A6 Road Trip – Rowsley, Bakewell and Youlgrave
PUBLISHED: 11:23 21 March 2014 | UPDATED: 13:06 16 June 2016
Ashley Franklin Photography, except for 4 & 5 - Shaun Flannery
Ashley Franklin embarks on a journey of drama and delight
As we March into April – and then spring into summer – I would recommend a visit along and around the A6 from Rowsley to Bakewell, for several reasons... Rowsley is a portal to the Peak where you turn off the A6 if you’re bound for Chatsworth, or stay if you’re heading to Haddon Hall or Bakewell. Youlgrave has its delights, too; and further afield there is Over Haddon, Arbor Low, Lathkill Dale, Monsal Dale and Ashford-in-the-Water. However, before all that, there is Rowsley itself...
You can stop in Rowsley all day if you wish, visiting Caudwell’s Mill, Peak Rail and Peak Shopping Village, browsing in two art galleries and dining at several eateries, from the café at Caudwell’s Country Parlour with its home-made food and scrumptious cakes to the fine dine restaurant at the 3AA Rosette Peacock Hotel.
A walk through Rowsley itself is a pleasure, with its warm gritstone houses and dainty church tucked away from the traffic. You can venture further away from the bustle as you are close to countryside that is a magnet for ramblers and a catch for fly fishers. According to The Field: ‘if you haven’t fished the Derbyshire Wye, you haven’t fished.’ Here, you’ll find the rare spring spawning Wild Rainbow Trout.
The Peacock Hotel has been selling fishing tickets on the Wye for over 200 years. Built as a manor house in 1652, this grand yet intimate hotel is still, as described by a 19th century traveller, ‘the beau ideal of an English country hostelry.’ If you dine here, you can feast on food that, according to Town & Country House magazine, is ‘outstanding... creative and beautifully presented’, and if you stay here you may bump into Ralph Fiennes, Keira Knightley or whoever happens to be filming on location at Chatsworth or Haddon.
Elegance abounds in another historic country house hotel in Rowsley: East Lodge, originally the Hunting Lodge to Haddon Hall. It shares with The Peacock the award of 3AA Rosettes, placing it within the top 10 per cent of restaurants in the UK. With its ten acres of landscaped water gardens – complete with pavilion and giant fountain – and luxury bedrooms, East Lodge is a sought-after wedding venue.
Other dining is available at the popular Grouse & Claret, a four star AA rated dining pub with 178 covers and a further 100 in the garden. There is also Massarella’s restaurant within the Peak Shopping Village. Over half a million visitors a year flock to this spacious retail centre with its good mix of outlets offering everything from fashion, shoes and bags to homeware and gifts. Recent arrivals include: Bamfords Auctioneers and Valuers where local celebrity James Lewis and his team hold regular auctions events and valuation days; Autonomy, the womenswear brand specialising in ‘smart tailoring, occasion wear and more casual modern styles’; and Authentic Furniture, a big showroom filled with handsome, individual, handmade sofas, tables and chairs. As director Tim Lowry declares: ‘We sell genuine, reliable, honest and characterful furniture, made in Britain and made as it used to be... furniture of quality and longevity made with pride and passion.’
There are many plans for improving and widening the Peak Shopping Village experience, which include holding regular themed Sunday markets and family-based events, and using the Old Station Building as a community space where the artistic and charitable community can host events and exhibitions.
There are already two prestige artistic spaces in Rowsley. Close to Peak Village is gallerytop, celebrating its tenth year. Beyond its glass facade, gallerytop is brimful of contemporary original art including painting, limited edition prints, sculpture, ceramics, glass and jewellery. Peter Blake, Barbara Rae, Kristan Baggaley and John Maltby have all graced this space. As co-owner Keith Logan states: ‘We have a passion for art, and love being the link between truly inspirational artists and the discerning people who buy their work.’
If you favour 20th century British art, you should seek out Derwent-Wye 20th Century Ltd, a gallery which has developed a national reputation for selling modern art by distinguished painters such as Harry Epworth Allen and Terry Frost plus numerous 20th century Northern and Cornish artists. They have also developed a reputation for finding specific works for their client base. ‘We are part gallery, part art detectives,’ says co-director John Basford. Derwent-Wye is also an award-winning publishing house with publications on Harry Epworth Allen, Stanley Royle, W S Taylor and, more recently, Sandra Blow.
