The Retirees go Abroad – Living the Ordinary Life – Derby Arena, Pride Park and Derby Round House

It has finally arrived. Saturday and our guided tour of the Derby Roundhouse.

Tony Robinson (formerly Baldrick now Sir Tony), featured this bit of Derby’s history on one of his telly shows and we were intrigued. So the following day we set off in search of it and found it just beside the Derby Rail Station and in walking distance of the Rams Stadium (Pride Park) and the new Velodrome (Derby Arena).

Unfortunately the Roundhouse is only accessible by tour and you have to book. So we went over to the Velodrome (pictures below) and found that although complete it is not open to the public til March. Beside the velodrome is the Rams home ground (the Rams are Derby’s Division 2 team in the Champions League). It also can be visited but again by appointment only, unless attending a game of course. So perhaps a wasted trip.


On arriving home we booked our appointment for the Round House and here it is: Saturday. The weather is mixed. When leaving home it is overcast and blustery. On arriving it starts raining and when the tour starts the sun is out but the temperature is 4C with a strong breeze so it feels like -1C. Got to love this English weather! Our tour guide is Darren and we are joined by two other tourists, one from Derby and the other from Nottingham neither of whom has visited the Round House previously.

Darren explained that the Round House is one of many built in the early 19th century following the development of the steam engine by George Stephenson in Derby. This particular building was constructed in 1839 and ceased life as a steam engine repair shop in the twentieth century. Many of its contemporary buildings have been demolished but this one was spared not for preservation but through good luck. The University of Derby has acquired the site and created a unique campus. I have set out below what is said in the website for Roundhouse Events below.

“The Roundhouse at Derby is the world’s first and oldest surviving railway roundhouse. It was originally developed in 1839 by four rival rail companies, including North Midland Railway (NMR) for whom George Stephenson and his son Robert were engineers.

Robert was responsible for the engineering of the NMR buildings on the site, including the world’s first railway roundhouse, built for the princely sum of £62,000. The Stephensons are probably even more famous as the inventors of the Rocket steam engine which was designed and built by George and Robert for the 1829 Rainhill Trials.

In 2008, the Grade II* Listed building and other associated buildings on the site were sympathetically restored and repaired using the William Morris principle of ‘honest repair’. There are also two newly-constructed buildings which have been designed to blend in with the existing structures.

A number of innovations were incorporated into the new-build construction including a ‘chameleon glass’ which changes colour depending on the light and angle of view. Naturally, the short, 12-metre engine turntable can still be found in The Roundhouse today and is just one example of the rich manufacturing and railway heritage of the site.”

As we toured around Darren told us that George was also famous for the invention of a miners lamp used in the mines in Newcastle. The lamps became so famous that they took his name; George Lamps. Then the miners became known by the name of their lamps; Georges. Later the whole of the population of Newcastle on Tyne became known by that name, corrupted to “Geordie”. This is one of the explanations for both a regional nickname for a person from the larger Tyneside region and the name of the distinctive Northern English dialect spoken by its inhabitants – “Geordie”.

First we visited one of the new buildings to gain an overall view of the site and to catch glimpses of the workers houses, hotel, pub and other buildings on the other side of the rail line constructed to house and provide services for the 5,000 strong work force employed at the peak of its activity. Derby University teaches vocational activities so in this building was the hairdressing teaching school.

Then we went to the Engine Room which now accommodates the hospitality school and the training kitchens. Its original purpose was to maintain the locomotive engines and carriages. From there we went into the new glass panelled building and then into the Roundhouse itself. In this building 32 locomotives could be worked on at the one time. Whilst a marvel of efficiency it was a dangerous place to work with smoke, steam and close working quarters making it unsafe.

After the tour finished we went across the rail line to see the World’s first purpose built luxury hotel built for the first class passengers using the railway, the rail cottages and the rail worker’s pub. Its game day so plenty police officers in the streets and outside the pubs. We went into the New Brunswick (formerly The Railway Hotel) as it remains in the same internal layout as existed in the 19th century. Lunch was unique – the hamburger was an unbuttered bun with a meat patty – £2.60. We shared a table with a couple who are Sheffield Wednesday supporters (Derby –v- Sheffield Wednesday 3-2 Derby) and had an interesting chat – one of them had lived in Brisbane for two periods of 6 months and both thought they would like to emigrate (he had left a Sheffield Wednesday jersey at the Centenary Tavern Jindalee and wanted to go back to see it).

