As I drove on the sun broke through and we headed on towards Bakewell, but not without difficulty. Strict Lady kept thinking she knew a shorter way, and travelling midday in something Thebus size down minor roads is not the best of ideas so I kept ignoring her, with the result we got lost several times. Once happily, in that I spotted a lovely half-timbered church at Marton, though sadly there was nowhere to stop and explore. The second time almost disastrously! I had ended up in a town centre, it could well have been Macclesfield, and I was approaching a bridge. Its possible I would have spotted the sign saying it was .350mm too low for us in time, though when one is in traffic and lost as well there is a lot to occupy one’s mind. Fortunately the lights were against us, and sitting in traffic looking ahead I could see the looming problem and was able to reverse into a side street and retrace our tracks.
I had phoned ahead to Bakewell, as my mission there was purely Puddings. Apparently Bakewell Pudding is very different from the well known Bakewell Tart, and Bakewell was THE place to try it. I didn’t want to go all that way to find the days supply had just been sold, and with our tour of Joderell Bank, plus our unexpected tour of the surrounding countryside the day was going on. No.. We NEVER run out of Bakewell Pudding. was the answer so on we pressed.
i must admit to finding the days tour so far less than inspiring regarding the countryside. Perfectly pleasant. Rural, green, sheep and the occasional field of well filled milkers, but nothing to grab the attention. I had expected to be travelling some high ground with far reaching views, but so far nothing.
Then we turned, and the road started to climb. On and on, higher and higher till it felt we were on top of the world with the flat plains we had been travelling all morning spread out behind us as far as the eye could see.
Then down on into Bakewell, which seemed to be having major roadworks with all HGV banned from the town and roads shut in all directions. I worried that even though Thebus is not as big as an HGV he is at least as wide as most, and wider than some, but with more luck than judgement, and no help from Strict Lady who was intent on sending me down the closed roads, we made it through and parked up in the farmers mart carpark, where, though there had obviously been a market that day, most of the farm trailers were loaded and headed for home.
The way into town was now over a modern footbridge over a very pretty river and wier with lots of waterfowl, and even a heron, oblivious to the hoardes of noisy folk thronging the bridge, many of them seemingly have come specifically to add a padlock. What on earth started this modern phenomenom - I would thing the Padlock Makers Guild if they had any sense. I heard that one bridge in Germany nearly fell down from the weight. Still it was nice to see the young couples swearing their eternal faithfulness, mostly very young teenagers I have to say, so I was not convinced that too many would be revisiting in twenty or thirty years to check on their padlock.
It would have been a goodish walk back into town, but my super scooter makes it all so easy. Even when the low sun was making it impossible to see which buildings were what, and we passed the same shops several times, including the two Bakewell Pudding Shops, I could carry on as my legs were not worn out.
Did you notice there are TWO 'Home of the Original Bakewell Pudding' Shops in Bakewell. Apparently they are daggers drawn and both swearing their ancestors were privy to the one and only original recipe. So I felt a taste test coming on. When I finally tracked them down I have to say that I found the puddings looked pretty unprepossesing, and had I not come specially to try them I would have probably been tempted with the most enormous and freshest looking Iced Buns I have ever seen in my life. The lady in front bought one for 45p which seemed a real bargain.
My Bakewell Pudding looked dubiously uninteresting and was £4. Still it had to be done. Then I found the second shop and theirs were only £3.75, but were in fact much smaller and the pasty to filling ratio seemed even less favourable. I thought I might as well get a Bakewell Tart at the same time so it would be a truly comprehensive test.
But before I could get round to eating them I went up to the church, and my goodness me I was grateful for the super scooter. It was so steep I worried that he would overheat again. But we made it and I left him to cool down outside (rather like a well-run racehorse), whilst I went to see if I could find the Saxon carvings for which the church is apparently well known. Whether I missed them, or whether I was expecting too much, but it just seemed a random collection of smallish bits of stone with some carving on, though the stone coffins on the way in were interesting in a slightly macbre way. Apparently there are also two very early, and well carved stone crosses, but the steepness of the site, coupled with the steps on a lot of the paths meant I didn’t try to find them, though I read the display board inside.
Instead inside I found the most magnificent set of carved monuments in a large chapel off the South Isle. Sadly it seems the chapel is now used as a store room, so the monuments are jumbled up with spare chairs, children’s toys and general paraphernalia. I expect the Vernons, who’s chapel it is and who probably left money for someone to look after the chapel and say prayers for them in perpetuity might be surprised to see it today. Still we are not the first generation to have looked upon them without undue reverence. There is quite a lot of old graffiti on the later monuments, and the earlier effigy I think of Sir Thomas Wendesley, has his nose, elbow, hands and feet hacked off, presumably by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, though the sad looking lion, which cushions his now footless ankles, has been spared. The other monuments to the Venon and Manner families have been left alone. Perhaps they were powerful locally, or with Puritan rather than Cavalier leanings. But Sir George lies there serenely, and possibly slightly complacently, between his two wives, their backs turned towards us as they contemplate the coming of the Day of Resurrection in eternity together.
Back at Thebus I made some tea and prepared the slices of pudding and tart. And I have to say though I am not certain which is the original I certainly know which I prefer. For a start the Bakewell Tart was as Bakewell Tart normally is - okay, but a bit dry and definitely in need of lots of good vanilla custard. The cheaper and smaller of the two offerings was interesting, and though there was quite a lot of pasty it was well enough balanced, I though it was another one which needed something in the custard or cream stakes to help it out. Basically it was a very eggy set custard with almond flavouring and a some jam on the base. The one from the shop I had phoned, thinking they were the one and only Original Bakewell Pudding Purveyors, was, I have to say, truly different and surprising delicious.
It didn’t taste at all as expected either in texture of flavour. It was much softer, and it had a syrupy Bonfire Night type flavour about it. If I go back to Bakewell again I know which shop I shall be visiting. In fact its making my mouth water now.
Then on to Matlock Bath pronounced with a flat a. Years ago I telephone the proprietor of the Matlock Bath Hotel, and asking if I had the right number I mistakenly pronounced it with a prissy southern inflection. I could almost feel her bristle even over the phone wires. - Matlock Baaath, Matlock Baaaath. You mean Matlock Bath! And suitably chastised I have never forgotten.
Anyway as I was getting near to Matlock the traffic was building up, and there were folk walking towards the town from really quite long distances outside. The traffic was at a standstill in the centre, and there were literally throngs on the streets. Dusk was thinking about falling, and of course everyone was heading there for the Saturday night Matlock Baths (with a flat a) Illuminations.
Apparently back in the early nineteenth century Victoria as a young Princess had visited the town and been enchanted by the reflections of the candlelight from the surface of the river running though the town (at least that is the story). To honour her Jubilee the town organised a candlelight boat parade, and more or less it has continued ever since for a few weekends in September and October, in one guise or another. And judging by the amount of folk storming in on foot, car, bus and train is a jolly good boost to the local tourist industry as the season is beginning to fade.
I would have liked to stop just to see what it the Illuminations are all about. It was Matlock Bath I was heading for, but my intention had been to view the Arkwright's Mills at Masson, just on the outskirts of the town. To have got Thebus into any of the carparks would have been out of the question, even if he had been allowed to stop, so we had to head straight through and on out. I had thought of returning the next day, but the mills don’t start spinning till about eleven, and guessing there would be masses of folk making a weekend of it I sadly decided to press on and put it on my list for a future visit. In fact there are Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall really close by, so maybe next time I visit the area!