“ Porter Lane, Wirksworth, Derbyshire DE4 4F. Tel: +44(0)1629 824833. „
The National Stone Centre is yet another Derbyshire gem, the centre is situated in Middleton by Wirksworth. The Stone centre lays on land that was once used for quarrying and it is a very interesting place to visit, especially for anyone who is interested in geology. The National Stone centre occupies a massive fifty acres of land and the geological aspects have ensured that the site has become recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. A visit to the site near Wirksworth in Derbyshire is an enjoyable and educational outing for all of the family. On your visit you will learn much about stone and its history. The centre will give you insight into stone ancestry, how stone is used in art form and how the many different types of stone first came into existance. In the UK there is a Dry stone Walling Association. Dry stone walling is an ancient art and it is good to know that there are people who still wish to keep the tradition alive. As we all celebrated the New Millennium some members of the association decided to build a total of nineteen stretches of dry stone wall in honour of the year 2000. The Dry Stone Walling Association craftsmen flocked to The National Stone Centre armed with about ten tons of their local stone to erect a six metre wall that was similar to the walls that were built in their locality. As you walk along the pathway beside the Millennium wall you will notice that all of the six metre dry stone walls have a plaque on them, these plaques tell you all about the style of the wall and which part of the country the stone was brought in from. The stone comes from Scotland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Wales and Yorkshire. All of these walls have been built without using any cement or mortar, the stones are chipped and chiselled until they butt into each other and sit comfortably. If there are any of you who fancy learning the ancient art of dry stone walling then the centre do run hands on courses. On that fifty rambling acres there are many unused lead mine shafts and disused quarries, plus four old lime kilns. This is all great to explore but obviously there is an element of risk so if you have children or pets in tow then make sure that you do not let them out of your sight. On site there is a large Discovery Centre, this is home to the exhibitions and you can collect a free quiz sheet for the children if they are up for it. If you visit the Discovery centre then you can buy A Discovery Trail book, in this small book you get three walks. The three walks all have themes, one is historical, one ecological and the last is geological. It is possible to take a wheelchair or a pushchair around all three of these trails but there are an odd few places where you may have to take extra care. Of course the centre has a gift shop where you can buy all manner of souvenirs including fossils and rocks. If you fancy a cuppa and a cake then you can get one at the centre and the toilets are there too (disabled toilets on site). If you have poor mobility then you can park at the side of the Discovery Centre and this at least gives you access to have a good look around the centre. Inside of the centre you will see some beautiful stone sculptures that have been carved out by experienced wallers. The directions, opening times and entry fees have been taken from the website. By Road: the B5035 from Cromford to Carsington and Ashbourne goes past the door. Cromford, lies on the A6 Derby-Matlock road. Car parking is available at the centre. By Bus: the R61 and 213 buses from Matlock to Derby and Wirksworth respectively stop at the centre. By Train: Cromford station (on the Matlock - Derby line) lies approximately 2km distant. When is it open? The centre is open all year, seven days per week. Summer hours are 10.00am to 5.00pm and winter hours are 10.00am to 4.00pm. What does it cost? Discovery Centre Entry Costs - £1.80 Adult/ 90p Children/ £1.50 Concessions/ £3.60 Family. Phone 01629 824833 for group bookings
The National Stone Centre is situated just outside the small town of Wirksworth in Derbyshire and is well sign-posted with the brown tourist road signs. It is a terrific day out and is suitable for all age groups. There is a large free car park and entrance to the centre is also free. The centre covers the area of six disused quarries and you can now see a typical prehistoric tropical seascape from about 330 million years ago. The area is mostly limestone and an enormous number of fossils can be seen in the rocks, which visitors are asked not to hammer at, or take away. The views over the surrounding countryside are also stunning as you look out over the Derbyshire Peak District. There is a gentle stroll around the area of the quarries and a guide leaflet can be bought for 10p from the visitor centre giving details of the landscape and showing which fossils to look out for. This walk takes about 30 minutes, but we normally take a picnic with us and stop on the way in one of the many ideal spots for looking over the beautiful scenery. During the walk you will see fossil-rich tropical reefs and lagoons, mineral veins, old mine shafts, quarries and panoramic views over the whole area. If you don’t take a picnic and fancy some refreshments after your stroll then drinks and snacks are served in the visitor centre. There is also a shop where you can buy rocks, minerals and fossils, plus a number of other books, gifts and souvenirs. The staff are always very helpful and the centre is kept immaculately clean. Inside the centre there is also a “Story of Stone Exhibition” (Admission: Adults £1.60, Children 80p) which shows how the geology of the area was formed and how the rock was quarried and for what uses. However, the biggest attraction at the centre always seems to be the panning. In the visitor centre you can pay 50p and get a container of sand (with minerals) and a panning dish. Outside there are shallow pa nning ponds and you pan your way through the sand using the water and the dish to see what minerals you can find. You are also given a sealable plastic bag to keep all your gems in, to take home with you. This is one of the best 50p’s you will ever spend. It becomes very competitive to see who is the best gold prospector, and the staff ensure that there are plenty of gems to be found in each load of sand. You won’t get wet yourself as the ponds have been raised and you can sit on the wooden edge surrounding the ponds and merrily pan away. After your panning experience you can take a short walk along the High Peak Trail, for about half a mile to a narrow gauge railway and have a very bumpy ride along the track which is about three-quarters of a mile long. At the end the volunteers running the line tell you the history of the track and the area before an equally bumpy ride back. On the edge of the car park at the Stone Centre there is an old diesel railway engine that children can investigate and climb all over, then a short walk in the other direction are a number of old railway sidings that are a delight for youngsters to explore. During the Summer there are a number of special events organised at weekends and during the week there are facilities for school parties to visit and also have activities planned for them. To mark the Millennium a collection of stone from all over the country was brought to the centre to build a Millennium Wall. This wall contains stone from eighteen different parts of the country and is believed to be the most extensive collection of vernacular dry stone walls in Britain. Each section is six metres long and was constructed by the members of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain. One member of the Association travelled all the way from Orkney to help build their part of the wall. Overall a visit to the National Stone Centre is always interesting and enjoyable because of the variety of activities that appeal to all age groups and all interests from fun panning to serious geological studies. We always enjoy our visits and as a free attraction it must rate very highly on the “must” list of anyone visiting this part of Derbyshire. PS. I am the best gold “panner” in our family!