We popped into the former Midland Hotel to see what 19th century luxury looked like and then headed home before the footy crowd got too boisterous.

The Retirees go Abroad – Living the Ordinary Life UK –Kinver Edge and Mosely Old Hall

Spring is supposed to be just round the corner but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature – it is still cold and wet. You learn that you make do with the weather otherwise you would never leave your flat. So we rug up and then travel south west to Kinver Edge to see the Holy Austin Cave Houses.

Kinver Edge is a high heath and woodland escarpment just west of Kinver, about four miles west of Stourbridge, and four miles north of Kidderminster, and is on the border between Worcestershire and Staffordshire, England. It is now owned by the National Trust. Kinver Edge is home to the last troglodyte dwellings occupied in England, with a set of complete cave-houses excavated into the local sandstone. One of the rocks, “Holy Austin”, was a hermitage until the Reformation. The Holy Austin rock houses were inhabited until the 1950s. They are now owned by the National Trust. The cottage gardens and an orchard are being replanted and restored.

The heathland and woodland on Kinver Edge are inhabited by wildlife, including adder and common lizard present on the heaths, and Common Buzzard, Eurasian Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, badger, red fox, and many other bird species present in the woods. The area around the summit is mainly heathland, with birch, oak and sweet chestnut trees in the woods at the northern end.

We had an enjoyable time and shared some of our travel stories with one of the volunteers in the tea rooms. He is an avid mountain climber and walker and gave us some great tips about the Severn Railway – a steam locomotive trip from Blewly to Bridgeford North and the Malvern Hills. We teased him with stories of climbing Mt Kosciusko and the Glass House Mountains.

We went back to the village of Kinver Edge and had lunch at the White Hart pub (very disappointing). The village is very pretty and includes antique and second hand shops and some buildings that look as though they are from Tudor times.

Kinver Edge is south west of Birmingham (very industrial and dirty scenery as we passed around it) and south of Wolverhampton (home of the Wolverhampton Wanders) and whilst a big city seemed more hospitable than Birmingham. So we told tommy we wanted to call in at Mosely Old Hall.

This is what Wikipedia says about the Hall. “Moseley Old Hall is a National Trust property located in Fordhouses, north of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom. It is famous as one of the resting places of Charles II of England during his escape to France following defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

Charles II’s father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War. Cromwell then defeated Charles II at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and Charles fled to mainland Europe.

The Hall was built in 1600 and was the home of the Whitgreaves, a local Staffordshire family, mostly Catholics and Royalists. Thomas Whitgreave assisted Charles II when he arrived in the early hours of 8 September after the journey from Boscobel House. Thomas gave the King dry clothes, food, and a proper bed (his first since Worcester on 3 September). The King was hidden in the priest-hole for two days whilst planning the route for his escape. He was accompanied by the family’s Catholic priest John Huddleston who cleaned and bandaged the King’s feet.

Descendants of the Whitgreave family owned the house until 1925, and during that time made few structural changes, apart from encasing the Hall with brick walls and replacing the Elizabethan windows. After the 1820s, it appears to have been abandoned as the family home, in favour of Moseley Court, a new Regency style house built for George Whitgreave. It was used as a farmhouse until the Second World War but was suffering from neglect when the National Trust took it over in 1962. It is now fully restored, and furnished with generous donations of period furniture. The original four-poster bed used by Charles stands in the King’s room.”

We arrived close to closing time and had missed the last tour so we guided ourselves with the help of some written notes. On entering through the same door as Charles II (the back door) we went into the brew house (kitchen – as you could not drink the water in those days they brewed beer as the common drink, hence the brew house). Here we met one of the guides who gave us a bit of a short run down on a few things.

In my pictures below you will see a picture of a kitchen table and on the table you will see some black jugs. These are actually made of leather and coated in pitch to preserve and stiffen it. The small one is a “pitcher” after the coating and the large one is a “bombardier” for God only knows what reason.

You will also see a wooden square plate. This was the servants dish and from this came the phrase “a square meal”. The third thing to note is the straw on the stand. The straw would be coated in animal fat and lit at both ends and were used instead of the more expensive candles. From this comes the saying: “burning the candle at both ends”.