Arts, crafts and gifts enhance the appeal of Caudwell’s Mill. Wildlife artist Helen Clark speaks of ‘inspiration within a few yards of my studio’ while glass artists Darrell and Joy Greenhalgh say that the sunsets behind the mill stream which flows by their window is one of the inspirations for their beautiful glass artworks which are fused with 24ct gold and platinum.
A recent arrival at the Mill is upholsterer Andrew Whiting who offers ‘a blend of traditional techniques and materials for a contemporary life.’ For Andrew, Caudwell’s Mill is perfect for his thriving business: ‘It has a rare blend of attractions. I’m in an idyllic setting and amidst creative businesses which enables me to build a solid reputation, and I have a very visible walk-in workshop. I really value talking to visitors, many of whom don’t even consider re-upholstery; I can explain how more traditional furniture and upholstery can outlast – and outperform – modern furniture, and be transformed and incorporated into modern life.’
Caudwell’s Mill itself, an historic roller flour mill, is a complete automatic ‘machine’ on four floors, an eye-boggling array of pulleys, belts, sifters and other moving parts. Graeme Walker, one of the original trustees, finds that ‘most people have no idea that flour milling is so complex – and fascinating.’ Although the Mill can no longer mill its own flour, the Mill shop sells 25 types of flour milled traditionally at other sites.
Another thriving Rowsley business is Natural Stone Sales, renowned for its granite stone work surfaces and now building a reputation for bespoke items ranging from fireplaces, table tops, Vanity tops, worktops, bar tops and tiles. ‘Natural stone has innate make-up and beauty,’ says co-director Richard Bean, ‘and its variation and colour and veining means every piece is unique. It’s also durable and easy to clean.’ Of particular distinction is the company’s Mandala Fossil Limestone, which is owned by the Chatsworth Estate.
Hidden away on the same small industrial estate as Natural Stone is First Movement, a pioneering arts organisation that has proved to be of immense value to learning disabled adults across the East Midlands. On my visit, I was greatly moved by the way the dedicated staff were using sensory arts to energise the lives of some quite profoundly disabled adults. In the course of inspiring a range of individuals, from autistic to multi-disabled, First Movement has developed innovative new technologies that are being taken up worldwide.
It’s no surprise to hear project co-ordinator Caroline Bagnall speak of First Movement being ‘a life saver for many parents/carers, a significant, empowering part of their son or daughter’s lives.’ However, Caroline also points to ‘a harsh funding environment’ where First Movement is continually looking for sponsorship and investment to support their ambitious plans for the future.
Although this article is based on a road trip, you would experience this area’s beauty more on foot. I have walked the Derwent Valley Heritage Way on both sides of Rowsley, taking in Lindop Wood in a valley perfect for soaring birds, as well as Stanton Moor with its riot of rhododendrons and the spiritual calm of Nine Ladies stone circle.
The walks around Youlgrave are another delight, with Bradford Dale to the south west and Over Haddon and Lathkill Dale to the north, a particular pleasure in late Spring with hawthorn blossom and buttercups abounding.
If we all walked rather than drove into Youlgrave, its historic village street would be even more attractive – and less narrow! In a more prosperous clime, it would be satisfying to have a park-and-ride operation so that we could greater appreciate the village’s individual buildings like the imposing parish church of All Saints, second only in size to Tideswell in all the churches in the Peak – with ‘a great soup bowl of a Norman font’ – and the 17th century Old Hall with its mullioned windows and gables.
I was also taken by the village square dominated by a circular gritstone water tank erected in 1829, officially The Conduit Head but better known as The Fountain. On one side is the three-storey Victorian building housing a Youth Hostel which has welcomingly retained the distinctive lettering of the old Co-Operative Society, while on another side sits Thimble Hall, an 18th century Grade II listed building which is officially the smallest detached house in the world. With only two rooms measuring 8ft 1inch by 7ft 1inch and connected by a ladder, and with no bathroom, kitchen or running water, it’s remarkable to learn that a century ago a family of eight lived in this house that would surely tax even a Hobbit. It’s now in the hands of the Chesterfield ice cream firm of Fredericks who tell me there are plans to use it as an ice cream parlour. That will come in the summer, hopefully before late June when you are recommended to view Youlgrave’s well dressings, acclaimed as one of the finest in the county.
