Andrew Griffiths goes on a day trip from his home in the north of the county to scale the Heights of Abraham.
MATLOCK BATH looks like a town where the sea went out and never came back in again. Stroll along the main street past the chip shops and the amusement arcades and you can all but taste the salt on a breeze that has blown in straight from the 1950s. It feels as if at any moment you might bump into the fat lady wearing a ‘kiss me quick’ hat dragging along a weedy little bloke in a string vest with a knotted hanky on his head.
Matlock Bath first began to make its wealth out of minerals in Roman times – galena, with its easily accessible lead in this case. Then in the 1700s came a burgeoning interest in science and the savage beauty of nature. The alleged healing properties of spring waters became all the rage and proved to be an easy sell to the adventurous middle classes who were following in the footsteps of English writer Daniel Defoe. Matlock joined the ranks of fashionable spa towns alongside the likes of Buxton, Harrogate and Bath.
Then came the railways, bringing people from the surrounding cities fresh from powering the industrial revolution and looking for fun. In the latter decades of the 1800s these workers were starting to get a bit of money in their pockets and time on their hands, and would head for seaside resorts for their holidays. When on a tighter budget or with less time to spare, they could board the new trains and make for the fresh pastures of Derbyshire, where the good folk of Matlock Bath spotted a business opportunity and decided to give them everything the seaside could offer – except for the sea itself, of course. But they did have the River Derwent, so they put some boats on that instead.
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