I first stopped by Bakewell for lunch on one of the first days driving into the Peak District National Park in the English midlands. Thereafter I meant to change it up and stop at other spots thereafter, but I found Bakewell somehow just… easy to come across on the way to places. And so I ended up dropping by a couple more times.
It’s such a charming town.
I thought Bakewell is a reasonable size, considering it’s within a National Park. Mind you, not that I’m an expert on how big things ought to be, maximum, in a National Park.
Parking is relatively easy to find (paid parking), and it’s a walkable town. You really want to ditch your car so that you can start to wander about the pedestrian streets which are much nicer.
Here you can explore curious shops. If you’re like me, you would find yourself in the shops making handcrafted beeswax candles and soaps, and the jewelry shop that sells jewelry made of miniature flowers encased in resin. This is not the shop, but the jewelry looks like this. (Heads up: the resin for my pendant got yellowy after a year or so of being constantly worn).
However, the BEST shop of all was the most amazing candy store. I don’t typically take pictures of the insides of shops. But I asked permission to photograph the Georgian House Sweet Shop, because… well look. I don’t even have a sweet tooth but just… wow.
The Bakewell tart
So my colleague-friend recommended that I get some Bakewell tart while I’m there. So I wandered about town, disdaining the cafes that were more prominent, because I have a thing for being cosseted away in an obscure alley somewhere. I should probably get that checked.
Luckily, this being a cute little European town, I found a little nook of a courtyard where there was a little cafe. They had a decent lunch menu, with vegetarian options – and even gluten free options!
And they offered Bakewell tart. So I had that for dessert. It was ok. I mean, I don’t have a sweet tooth, so it didn’t ring my chimes.
Another beautiful Peak District bridge
It’s hard to miss this bridge when you’re in Bakewell. Or if you somehow did, do kick yourself. Kick yourself now. Wandering to the riverbank which – of course – has a weir across it, its curiously geometric span grabs your attention.
Engineering should be beautiful like this.
The riverbank itself is a very nice walk. Fringed with green, the river Wye flows calmly through, quite civilly pouring over the weir to scatter over the riverbed rocks after. Ducks glide about, swim, and dip down to feed in flocks. People strolling about at leisure.
It isn’t really a surprise that I came back to Bakewell, is it?
Near to Bakewell is a little place called Ashford-in-the-Water. You drive all the way down the little road to the end, where there’s roadside parking in a sort of semi-circular cul-de-sec near a well. Here you find a clear, calm pond that my friend recalled was pleasant to splash in.
It was late afternoon and it was still pleasant – a rare sunny day. There were ducks here as well, but some of them were already tucked in by the shade and under their wings for a snooze in the dappled sun.
The day I found my way there, I had indeed been walking some. Sitting down on the grassy bank, I took off my boots and my socks and dipped my toes in. The water was chill. But I left them in, and kicked about a bit. It’s the best feeling, you know?
There was a pair of swans in the pond together with the ducks. Big and graceful, long necks curved as they glided with that poise of swans, heads tilted to glance curiously at me. I smiled to see them.
As I sat, I thought I might as well have the snack I brought with me. I think it was some fruit – I can’t remember what kind – and Jaffa cakes. Yes I know I just said I didn’t have a sweet tooth. But Jaffa cakes have their own category, ok? It just does.
The swans became interested once I started on the Jaffa cakes. They swam over. I was, like the nerdy girl, so excited that these awesome beautiful popular creatures were like, coming over to talk to me! OMG!
OK I don’t know if I should have, but I gave them some Jaffa cake. Just the cake bit, not the orange chocolatey bit because I recalled something about not feeding chocolate to dogs. [Look. I don’t know what that has to do with swans. It’s just what came to mind.]
Kids, never feed the popular kids.
Their duck posse came over too and wanted a share. So I shared with them too.
And then, the swans wanted more. And more. So I gave them the stern talking-to that worked on the cattle.
The ducks were ok. They gave up when no Jaffa cake was forthcoming. But it did not work on the swans. And when I stopped giving them more cake, they began to snap at it from my hand. Then when they’d finished picking at it from the water, they pinched at my hand.
I tell you I scrambled away from the bank like lightning. But these swans are something else. They came out of the water after me, snapping at my calves wherever I went. I couldn’t decide whether to be thankful or distressed that no one else was around at the pond – not sure whether embarrassment or assistance was the priority here….
In the end it occurred to me to put the Jaffa cakes into my backpack. I zipped it up.
Then they gave up, went back in the water, and swam away in that deceptively stately way of swans.
How like people. Often those who are fairest on the outside, are the least grateful, and the cruelest to those who are kind. But because mankind is addicted to glamour, we excuse it.
How the universe helped with my re-birth blues
I came to Derbyshire still feeling a little lost. It’s in travel that I get to sort these things at all, because work demands a certain side of me, my public side, that prevents me from focusing on myself. Furthermore at that time, there was a project in particular where it really mattered to innocent people that I hold everything together. But no one was there to help hold me together.
Was it all pleasant? Well, if I think about it, no! I cut a finger at the Manchester train station on my own razor and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. I got mobbed by cattle on the Monsal trail. And swans mugged me for Jaffa cake in Ashford-in-the-Water.
But, I also got pampered by the nicest elderly station officer who put plasters on my finger like I was his granddaughter. And I have to admit, the local animals’ antics did force me to zoom into the rush of the moment – and in that moment I was lifted from the sluggishness of a wet-winged new butterfly.
The new wings flapped a bit. And I learned a little bit more about how being a butterfly is different from being a caterpillar.