My week off

I have been enjoying my relaxing week off, been very lucky with the weather and taking advantage of the free time to scoot out and about exploring some of the Midlands’ historical and more contemporary gems.

On Tuesday morning I was up in the wonderful Peak District (I rarely need much of an excuse to go there – in fact I wouldn’t mind my eventual ashes being scattered from one of its summits), this time visiting beautiful Buxton.

I took a guided tour of Poole’s Cavern, a two-million-year-old limestone cave.  It was fascinating.

Described as ‘The First Wonder of the Peak,’ it was occupied during Bronze Age times, and has been open to the public as a ‘show cave’ since 1853.

I took a number of photos which, thanks to the wonders of digital camera and computer technology, I have been able to lighten considerably in an attempt to do justice to the ancient underground geology.

The Flitch of Bacon, the largest stalactite in Derbyshire, which takes its name from its resemblance to a joint of meat hanging in a butcher’s window.

The end of the Flitch of Bacon, which was broken off by 19th century vandals and discovered quite by fluke only in 2000, buried yards from the entrance to the cavern.

The Poached Eggs, exceptionally fast growing stalagmites (they grow 2cm every two years as opposed to every 20 as is the norm) which are unique to this particular cave.

I won’t say what I think these resemble (I clearly have a dirty mind)!!

After a glorious freshly made bacon and egg bap and a coffee in the visitor centre café, I was on my way.  I made a brief stop-off at Brierlow Bar, which describes itself as Britain’s biggest and highest (at 1,075 feet above sea level) bargain bookstore.  I’m a big fan of bookshops, as you can imagine, and this one was a real treasure trove.

Yesterday I stayed closer to home and went to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire. This was a very poignant, hunbling experience, with such a wealth of sculptures and trees commemorating Services personnel and civilians whose lives have been lost.

To tell the truth, I had no idea there was so much there; I’m sure there must have been sections I overlooked.

Set in 150 rural acres alongside the River Tame north of Lichfield, the Arboretum is such a peaceful spot, affording time for quiet reflection as you wander along its avenues of dedicated trees.

The place has a modern, purposeful feel too, though, with its young trees and the inspired designs of its monuments.  Hundreds of specific groups are honoured, including Far Eastern Prisoners of War, Dunkirk Veterans, the French Resistance, Bevin Boys, the victims of 9/11, First World War soldiers executed by firing squad, the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain and Police and Ambulance personnel.

We Midlanders are incredibly lucky to have this national site of remembrance on our doorstep.  I hate to leap on to my soapbox now, but this is a landmark of an importance that should not be underestimated is and a good deal more than a mere ‘war memorial.’

If you desire an enlightening day out, hop in the car and take a trip to Alrewas – and don’t forget to make a contribution to the collection box, as admission is free and the Arboretum’s upkeep is entirely dependent on donations.

Wear stout shoes, though.  The grass was rather swampy when I went, and my trainers were not impervious.  If you prepare yourself for a long walk, I assure you it’s well worth it.

Read more about it here:

View across from the Armed Forces Memorial.

The Shot at Dawn memorial, which commemorates British soldiers executed for military offences during the First World War.

The Polar Bear Memorial, commemorating the 49th Infantry stationed in Iceland during the Second World War.


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