On to Belper, where I was devastated to have just missed the knitting festival, as a tree’s right to wear clothes is one of my main concerns.
I found out from the cheerful barista in Costa that every week in Belper has some sort of weird activity most weeks these days. It’s almost as if they’re following the Stockport model to get folk into town, i.e. food and tat markets (don’t get me wrong, I approve of both).
Like Cheshire’s finest town, Belper is just outside the edge of the Peak District, so has to try harder to attract visitors from the big cities. I started visiting in the ’90s, when Mrs RM worked on projects for the Town Council, and the scenery was enough to win me over.
The views from practically any point in town are gorgeous, and walks to Holbrook or Makeney still take in some of our most traditional pubs. Mrs RM was rather more attracted to the products of the factory shop across the A6, which still serve us well 20 years on.
The town itself has moved on a bit since then, and apart from flags and farmers was seemingly full of art. The street art would look a bit out of place in Bedminster though.
Most visitors from Derby were congregating in the car parks of the De Bradelei shopping village at the old hosiery mill though. As with Macclesfield and Stockport, independent enterprise often breed more independent enterprise.
Belper knows its core audience though, and still feeds and waters them in traditional places like Georges, one of my favourite fish and chip shops (Bryans ? – never heard of him).
The town has never had a wealth of Beer Guide entries, the surrounding villages always being more likely to carry guest beers. A couple of dozen pubs of all shapes and sizes gives decent choice for a town of 20,000, particularly if they like Marstons products. There’s a brand new micropub, Angels, that I must have walked past without noticing, so obviously a proper micro.
The sole Beer Guide entry, Arkwrights Real Ale Bar, feels micro but probably breaks too many of the “Herne Rules” to qualify (sarcasm intended). Therefore, it has what people actually want, including keg, music and TV (no sarcasm intended). There was a lot of irreverent chat, including a fascinating debate about Hull City’s chances of 17th place in 2016-17 that Messrs Everitt and Irvin would have enjoyed.
The Arkwright also had a splendid collection of pub snacks, including black pudding pies, which I bravely abstained from (and that despite an absence of calorific information on the glass window). One wag who did succumb told the landlady his pie had been off and wanted a free replacement, a tactic that seems to work in McDonalds but not here.
Despite six decent micros on the bar (Derventio, Great Heck Sonnet etc.) I went for the Pedigree from the jug though (NBSS 3). It was good to see the Arkwright stick to what the Amber Valley does best, though I sense the regulars stick to the guests.
A town seemingly not in desparate need of a Wetherspoons.