Day 148: Derwent Valley MillsJuly 13, 2017 in the United Kingdom
Busy day today, as it was our last UNESCO world heritage site in the mainland UK! There's still a handful of sites in UK territory but in far-flung places (Gough Island in the south Atlantic, Henderson Island near Antarctica etc), but this would finish the mainland for us. So we drove south-east of Manchester for about 90 minutes to the Derwent Valley in Derbyshire, where our site awaited.
It's actually quite a large site, because along this valley are the first ever modern factories as we'd think of them. Large, industrial-scale enterprises where cotton was milled en masse by semi-skilled labour, as opposed to being done in small shops by highly skilled workers. The main difference was the water spinning wheels - the owner Sir Richard Arkwright had the idea to harness the power of the river and use it to drive milling wheels 24/7 which had never been done before.
So we stopped first at the village of Cromford where the original mill was. Interesting, and very important, but there's not actually that much to see - we didn't feel like spending 8 pounds each to visit the museum. Nearby was another mill, and a town built for the workers - okay conditions, but the social reforms we'd seen in places like New Lanark and Saltaire were still a hundred years away.
Had a nice lunch at a cafe in town, wandered around another nearby mill, had a coffee and then wrapped everything up. This was the last site for a few weeks and sadly my heart wasn't quite in it. The industrial revolution era sites are very hit-and-miss - I guess it's a difficult problem to preserve an enormous old heritage-listed factory, but not completely waste the land and space. So they're mostly filled with gift shops and conference facilities which is a bit odd.
Back up to Manchester where getting caught in some traffic meant that we only just made it to dinner in time. We were having a birthday dinner for my step-sister who lives in Manchester, along with her extended family. Another nice pub with good food, though sadly Schnitzel wasn't allowed in. Nice to catch up with some people I hadn't seen in 10-15 years! Back home where I didn't sleep very well - our rental car was due back in the morning and given how dodgy the company had been on pick-up, I wasn't looking forward to taking it back!Read more