I seem to be way behind writing about my time away; there was so much to tell. My second day of ‘do as you please’ I planned on spending in Buxton. While not technically ‘in’ the Dales, the hills wrap themselves around the little town and there are a good many ancient sites in the area… as well as the historic and gracious architecture of the spa town itself.
It was the town that was my goal though, another day of fact-finding was on the cards, trying to find out a little about the possibilities of employment in the area. However, the town itself is an ancient site, with a history stretching back into the shadowy past. The name, Buxton, may refer back to a rocking stone or ‘buck’ stone… or it might have another meaning. The Romans occupied the area and their name for the place, Aquae Arnemetiae, the ‘spa of the goddess of the grove’, tells us why.
I have to wonder about that grove, though. Did it refer to a sacred grove of trees as one might expect, or perhaps to the cavern full of stalactite and stalagmites? Poole’s Cavern, named for a notorious highwayman has been used by man since the earliest times. Above it is a vantage point known as Solomon’s Temple, which is built on the site of a prehistoric barrow and, when excavated, revealed a number of crouched burials.
Buxton is famed for its healing waters. A geothermal spring feeds St Ann’s Well and is bottled for sale worldwide. The architecture of the town reflects its popularity as a spa over the past couple of centuries. Brought back into fashion by the fifth Duke of Devonshire in the late 1700s, the town attracted the gentry who came to ‘take the waters’ …and to be seen doing so.
The elegant Crescent and Pump Room are currently under renovation, barricaded behind hoardings and scaffolding, but there are plenty of other relics of the Georgian and Victorian passion for splendour still to enjoy, as well as the huge Pavillion and its gardens. On a nice day, it is a lovely place to wander.
And it was a nice day when I arrived… a gentle, sunny day, poised somewhere between summer and autumn, just as I was poised between one age and another, for it was my birthday when I was there and, though according to my mother I had arrived just in time for tea, I was in Buxton well before lunch.
It wasn’t helping me stay hopeful about future employment though. Ageism is as rife as it is ridiculous… the older end of the staff pool tends to have the more experienced swimmers, but youth, in our culture, sells better than age.
I did my best rooting through the employment opportunities, finding several possible avenues in the area to explore when the time came, but nothing concrete. That was okay; I was also just enjoying the day.
There was one shop I wanted to have a rummage in, after I’d finished looking through the antique shops and that was an intriguing vintage clothing emporium, glimpsed on a previous visit. It occupies a large mezzanine affair above the suspended bathing chair in which visitors used to be able to immerse themselves in the waters.
Wandering up the stairs was like walking into a clothing museum for the twentieth century…every period was represented, just hung on racks where you could look, touch, try and buy. All the horrors of the ‘decade taste forgot’ nestle next to Dynastian shoulder pads and flapper’s dresses from the Roaring Twenties.
I think the gentleman behind the counter could see my delight and came over to talk. Not to sell, though doubtless he would have been happy to oblige… he too had a real delight in his wares. We must have talked for the best part of an hour before my phone rang and I had to leave. By then he had told me about his other branches and the new shop he was opening and we threw some ideas around about supplying theatre costumes…and offered me a job on the spot!
Now okay, the hours he was offering wouldn’t keep a mouse in cheese, let alone Ani…or a roof over our heads… but that didn’t matter. On a day when I had been looking into future opportunities and worrying about how my age might play against me, I had been offered a job. That was good enough…and about as good a gift as I could have been given. I explained my position… he gave me his card and told me to call when I was ready. So I left Buxton on a real high to get ready for a celebratory dinner.