On the day of my 43rd Birthday (after having ran my first fell run with my sister the night before) we headed out at a much more sedate pace to enjoy some local sights. Our first stop was Castleton, a village in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, England.
We took a stroll around the little shops, which mostly sell an array of gemstone jewellery, particular the ‘Blue John Stone‘ that the area is known for, and visited Peak Cavern – also known as ‘The Devil’s Arse’! Situated directly beneath Peverill Castle the cave is said to have the largest entrance in Britain. It once contained houses and there is still evidence of soot from the chimneys on the roof. There is even a report in 1794 of an alehouse in the cave.
The entrance was used for hundreds of years for rope making and some of the equipment used still remains. Until the late 19th century, when lead mining came to an end, the ropemakers who inhabited the cave, supplied rope for Castleton’s lead mining industry. The ropemaking equipment that remains is now used by the tour guides to demonstrate the skill to visitors.
We arrived at the cave just as a rope making demonstration was in progress – which was really quite amazing (plus the demonstrator could spin a good line whilst making rope and was highly entertaining!).
The walk into the cave was full of interesting stories and tales. There were no tight squeeze for us to negotiate through – but a couple of very low passage ways had us squatting and shuffling for a good few metres!
The guided tour took about one hour and included Pluto’s Dining Room, the Great Cave and the Devil’s Cellar where the stream flowing underneath the cavern can be heard. We heard the excellent acoustics of the Orchestra Gallery in the Great Cave, where village maidens used to sing to distinguished visitors, including Queen Victoria.
In the afternoon we visited the delightful Chestnut Centre, Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park.
The centre is nestled in a valley with a wonderful array of owls and otter species, many of which are rescued, rehabilitated and later released back into the wild. Along with their other centre – The New Forest Wildlife Park – they care for 12 to 15 orphaned otter cubs each year.
After a lovely afternoon stroll we freshened up for dinner (I also spent over half an hour scrubbing my shoes clean, after hiking through farmland, so I’d be allowed back into New Zealand without having a delay at Border Control).
We enjoyed dinner at the wonderful Old Hall Inn, Chinley, where my folks enjoyed a lovely few nights stay in great comfort.
The next day we bid my sister and Mike farewell and drove back to Hampshire, where I had just enough time for a catch up with an old school friend before setting off on a plane back to New Zealand.