We then went up stairs to the King’s Bed Chamber and checked out the “priest’s hole” where the good king hid from the pursuing army. The house reminded us of the visit to Little Moreton in Cheshire and we were right – it is a timber house over which a brick exterior has been constructed. The attic contained the chapel – quite unusual but I guess it is a hangover form the persecution of Catholics at this time. Although only a short visit (about an hour) it was enough time to take in all we needed to see and know about this famous hall.

Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK – A horse, my kingdom for a horse…….

Svein has returned to Brugges and life has returned to normal. We are planning for our next wave of visitors, our visit to London for Move It, and ANZAC Day at Villers Brettoneux. We decide to take a break and decide we will go to Thornton Reservoir. This is a man – made reservoir operated by the Severn Trent Water Company but it has a recreational walk and picnic areas on its banks. After a short drive down the M1 we exit at the Leicester turn off but go west instead of east to Leicester. The Reservoir is located outside a small village which I expect would be jumping in summer. But this is winter and we have rugged up for a walk around the lake. One thing I have not got used to is the wetness of the UK. There always seems to be a puddle or slippery ground or black ice to catch you out. There are quite a few other amblers wandering around the lake including ducks and swans begging from picnickers. There are some groves of pine that have been planted and some of the runts that should have been weeded out have grown into weird shapes. We passed an overturned boat which in fact was the roof covering for the public toilets and the fishing lodge. After over an hour of walking we finally returned to the car and had our picnic lunch.

There was still plenty of daylight so we decided to visit Bosworth Field where Richard III was killed in the last War of the Roses. The visitor centre was only half an hour from our picnic stop at Thornton’s Reservoir but the sun sets very quickly in winter and the wind gets very chill so by the time we arrived there was only time to visit the centre and look at the fields. Even so the visitors centre is extremely interesting although it is not set on the battle field itself.

The centre was placed at the top of the hill based on oral accounts passed down over the ages. It was only after archaeological research by the University of Nottingham that it was found the centre was in the wrong location and the battle actually took place in the fields to the north and below the centre. You can now walk the battle field but it takes over an hour to do so, so our next visitors are in for a hike.

Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK – Working once again

For the last six years we have visited London for the Move It Dance Expo at Olympia Kensington. Although the decision has been made to sell on line and not have a bricks and mortar presence in the UK, we did one more show between February 12 and February 16, 2015.

Our journey started on Thursday February 12 with Kerry’s birthday, a cab trip to Nottingham Coach Station and a three hour forty minute coach trip to London – coach is just so cheap. We arrived at Victoria Coach Station in central London and caught a cab to Olympia at Kensington.

Olympia is an exhibition centre, event space and conference centre in West Kensington, London. Opened in 1886 as the National Agricultural Hall, it was built by Andrew Handyside and covered an area of 4 acres (16,000 m2). The Grand Hall, 450 feet (140 m) in length, by 250 feet (76 m) in breadth, was said to be the largest building in the United Kingdom covered by one span of iron and glass. It now features four event venues and a conference centre.

The event is staged in this building and is filled with Universities (dance and theatre are major courses at Universities throughout the UK), Academies, Dance Schools and vendors in interested industries (like fabric specialist Glitter and Dance). This year we had only a mouse hole sized cubical in which we displayed our fabric and website, meeting all the customers and convincing them that although based in Australia they could still buy our fabrics and costumes.

The days were long and tiring sometimes busy but always deafening from the music and dance troupes performances.

Thursday after setting up our display we dropped our cases at the hotel and caught the underground to Selfridges and the Le Chalet Restaurant. We had seen a documentary on Harry Gordon Selfridge and the emporium he created which wetted Kerry’s appetite to visit the London store. I arranged a booking at the restaurant for her birthday and thereby killing two birds with one stone.

Le Chalet does not feel like a department store eatery as it has its own dedicated lift and is built on the roof in a ski lodge/chalet style. The menu is reasonable and prices on par with other places. The main thing was that Kerry was excited to visit Selfridge’s and be taken to dinner in the same night. After dinner we had a very quick stroll around the store which still attempts to lead the retail industry with presentation and range.


