Monday, 12 October 2015
The first holiday I took without my parents, as a fifteen year old was to Matlock in Derbyshire. I cycled there from Lincoln with two school friends and camped at Darley Dale. It poured down and we came home early I seem to recall. I did however have time to discover Matlock Bath and I’ve been going back to the Peak District ever since.
Matlock Bath is an inland resort, think Woodhall Spa but whereas Woodhall is kind of Eastbourne-ish, Matlock Bath is more Blackpool although the scenery is positively alpine.
Alpine, that’s a bit far-fetched I hear you say but there’s more than a bit of truth in it. During the Napoleonic Wars well to do British travellers found their usual playground on the continent was barred to them so they looked for places to travel in Britain. Scotland became a favourite but English travellers found somewhere much closer to home and the peaks of Derbyshire reminded them of Switzerland so they started building alpine style properties to make it even more so.
These days Matlock Bath attracts bikers, the sweeping semi mountain roads being an obvious attraction to two wheel travel, tourists’ cyclists and walkers.
As you can imagine the season tends to tail off about now so in an attempt to boost numbers, many years ago the town decided to stage a floating illuminated pageant on the River Derwent. This was noticed by a young Princess, later to become Queen Victoria and the rest as they say is history.
So to the present day and we’ve been to the Peak District and Matlock Bath many times but never seen the illuminations so we resolved to put that omission right and duly ordered tickets on the net. To say the event was packed would be an understatement but you have to understand that Matlock Bath which on first impressions might appear to be a bit off the beaten track is in fact at the centre of an enormous population in the middle of the country. It’s easily reached from Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester, not to mention Lincoln and many other places.
The illuminations themselves are charming and homespun. The event takes place in Derwent Gardens which, happily can be fenced off so that only those who have paid can see it. This area, beside the River Derwent is all decked out with its own lights and small boats parade down the river lit by twinkly lights based on a theme. There was a Steamboat, Doctor Who,Star Wars, Frozen and several more, there is a funfair, food stalls and fun for all the family. We felt a little bit under provided as we seemed to be the only ones without children. The whole thing was topped off with a magnificent ten minutes of non-stop fireworks. There was a park and ride, which we used and once we’d got back to the car we were under an hour and a quarter getting home yet the scenery is a world away.
The illuminations are on every weekend from 12 September to 31 October. Fireworks are on Saturday nights only.