Tourist in my own town- a day trip in Derby.
This is a post which I originally published on Tumblr in august 2010. I am reposting it now as I intend retracing my steps this August.
I have resisted all temptations to correct,improve or otherwise amend the original text and images. Much has changed and that of course is the whole point. I have not checked the links, some of which will probably no longer work.
I have lived in Derby for about 25 years and there is no doubt that the place has changed over that time. But changes can sneak up on you and, to be honest, I don’t go into town that often during the day.-a quick dash to the shops or to meet up with someone.
So on Friday (20/08/10) I thought I might visit Derby as perhaps a tourist might visit the place. No particular agenda, just a wander round. I failed of course as I realized how angry I was at some of the transformations, the neglect of certain features.
But I did find some highlights; some places, sites and events I would not normally come across.
There are other journeys I could have taken, other places I could have visited. Indeed, I might do this again.. visiting other places and events.
As I walk into town I come across the new inner ring road early on.
Connecting Derby? This ring road has blighted Derby for some years with many buildings under threat of compulsory purchase. Now that it is here: will it connect or disconnect parts of Derby? It is certainly changing the physical landscape of Derby: will it change the psychological landscape?
Dominating the horizon here is the Westfield Centre; known disaffectionately as the Wastefield Centre. Sucking up the retail trade and sucking up the sky line.
Jury’s in has also changed our sky line and diminished the impact of Derby Cathedral.
As you can see, it was a typical summer’s day in Derby so I I bought a Derby Telegraph and found myself a café to have a cappuccino. There is no shortage of possible places these days (unlike 25 years ago), but I stuck to one of the originals, Caruso Café Boutique. Not the cheapest but a great welcome and great coffee.
Derby has introduced an art in empty shops scheme (.http://www.visitderby.co.uk/whatson/art-in-the-city) Disguising the number of retail units sucked dry by the wastefield centre? Yes, but better than boarded up shops.
Here’s an example from St. Peter’s st. http://pictographik.wordpress.com/
Walked on and through the Market Hall. (http://www.derbycity.com/m-hall/market.html )
Still a good place to buy fresh veg in town and the only place in Derby that I know of where you can buy foreign newspapers and magazines, but many empty stalls.
On to the Quad. http://www.derbyquad.co.uk/
Despite it’s angular appearance, this visual arts centre houses an intimate cinema as well as events, gallery space and a coffee bar. One of its least advertised features is the BFI MEDIATHEQUE Here you can view-for free- films and documentaries from the BFI archives about the East Midlands region. I haven’t used this yet but it seems to me like a great resource for visitors and residents alike.
Across the way, the Information Centre is advertising the Derby Feste:
This is taking place at the end of September and should be worth a visit. The full programme of, mainly free, open space events is available here: http://www.derbyfeste.com/
Making my way down to the river now and the Silk Mill Museum. Derby does not make much of the river Derwent which runs through the town though efforts have recently been made. Not surpringly in this day and age, this largely consists of building or converting old mills into luxury flats (sorry, apartments) and chain restaurants and shops. There is still a long way to go:
though some open space has been created in front of the museum
along with a stylish swing bridge across the river.
The Silk Mill Industrial Museum http://www.derby.gov.uk/LeisureCulture/MuseumsGalleries/Derby_Industrial_Museum.htm
has not changed much since I last went about 10 years ago. Tracing early settlements in the area, through to its more recent industrial history, the museum also heavily features the development of Rolls Royce aero engines. I find the museum unnecessarily dull and in need of a revamp. Others with a more mechanical bent might find it fascinating.
Close by, The Silk Mill pub has an impressive mural commemorating the 1833 strike and lockout of early trade unionists:
Didn’t stop there (on this occasion) but across an unfinished part of the ring road
(the building in the background is the Friar Gate studios, a “creative space for creative industries” which unfortunately lacks soundproofing! Style over content).
and on to Friargate/Ashbourne Rd.
This bridge and abandoned railway line has been much neglected. I think a Parisian style garden in the air…..http://france-for-visitors.com/paris/promenade-plantee.html
I popped into the Pickford’s House Museum, a great little museum that was nearly closed but was kept open by public demand. Used to go regularly when the children were younger. Didn’t feel I could avail myself of the dressing up box without youngsters in tow……
Across the road and up a bit, there is a very interesting, subtle piece of street sculpture which regrettably has been recently vandalised:
Those of you who know me and the geography of Derby, will know where I am now heading
The recently reopened Greyhound is an example of successful regeneration in Derby. Once an infamous pub on the Derby Mile (an English pub crawl Friday night sort of thing), the pub became run down and then shut down. Now revamped, owned by Derby Brewery Company (http://www.derbybrewing.co.uk/ ),
it combines real ale and a continental feel. “Business as Usual for me…..
Refreshed, I headed back into town and onto Derby Museum and Art Gallery to view an exhibition: Extraordinary Portraits of Ordinary People. The exhibition juxtaposes portraits by contemporary Derbyshire based artist Emma Tooth and those by the less contemporary Joseph Wright. The impact is stunning:
Emma, you should get these images copyrighted!) http://www.emmatooth.co.uk/
My visit was curtailed by a fire alarm but I shall return. Exhibition open until 12th Sept. http://www.derby.gov.uk/LeisureCulture/MuseumsGalleries/Derby_Museum_and_Art_Gallery.htm
Time now for lunch. I walk back down to the river and across by the council house, past the Brewery Tap (the first revamped pub owned and run by Derby Brewery Company) and on the Exeter.
One of my first locals in Derby, the pub has barely changed over the last 25 years or so. The Pedigree was as good as ever but the sausage egg and chips disappointed. The chips were great, the egg ok but “chip shop sausages” were disappointing. Plenty of local, meaty sausages around Derby to be had.
Went for a walk along the much neglected river Derwent.
Across the river you can see the back of the new bus station development- more luxury flats, shops and restaurants. (More on the bus station later..)
Those of you who know Derby will realise that I am heading towards The Smithfield, another fine Derby pub, serving fine Bass and many other ales. http://www.thesmithfield.moonfruit.com/#
Those who know me might be surprised to hear that this was the first time I have been here! I sat myself in the garden overlooking the river:
So, time to head back, across the river,
And past the new bus station.
Like the Wastefield Centre, the new bus station development is disproportionately large. It looks as though it has been dropped in from above. Worse still, it apparently does not function efficiently.
Well I enjoyed my tour of Derby and, whilst there is much ugliness, there is plenty still to do and see. I suspect this is true of many towns and cities with the same tendency to homogenise but the desire to stay unique.
This was just one of many possible tours and I have missed many things out. Additional photos can be seen on flickr, paddyspages, tourist in my own town. Other itineraries to follow?