Sunday, 19 July 2009

Matlock Bath - the photos!


Well, as promised, a lead has been puchased from a proper camera shop that stocks proper replacements as opposed to 'universal leads that cost twice the price from a retailer with a name that reminds one of 'Indian food' if you get my drift!?!

So, without any further ado, here are the pics from our recent trip to the delightful Derbyshire spa town of Matlock Bath. . . .

View of Matlock Bath and the River Derwent

Cable car to the summit of the Heights of Abraham - a little scary, but great views!

The cable car ride was very reasonably priced and included trips to view two caverns, so very good value! The cars slowed to a halt almost half way up allowing some good photo opportunities:-
Gulp! That's one heck of a drop! I felt quite safe though, cocooned in the cable car!

Cracking views of the geology too! This is High Tor and more on this in another blog soon! You may be able to make out a few climbers on the sheer face of the limestone! Mad!

Above, a photo within Masson Cavern, a former lead mine and
Below, the carved initials of some of the miners who worked this mine by candlelight, rather alarmingly!

Ruth thought it would be a challenge for me to ride down on this chair lift instead of the cable car!!! Okay, I lie! This was a mock up of the equipment that was used to construct the towers on which the cable car now runs. My fear of falling means that I would have a much more panic stricken look about me if this was anything like real!

The real thing!

So, I will finish for now with a geological poser! This interesting rock exposure is located along the River Derwent in Matlock Bath, just beyond the Jubilee Bridge. Hopefully you can make out the blues, greys and reds in the sloping strata. In my usual style, I will do some reading and return in due course with what I find. Meanwhile, if there is an East Midland geologist looking in who knows this area well, do tell!
Hmmm!?! Nice rocks!

Cheers for now!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Coughs, colds, flu and escape to Matlock Bath!

Eh up mi Ducks!

Excuse the dialect, but that is a traditional greeting in these parts! It's a bit different to the Boltonian words I grew up with, but I'm getting to like it! Being referred to as an aquatic bird did strike me as a little strange, but no weirder than 'cocker' or (worse) 'cock' as they do in my home town of Bolton!

Anyway, if ever one needs proof that prolonged stress has a an adverse effect on one's immune system then the last week is it! What started as a sore throat gradually worsened to perhaps the worst period of illness since I had shingles in 2003! Generally, colds and flu I can cope with, but the shivering, rapidly followed by profuse sweating is not in the least bit pleasant. Add multi-coloured mucous exuding from several orifices and you will start to get the picture!

ENOUGH I hear you scream! I guess that's WAY too much information! So lets move on to pleasanter things. The weekend prior to the viral invasion, my wife and I, conscious of our 'off-the-scale' stress levels decided "enough is enough" and gladly taking advantage of the invaluable child minding skills of 'sister-in-law' Julia, we sought sanctury in the Derbyshire spa town of Matlock Bath.

There are times when one needs to just get away for a few days. Away from the hassles of everyday 'stuff', the staggering ineptitude of Virgin Media (are you listening Mr Branson?) and their banal Indian call-centres! Who was it that came up with the idea of exporting all our telephone help lines to India? Whoever it is needs to be strung up and given a sound thrashing if you ask me! Has anyone EVER actually been 'helped' by an Indian call centre??? I think probably not.

Anyway, good people, lets not go there. Instead let me take you to Matlock Bath, a beautifully picturesque spa town built along the River Derwent and former centre of Lead mining. A missing lead (that's 'lead' as in 'long wirey thing with plugs on the end' as opposed to the heavy metal commonly found on church roofs!) that allows me to download photographs from my digital camera to the PC is temporarliy mislaid post move so alas no photos for now. I'll add them later once its been located, or more likely, a replacement is bought! Meanwhile for an idea of what this fine little town is like click here!

It was in 1698 that three medicinal springs were discovered and a 'bath' created made of wood and lined with lead for people to enjoy the supposedly rejuvenating effects of the waters! But it wasn't until the nineteenth century that Matlock Bath really developed as a spa town and became truly prosperous. The arrival of the railway to the town brought hordes of daytrippers and established it's reputation as an 'inland seaside resort'!