Our room at the hotel was described to us as a small room. This overstatement proved to be wrong – not the smallest room we have stayed in but in that category. Nevertheless we managed and on Friday morning Kerry awoke with disturbed disposition so I walked the 2 klm to Hammersmith Rd with our suitcase of samples and paraphernalia to open the shop. I felt somewhat out of place hiding in my mouses hole and watching the team at Bloch handing out goodies to the passing parade. Kerry arrived around lunch time feeling recovered and we worked through til five o’clock at which time we packed up to go back to the hotel whilst the other retailer’s tried to attract the few remaining members of the public until seven o’clock.

We decided that we would try our hand at the casino over near Edgeware Rd. We caught the underground and quickly found the place. We lined up to register (you must register to join just as we do at home) only to find that our registration from Brighton 7 years earlier was still current. A bit of a worry. Nevertheless we were treated as first timers and given the tour at the end of which we were given a complimentary drink each. We ordered dinner from the bar menu and looked upon the scene of gamblers hunched over the tables hanging on a card or ball. Dinner was fine. As usual with meals over here there was too much carbohdyrates so we shared the chips.

Time to try our hands. Kerry went to the poker machines whilst I tried the roulette games. The poker machine devoured Kerry’s stake so she joined me as I played my 25p roulette machine. My stake rose from my initial £10 to £22 and dropped back to £16 at which time I took the money and ran. Kerry had better luck on these machines but never recovered her earlier loses. Sharna if you are reading – TITO (ticket in ticket out). Home to bed to dream.

Saturday we walked together to Olympia and I then went exploring whilst Kerry watched the shop. I strolled down Kensington High St toward Kensington Palace and Hyde Park, ducking up small side streets and lanes to see what I could see. I came across the Church of St Mary in Kensington Church St and the grave of some poor individual who had been buried in the footpath to be walked over and parked upon for centuries to come. Inside the church the vicar was conducting a baptism and others came to light a candle. I was amazed by the remembrance plaques around the wall dating back to the 18th century and many in remembrance of loved ones who died in the empire but not in Kensington. One chap, a member of the East India Trading Co, had died in service to King and country in Bombay in the mid 1700’s. Outside, the graveyard that once encircled the church had been confined in part to a lane way where the headstones now rested against the wall of the lane and some graves (like the unfortunate mentioned earlier) were now the footpath for the living.

I continued walking ending up in Gloucester St then hung a left to Baden Powell House, the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and on to Harrods. I had lost track of time so when I rang Kerry I was greeted with “where the hell are you!” and an invitation to return to Olympia by the quickest means possible. Which I did. Finished the day at the show and returned to the hotel, dinner and bed.

Sunday saw the same routine except that this time we packed up and ended our last trip to Olympia and the Move It Dance Expo. That evening we dined at the Checkmate Restaurant in Cromwell Rd. Not bad but they were having a bad hair day in the kitchen and service was slow. Meanwhile I was trying to determine who the players were in a very serious picture of a chess match on the wall. The picture had been blown up to a size where the figures were fuzzy. Even so you would expect the staff to know but No not one. I guessed it was Boris Spassky but uncertain as to whether it was his 1970’s game with Bobby Fisher (when he lost his World Champion title to Fisher) or the 1980’s game with Gary Kasperov (the eclectic Russian Master and World Champion). Later research I found the picture – it was Fisher.

The following day after a stroll through Kensington and a coffee at Carluccio’s and a sticky beak in Bill Wyman’s “Sticky Fingers”, we returned to Long Eaton on the coach – happy to be back home.

Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK – Charter Night and the Irish Guards

As most of our friends know we are members of the Rotary Club of Woolloongabba and during our visits to the UK we have made a point of attending meetings here in Nottingham and elsewhere like Whitby and Saffron Waldron. The members of Nottingham Rotary Club have been very welcoming and where possible we have participated in their club functions.

On Friday February 6, the club celebrated its 98th anniversary of its charter as a club by its mother club Edinburgh. This charter night was celebrated at the Senate Room of the University of Nottingham with the Vice Chancellor of the university the keynote speaker and after dinner the President of the Students Association spoke on the way in which the students organised themselves to raise over £1.7m last year.

