Derbyshire 43 - Matlock Bath - The beast from the east meets Storm Emma/Sams and the bikers/Restoration Cafe/Gabby gets a socket

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March 5th 2018
Published: March 13th 2018
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Where in the world are we? Why am I thinking about a café run by an old man named Sam? Where is the lovely Gabby? What is the restoration café?

In answer to the first question we are just up the road. A few miles from home in the town of Matlock Bath. We have been to Matlock many times but for some reason we have never ventured just up the road to Matlock Bath. It's a lovely day. The sun is shining although there is still a chill in the air. We are two twelfths of the way through 2018. Into the third month of the year. The metereologists have told us that we have reached meterological Spring. Spring proper does not arrive in my mind until we reach the middle of this month. Around that time the clocks go forward and heralds British Summer time. The mornings are getting lighter by the day. The evenings are much the same - light until gone 6pm. The gardens are a kaleidoscope of colour. Mauves, purples, white and yellow crocci. Daffodils peeping out and blowing in the wind. The smell of the early spring flowers.

What a difference a week makes. This time last week we were in the grips of the Beast from the East who had hit head on with Storm Emma. Both bringing heavy snow which caused havoc. The roads were blocked, the shops shelves were empty. We saw little signs of gritters and snow ploughs. It has been the worse winter since we arrived up here four and a half years ago. No buses, a long walk home from work. Whilst it wasn't as bad as the 1963 Winter I for one was glad to see the back of the bad weather. With the thaw pipes burst and we had water problems in some parts of the country. All the rivers were high and the fields flooded.

So where is Gabby? Still at home. Glenn had covered all her seats in readiness for the mobile engineer who was coming to fit the 12 volt socket for the TV. Glenn had already cut out the necessary holes and all he had to do was the wiring. What a nice guy - a clean and tidy van, all the tools necessary for the job, knowledgeable and tidy in his work. Once finished the TV was fitted all ready for the holidays and trips out.

We have felt a little like caged lions and needed to get out on what was quite a lovely day. Armed with our coats to keep out the cold, gloves which were not needed and scarves we set off for nearby Matlock Bath. We parked up on the station car park. Having walked to the parking machine I looked at the prices £1.30 for one hour, £2.30 for two hours and £3.30 for three - no change given. I checked the time . We had planned on eating fish and chips for dinner in one of the many restaurants in town so we needed more than two hours to take in the town, the river and eat that very British meal. Into my bag I went. I had pound coins but no change so too much money went into the machine and I silently thought how mean the council were not to give change. I counted the extra 80p spent and thought of a coffee , nearly a bag of chips , a cup of tea.

The path runs alongside the River Derwent and we began our walk along its banks. Swollen by the recent snow and rain it flowed by quickly . The perfect river for white water rafting. The town developed as a residential and spa town thriving on Edwardian tourism. The houses stretch alongside the river frontage and creep up the hills behind. It has a look of decaying genitility. Many of the hotels were built to accomodate the tourists attending the spas but now are closed. It was in 1698 that warm springs were discovered and a bath house was built. Important visitors John Ruskin, Lord Byron and even royalty. The town became known as Little Switzerland and it does have that sort of feel in a very small way. When the Midland Railway opened in 1840 the town came into its own.

Our first port of call was an innovative way of commemorating the 1914 - 1918 War. In the park close to the War Memorial stood what looked like a band stand. Inside were plaques placed upon the walls. On each plaque was a picture of a soldier from Matlock Bath who perished in the Great War. His age, his occupation and his place of death were noted. We stood for a while just taking in how many soldiers lost their lives from this tiny town.

Matlock is a lovely place to walk. We passed the Jubilee Bridge built to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. A sign stated rather curtly " Do not put an love padlocks on this bridge". Beyond the bridge a pretty park , ducks on the river trying in vain to swim against the tide. Several fountains . Some Edwardian, some modern. Finally to the Museum which sadly was closed. We headed for the Restoration Café. A cosy spot housed in the spa building. Profits from the café go back into trying to raise the 4 million needed to renovate the pump house. We sat in soft sofas, ordered our drinks and a toasted tea cake which we shared. We read the book on the table where folks told their memories of the Pump House. They told stories of meeting girlfriends there, attending concerts during the second world war and pop groups playing in the 1960's.

Lastly then, why Sam and the bikers? Never go through Matlock Bath on a Sunday. You will get held up by motorbikers by the score. All parked up after
Entrance to the Pump Room Entrance to the Pump Room Entrance to the Pump Room

Closed and locked up . In need of some T.L.C
their weekly bike ride out. Matlock loves bikers. They are welcomed with open arms. Bike shops line the streets, in between the restaurants and cafes are the penny arcades beloved of children. Matlock Bath has the feel of a seaside town where Kiss me Quick hats and candy floss would not be out of place. It takes me back to weekend rides on the back of motorbikes to Rhyl just to see the sea. So what of Sams? Think back to the 60's when the Mods and Rockers reigned. The Mods on their bikes headed off to the seaside on their Lambrettas. They looked slick, neat and tidy. They spent all day drinking coffee at the Coffee Bar. They kept away from the Rockers who spent their time parking their bikes up outside the gates to Acton Park. As I walk around Matlock I remember the fun we had in Sams café playing badly on the socket tables. Money laid up around the tables ready to be fed into the machine. The juke box blared out the Beatles, the Rolling Stones 6d bought you two records . Finding the better B sides was fun as we found some crackers. There was no food on offer at Sams. All we could buy was a milk shake. A milk shake served in a pint glass , filled with ice cream and occasionally ash from his cigarette. We never minded . We just drank our milk shakes, talked and went out for rides on the bikes. It was good to be taken back over 50 years thinking of the biker heaven that was Matlock Bath


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