It was my final day exploring with Amy and Ben today (sadness). Even with the forecasted rain which didn’t really affect us, we made the most of the day.
We watched Ben’s kids bravely climb the indoor walls at Wirksworth Leisure Centre and I made it a goal to become a climbing expert eventually. I highly doubt that will happen (especially if I go back on ships), but I’m dying to get my arm strength back.
And alas, since it’s Ben we’re talking about, we explored a mine in Matlock while we were out. His boys (3 and 5 yrs. old) were incredible, scrambling up all the rocks and carrying their torches in the dark confines, without any hints of fear. It just fascinated me to see how outdoorsy they are at such a young age – I wish I grew up in the English countryside like this.
The entrance to the mine was next to The New Bath Hotel on a public footpath that led to a beautiful forest area overlooking a large stream. The hole was so small that I would have overlooked it otherwise – we had to jump up and pull ourselves into the opening after the entrance just to get inside.
I learned pretty quickly that anything Ben led us to would involve atypical routes (meaning the most difficult, precariously-placed openings). As a result, it was an absolute pleasure getting to explore with him and Amy – like veering off the normal boring tourist routes.
The mine was huge – I don’t think I’ve ever explored one properly before. We saw a few mines yesterday whilst on Carl’s Walk, but all were incredibly tiny (and still required us to crawl on our hands and knees). Even though this one was big enough to walk through while standing, it was a bit scary at times because of the potential stacked rocks that could come loose and tumble down on us at any second.
It definitely felt like we were exploring the Mines of Moria – just without all the heavy armour and weaponry. Instead, we donned Ben’s used outdoor clothing that I’m so thankful he had on hand – otherwise my clothing would have been wrecked).
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this muddy and wet in any other outdoor excursions, so the past three days have been an absolute pleasure of an adventure.
We explored the mine for a good hour or two- it kept going and going and we relied on Ben to show us the way, especially since he had been before. It was apparently a site for Hell’s Angels parties, since there were some areas with loads of graffiti and their logo spray painted onto the walls. Kinda defeats the purpose of a historical cave, but it was still fascinating to see all the different formations every time we climbed/scrambled/pushed our way through another set of rocks.
There were fragments of rocks which glittered in our headlamps that appeared to be quartz, but were in reality just regular rocks (I forgot what he told us, but he basically gave us a history of the mine and everything in it). It wasn’t as muddy as the cave we explored the night before, but it was still pretty damn amazing – especially when we were clambering over huge rocks that were suspended high above gaps (translation: we could slide off and severely hurt ourselves if we weren’t careful, which added to the excitement). I mean, if this was his boys’ second time exploring the mine, Amy and I knew we wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) have a problem.
We’ve been absolutely shattered from all the physical activity these past days – but it’s all been so worth it. I’m so thankful to them for letting me peek into a day in the life of a local – before this, I didn’t really have an idea of what it was like to live in the countryside. Derbyshire (especially the city centre’s beautiful Jubilee Bridge) is gorgeous, and the views of the rolling farmlands and forests we passed while driving around were captivating. Our drives had some of the most scenic views I’ve ever seen – very similar to New Zealand, but just in cold weather.