The evening started with a reception in the council rooms above the senate and then proceeded to the dinner in the senate. After dinner the Quiz (entitled Universeally Challenged) was circulated and thanks to a team effort on our table we won 1st prize with 14 points out of 20. The challenge was to share 4 bottles of wine amongst ten people.

The function was well attended with the District Governor Steve Lawes, our Assistant Governor, and Presidents and members from other clubs including our own Long Eaton Sunrise Club. Cannot avoid it now – we have to go to an early morning meeting at Long Eaton.

Below are a series of photos of the evening.

The following evening we attended a band concert by the Band of the Irish Guards at the cathedral for St Mary the Virgin, High Pavement Nottingham. The concert was in aid of ABF the soldiers’ charity. We attended as much out of curiosity as a love of military band music but rather to support a worthy cause.

We pulled up and parked right outside the church and behind the Lord Mayor’s car – we recognised him and his wife from having met them at the club. The Church is huge in the way that cathedrals are always huge but this one was quite austere and severe in its plain finishes. However it was a perfect setting for the band in their red jackets and shining brass instruments. It was a true military band – the conductor was a Lieutenant Colonel, the Band master a Warrant Officer 1st class and the instruments played by warrant officers, sergeants, corporals, and lance corporals.

Their repertoire included classical (Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld) folk (Danny Boy) marches (Colonel Bogey) Theatre (Lord of the Dance) and songs (What a Wonderful World). Unfortunately the audience was quite small for such a professional show so I don’t think they made much profit. However that is the story with fund raising – it is always a hard slog. Here are some of my photos from the evening.

Retirees Go Abroad – Ordinary Lives living in the UK –A cunning plan

As an avid viewer of Blackadder and his side-kicks Lord Percy and Baldrick, my attention is always grabbed by anything featuring Tony Robinson (Baldrick) now Sir Tony. Ironic that the lowly Baldrick gets the knighthood whilst Rowan Atkinson (Lord Blackadder)and Hugh Lawrie (Lord Percy) go without.

Sir Tony hosts a programme called “Walking in History” in which he walks the countryside visiting places of historic interest – much the same as Kerry and I do except we don’t have the BBC paying for us and the team. One day flicking through the channels I saw one of his programmes and quickly switched it on. He was in the Derwent Valley going to the site of the world’s first factory. Now I thought I had visited that in Derby – Lombe’s silk mill, but Sir Tony was not talking of that mill but of Richard Arkwrights mill at Cromford.


Lombe’s mill does in fact predate Arkwrights mill by 50 years but Arkwright successfully started the Industrial Revolution with his successful mills where Lombe’s mill spun silk and well silk worms don’t like the cold so when the silk worms contracted a fatal disease the industry in Britain stopped. Then along came Arkwright. Now I am not going to try and tell you the history of the spinning jenny etc but suffice it to say that my interest was peaked and Kerry and I paid a visit to Cromford.

Again we were the only tourists lining up for the tour which was great. We learnt about how the new factory building 5 storeys high were designed on a similar work progression like a wind mill – the raw product (the cotton bowl) is loaded into the top floor where the elderly women who could no longer manage the spinning looms picked the raw cotton out of the bowls and removed the seeds. They then passed the raw product to young girls who carded the cotton – a process whereby passing one large flat plate with comb teeth over it across another such comb loaded with cotton the girls formed a cotton roll which they twisted to give it strength (this was subsequently replaced by a machine). Then it was curled into tall cylinders and these cylinder went to the next floor where the spinning process started. Here all the kids did the work supervised by the mothers. Men were the maintenance managers and the bulk carriers. So kids worked their way up to being supervisors then ended up as old hags pulling cotton out of the bowls.


There is not much of the original factory and water wheel but the society running the show are in the process of putting it back together. Invention and adaptation saw bigger and better mills being built down the Derwent so that by the next generation of Arkwright’s this mill was unprofitable hence all the records and most of the artefacts have been destroyed but even so you still get a real sense of the first factory from the remnants that remain. A must visit for all historians.

Whilst there we also visited Arkwrights house/castle now known as Willersley Castle. It is owned by Christian Guild and operated as a hotel.The castle location is just fabulous with views of the factory obstructed but the vista of the river river valley and surrounding green hills in your face.

Whilst there we ran into a Banner Society on its annual pilgrimage. They are a bit like our Quilting Clubs. So I took some photos for Pam Gaskill back home.