One of my favourite things about living in England, is how easy it is to get to most places by public transport. I can walk ten minutes from my house, hop on a train and end up just about anywhere – even London is less than two hours from our front door by train. And to an Australian, two hours to get somewhere really isn’t very far at all.
So it was I found myself on a gloriously cold and crisp sunshiney winters day, hopping on a train to a new destination, off to discover the delights of the pretty market town of Belper. The reason for my visit was to catch-up with my lovely friend Catherine who lives in Belper, which is nestled in the Amber Valley on the banks of the River Derwent, in Derbyshire.
The journey to Belper from Beeston, where we live, took me just over half an hour, and when I got there I felt like I was on holiday for the afternoon. Sometimes just being somewhere new can have that effect I find, and it probably helped that the sun was shining.
The weir on the River Derwent is one of my friend’s favourite spots, and I can see why. The running water and arched bridge make for a pretty picture, and I loved the trees growing right in the middle!
We wandered around the River Gardens, which are very picturesque, and met some of the friendly local ducks and geese. The bandstand in the park is used for concerts and performances in the summer – what a gorgeous spot for it.
Belper was once at the heart of the industrial revolution, thanks to its cotton mills, which were powered by water from the River Derwent. The remaining mill building now houses a small museum, but much of it is also sitting empty. It is an amazing building, hopefully they bring it back to its former glory one day soon.
Belper’s charm is that it is small enough to be quaint and pretty, surrounded by rolling green fields, but still has enough going on to make for a delightful day out.
We wandered along narrow cobbled streets, past tiny cottages which would have once housed the mill workers, and by a beautiful old church yard full of autumn colours.
In town, Catherine pointed out The Ritz, their local cinema. Belper’s high street has some great independent shops and places to eat. We wandered into a specialist liquor store, homewares store and a few lovely clothes shops, in an attempt to get our Christmas shopping started.
After plenty of walking and chatting, our thirst got the better of us. Cat took me to a lovely cafe, I Should Cocoa, which is a chocolate shop slash cafe, and full to the brim with delicious goodies. We found a sunny spot inside and ordered hot chocolates. I went for the dark hot chocolate with orange, and I have to say it might have been THE best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. So smooth and chocolately, rich but not sickeningly sweet, it came with cream on top and a demure little bowl of marshmallows. Hot chocolate heaven.
I spied a couple of other nice places nearby, and will definitely be returning to try them! Fresh Basil is a deli selling local and artisan produce, and has been named one of the top 50 UK delicatessens by The independent. And next door to I Should Cocoa is Strutt Street Bakery, which had plenty of tempting treats in its front window.
Belper is just 45 minutes by train from Nottingham and 15 minutes by train from Derby. Have you ever been to Belper? Let me know what you thought!