Once you’ve had a gander at Buxton’s Georgian architecture, had a stroll around the Pavilion Gardens, caught a show at the Opera House, visited its museum, taken a tour of Poole’s Cavern and wandered up to Solomon’s Temple, you are probably wondering what to do next. Buxton benefits from its location in the heart of the Peak District and there are countless destinations a short drive away. Local writer Darcus Wolfson reveals five of his favourites.
[box style=’success’]1. Lud’s Church, Gradbach[/box]
Just over seven miles away, off the road to Leek in Staffordshire is a deep rock chasm called Lud’s Church, sometimes called Ludchurch. Dark and damp, even on a warm day, the gloomy fissure has a spine-chilling atmosphere and it will come of no surprise that it has an association with a variety of myths and legends. You can park at Gradbach Youth Hostel and walk through the woods to reach it, which is an enjoyable romp in itself. I like to think of Lud’s Church as the back door to the rock formations called The Roaches, the haunt of a colony of wallabies that escaped from a private zoo during World War 2. It is generally believed that the creatures have died out although the occasional sighting is still reported so keep your eyes peeled!
[box style=’success’]2. Chestnut Centre, Chapel-en-le-Frith[/box]
From one collection of cute furry animals to another: On the outskirts of the small town of Chapel-en-le-Frith, six miles from Buxton, is a wildlife sanctuary. It’s easier to drive but you can reach it by taking the train and a short walk. The Chestnut Centre cares for a range of animals including deer, foxes, wildcats and owls but the real crowd pleasers are the otters, whose playful antics you could happily watch all day. There is an admission fee but you will feel better knowing the proceeds go to the care of the critters. I’ve had dates with four different women at the Chestnut Centre and it was a winner every time. Enough said!
[box style=’success’]3. Errwood Hall, Goyt Valley[/box]
So close to Buxton, you can walk it; the broken ruin that was the once-stately home of Errwood Hall can be found in the middle of the Goyt Valley. There is a road and a small carpark, if you prefer to drive. A short path winds up through a jungle of rhododendron and opens out to accommodate what’s left of the house, which was demolished in 1934. If you have children, they will have great fun discovering a hundred potential hiding places. For extra spookiness, continue past the hall a short way to visit the graveyard of the family that once lived there. The whole valley is a rewarding destination and has its own excellent website.
[box style=’success’]4. Arbor Low, near Bakewell[/box]
Just within ten miles on the Buxton to Ashbourne road is the Stone Age henge of Arbor Low and nearby burial mound of Gib Hill. It’s hard to get to via public transport, which is a shame. In truth, there is not much to see and you will find the common description Stone Henge of the North laughably inaccurate. The place does have a tangible sense of ancient significance, however, and if you are looking for a short walk and a spot for some quiet contemplation, you could do worse. There are various theories on the purpose of Arbor Low, some more orthodox than others and you can have fun figuring out your own, or you could just play spot the hippy.
[box style=’success’]5. Monsal Trail, Blackwell Mill/Bakewell[/box]
Following an old railway line from Blackwell Mill, a few miles outside Buxton, to the town of Bakewell is the Monsal Trail. Featuring spectacular limestone gorges and long railway tunnels that look like locations for a horror film (I’ve written a screenplay), the trail is a must for tourists and locals alike. Not only is it good exercise but there is a lingering sense of the Peak District’s prehistory and industrial heritage. Be warned though, there are cycle hire centres either end and as a pedestrian, you risk constant collision. Hiring your own wheels is recommended.
To read more about the investigations of Darcus, visit worldofwolfson.co.uk