I donned my overalls and helmet, switched on my head torch, and acquired my pick axe. I was about to descend into the depths of the Peak District National Park. Whilst they say ‘leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos’ there are a handful of magical exceptions, and I was hoping to leave with an ornamental memento, cut and polished to perfection.
I’d wanted to get under the skin of the Peak District. I hadn’t expected it to happen so literally. We’re all faced with somewhat shortened horizons this year but, as distant destinations become ever-more remote, the possibility of finding new ways to experience familiar places begins to take on a certain allure. Such as mining your own specimens of Blue John stone and turning them into jewellery and ornaments under the tutelage of master craftsmen.
“I’d wanted to get under the skin of the Peak District. I hadn’t expected it to happen so literally”
Timely then, that National Parks UK is offering dozens of hands-on, behind-the-curtain, experiences available through experiences.nationalparks.uk. Combine these with your usual favourite hikes or bike routes through the finest English countryside, and you have all the ingredients for a real deep-dive holiday that can reveal some genuine insight into the places we think we know so well.
What better way to get intimate with a place than by scuttling around its very bedrock and coming up with a shiny piece. Treak Cliff Hill, just above Castleton and with sweeping views of the Hope Valley is the only place in the world where Blue John stone can be found. Treak Cliff Cavern has been owned and mined by the same two families for generations, and one of the Turner family is working a lathe when we arrive, delicately turning what was once a hefty chunk of stone into a translucent chalice.