Peace And Light In Long Eaton

I recently satisfied a long-nursed curiosity by visiting Long Eaton.  I don’t know about you, but I find that, if I hear an announcement about where a stopping train is going to stop often enough, I develop a growing urge to visit that place : I hear about Long Eaton several times a day – “Passengers for Langley Mill, Alfreton, Long Eaton and Derby change at Beeston …”.

I wasn’t there for very long (I managed to combine this trip with a visit to that other faraway place with a strange-sounding name East Midlands Parkway) but long enough to get the gist of the place, as it were.

The main thing to note about Long Eaton is that it is very long.  One very long road running alongside a canal with houses strung out alongside it.  The walk from the station to the centre of town took about half an hour, but, by happy chance, it took me past what I think it’s safe to assume is the town’s Jewel in the Crown.

I’m pleased to say that it’s the Library.  Just look at this –

Long Eaton Library 2

Pax and Lux – not, as you might think, advertisements for stuffing and beauty soap, but Peace and Light – and I think that all of us, in these oafishly disagreeable times, and not just the good folk of Long Eaton, could do with a stiff dose of both.

The interior lives up to the promise of the entrance with this stained glass window, apparently the work of one Andrew Stoddart of Nottingham (not the cricketer of the same name), depicting four muses of literature, poetry, music and painting –

Long Eaton Library Window 1

and I was particularly taken with this, which is almost a quotation from Sir Francis Bacon (“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”) 

Long Eaton Library Window 2

I think, if I were in charge of the internet, I would make it compulsory to display this at the top of every blog, forum and website in the land (or perhaps only the Guardian’s Comment is Free).

The Library is a Grade II listed building, and a more technical description (“The pediment has small dentillations and a mosaiced tympanum“, apparently) may be found here.

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Matlock Bath Aquarium : Fish Plus

And so, reluctantly, our visit to Matlock Bath must draw to a close (thank God for that – the Readership). 

 But, before we leave, let’s not forget to make time for a visit to the Aquarium, which has everything you would expect from such an establishment (i.e fish)  and so much more!

The Aquarium is the sort of slightly ramshackle visitor attraction (close in spirit to a Victorian cabinet of curiosities) of which I’m inordinately fond.

It  is situated in what was originally the Consulting Rooms, and contains what was the original Matlock Bath (where the Quality would Take the Waters).  The Quality have been replaced by fish (mainly Koi Carp) – (fish food is available for a small fee).

Also on show (for no additional fee) is the Petrifying Well. 

A popular attraction in the resort’s Nineteenth-century heyday, this involved immersing common household objects (such as hats and walking-sticks)

 in the well, where they would emerge petrified (i.e. turned to stone) and be sold as souvenirs.

(Nowadays these have been superseded by those traditional accoutrements of the English seaside holiday – the dream-catcher, the Samurai sword and the little crystal statuettes of naked women riding on the backs of dragons).

The most Victorian aspect of the whole thing, oddly, is the exhibition of holograms, which seems to take us back to the world of the camera obscura, the magic lantern show and the cyclorama.  I suppose because we aren’t being invited to marvel at the aesthetics of the thing (diverting as some of the images are) but the technology.

This ghastly apparition is Zandra Rhodes .  This ghostly apparition is inspired by Zandra Rhodes –

Well worth £2.50 of anyone’s money, even in these straitened times.

Arrangements In Black And Gold : Venetian Nights in Matlock Bath

(More from the Matlock Bath Tourist Board …) 

So, here we are again, in the middle of the annual rolling Fire Festival – Halloween, Diwali, Bonfire Night with which we try to ward off the arrival of Winter.

Like the Blackpool of my youth, Matlock Bath gets in early on this one with its Illuminations, which run from the beginning of September to the end of October.

The highest lights – which I was lucky enough to view – are the Venetian Nights.  These apparently originated to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (she had visited as a young girl and had written how much she had enjoyed seeing the twinkling lights of Matlock Bath) and consist of a procession of small boats decorated with electric lights (accompanied, when I saw them, by Land of Hope and Glory played over the Tannoy).

Entries this year included a Formula 1 Racing Car, the Space Shuttle, Super Mario, a Mississippi Riverboat and Bob the Builder.  My favourites, however, were Mr Toad –

and a horse-drawn Victorian hearse (rather alarmingly the entry by the St John’s Ambulance Brigade) –

I don’t think a fellow can really say that he’s lived until he’s seen a ghostly Mr. Toad being pursued up and down a river by a flaming hearse to the strains of Land of Hope and Glory.

