Merlins in the Peak District of Derby - 2003
Well it's Bank Holiday time again and with thoughts of the wind in our faces and the chance to meet new friends Linda and David Harrison set off for their first Merlin weekend outing. Not being a typical camping couple we opted for the luxury of B&B and with a good tip from David and Sue (Daniels) we booked early at Overton Farmhouse at Tissington.
We set off mid afternoon at a leisurely pace through the countryside doing our best to avoid the motorways and their undoubted jams. Three-quarters of the way there we stopped briefly in a lay-by to get on the mobile and call ahead for some directions. Moments later (and still looking for a phone number, David and Sue actually pulled up behind us (delayed by same motorway jams) and, since they had had the foresight to print off some directions, they offered to take the lead.
We soon found Tissington despite slight detours, and were met by our most friendly host. After being shown the accommodation and garaging facilities (now that's a rare treat eh!?) we left to find Newhaven and the gang - nice site - shame about the (scrape) sleeping policemen (scrape, scrape) must raise – (scrape) those (scrape) silencers soon though.
This was really just a chance to start meeting the Merlin regulars - so many names to take in (and mentally repeat) but we'll get there soon. Still the most important thing was being made to feel welcome. We cooked some sausages and shared some liquid refreshment swapped some stories and stayed until the evening grew chilly, we retired with the hopes of a fresh morning.
As I said it was chilly but not yet late. So the four of us from Tissington parked up and took a walk to the nearest pub - turned out to be almost a mile and a good fifteen-minutes walk. At least the ambience there made it worthwhile but next time we'll go on wheels.
Fresh morning - yes. Nice day - well, er? As the best part of nine Merlins gathered in the central area it became a game of Hoods up!, Hoods Down! Up, Down, Up (and you shake ‘em all about). By eleven o'clock it looked clear so off we set in close formation.
There was a little amusement from four of us as Andy told us all that the first port of call would be the charming local village of Tissington. (Back to our digs!?). Still it gave us a chance to explore our own surroundings. It was also the first posing opportunity as Helen lined up all the Merlins in front of the impressive Tissington Hall. And, while most enjoyed a fresh coffee, three cars took the opportunity to visit a nearby garage for engine-juice.
With the whole group suitably replete we left for the afternoon run.
The Derby Dales are one of England's finest examples of stunning countryside and the views were therapeutic. At times we wondered whether the route was actually on the map and the hill climb - going past the llama farm it was almost as good as Shelsley Walsh! Passing the odd oncoming car or tractor was no problem. However there was a smile in my face as I contemplated a worse scenario - imagine meeting another sports car club of ten or more cars coming the other way. One of us could've spent a good 20-30 minutes reversing!
Fortunately such an event didn't happen, in fact the morning was only slightly marred by the slightest hint of rain and, by the time we stopped at Monsal Head for lunch, the sun had been spotted at least twice.
After lunch it was round up time. With most of the drizzle dispersed by the midday sun we enjoyed our second drive through to Chatsworth House, where we split into the "house and garden" and the "garden only" groups. Linda and I settled for the latter. And, finding ourselves at the front of a gang of twelve, we immediately asked if there was any "group discount" for a visiting car club. We were surprisingly rewarded, given "student" rate, and all let in for £3.50 rather than £5.00 (well that paid for our lunchtime drink at least).
The gardens, as expected, were amazing, so much to see and so many new features being constantly added, little wonder that Chatsworth House has recently been voted the number one Stately Home attraction. Visit over, group reassembled, it was time to head back to camp.
It's amazing how two little barbecue fires can cater for nearly 24 people. But we had plenty of time to take our turns and Linda and I used the opportunity to get to know a few more faces.
This morning was Barry's day and, despite warnings of careful driving and keeping a safe distance, we were all just happy that the sun had graced the day. The roads were looking fine and dry (well most of them at least).
The first morning drive took us to Dove Dale - reputedly the most beautiful dale in the Peak District – and deservedly so.
We enjoyed a forty-five minute stroll up and down the dale and took our turn at the stepping-stones half-way along.
I think Barry was lulling us all into a peaceful state of mind before taking us through some of the steeper hills and dales. We wound our way southwest in an orderly crocodile while other motorists stopped occasionally to let a line of 11 Merlins come out from the side roads.
Lunchtime arrived, as did we, at a little pub that seemed to have become wedged in a bygone decade. There was nothing outside to give any hint of its décor as we stepped through its doors to an era that was long forgotten. The decoration looked untouched for some fifty years or more and the bric-a-brac that littered the rooms consisted of almost everything from your granddad's attic. There was a rocking horse up on the shelf, a penny-farthing bike in the fire-place, old rifles and swords on the wall, and clocks and musical devices from the ages in between.
The beer was well priced, the menu prices must have been five to eight years out of date - and the bar snacks were good. As we showed interest in the local's museum, so they mused themselves at our Merlins. I think it was a case of mutual respect for each other's oddities.
Time to leave and Andy took the shotgun position once again. The balmy afternoon started well but came to a sudden end when we dropped down from the sunny banks to a shady brook with a treacherous bridge. Many cars twitched on the slippery surface but John, unfortunately, lost it completely as he slid sideways into the wall. Clive, close behind, had a choice of hitting John's car or braking and, resorting to the latter, only ended up with a second uncontrolled slide into the same bridge wall.
The loud double crack told us that both cars had broken their wings. Unfortunately, John's car also took rather a bash on the front subframe and steering. With all tool-kits brought to bear John eventually effected a reasonable running repair to his damaged steering. Both John and Clive gracefully withdrew from the day's touring and carefully made their own way home.
Meanwhile the rest of us continued up into Buxton to explore the caves.
The evening meal was planned at a pub in the Village of Flagg, only on arrival at the said village we drove round twice to discover that it was actually 2 miles outside the said village and on the main road (so much for postal addresses).
Still the food and beer were good and we enjoyed the chance to sit down together at a table with a meal that someone else had cooked.
Finally, it was out to the car park for a last group photo then a few goodbyes all round as several of the group were leaving to return home.
Four of us as Tissington rose to an early breakfast on the last day since our hosts were off to market. But we enjoyed the early morning and took a stroll round the back of our village before setting off for the main camp.
The Merlin tour was down to six cars today and the weather looked a little ominous. Still we enjoyed Andy's stroll through the country lanes until we were just three or four miles away from Castleton, which was to be our first stop. Unfortunately we had to pass through Hope first and the bank holiday traffic was so intense that we lost nearly 40 minutes inching forward in the queue. Eventually, Andy recognised a suitable side turning where we could all escape. Sadly Chad's car had started overheating in the queue so he had already turned around in the queue and said goodbye to go home and cool off. So five of us reached Edale where we parked up and retired to a hostelry for lunch.
There seemed little point in making for Castleton or Hope with the Bank Holiday traffic as it was so we made our farewells in the car-park and headed home. Linda and I were the first to turn off and three ours later (missing most of the Bank Holiday traffic) we pulled onto our drive at home with many happy memories and many new friends.
But we haven't finished the year yet - see you all again soon – we hope.
Hope you enjoyed the weekend, we did!- David and Linda.