Haddon HallYou only have to wait until 5th April before Haddon Hall – ‘the most perfect house to survive from the middle ages’ according to Simon Jenkins in 1000 Best Houses – opens its doors. There is never sufficient space to do justice to Haddon Hall’s splendours, I can’t help but mention the glorious banqueting hall with its minstrels’ gallery looking exactly as it did over 600 years ago; the oak-panelled dining room; the magnificent tapestries; the kitchen complex left in the early 18th century by the 9th Duke of Rutland as he found it, with holes in work surfaces worn by constant chopping and pounding; the bright, airy Long Gallery, 110ft in length and 17ft wide with its diamond panes set at different angles to maximise the amount of daylight entering; and, when there’s plenty of daylight in the summer, there can be few better-looking terraced gardens where glorious flower beds subdue the riot of towers, turrets and battlemented walls of the house itself.
As Roy Christian states in his book Derbyshire: ‘to look out through the oriel window of the drawing room across the terraced rose gardens to where the village of Over Haddon seems to sit lightly on the clouds, demands a suspension of disbelief.’
It’s ironic that the name Bakewell has nothing to do with baking anything well: it is derived from Badequella meaning Bath-well. Although a settlement grew up around mineral water springs, Bakewell failed to develop as a spa town and its fame and popularity were built on the baking of its own, exclusive tart.
If anything, the pull of the pudding has been eclipsed over the years by the town’s thriving Monday market which helps give credence to Bakewell’s epithet ‘Capital of the Peak.’ The market has 162 stalls when full (which is often), making it the biggest small town market in the country. As the weather warms, the market heaves – not only with people but also produce, and a wide variety, too. Alongside the traditional food, flower and clothes and haberdashery stalls, you’ll find quality crafts. There is also a farmers’ market held in the Agricultural Centre every last Saturday of the month.
Most of the shops adjacent to the market seem to do a brisk trade, not least Wee Dram, Derbyshire’s only ‘purveyors of specialist whiskies’. Their catalogue lists over 600, from virtually every distillery in the world. Other unique, independent outlets include Brocklehursts, offering ‘the best country clothing in the country’ – you can also check out its country sports showroom The Beeches – several antiques outlets, a fly fishing store, stamp shop, the new Peak District Photography Gallery and the ever-present Ridgeway Gallery where Sarah Ridgeway’s excellent taste and feel for contemporary art has brought some of Derbyshire’s finest artists, notably Rex and Mark Preston, Andrew Macara and Roger Allen, to regard Ridgeway as a premier gallery. Sarah also exhibits works by Britain’s famous maritime artist Terence Storey. The gallery’s next major exhibition in April is new works by Mark Preston. For the private viewing on the 4th, Sarah will have a problem if all of her clients turn up: where to put over 1,000 people.
There are other delights in Bakewell including the prominent hilltop church of All Saints, the award-winning Bath Gardens, Old House Museum with its Victorian kitchen, smithy and wheelwright shop, and the elegant Rutland Arms Hotel with its Jane Austen room.
It was reputedly in the Rutland kitchen that a cook’s mistake led to the creation of Bakewell Pudding. Still shrouded in mystery is which one of the three Bakewell Pudding shops is the original – all claim to be! I doubt it troubles the shops themselves: between them they sell 12,000 puddings each week in summer.
Bakewell isn’t all pudding: it’s also pasties, with the Proper Pasty Company selling pasties ranging from steak and ale to apple and blackcurrant. There’s also a shop selling Austrian sausages while at the Original Farmers Market Shop, you can purchase the meat of a buffalo, bison, crocodile and elk, along with a kangaroo burger.
So, there is a great deal you can experience in these parts in the coming months. And, once we do spring into summer, there is yet another attraction: the Bakewell Show, known as The Little Royal it is the largest tented agricultural show in Britain with over 250 trade exhibitions, massive stock sections, a dog show and show jumping rounds which sort out qualifiers for the Horse of the Year Show.
It’s little surprise that Bakewell’s Town Guide proclaims that ‘no inland town of its size has so much of interest to offer.’ Little wonder, too, that the A6 hereabouts will be very busy from here on!