Having arrived on site at Poolsbrook Country Park in Staveley, just a few miles from Chesterfield, after an uneventful 3 hour drive I was ready to chill out for the rest of the day. However, after only an hour we found ourselves walking to the nearby lake in beautiful sunshine, admiring the wild flowers and bird life on the water. The waters edge was lined with teasel, purple loosestrife, bull rushes and ragwort creating a colourful spectacle as we walked along the gravelled path circumnavigating the lake. Many great crested grebes graced the water collecting small fish for their young, still sporting their grey and white vertically stripped necks, looking very handsome in the late afternoon sunshine. Mute swans, black headed gulls, moorhens and mallard were accompanied by a motley gaggle of farmyard geese with a few strange looking crossbred geese.
Returning to Bessie we had barbecued chicken skewers with mushrooms, courgette and onions before walking into Staveley along dedicated walking trails. Passing by old bridges, between tall oak, sycamore and hawthorn trees the vista sometimes looked out over fields into the distance. Chris had found a couple of pubs in The Good Beer Guide noted for their real ale, so we headed inside and tested their offerings. The light was fading rapidly and I felt very nervous walking along the darkened and well shadowed path back with bicycles and dogs appearing out of the gloom.
The sun was already shining next day when we planned our walk into Chesterfield via the canal towpath.
A lovely late summer day stretched ahead as we set off, the pathway lined with pink great willowherb, red clover and remnants of the last purple knapweed. There was also the yellows of ragwort, tansy, toad flax and some type of Hypericum which looked bright under the trees. An ornate signpost showed distance and direction, one of 1,000 erected as part of the National Cycle Way.
We saw a sparrowhawk, some pretty orange dragonflies and several butterflies including small tortoiseshell, large white, small copper feeding on buddleia, speckled wood and a solitary red admiral. The tall skeletal giant hog weed with oval seeds silhouetted against the pale stretches of river reflecting the blue skies above, while fluffy thistle down sat in huge clusters against the hedgerow. It seems the seasons are changing with red hawthorn berries, colourful rosehips, hazel nuts and damsons showing Autumn’s bounty.
After 7 miles and a couple of stops to rest awhile, we arrived in Chesterfield. The magnificent twisted spire of St Mary & All Saints Parish Church towered above the town with its golden cockerel glinting in the warm sunshine.
It is so spectacular and quite staggering that with its distortions it is still standing at all. The spire was added in the 14 century, it is 230 ft tall, (70m), made from unseasoned wood and clad with nearly 33 tons of lead, today it is twisting 45 degrees and leaning 9ft 6 in, (2.9m) from its true centre!
Going inside the stained glass windows are bright and colourful, the dark carved pulpit contrasts with the high altar with its ornate gold frieze and multi-tiered chandeliers. If front of the massive organ pipes, stands the original font that was missing for around 300 years. It had been rescued and hidden by parishioners when many churches were plundered and destroyed, and now stands in its rightful place.
A ‘tower tour’ was next on our agenda and we climbed the narrow, spiral stone steps to the top, pausing to admire the 11 bells, the heaviest weighing 1.23 tons (1,270kg). The wooden structure inside the spire looked quite haphazard but the twisting has not helped.
We went further on up more stone steps, finally a ladder led us onto the narrow walkway around two sides of the spire. It was scary for me and I stayed very close to the spire, looking up made me quite dizzy!
We could appreciate the marvellous views. Looking across the town with its lovely black and white buildings, large town hall, market stalls and the 21st century shops to the countryside beyond. We were so lucky to have an amazing clear afternoon. Coming down afterwards was not so easy with no handrails for half of it and the fear of slipping, but we made it in the end, the whole experience was well worth the effort.