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spires from Carfax

a vintage VW campervan to the Peak District

Travel, , , — August 2017

When Camilla suggested we hire an antique campervan, I was a bit sceptical at first: I don't get excited about cars the way she does, and it seemed likely to be an expensive faff. But we had a lovely weekend in a classic old VW campervan called Blossom, spending three nights in the Peak District (five miles or so west of Chesterfield).

It took us a while to get away on the Thursday afternoon, then we had to sort out the van hire, and then we got caught in traffic, and Blossom wouldn't do more than 60mph anyway, so we ended up having dinner at Tibshelf services. It was still light when we got to our campsite, however, and after a brief bogging in the mud we managed to get everything set up for sleeping, with Helen starting the night in a little raised bed under the lift-up roof but coming down to join us later.


Blossom at Moorhay Farm

packing it in

waking up

On the Friday we drove to Nottingham to see the Dinosaurs of China exibition. This had one big sauropod, an impressively long-necked Mamenchisaurus, and one big carnivore, a Sinraptor, but at its core was an array of fantastic early bird and bird-relative fossils, some of them out of China for the first time ever. One of these was the tiny Mei long ("sleeping dragon"), which is the Chinese name we almost gave Helen. Wollaton Hall also has deer wandering around, so tame they were happy with small children and strollers all around them.

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Then we drove to Matlock Bath, where we visited the lead mining museum and did a short walk along the river bank. It was typical English weather, drizzling one moment and sunny the next. We took the scenic route back to our campsite, past Chatsworth House: dinner was sausages cooked on our rather ineffectual portable gas stove. By now we had Blossom worked out pretty well. Camilla (who was doing all the driving) had got used to its handling foibles and we'd worked out how to stow everything when shifting between driving and sleeping modes.


Helen enjoyed riding in the front

damp, overloud, and fairly generic

spinning on the carousel

On Saturday we went to the baking festival in Bakewell. The best bit of this was the actual cake stalls, as the food and music was otherwise pretty generic, though Helen did enjoy a kind of "cup carousel" ride (the first time she's been on one of those by herself).

Then we did a short (6km) loop walk, going north on the Monsal trail, which follows an old railway line and was full of people cycling and walking, having a snack at Hassop Station, and then cutting back over the hill to Bakewell, which is a lovely route with dry-stone walls and cows grazing (route information). We didn't look at much of Bakewell itself, but walked back along a mill race and the river, with ducks and geese.

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From Bakewell we drove to Buxton, getting a bit low on petrol on the way, and walked around for a while before having dinner. Helen ran the last kilometre of that back to our car, and then only started falling asleep after nearly an hour driving, as we took the scenic route back via Peak Forest (not the very scenic route via Edale). All up we must have walked well over 10km that day - my iThing said 12km - and there wasn't a single "my legs are tired" complaint or "carry me" request on the whole trip, so I don't actually know how far she could walk now. Maybe we can fit in a climb of Snowdon this summer.

On the final day we had a few boring services stops on our way back to Blakesly to return our van, then lunch at the Trigger Pond in Bucknell. Helen and I would both be happy to hire Blossom again, but Camilla wants to try something new!


morning light

saying goodbye

nice weather, but we were heading home
I can't believe I've been in Oxford for seven years and have only now managed to make it to the Peak District! And Edale (and Kinder Scout) is only three hours away by train...


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