We've just come back from a a little holiday in Derbyshire. We chose to stay in the market town of Wirksworth mainly because its location made it a good base from which to explore the surrounding area and for us to attend my mother-in-law's 80th birthday celebrations as she lives just north of Derby. Wirksworth is one of the oldest towns in this area of the Peak District and it used to be the centre of the lucrative lead mining industry even as far back as Saxon times. The town today still holds a weekly market as it has done since 1306. As I inspected the modern-day offerings I wondered what those Medieval market stallholders would have had for sale? Perhaps they too might have traded nettle soap, fresh rhubarb and Derbyshire honey!
We chose to stay in Allsopps Cottage, nothing to do with Kirstie Allsopp but with all the vintage charm just the same. The cottage itself has been thoughtfully renovated and decorated to retain its character and old-fashioned charm and it included lots of quirky details including aVictorian wash basin and jug and an antique pair of ice skates hanging by the fireplace (it took us all holiday to work out what they were).
|Ted on the washstand|
The Edwardian bed in the main bedroom was so high and with such a deep mattress that climbing into it I felt much like The Princess and the Pea. The prince was not so enchanted with its comfort as being 6ft 2" his feet, rather amusingly, stuck out through the end of the wooden frame - a sort of bedtime stocks arrangement!
|Close-up of the beautiful tile splashback behind the stove|
|Cosy sitting room with original fireplace (iceskates hanging left hand side)|
To find the cottage you need to go down one of the many narrow alleyways otherwise known as a 'ginnel' if you're a local. The lead merchants built their homes in the dlocally known 'puzzle garden' area and the rush to build, and the lack of any kind of planning, have resulted in a higgledy piggledy jumble of houses and gardens clinging to the steep hillside. If it weren't for the lack of a harbour, it would be easy to believe that you were instead on the cliffside of a Cornish fishing village. Consequently, parking, or indeed driving, in Wirksworth is not for the faint hearted. I don't think I've ever attempted such a steep hill in a car before and I was convinced the handbrake wouldn't hold and the car would roll backwards at speed before we'd had a chance to get our luggage out! It did not surprise me to learn later that the sharp gradient of Greenhill was in fact where Rolls Royce chose to test their cars' stop and re-start capabilities back in 1912.
The town today has a bohemian charm and the unique little independent shops, cafes and restaurants have earned it the nickname of 'Quirksworth'. Though I think it may well be the bizarre customs such as 'well-dressing' (a kind of artistic water worship) and 'church clipping' (holding hands and dancing around the walls of a church) that have added to this humorous moniker. I very much enjoyed the quirks of Wirskworth and the friendly nature of its inhabitants but lovely as it was, after a week we were all very happy to return to the familiar and routine delights of home.