‘A place like Melrose’: 8th April

Tuesday morning, set out for Derby Peaks, 8 miles. After going four miles, I left the road and turned east for four miles to see the peak holes, which are awfully wonderful. In taking this angle to the east it is very high land, and must be very stony; but still the grass is fine, and there are large flocks of fine sheep, which they call the Woodlands. They are long bodied, round – made, white – faced, and very like each other. They have a great load of wool, which is of a very fine quality, short, and very thick in the fleece. I think these were the most beautiful stock I saw on all my ride; and if ever I am a stock farmer, I certainly would have a breed of them. They are by no means delicate. The hill-ground where they go is all bounded by stone dykes, which are clumsy structures. As to peak holes, were I to describe them it would take a good many pages. They have been discovered by the people when  working for lead 600 yards underground. We went by boats in a canal lighted by candles. We came to an abyss which never was explored, and heard the sound of water like distant thunder, but how or where is not known. Glad was I on seeing daylight again. But this is only a small sample of another one, about half a mile distant, at the village of Castletown, a place like Melrose, which is supported by strangers, who come to see these things. A very good inn kept here on purpose, besides smaller ones.


From Castletown to Buxton, 13 miles. This is a very uneasy stage to travel by the nearest way, over a hilly country. The whole of this upper end of Derbyshire is full of minerals; for many miles you see the gravel lying in great heaps, almost as white as snow, which has been taken out at every shaft or sink they have made. There are many places in almost a line for miles together where the vein runs. In many places coming over a hill you imagine you are coming into a water, when there is a rocky narrow vale but neither spring nor running water, but very fertile pasture. In general the farm-places are pretty far distant, and two or three live at the same place. They have pump wells, which scantily afford water. They have puddled ponds for their cattle, which serve for a time, but in long drought they go dry; and they will haul water for their cattle at the distance of three or four miles. A great deal of very fine turnip soiI .and they are now beginning to raise them in quantities.


Buxton stands on a low vale on the side of a small river. The river below the town is romantic – terrible rocks and precipices. The town is neat and well-built; all white freestone, fine-polished. The” Circuit” is a fine building, which would cost many thousand pounds; thirty or forty families may lodge in it. The Assembly Room is one of the largest I ever saw; the stables are above 550 yards distant; they have the look of a very large barrack. I forget the number of horses and carriages that can be lodged here, but it is very incredible like. Here I paid sixpence for a drink of water.There is very little appearance of industry here; they live by the company that resort to it in summer. In winter they have little or nothing to do. Coming along the last stage, I find they enclose the land with stone dykes, six feet high, besides a cobble cope. The enclosures being small, the inclosing must cost double the value of the ground. They say it shelters both corn and grass. Access to the south very steep.


From Buxton to Newhaven, 9 miles. This is now a fine open country, dry soil, and some very good farming. I saw some cattle (all Irish) feeding on some very good pasture. Coming forward, I found the land is laid out into large regular enclosures, and seems all brought in from Commons. Newhaven, a very excellent inn, and on the most extensive scale I ever saw any. Here they could put up fifty gentlemen and their horses without being thronged. Everything clean and in good order. I was very civilly used. The landlord, a fine farmer, and has 200 acres in fine order. The building of the house and offices cost the Duke of Devonshire £5000. It stands on a rising-ground, and has fine access every way.

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