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Cromford Mills

Words and images Simon Paterson

Just before the snow arrived (in March), we experienced a great British phenomenon known as warmth! This gave Bekah the wonderful idea of popping out into the peaks to make the most it.

Located less than a 20-minute drive from Chesterfield, lies the world heritage site of Cromford Mills. With independent shops and a café, and an occasional artisan market, Bekah thought it would make a cracking day out with the kids. She was right… for a change.

Cromford Mills is situated in the Derbyshire countryside next to Matlock and is free to enter.

Built in 1771 by Sir Richard Arkwright, it pioneered the engineering behind water-powered cotton mill production and is thought to be the first of its kind!

Upon entry, we were greeted by the sound of whirring engines. There were several on display and it perfectly set the level of expectation for what was to come.

Through the gates in the mill yard, you will find a variety of independent shops selling items from vinyl to cheese, which is great because I am a big fan of eating cheese whilst listening to music!

We ventured into Countryside Books where I bought Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley and Paul Simon on vinyl and Evangeline almost purchased a copy of the Magna Carta, until I pointed out it may be a bit heavy going for an eleven-year-old, and do they have anything by David Walliams? Joking aside Countryside Books is well worth visit.

We popped to the other side of the mill yard where Bekah bought a variety of cheeses and jams, all locally produced from the aptly named Cromford Cheese Shop. The cheddar with onion and sage went down particularly well.

We grabbed ourselves a coffee from the delightful little café before venturing up the yard and into the visitors' centre. Here we learned how Sir Richard’s Arkwright’s cotton-spinning machine not only revolutionised the industry but led to cotton being Britain’s largest export! Sadly, we didn’t take the full guided tour because our four-year old prefers Peppa Pig to historical walks.

After the visitor centre we headed over to the benches in the centre of the mill yard for a picnic. I devoured my usual wafer-thin ham on white bread sandwiches (keep it simple). Much to Bekah’s dismay Florie (aged 4) decided on the spot, she no longer liked ham and would be eating mummy’s cheese sandwich, which was odd because she didn’t like cheese yesterday!

After the great sandwich debacle, I was able to sit and appreciate the amazing, perfectly preserved architecture and the sound of the waterfall behind me. The entire site is now grade one listed thanks to the Arkwright Society and my photos just don’t do it justice.

After lunch we perused the Artisan market purchasing several bits from our very own Steph Mannion (Steph’s Sustainable Stuff) and Eva picked up a couple of Mother’s Day gifts.

Across the road is the canal, sadly, we didn’t have time for a boat ride, but we did get to see some volunteers spinning yarn on a very old spinning wheel. It was very different to the yarns I used to spin my parents in the 90’s.

We loved our day out at Cromford Mills and have no doubt we will be back before the end of the summer. Please do pay it a visit and support this important part of Derbyshire history.

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