are, the more excited about them we become!

The Tarzan Swings are... different! There is something about stepping off and dropping which suddenly makes my knees turn to jelly! Mark and Ben always hurl themselves off. Today, I was very pleased with myself because I dropped from standing (as opposed to crouching); but climbing up and across the cargo net at the other end is sheer murder!

Ben had a great time; having turned 16, he wasn't required to be quite so closely supervised and, because it was a quiet day, he managed to go round to do the largest Tarzan swing twice!

Pizza Hut in a short while!

Happy 16th Birthday, Ben

Sunday 23 May 2010

Nocturnal visitor

On Friday, I introduced you to our family of foxes. I thought you may be interested to know that foxes are not the only nocturnal visitors to our garden. For the past couple of years, we have also been graced by these little guys...

Where a fox is tricky to photograph, the hedgehogs are a total nightmare. To begin with, they don't come out to sunbathe. By the time spikey appears, it really is pitch black! For second, when they are approached, they have a tendency to curl up tight, creating a photograph which looks something like this...

...lots of lovely prickles, but not a lot else!

So, when the hedgehogs are around, the pattern goes something like this:

  • Just before I go to bed, I put out a bowl of dog food for the foxes
  • The bowl is very quickly invaded by the slugs and snails
  • After a while, fighting his way through the slugs and snails (and eating a few en route), comes the hedgehog
  • Finally, fox arrives to finish off whatever is left.
I'm just waiting for the day when fox arrives before hedgehog has finished his helping!

Saturday 22 May 2010

Prolific Blogger Award

Oh my word. This surprise popped up when I followed a comment back to its source!

Thank you to John from English Wilderness, a great blog which explores the wild, lonely places of the UK through photographs. Some of his close up shots are especially stunning!

The award was created by Hazra of Advance Bookings and is to all those prolific bloggers, who read voraciously, blog tirelessly and have made the blogging community such a vibrant place.

There are a few simple rules:

1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!

2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award.

3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to This Post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.

4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we all can get to know the other winners.

So! Who to nominate?

This one for definite... Saltaire Daily Photo , a photoblog which gives a fascinating insight into the historic village of Saltaire, near Shipley in Yorkshire. Beautifully written, it is the first blog I visit every day.

Also this one Eden House Update , a mixed bag of posts, written with humour and honesty by a friend going through difficult times.

Thirdly, I enjoy A Photo a Day from Planet Earth which is unusual, in that it has multiple contributors from all around the world. Each day, one photograph is selected for display on the site. What this means is that, within a week, you could go from a golden sky in Scandanavia to a fisherman in Burma (with stops in between).

For stunning photographs of all things garden, I have to nominate A Gardener in Progress. I love my garden, in spite of the amount of work it entails, but this garden in Washington State, USA is in a different class.

Another blog I read daily is A Glimpse of London, written by Mo; a 'newcomer' (relatively) to the city and sharing her discoveries through a daily photo. It isn't your typical tourist blog!

I have to nominate Jenny Matlock, in recognition of all of the themes she initiates and the fun it generates. She is dedicated to encouraging others in their blogging. Besides, she is a very entertaining writer with a light touch.

...and, I'm going to bend the rules slightly and hang on to number seven, if that's OK? I'll come back and add a postscript when I'm sure.

Now, I guess I'd better visit the six and invite them to claim their awards.

Friday 21 May 2010

Photo Friday: Family of foxes

For the last few years, we have been fortunate enough to have a family of foxes living in our gardens. At first, they had their earth under the fence between my garden and my neighbour's; tucked away in the wild patch, right at the very bottom. Unfortunately, my neighbour was not altogether pleased about this and dumped a concrete block across the entrance, forcing them to relocate to another garden. His grand-daughter was not much more than a toddler at the time, so I suspect he was concerned for her safety.

Because our foxes are so timid, it is difficult to capture them on film. The above photo was the end result of lying in wait under a bush for around three quarters of an hour. Other pictures, I have managed to snap from my bedroom window, but only at distance.

On one occasion, I spent almost an hour up a tree, only to find that, by the time they emerged from their daytime sleep, it was too dark to take any kind of photo whatsoever.

But occasionally they do come out to enjoy the sunshine.

And I love to hear them yowling in the night.

For other Photo Friday contributions, click here.

Thursday 20 May 2010

R is for rhythm

Rhythm Helps Your Tired Hips Move

Last Friday, my Y5 children (age 9-10) spent a chunk of the day making musical instruments out of junk. We are in the middle of an African themed topic and so we spent some time designing, making and evaluating our own drums (djembes, doumbeks, kpanlogos and bongos); stringed instruments (koras and mangbetu); shakers and rainsticks.

This was the half way point. I love it when the classroom looks like this...

and this...

The children were brilliant at the making, but a bit less enthusiastic about the clearing up. (We got there in the end though - with a little persuasion).

The end results look brilliant.

Bring on those African rhythms!

Click here to see more really rather ripping Alphabe-Thursday posts.

Wednesday 19 May 2010


Blue seems to be a bit of a theme in my garden at the moment.

There are several rugs of forget-me-nots (none quite big enough to qualify as a carpet).

I love the delicate shade of blue, centred by the bold yellow and white star. 

