Derby, the Roman town of Derventio, one of the five boroughs of the Danelaw and one of the birth places of the Industrial Revolution, is located on the banks of the River Derwent about 20 miles from the furthest point from the sea in the UK. More importantly to me, Derby is my hometown (well a town nearby is) and where my parents live and so, early last month we headed over for the day to explore the city’s new ‘Museum of Making’ and ‘Ram Trail’.
Having set off from home fairly early, our first stop after arriving in Derby was to find some brunch and after a quick search online, the name BEAR kept appearing. Located on Iron Gate, just down from the cathedral, BEAR is a small chain of coffee shops that “is all about great coffee and delicious food”. In my opinion, they’ve got that description spot on, as the coffee was good and the food delicious.
I opted for pancakes with fruit and a ‘hand brew’ coffee and my dish arrived piled with four pancakes and more than enough fruit to fill me for the morning, whilst the coffee was just what I needed to get going. BEAR was also reasonably priced for a city centre restaurant with all the dishes on their brunch menu costing £9 or less. All in all, with drinks, our meal came to about £25.
After brunch it was a short walk to our next stop, the recently opened ‘Museum of Making’ which is housed in Derby’s former silk mill. This museum, as the name suggests, celebrates Derby’s history of making things, from the days the silk mill and others in the Derwent Valley World Heritage site were active, to the modern day jet engines being made by Rolls Royce not far from the city centre.
Derby is also one of Britain’s key railway towns, with Network Rail’s Railway Technical Centre and Bombadier’s Litchurch Lane factory still based in the town. The city is also a cross-roads of the railway as the Midland mainline, Derby to Birmingham line and services from a number of smaller lines all meet. The history of the railways, and the importance of the Midland Railway to the city are also celebrated within the Museum of Making.
The Museum of Making is also home to a model railway (which unfortunately wasn’t in operation during our visit), as well as a workshop, studio and workspace that are available for use by the city’s creators. The museum is completely free to enter (although there are charges for some special exhibits), although currently an entry slot needs to be booked as part of the Covid protocols. Whilst there’s a café within the museum, there’s also a lovely square outside next to the river which provides a great view of the cathedral, so why not take a picnic, and enjoy the scenery!
The other activity we wanted to do whilst in Derby was to follow the city’s Ram Trail and see the 30 colourful ram sculptures dotted around the city centre. Whilst Derby isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last to have a trail of colourful creatures around the city centre (Cambridge currently has Cows and Lincoln is soon to have Imps), it is the first time Derby has had such a trail and as we followed the trail, it was great to see other people getting involved too.
Officially the trail starts and finishes outside the other city museum, the ‘Derby Museum and Art Gallery’, however you can start anywhere and see the rams in any order. Be prepared for some walking as we covered about 6km in the order we did them, although we did opt to reach the station via a more circuitous route by the river rather than cover the planned route twice. Each ram also has a sign providing details of the sponsor and the artist, whilst the Ram Trail website also provides lots of detail about the artists and an explanation of the design of each Ram.
It took us about 90 minutes to two hours to cover the full trail, but you can obviously take it at your own pace. There is a Ram Trail app which lets you ‘collect’ the rams whilst also providing a live map showing you how to get to the nearest rams. If you want to take a look at the rams, they are on display until 22nd August. Once the trail ends, the rams will initially come together for a ‘Ram-union’ at the start of September (3rd-5th) before being auctioned off to raise money for the Derby Museums Endowment Fund.
Whilst our visit on this occasion focused on the Museum of Making and the Ram Trail, there’s plenty more to do in Derby and the city is a great place to base yourself for a week or more in the midlands. All Saints’ Church, which became Derby Cathedral in 1927 is a mix of 16th, 18th and 20th century architecture and is home to the oldest ring of ten bells in the world. The cathedral is currently open between 1100-1500 Monday to Saturday and between 1300-1600 on Sundays, but make sure to check before visiting.
Derby is also a great place to access the peak district, with hourly bus and rail services connecting the city to the Towns of Matlock and Bakewell as well as the tourist sites at Cromford and Matlock Bath. There’s even a ‘Derbyshire Wayfarer’ day ticket which allows unlimited travel on most bus & rail services in Derbyshire as well as some that venture into the neighbouring counties.
Derby really is a city well worth a visit, so why not make your way to the midlands this summer and have an explore whilst searching for some rams. Remember, Derby does it Better!