October 6th – For reasons too complicated to go into here, my moaning about the daily routine and the greyness of life and the weather were heeded by fate and I found myself visiting Matlock and Matlock Bath in the afternoon on a work related trip. Having to leave a vehicle behind, I’d taken my bike and had a ride down the A6.
Matlock is a nice enough town, with some great architecture, but could do with a little more variety in the shops. But I have to say on the whole it’s a classic Derbyshire river-valley town; beautiful, unpretentious and charming.
Further south, at Matlock Bath, things were a shade more grim. Matlock Bath seems to have been in steady decline since I first visited the place in the 1980s. A tourist stop off and motorcyclist haunt, this odd little town clings to the Derwent gorge with an air of faded, seedy seaside glamour. There must be eight or more chip shops; several sweet shops selling exactly the same stuff, and more than a handful of jaded amusement arcades and pubs.
The architecture and riverside are beautiful; but there are many closed shops and it’s hard to escape the feeling of something passed from life, if not exactly to death, then to some sort of ghost existence.
But then again, it’s possible that Matlock Bath has been like this ever since it’s heyday in the Victorian years. The place reminded me of one of those lost seaside resorts that were once locally popular but now are only half remembered, like Rhyl or Withernsea.
Perhaps it was the season and the weather, but the sadness of this place was almost enjoyable.
Perhaps on a sunny, summer day it acquaints itself better.
April 10th – Passing the huge shopping complex at Merry Hill today, I realised a few things. Firstly, that although it was sold as regeneration – it was built on the site of the Round Oak Steelworks in the late 1980s – it hasn’t regenerated the area around it at all, large tracts of which are still waste and derelict. Secondly, it’s looking just a shade dated and tatty these days – but no less busy.
Thirdly, the ill-fated monorail that linked this place to the Waterfront – taken out after six years of unreliability and trouble – still has a ghost presence. Just above M&S, the black oblong prism is a former monorail station.
Oh, brave new world. What went so wrong?