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Friday, 16th November 2012
Leaving the cats in charge of the homestead we drove up the A14 to Derbyshire. We stopped at the Little Chef Kettering West for lunch, which had been refurbished in red and white. The ceiling was covered in blue and white square tiles, each square a fragment of a cloudy sky, but the squares had been randomly placed. A jigsaw waiting to be done. I had an American breakfast which according to Little Chef is scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes with mapleen syrup. Virginia had a steak pie then realised we were due for a three course meal in the evening.
With the aid of the Satnav we found our way to Denby pottery, where we got some more Azure which is the line Virginia has been collecting. Downstairs in the factory shop rather than the showroom upstairs. I admired the various displays as if they were exhibits in an art exhibition.
The Satnav got us pretty close to Willersley Castle where we were staying, but for the last few hundred yards we had to rely on our memories of where it was last time we visited, as the Satnav directed us to a shut gate in front of a meadow. Willersley Castle has plenty of character but our room wasn't ensuite, just as well it was only for two nights. We did know that when we booked so having the bathroom and toilet a corridor away was our fault. What we didn't know was our long weekend coincided with a Church away weekend, and our room was right over the big room they were using. So the evening wasn't relaxing until they had finished. (Memo to self: do not stay in rooms 1 through 4 at Willersley Castle ever again.)
We beat them by minutes to breakfast on the Saturday. The teenage girls came down in their pyjamas to add a certain ambience to proceedings. We paid a deposit of £5 for a magic key and set off for Matlock Bath along a walking track made treacherous with a covering of leaf mulch. A pleasant stroll, more pleasant than taking the car, and better exercise. We went along Lovers Walk then crossed a bridge into Matlock Bath proper. Which was definitely end of season, most places shut up, cafes with chairs on tables and lights off.
Virginia suggested we try the Aquarium which had foreign fish imprisoned in tanks, a 'well' displaying the calcifying effects of the thermal spring Matlock Bath is named for, a range of carp that Virginia fed for 50p, and nautical knots. Worth a visit. We also wandered up to Masson Mills where I got my picture taken with Santa Claus and Richard Awkwright, then on the way back had a nice stop at a cafe at Cromford Mill, I was tempted by the coffee and walnut but went for the lemon drizzle.

The sweet side of staying at the Christian Guild hotels like Willersley Castle for me is meeting people. So we had two pleasant evening meals on tables for eight, and a chat about books in the TV lounge (the TV was mercifully off). That is sweet indeed in this age where people are so insulated from each other, people will talk to someone on the other side of the world but ignore the person they're standing next to.