Bonfire Night weekend in Derbyshire – steam trains and pub lunch
Last weekend we had a fantastic wintery bonfire night at a steam train heritage railway followed by a Sunday pub lunch – all in gorgeous Derbyshire, my old stomping ground. It was a great way to spend time with Chiswick Boy, Chiswick Daddy and my lovely, fun mum (aka Grams).
One of the best things about not being a born and bred Londoner, is being able to shoot off back home for a weekend of Getting Out of London.
Getting Out of London is a thing that only London families can do of course. It reminds us that there is life outside of the big smoke, but inevetiably it comes with a bit of soul searching – should we move back up to the East Midlands? Is the grass really greener there? (The houses are certainly cheaper.)
Having said that I must admit that the first thing I do when I get back into London is roll the car windows down and ingest a healthy dose of London car fumes – and feel a little frisson of joy at being back in the urban sprawl. I'm a city girl at heart.
But we had an amazing weekend up in Derbyshire for bonfire night – the kind of weekend that you just can't have in London.
Steam trains and fireworks
On Bonfire Night we had a magical Howarts-express-esque with the heritage Midland railway in the heart of Derbyshire. We drove to Butterley station, just ouside Ripley, where we walked into a ticket office that was like stepping back in time. A real fire blazed in the grate and smarty dressed staff in gleaming uniforms took our tickets. Pumpkins and ghouls adorned the walls promising the delights of a fabulously spooky night. All for a barganious £9 per adult – children going free.
We had plenty of time before our steam train arrived to whisk us to the fireworks, so we checked out the model railway.
Chiswick Boy was enthralled – pointing out all the miniature people. But Chiswick Daddy was even more enthralled. He has a big birthday coming up next year and I did say I'd get him a model railway if he wanted one! I quite fancy the idea of one myself – one that whisks on tracks near the ceilign and delivers minitaure bottles of whiskey to cold guests…
A step back in time
When the steam train arrived we bundled on in excitement. The train carriages were unlit and we settled into our booths giggling. It was prime 'the lady vanishes' territory and as we trundled off into the dark I fully expected a shrill scream. Chiswick Boy again was in raptures – 'why don't trains look like this now?' he quite sensibly asked.
I had no real answer for why the trappings of modern life seem to get worse instead of better. Imagine if the Kew Bridge to Vauxhall line had real fires on the platforms, and sharply dressed staff who addressed you as sir and madam, and looked happy. (Okay I wouldn't swap them for internet and cappuccinos – but perhaps if we could have a bit of the old life mixed in with our modern trappings then I would be happy.)
A spooky narrow gauge railway
We were deposited at a disused station, where there was a depot of old buses and trams, a chapel, and old signal box. Plus plenty of refreshments – we stocked up on hot drinks to stave off the frosty air. And best of all – a narrow gauge railway that was doubling up as the ghost train. We sped at quite a distance down the track, past ghouls and goblins and pulling up to be greeted by a vampire getting out of a coffin and zombies walking past our carriage.
The fireworks themselves were lovely. And it was so nice not to be jostled in a big crowd – we had plenty of space around us. Although mum did get nastily knocked on the head by an empty firework. Which does make me think – where do all those empty fireworks land? I'm surprised that firework displays aren't accompanied by everyone in the crowd being walloped as they land. Answers on a postcard…
There were lots of crowds at the end, with everyone trying to get on the first steam train back to Butterley. But that was the only downside really and not sure what could be done about it. In fact I do know – if I go again (and we're hoping to go back for the special Santa train next month) we will wait in the waiting room next to the glowing fire, and get the very last train instead of the first one!
Fish and chips in the car
On the way back we stopped at Ripley for some fish and chips, at the Sea Fish restaurant on Cromford Road. We got there at 9:10 to be told that the sit down bit closed at 9pm (only outside London would a restaurant close at 9pm), but that we could get takeouts. Which we did and ate them in the car with the heating turned full up.
I think that second to eating fish and chips on a beach, eating fish and chips in a car is the best way to eat them.
And they were yummy too. Sorry London fish and chip restaurants, but us Midlanders say that you can't get a decent fish and chips further South than Derby, and I think it's true. But feel free to tell me if I'm wrong!
A good pub lunch
The next day we were still filled with the joys of bonfire night and headed off on the A52 to Ashbourne to find a nice pub for lunch. The beauty of Derbyshire is in the little villages that are peppered across the countryside on the way to the Peaks, and beyond. I've lived in a fair few of the villages and know Derbyshire better than I know the layout of London.
We went for Brailsford, to the Rose and Crown. They had a gorgeous carvery at the barganious we're-not-in-London-now-Toto price of 6.95 a head. The restaurant area was full so luckily we were seated in the bar area, right next to the 50p a game pool table.
The highlight of the weekend was mum playing her first game of pool and potting the black – nailing mum and I's victory against Chiswick Daddy and Chiswick Boy.
The staff were really lovely – the woman behind the bar heard Chiswick Daddy cutting up Chiswick Boy's Yorkshire Pudding and asking him if he needed more gravy, and next thing a jug of gravy appeared on our table.
There was a pleasant girl at a table in the corner putting knives and forks into paper napkins and folding them. It took me back to the weekends I would spend doing just that – at a variety of local rural pubs, in exchange for some very welcome spending money!
We will definitely be back next time I'm up in Derbyshire.
For clarity, this isn't a sponsored post and none of the firms I've mentioned knew I was writing this post. It's just me getting out of London – and sharing the love here on my blog!
Sea Fish restaurant, Cromford Road, Ripley http://seafishripley.co.uk/
Midland Railway, Heritage Railway at Butterley near Ripley http://www.midlandrailway-butterley.co.uk/home/
Rose and Crown, Brailsford http://rosecrownbrailsfordashbourne.co.uk/