“The Shivering Children Wait Their Doom” : Betjeman In Matlock Bath

This is John Betjeman’s poem about Matlock Bath (illustrated with a few snaps).  I had forgotten about the poem when I visited, otherwise I would have tried to get one of the Methodist Church that features in it. 

Betjeman knew of Matlock Bath because of his liaison with Lady Elizabeth “Feeble” Cavendish, whose brother owned nearby Chatsworth House.  One might have expected Betjeman to have written something slightly jollier about such a jolly place, but this is very bleak.  Perhaps he should have visited while the illuminations were still on.

.

Matlock Bath

 From Matlock Bath’s half-timbered station


I see the black dissenting spire—,
Thin witness of a congregation,
Stone emblem of a Handel choir;
In blest Bethesda’s limpid pool,
Comes treacling out of Sunday School.

By cool Siloam’s shady rill–
The sounds are sweet as strawberry jam:
I raise mine eyes unto the hill,
The beetling HEIGHTS OF ABRAHAM;
The branchy trees are white with rime
In Matlock Bath this winter-time.

And from the whiteness, grey uprearing,
Huge cliffs hang sunless ere they fall,
A tossed and stoney ocean nearing
The moment to o’erwhelm us all:
Eternal Father, strong to save,
How long wilt thou suspend the wave?

How long before the pleasant acres,
Of intersecting LOVERS’ WALKS

A Lovers' Walk

Are rolled across by limestone breakers,
Whole woodlands snapp’d like cabbage stalks?
O God, our help in ages past,
How long will SPEEDWELL CAVERN last?

In this dark dale I hear the thunder
Of houses folding with the shocks,
The GRAND PAVILION 

The Grand Pavilion - largely obscured by the Riverside Fish 'n' Chip Restaurant

buckling under
The weight of the ROMANTIC ROCKS,
The hardest Blue John ash-trays seem
To melt away in thermal steam.

Deep in their Nonconformist setting
The shivering children wait their doom–
The father’s whip, the mother’s petting
In many a coffee-coloured room;
And attic bedrooms shriek with fright,
For dread of Pilgrims of the Night.

Perhaps it’s this that makes me shiver
As I ascend the slippery path

The View from half way up the Heights

High, high above the sliding river
And terraces of Matlock Bath;

A sense of doom, a dread to see
The Rock of Ages cleft for me.

 

Though the town has so far not suffered the apocalyptic collapse foreseen by Betjeman, the Methodist Church closed in 1974 and was turned into a furniture store and the Grand Pavilion has recently been deemed “surplus to requirements” by the local council.

Hodgkinson’s Hotel

As regular readers (if any) may remember, last year we took an Autumn break in Andalucia.  This year, it was an overnight stay in Matlock Bath in the Peak District. 

Like many spa towns Matlock Bath first became popular with the Quality during the Napoleonic Wars when travel abroad was an impossibility (as it is today, though for different reasons).  It became a favourite haunt of many literary greats, including Lord Byron (who compared it to Switzerland), Ruskin, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Betjeman and Roy Hattersley.

It has many attractions, some of which I shall share with you over the coming weeks.  But, first, if you are planning a stay in Matlock Bath (and you should be!) I can thoroughly recommend our hotel – Hodgkinson\’s.

A Grade II listed building, decorated throughout in an authentic Victorian style, it offers comfortable beds, friendly and unobtrusive staff, a delicious breakfast, a roaring fire (is there any other kind?) in the living room and – to make us Leicestershire folk feel at home (and keep a theme of sorts going) – a FOX under one of the armchairs –

(n.b. this blog has received no payment for this Unsolicited Testimonial)

A Pitch with no Square? : Grindleford

A day trip to Grindleford in Derbyshire on Saturday. 

It has a railway station (a stop on the pretty Hope Valley Line that runs from Sheffield to Manchester, it emerges suddenly after the lengthy Totley Tunnel), a couple of pubs and a church that was celebrating its hundredth birthday (so only twice as old as your correspondent).  It also has an – apparently still functioning – model laundry –

  

It is close to Eyam, the village that public-spiritedly chose to isolate itself during a visitation of Plague, resulting in the deaths of a considerable proportion of its inhabitants.

I did wonder if something similar might have been going on in Grindleford.  Hardly a living soul was to be seen on the streets.  The Post Office had shut down, I’d say in the last month or so (a handwritten sign of apology attached to the door) :

–  the same with the village shop.  Another shop (I can’t remember what it sold) showed few signs of life, and nor did the Vet’s, though there was a small “art gallery” selling decorative paintings.  All par for the course, I suppose, in these straitened times.     

