Spending a day in Melbourne, Repton and Ilkeston
PUBLISHED: 12:28 22 September 2020
Ashley Franklin Photography
When discussing the merits of a trip to the market town of Melbourne you could write chapter and verse about attractions close to the town’s doorstep, such as Calke Abbey, Elvaston Castle and the city of Derby, but that would be doing this quintessentially English location a great disservice.
That’s because in Melbourne you’ll find an embarrassment of riches with more than enough to explore on your visit to the area. Situated eight miles south of Derby, Melbourne has gone through transformations over the years, but has never lost its charm. The days of it being a hotbed of framework knitting and footwork manufacturing may be long gone, but the town has evolved over time to become the picturesque, characterful and popular location it is today.
The heritage of the place – including Melbourne Hall with its pool and gardens, the parish church and numerous thatched roofed buildings – sit in perfect harmony with the flourishing pubs, cafés, tea rooms, independent shops and more that adorn the intriguing streets.
A stroll around Melbourne will open up a world of fascinating insights into the town’s past – Quick Close, for example, is named after the abundant quickthorn, which for a time saw Melbourne considered a boom town when the very first railway companies required quick growing hedges to lay alongside their new tracks.
A meander through Quick Close will also reveal a plaque commemorating the birthplace of that founding father of longer distance holidays, Thomas Cook, who was born in Melbourne and went on to build the world-renowned Thomas Cook holiday empire.
A great place to visit any time of year, there is something enchanting about walking among the leafy streets and thatched buildings in Melbourne on a summer’s evening – taking in the atmosphere of a town with much to offer and even more to admire.
Where to eat and drink
Melbourne boats a wide range of establishments to enjoy food and drink, including award-winning restaurants and charming, characterful pubs, cafés and tea rooms.
Amalfi White, based on Derby Road and housed in a beautiful Victorian building, was a winner at last year’s Derby Food and Drinks Awards and has won two AA Rosettes since first opening back in 2013.
A stone’s throw away is Harpur’s of Melbourne, a hotel-restaurant that is also very popular. It too is an award-winning restaurant that uses locally-sourced ingredients where possible. Originally called The Melbourne before a change of name in 2011, the building itself dates back to 1773.
The Bay Tree Restaurant in the heart of the town is another tempting option, specialising in high-end British cuisine with unique influences from throughout the world resulting in truly memorable dishes.
There are plenty of pubs and cafés dotted around the town too in keeping with the charming nature of the surroundings.
Things to do with the family
Arguably the jewel in Melbourne’s crown is the impressive 18th century Melbourne Hall. The gardens of this Grade I-listed building are, it is claimed, the best surviving gardens in the manner of the famous designer Le Notre to be seen in England.
Staunton Harold Reservoir
This 210-acre reservoir is the ideal place to enjoy a peaceful, scenic walk amongst the wildlife. With multiple activities and facilities available, including a children’s play area, there is plenty for the family to see and do.
A STONE’S THROW AWAY
Repton and Ilkeston
Distance from place: 6.9 miles (Repton), 16.7 miles (Ilkeston)
Repton is a beautiful south Derbyshire location which charms with its array of Georgian houses and quaint architecture. The village has a proud heritage, having once been the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, giving it national historical significance. Famed amongst other things for its prestigious school, which dates from 1557, Repton is a place steeped in history with plenty to see and do – put it on the ‘must visit’ list.
Take a trip up the Derby Southern Bypass and you’ll find Ilkeston, Derbyshire’s third-largest town. The days of Ilkeston having a reputation for its major coal mining, iron working, lace making and textiles may be long gone, but the 21st century has much to offer with markets, an array of impressive period architecture, a church dating back to the 1200s and, for those interested in sport, an 18-hole golf cause amongst other attractions.
Its impressive church and Mercian history as well as prestigious Repton School (Repton); One of a limited number of places where the distinctive dialect of ‘East Midlands English’ is extensively spoken (Ilkeston)