Derbyshire 28 - Rowsley South , Darley Dale and Matlock , Lord Phil a saddle back train and a diesel engine

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June 27th 2016
Published: June 28th 2016
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Well what a momentous week! The best result you could wish for. An unexpected one at that. Life will never be the same again. A country rose up loud and proud . The Dragon roared . Victorious that's what we are. No not the referendum and Brexit . Wales coming top of the group in Euro 2016 . Finishing above England with a win over Slovakia, a thrashing of Russia and a woeful sad last minute robbing by England. To top it all we are now through to the last 8. Unexpected - yes - with a population so small we don't have the players . The players we have play in lower divisions of the English League with the exception of a handful of Premiership players and one rather special one - Gareth Bale. Despite being a small nation we play with pride and passion. I doubt we will progress further with Belgium our opponents but we will give it a go and hope that Belgium doesnt turn up.

So it's 65 days until we get on our last European adventure of the year. Finally, after much stuttering our train is booked for a Saturday. We had to leave it late due to work committments but in the end bit the bullet exchanged the Tesco vouchers and rang up to book. We plan to travel Friday afternoon due to Saturday being Moto GP weekend at Silverstone. The roads on the Saturday will be gridlocked . To avoid it we are going round the houses to Cambridge again and staying on a Caravan and Camping Club site at Cabbage Lane. Should be able to set off early on Saturday for the 9.50 train avoiding holdups. Now what the train will be like will be anyones guess . Normally we drive straight in. Sometimes we have to wait. Most times we drive through English and French customs easily. In a fit of pique I guess we will be held up and our passports scrutinised to within an inch of our lives. Coming back will be probably worse . There are stories on motorhome sites of garages and campsites refusing to take our credit cards . I guess a lot of scaremongering will follow last week like a big stink. There seems some idea that things have already changed ., that our markets have collapsed and that we are not credit worthy. Ah well guess it will come out in the wash. As far as I am concerned the further I get away from it all the better at the moment. So its Spain here we come.

To get away today was more of a problem. The sun was shining . My books had come out and I had tried to find something or somewhere different to go. I had exhausted the 50 mile radius of home in the main and Glenn was saying "No more Palladian houses " Not for a while then . So what else is there ? It was hard but someone had to do it . Trains . Now that's an idea. Is there anything within reasonable distance of home. Of course there is . Peak Rail . So it was off to the railways then.

We drove to Rowsley one of the points you can get on the train. Brilliant parking and not many people there either . Just us, a few older people and a group of school kids . First problem tickets . The ticket office was closed so we sat over a cup of tea in the cafe assuming we would be able to buy tickets on the train using our credit card. I rarely carry cash. First problem solved . Not a problem at all the guard comes round dressed in his black livery and collects money and issues tickets on the train.

Second problem - he wants cash. He did however go back and pick up his rather antiquated but sweet non electronic credit card machine., You know the type. The long and thin metal machine into which the credit card is placed . A roller goes over the top making an impression of the card on a piece of paper. Not seen one of these since the 1980's . Still it brought back some memories as we paid our £7 senior price each to travel the line.

The train was in. The Lord Hill an austerity saddle backed train built in 1943 for the war effort. Liveried in green and beautifully restored it was a joy to see , hear and smell. There is nothing like the smell of a steam train. It brings back so many childhood memories .

Of the railway line itself The Midland Railway route linking Derby and Manchester across the Derbyshire Peak District. The hype says that it rated as one of the most spectacular lines ever to have existed in the country. It carved its way through Derbyshire’s great limestone hills and because of the nature of the land many tunnels and other impressive civil engineering features including the magnificent viaducts at Millers Dale and Monsal Dale had to be constructed. Sadly the only thing you can do now at Monsal Dale is stand on the road and admire it or ride your bike along its route. The railway line was built over a period of 20 years and eventually it linked up Derby and Manchester. What a roundabout trip you would have to make now to do that trip . Matlock to Derby, Derby to Sheffield , Sheffield to Manchester . Progress I think not ..

Throughout its long and illustrious career it served the wives of Buxton doing their shopping, the Duke of Devonshire and ran through Hardwick Hall land. The Royal Scot even ran on the line. Like many railways it was important for freight traffic mostly coal . Of course then in 1962 came the dreaded publication commonly known as the Beeching Report which served a death knell on lines like this one. Gradually stations closed and trains ceased running. Ambergate to Chinley when a tunnel at Doveholes was found to be unsafe. Millers Dale and Bakewell stations quickly closed as did Rowsley where we found ourselves now sitting. Next Darley Dale the next station down the line and finally the spa town of Matlock Bath . OUr final destination of Matlock continued as it was the main St Pancras to Manchester line. This together with some freight still run to this day. I often wonder what Beeching would say now if he could see the re-opened heritage trains. Never underestimate enthusiasts and a nostalgia for steam .

So our journey began. The Lord Hill set off steam and smoke coming out of her chimney. A lovely sight as she wound slowly along the snaking track amidst the rolling Derbyshire countryside. Wild Roses and black berries lined the track. Small bridges crossed over the line. The Lord Hill ran past signal boxes and wooded glades . Sure the scenery is not as awe inspiring as on the small trains of Wales but it was restful and relaxing travelling past closed railway crossings and through trees covered in elderberry blossom. As we rode along with the gentle sound of the train clacking on the tracks the thought of the day came into my head "When you are able to sit then the meaning of your everyday life will be completely different. You will truly enjoy your life " We were indeed enjoying our life as we sat and chugged along.

So what of the train itself. It was originally designed for shunting by the Hunslet Engine Company and called an Austerity 0 -6 -OST. Not being a railway anorak I had never heard of an Austerity class engine but it didnt take much imagination to realise that it was the standard train produced during the war. It became the British shunting locomotive of choice and continued to be built until 1964. After the war the same trains were used by steelworks and collieries around the country. This is perhaps where I remembered them from as they must have run along the lines opposite our home in the 1960's Living by a colliery they must have been the train most used to move coal.

The line is only 4 miles long and takes about 22 minutes . We sat in gloriously renovated carriages . Open carriages with tables between the seats reminiscing about train journeys in the past. The 22 minutes passed by quickly and we arrived first at Darley Dale with its gothic station and neatly dressed station master. Onto Matlock where we alighte and walked into town. The choice would be stay on the train and go back or go into town for dinner. We just had one hour before returning so ate ploughmans and brocolli and stilton soup.

Our return 22 minute journey was in the same carriages but pulled not by the steam train but by a blue and yellow diesel. The little saddle back couldnt pull us back as there is no way for her to turn round at Matlock. She pulled all the way in to Matlock and then was pulled back by the big, bulky snub nosed diesel.

What a day . Not our usual and to a place just down the road . You don't need to travel far to get a simple pleasure .

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