It does have a cricket pitch, with excellent views of the Derbyshire Dales and an impressive pavilion, built in keeping with its surroundings (and – I’m guessing – a beneficiary of lottery money) –

 The outfield was lush ; they have a shed for their equipment and a roller –

 

but the curious thing was that there didn’t seem to be a square.  Perhaps, in Derbyshire – with their fine tradition of seam bowling – they like to leave a fair amount of grass on the wicket, but surely not so much that the square is indistinguishable from the rest of the pitch? 

All very rum – though perhaps this sign attached to the front of the pavilion might have something to do with it.

A 99 for Ramprakash (and a regular cone for me)

 

Derbyshire v Surrey, Queen’s Park, Chesterfield, County Championship, 28th June

Mark Nicholas, in this month’s Wisden Cricketer (for the article in its full horror, see How to make 18 go into 12  ) writes

“It would be no shame for some counties to relinquish their first-class status … Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire – to name four of six or seven – exist for no obviously justifiable reason.” 

I don’t know what reason Nicholas thinks would justify the existence of a County Cricket Club, but let us imagine bundling this silvery-tongued reptile into an unmarked car and taking  him to see the day’s cricket I saw last Monday at Chesterfield, just to be sure he knows what he is so casually consigning to oblivion.

The decline of the out ground is one of the great shames of our cricketing era.  Flicking through the fixture list for 1960 (the year I was born) we see the names Ilkeston, Burton-on-Trent, Ilford, Pontypridd, Llanelli, Stroud, Dudley, Snibston, Nuneaton (Griff Colliery), Coventry (Courtauld’s), Cowes, Worksop, Neath, Loughborough, Hinckley, Ashby, Worthing, Hastings, Maidstone, Bournemouth, Blackheath, Kettering, Wellingborough, Clacton, Dover, Harrogate, Portsmouth … Mostly gone now, like names from a pre-“Beeching” railway timetable, and like them they could, with a little effort, be rearranged into a mournful sort of poem of lament.

A few are left (or have emerged) – Scarborough, Croydon, Bath, Tunbridge Wells, Beckenham, Richmond, Arundel, Uxbridge, Guildford, Horsham, Basingstoke (as the list implies, a few enlightened counties are using outgrounds for 40 and 20 over matches this year).  

Leicestershire have – alas! – abandoned the Oakham festival, which, until a couple of years ago, was one of the highlights of my cricketing year.  Derbyshire, however, have seen the light and – after a break of some seven or eight years – returned to playing at what is, in my view (and the view of others, such as Jackie Hampshire) the most beautiful and suitable for its purpose of all county grounds – Queen’s Park, Chesterfield.

As the name implies, the park itself was initiated to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.  I see that another five acres of land was subsequently purchased as a result of some “ladies” raising £1,000 from a “five-day bazaar”.  Our thanks are due to these ladies – that must have been one hell of a jumble sale.

The park itself has a miniature railway, that can be viewed as it proceeds around the cricket ground –

  

 The ground has a pleasant pavilion, unfortunately half-obscured here by a temporary sightscreen –

 A conservatory, pressed into use as the club shop –

 A hand-operated scoreboard (no. 3 here is Ramprakash, no.5 Younus Khan) –

 stalls selling “Quality Fish and Chips” (which I can vouch for), beers and Frederick’s (deservedly) award-winning ice creams.  And all of this enjoyed by a substantial crowd – far from the three men and a dog of anti-Championship rhetoric – larger than anything I’ve seen at Derby, and quite possibly larger than the one for Leicestershire’s match at the Oval that I reported on a while back.  Hardly a park bench or patch of grass to be had, and on a working Monday in term time, too – I imagine the crowds for the 20/20 matches at the weekend would have been even more substantial.

I don’t know whether M.C.J. Nicholas would agree, as I drop him off, suitably chastened, back at Skylab*, but this is the reason why Derbyshire (and Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire) exist – not to produce a successful Test team (though there is another argument there) but for its own sake as a good thing in itself.  

Do you see?

And the cricket?  A 99 for Ramprakash and some smooth runs from Surrey’s current Galactico, Younus Khan.  But , of course, you can read about that elsewhere, and it isn’t really, or entirely, the point.

*(Later: a correction – I believe Mark Nicholas works for another station that I can’t get on my telly, rather than Sky.  Mind you, Sky’s cricket coverage could be presented by W.G. Grace, and I’d be none the wiser)