After I retired I began to have more time to actually visit places and to take advantage of what was on offer. Several things happened. The Environment Agency started a pilot group. The main objective was to improve the water quality of the Ecclesbourne river. But they are also interested in enhancing their contacts with local people and schools and wanted to make the whole exercise of great educational value. They thought that creating a waymarked footpath along the route of the Ecclesbourne from Duffield to Wirksworth would help with this so they got on to the Ramblers. So I got involved with them and I’ve become more and more involved with this route…………..
……..Very fortuitously, about the same time the World Heritage Site obtained a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. I’d got involved with the World’s Heritage Site about three years before. As a Rambler and somebody interested in history I often took in some walks round Belper and my offer was taken up and I got more involved with the workings of the Heritage Site, but only really right on the periphery. Volunteers were offered training of various sorts because of the Heritage Lottery Fund and I’ve taken full advantage of it. I’ve enjoyed trips both to Shropshire and along the Derwent Valley. Along with everybody else we enjoyed it a great deal but we also learned a lot about the Sites and how we might present it to other people. We also learned a lot about how not to present it so it should improve how we do things as well. We’ve been sent to more formal training as well – all over the place – Nottingham and Belper, Leicester. We learned how to use digital photographs, how to record people, as we are doing now, how to use video, how to use archives and I’ve been to an archive conservation course which was excellent and what resources are available. For instance I didn’t know that at Leicester there was an archive of local television newsreel. We put in Belper and there were 73 items for about 1955 or so…………
All the training that we’ve had has opened our eyes to what’s available and what we can do. For instance I’ve learned that it’s actually comparatively easy to apply for quite large grants and what’s more the bodies offering the grants do help you in your presentations with them. So what I’ve learned has increased my interest widely in a great number of things.
I’ve become a lot more ambitious in what I can do so the Friends of the Ecclesbourne Way are applying to Natural England for a 75% grant of £25,000 to produce the Ecclesbourne Way with improvements up to Alport Height to get the National Trust co-operation but with a comprehensive series of interpretation boards. We’ve noticed these interpretation boards along the course of the River Derwent, not only are they excellent in themselves, but I’ve become aware that visitors are becoming a lot more knowledgeable about what we have to offer in this area. I see many tourists who come here now and both tourists and local people know an awful lot more than they used to and I’m sure these boards help.
There’s so much to see. People will realise I can’t do all of this in one day, they’ll come back as long as we treat them properly and, it may sound cynical, but we’ve got to make the most of them and the resources that we’re given. It’s a challenge to replace all the industries that we’ve lost in the Derwent Valley. Tourism is an excellent way of helping at least partly to replace what’s been lost by way of job opportunities in our area.