Times and fashions change of course and Matlock needed to reinvent itself to halt its decline. So in the 1980's, someone came up with the inspired idea of constructing an alpine style cable car up to the Heights of Abraham. This opened in 1984 and has been a phenomenal success, restoring Matlock's status as an interesting holiday destination. The cable car is a bit scary, but fun and there's a cracking view from the top.

This will mean rather more when I get the photos of the weekend posted, obviously, so bear with me for a few days! Now, for our stay we chose a thoroughly excellent 'B & B' called 'Sunnybank' in Matlock Bath. Located away from the hustle and bustle of the town, Sunnybank lies on Clifton Road, a somewhat steep road off the main road through Matlock Bath and is run by Mark and Jane Bound. These two people clearly love what they do and bend over backwards to see that everything is just right. Fantastic breakfasts included probably the best cooked eggs ever! Yes, even better than Bright Angel Lodges in Grand Canyon and that IS saying something!

While Sunnybanks position on a steep hill does make parking problematic, Mark paintakingly ensured that there were spaces available for all his guests which was great. To be honest, Sunnybank B & B is MY kind of place! I've never been a fan of pretentious 'poncey' hotels with their gyms, saunas and health spas and their superfluous trouser presses! I always feel so much more able to relax in a good quality, straight forward B & B like this one. So Sunnybank B & B comes highly recommended from both me and Ruth and we'll definitely return - soon and with others!

Well folks, I'll leave it at that for now. I will update this post when I've managed to replace my lead and upload the photos. I will then proceed to enlighten you on the geology of the area too with photos of High Tor - a stunning lump of limestone that overlooks the town!

Stay tuned!



P.S. Can't go this week without mentioning the fact that a certain Wayne Ranney and Helen were married on 21st June overlooking his beloved Grand Canyon! Many congratulations guys and here's to many years of health and happiness for you both!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Charnwood Charnia!

Greetings Folks!

A quick search in Google for interesting articles about the geology of Charnwood reveals this humble blog as high as third on the list! So if my single blog on the subject last month is enough to shoot this venue to such stratospheric heights I think it proves that there is just not enough written on the subject!

As mentioned last time, the area of Charnwood in the East Midlands contains some of the oldest rocks in Britain, of pre-cambrian age. In 1957 frond shaped fossils were detected in these rocks suggesting the presence of complex, multicellular life in the pre-cambrian era.

A cast of the 'Charnia', the first accepted complex Precambrian organism. (From Wikipedia)

It is quite staggering to think that right on my own (new) doorstep are rocks that contain evidence of the earliest known multicellular life form on earth! The Charnia is one of the organisms found to have been present in the Ediacaran Period of the Neoproterzoic era which was the last era of the Pre-cambrian at 575Ma to 545Ma.

Strangely, the Ediacaran Period gave rise to a distinct form of life that only lasted in this relatively short timespan, before what became known as the 'Cambrian explosion. Few of the characteristics of the Charnian biota were carried forward into the Cambrian explosion of lifeforms, so alas they were a short lived phenomenon! Why they disappeared so abruptly hasn't fully been explained, but some believe it my have been due to the emergence of competition from other lifeforms, the emergence of predators or simply a change in the environment.

Prior to the discovery of the Charnia in 1957, it was believed that no life forms existed prior to the Cambrian. The humble fossil shown above brought about a hasty rethink! What is particularly interesting about the fossils of this period is that they are all soft bodied. Such creatures generally don't fossilise, so there must have been something about the global conditions of this time that allowed such delicate creatures to be preserved in such numbers.

The Leicestershire City Council Museums and Galleries website suggests this interpretation of what the Charnia may have looked like all those years ago:-

How the Charnia may have looked 575 Ma to 545 Ma.

This weekend sees Ruth and I getting away for a couple of days to Matlock Bath in Derbyshire, home of The Heights of Abraham, a scary cable car ride and some interesting caverns. I'll take the camera and post up a few photos next week if you're lucky!

Until then, take care!

Cheers, Alyn