Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Heights of Abraham

Recently we visited The Heights of Abraham in the town of Matlock Bath. We parked at the bottom of the hill in a typical "pay and display" lot and then walked down a charming trail next to train tracks to get to the lifts.

Unfortunately, the day was a typically rainy day in England, so the views were not as spectacular as they could have been. A guy squeegeed our cable car windows just before we left. Too bad we didn't have our own squeegee to use on the way up.

The way up

Emily and Jacob

Mommy, Lucy, and Daddy

View of the road, river, and rails below

A passing car

At the top we got off and made a beeline for the cafe. We all needed a snack after the long ride. The place was full of students on a field trip, so we had to go to the upstairs seating to eat our flapjacks and other treats. Finding this view was also a treat!

The misty valley

Jacob and Lucy wanted to play right away so they dragged Mommy and Emily off while I went and explored the Prospect Tower. Before I got to the tower, I ran into some fine feathered friends.



Another distraction on the way was the Olympic Torch Sculpture. The 2012 Olympic Flame visited The Heights of Abraham on June 29, 2012, less than a month before we visited. To commemorate the visit, local sculptor Andrew Frost carved this with a chainsaw and hand tools.

The flame that won't go out

Finally I came to the Victoria Prospect Tower.

Little more than a cylinder but it gets the job done

The tower was completed in 1844 and helps the visitors appreciate the amazing views of the Derwent Valley. It is 40 feet high (and 800 feet above sea level). The 54 steps were not too much trouble for me, though they were a little scary looking, especially at the top where they were wet and presumably slippery.

Windy stairs with warnings

The view, even on a rainy day, is totally worth the minimal effort to get to the top.

Higher than the cable cars!

A house in the distance


A nicer house in the distance

The trip down the stairs looked more scary than going up. Isn't that always the way?

Maybe it's just me

More sculptures are found just up the hill from the tower. These were part of a competition in 2000 to design something to be next to the High Waterfalls. The winning design was Medusa, of all things!

The face that petrified a thousand ships

The sculptor was also Andrew Frost, who made the nearby woodland family as well.



Son with a lot on his mind

Up top is a small exhibit on the history of The Heights of Abraham. The name comes from the Seven Years' War (known as the French and Indian War in America). An important battle was fought above Quebec on the Heights of Abraham in 1759. British general James Wolfe was victorious in battle though mortally wounded. He became a national hero. In the 1780s they developed the land as a visitors attraction. They named the site after the great victory.

The exhibit also explained the history of the cable cars, which were not installed until the 1980s! The cars are permanently attached to the cable, which originally had a rope core. In 1995 it was replaced with a cable that had a nylon core. Passengers travel up 554 feet. Before the cable cars, people had to walk up to the top on paths that switch back and forth. I'm glad to be living today.

Another feature here is the mines. Two caverns are still available to tour. Originally, they were lead mines dating back to the Roman times. We went on the tour of the Great Masson Cavern. The tour guide had a great, dry sense of humor. Unfortunately, the kids were not too happy to be underground, so Mommy took them back up to the top while Emily and I continued further underground. We saw the three main chambers and heard lots of stories about the lives of the miners.

Into the cavern

Random rock formation

Spooky face

Miner's mark

Dripping rock


Several visits to the two playgrounds happened throughout the morning. Somehow all the pictures are of Jacob playing there.

Jacob goes over the top!

Smiling for the camera

Rope bridge

Crossing the log

Jacob at the bottom of the super scary slides

The exception is this remarkable video footage from the super scary slides. They were super scary to the parents, though once Jacob convinced us to let him go down, it didn't look as scary as all that.

On our way down the mountainside, we got a slightly better picture of what was below. The reason for the step up in quality was not an improvement in the weather but the discover of a small window out of which I stuck our camera. Luckily I did not drop it.

I can see clearly now the rainy window is gone

Once down, we sought out nourishment. We wound up at the Fishpond Freehouse. We had some of the best pub food we've ever had. Though maybe not Lucy. She decided she wanted the lemon slice from our pitcher of water. She called it "melon." After licking it, she did not want to eat it.

Not like lemonade, alas

After that, Lucy demanded ice cream. Two stores down sold her a "bubble gum" flavor ice cream. The guy admitted to me that it was actually mint flavored, but I countered that there are plenty of mint flavored gums on the market. Neither he nor I felt too bad. Lucy never complained. She was happy to have ice cream, even in a cone.

With that done, we headed further south for more adventures. Off to Cambridge!

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