A Diary from the Dales – Part 4

Wednesday saw us in Buxton, after another drive through some truly gorgeous countryside. It’s fair to say that on our brief visit the day before – when it was cold and occasionally wet – it looked grey and uninspiring. The sun was out though as we parked up by the Pavilion Gardens and it already looked better.

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Now I’d done a little research on Buxton – the proper sort – with leaflets and Google rather than hops and barley – and found the existence of a little tour bus that gives you some of the town’s highlights. The next tour, departing imminently, was booked so I bought tickets to the following one in an hours time and we headed first for the Winter Gardens occupying part of the Pavilion.

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Next up was the gardens themselves – great for an amble around or when the weather allows, a picnic. There’s play area’s for kids too.

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Talking of kids, a miniature railway runs in an oval around a portion of the gardens – and always eager for a train ride, like big kids we got on.

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It was nearly time for the tour, so we headed back to the main entrance to see the arrival of our tour bus – a ‘Victorian’ style mini tram bus! As we got on,the driver told us more about it. It began it’s life as a ‘tram’ in 2013 but spent the previous 40 years as a milk float – easy to spot if you look closer. She seats just eight but there was plenty of room.

First up was the Crescent – built in 1764 to rival Bath’s beautiful Royal Crescent it had sadly been allowed to fall into disrepair. Work was in place to restore it to it’s former glory when it will become a luxury hotel.

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Due to said restoration works and resulting road closure our trip took us back around the Pavilion up the hill to the Devonshire Dome. Now one  of the homes of the University of Derby, the building served originally to stable horses belonging to the guests across the road at the Crescent. The central area was an open exercise yard, the dome only being added in 1882 when the building was converted for use as a hospital.  It’s an impressive piece of architecture.

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Further along, was the Market Place – officially the highest in England and off the High Street was St Annes Church, Buxton’s eldest. A small but delightful little building which you wont get into unless you’re on the tour – or attending a service. Weddings are still held there, although the width of the aisle makes it impossible to walk down side by side – perhaps setting a precedent really early in on in the marriage!

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The tour lasted an hour or so and for six quid we thought it excellent value for money helped in no small part by a friendly and knowledgeable guide.

Refreshments were taken in the pavilion cafe, then we had a mooch around the shops and an area overlooking the Crescent, known as ‘The Slopes’ – you’ll see why, procuring a couple of bits and bobs before heading back to the site.

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Thursday saw us in Buxton yet again – but only to the train station – funnily enough to catch a train. Parking was a reasonable four quid but you get half that back if you have a train ticket – which of course we did. Our destination was Sheffield – a city we’d not been to for many years, but this trip, initially at least, was more about the journey as it takes you through the dales and some very photogenic countryside. There was no direct service so we headed north and west first to Stockport – passing through Chapel-en-le Frith – dubbed the Capital of the Peaks – and Whaley Bridge on the way, amongst others.

The second leg which runs non-stop to Sheffield and then on to the east coast sweeps through the northern half of the dales. How did we know this? Well, prior to our France trip last year were up here several times during the course of the week delivering and collecting the kids from our school who were on their Duke of Edinburgh expedition awards. While waiting for them one afternoon, we saw the train pass through at Edale and thought what a fabulous trip it might be. And it was. Very popular too so options to move about and get photos was limited.

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Sheffield surprised us too. A much redeveloped centre greeted us than when we were last here – at least 20 years ago. We had to get a photo of the Crucible Theatre – famous at least to snooker fans. We’ve seen a couple of matches in the World Championships over the years and I was lucky enough to get to see the old Whirlwind himself – Jimmy White play – after a long wait for returned tickets.

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The cathedral was a peaceful diversion from the bustling town centre where a new’ish addition blended in well with the original architecture.

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Lunch – well a coffee and a snack – was taken before a meander around the shops. New sunnies were procured as was a bag for work – you needn’t ask the colour.

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On the way back we passed the rear of the town hall and the pretty peace gardens cutting through the Winter Gardens and back to the station for the journey home.

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The village of Longnor – the nearest to the site once had three pubs – but now only one was still operational. the tenants – we were told had given in their notice and only opened when they felt like it. A previous visit – on our first day – had drawn a blank and we didn’t want to risk missing out again, but by chance the pub in the next village along  – the Pack Horse Inn – was just opening as we came through. We were rewarded with a terrific meal and a couple of excellent ales too and will try and return before we leave on Tuesday.

Friday, and the weather wasn’t great as we headed east to Bakewell – home of the Bakewell Pudding – joining tourists and locals alike for an amble around. It’s a place clearly geared for tourists these days but seemingly no less pleasant for it.

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Afterwards we went for a drive – heading first east to Baslow, then north, again passing through Chapel-en-le-Frith and Whaley Bridge – through some stunning, though much flatter countryside.

Remember our trip to the Tan Hill Inn early on up in Yorkshire? Well Buxton can boast the second highest pub in England – the Cat  Fiddle – out on the road to Macclesfield and set in a landscape nearly as stark as Tan Hill.

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We thought it a good place to grab some lunch, but a little research goes a long way – and had we bothered to delve a bit deeper through Google’s search results we would have discovered that the pub closed in December and was yet to re-open. Oh well, a shame  but the drive was nice!

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