I also have quite a few clusters of bluebells...

...hiding under the bushes in the dappled sunlight.

On the edge of the lawn, a tiny purple violet is peeping out from between the too-long blades of grass.

But, if you don't mind, I need help identifying these...

They are numerous, but tiny in the grass. Close up, they look like this:

Anyone know?

Tuesday 18 May 2010


I've been pottering around potting.

Near the top of my garden I have a plot which serves two purposes; in the autumn and winter it is my bonfire area, while in the spring and summer it turns into my veggie patch. I'm not terribly adventurous. In the past I have grown potatoes, lettuce (the slugs relished those) and leeks, but my stock favourites are carrots, peas and runner beans.

I'm hoping that in a week or so, these...

will start to sprout little green shoots.

If they behave themselves, I'll keep you in touch with their progress.

At the same time, I potted out a couple of lovely Cape Daisies (Sunny Fiona), which were given to me as a birthday present. I've been quite busy sprucing up the front garden and it is looking very tidy, but was lacking a bit of colour. Not any more!

Much better! Thank you Mary :)

Monday 17 May 2010


Not every village is lucky enough to be graced with its very own flock of wooden ducks!

Maybe I should elaborate...

At the end of Cromford village pond is a hardware-cum-furniture-cum-household-cum...

Maybe I should whisper...

Let's be honest, it's a good old fashioned junk shop!!!

...which overspills onto the wide pavement and happens to contain some very good stuff - if you can find it!

(Just as confusing viewed large :p )

I couldn't resist buying a couple of ducks!

What a pity they can't eat pond weed!

Sunday 16 May 2010

Scarthin Books

In the village of Cromford, overlooking the village pond, is Scarthin Books - a building which is as full of character as it is of books. According to the shop leaflet, there are about thirteen rooms, spread over three floors, containing 100,000 books! There are books new, second-hand, antiquarian, specialist; on topics ranging from science to sociology, herbal remedies to holy places, biographies to bee keeping.

There are seats on every level.

The about thirteen rooms include a music room, an art room and a children's room. Other rooms have multiple labelled sections. On site, they aim to have good books on every subject, plus an online service for books they cannot store.  

The building has definitely reached capacity.

And finally, in the original household kitchen, there is a tiny cafe, tucked away behind a curved, swinging bookshelf and very easy to miss completely unless you follow your nose.

Here they serve...

fragrant coffees, teas and cakes, substantial soups with home baked rolls and savoury vegetarian dishes. 

I think I'll be going back for a sample!

One last point of interest:

Scarthin Books is an environmentally friendly set up, which includes composting kitchen waste. They tried composting books but, on having the compost analysed, found several hundred parts per million of lead and zinc in the output.

Top tip: Devour books; eat chocolate!

Saturday 15 May 2010


This is a catch pit!

What do you mean..."What's a catch pit?"  It's a pit to catch stuff! More accurately, it's a pit to catch runaway wagons which have broken loose from the winch which was hauling them up the 1320 yard, 1:8 Cromford and Sheep Pasture Incline which was the very beginning of the Cromford and High Peak Railway. 

When the railway first opened, this catch pit did not exist, but, on this double incline, runaway wagons could reach speeds of up to 120 miles per hour (193kph) and, in 1888, there was a rather spectacular accident here, involving a brake van loaded with gunpowder..! OOPS!!

Two years later, the catch pit was built and a railway employee given the stimulating job of working the points to divert each safely winched wagon around it.

If you click to view the picture large, you can just make out evidence that the pit did work!

This building... the Sheep Pasture Engine House (1828), which controlled the winching from the top of the incline (gasp, deep breaths - should have walked up there more slowly!)

And these...

...are the mechanisms way down below the catch pit, which controlled that end of the winching process.

We didn't actually need to walk to the very top of the incline; our footpath back to Cromford branched off half way up. The view from the top was worth it though. Unfortunately, being a very dull day (will it, won't it, will it, won't it, will it, won't it ...rain?) the view on camera was just so many shades of blurry, greenish-grey! You'll have to use your imagination :p

Friday 14 May 2010

Moving swiftly on...

Back to my Cromford walk with Nicki and moving on apace...

At the end of the Wigwell Aqueduct we crossed the canal by means of the restored swing bridge.

To the left of the photo, you can just see a sluice gate and beyond this, the canal becomes rather more gunky with an even lower water level.

So low, that it didn't even register on the scale!
Backtracking along the other side of the canal, we passed the Wharf shed (which is now an offshoot of Lea Green outdoor centre).

From this point, we were walking along the trackbed of the old railway line. This is where goods were exchanged between boats and wagons; as the artwork depicts.

At first, this line just served the canals but, in 1853, an extension was added to connect it to the main rail network.

From the Wharf shed, it was only a short stroll to here...

...the point at which the Cromford Canal met with the High Peak Railway, and the point at which we must turn our steps away from the water and begin to climb.

A while ago, I posted about the Tissington Trail. At the end of its 17 mile route, the Cromford and High Peak Railway meets with the Tissington Line near Parsley Hay. Both lines were axed under Beeching and have since been opened as trails for walkers, cyclists and horses. The next part of our walk would take us along the first short section of the High Peak trail.

Onward and upward :)