Friday, 18 October 2013

A Buzz About Buxton


Monday 9th September

The sun was shining and Buxton was buzzing - two potentially rare events in this frontier town of the High Peak. Yet today the vibe was good, the sun was hot and - cue drum roll - I actually had to take my coat off! But, more importantly, I have a feeling that in the next few years Buxton is going to go from strength to strength.

Work is well underway on the regeneration of The Crescent - a small scale rival to the famous landmark in Bath - which will hopefully attract and accommodate even more visitors as a quality hotel and spa so that people will, once again, be able to come to Buxton to 'take the waters'. For decades all the therapeutic offerings of this spa town, whose origins go back to Roman times, had no longer been available beyond coming to collect water from the well that flows freely just opposite The Crescent and which is celebrated in the annual well-dressing ceremony every summer. Besides this new development there is also a very good spa to be found at the Dome complex (formerly the stables to the Duke of Devonshire) which is now home to the University of Derby and as such the spa is a training ground for students. Do not let this put you off - I have enjoyed two superb body massages there for a fraction of the price of your average spa, so no complaints from me.

The Cavendish Arcade has always been my favourite part of Buxton, ever since I first arrived in the High Peak a decade ago. It is flanked by the green of the Slopes on one side and by the attractive Pavilion Gardens and Opera House on another. The building was Buxton's original Thermal Baths built in 1854 (the original stained glass vaulted ceiling and plunge bath remain) and, for me, represents the heart of Buxton. During the boom years of the early 2,000s, the owner of the Arcade doubled his rental prices overnight. Sadly many shops were forced out of business and the Arcade lost its positive vibe. Looking around me today, I do believe that things are looking up. 

The old stalwarts of Unique Feet, Minimo, Atticus Boo, Jantar and Charlotte's chocolates are still going strong and some interesting newcomers have moved in. Take Wild Olive, a small family run company making handmade soaps, candles and body products in Derbyshire, which has just opened a flagship store in the Arcade. It is super modern, super stylish with its clean displays and smooth white, wood and glass interior, bringing a dash of Harvey Nichols to this old lady of a spa town! Then there is Makepiece whose strap line is 'from sheep to chic'. They make beautiful clothes using natural yarns from sustainable farming. Their website goes on to say 'Undyed and natural dyed options. Low impact manufacture. Fair employment. Working to be carbon neutral.' You can't get much more green than that. And on the subject of which, their neighbours both have Eco credentials too: first there is Eco Republic - another interesting store offering a host of eco and fair trade products; and then there is Minibugs Boutique which makes claims to have 'fun things for fun kids'. Their window certainly looks very appealing and they have stylish one-off brands such as Frugi, Aya Naya, Childs Farm and Green People. Worth a look I think.

And then, when all this rather tempting shopping has been explored, you can sit down and watch the world go by with an excellent cappuccino and a handmade chocolate or two at Charlotte's - just as you find me now. Ah yes, and with a couple of groovy new bars round the back of the Cavendish also hotting up Buxton's nightlife, I feel that this Grande Dame of the High Peak has finally picked up her skirts and is running again. How nice.

Charlotte's Chocolatiers...

 

Forget-Me-Not interiors...



Entrance to the historic arcade...



Pretty floral displays....



And yet more green credentials...









The stunning stained-glass roof...



Unique Feet...



Minimo for designer clothes...



The inviting threshold of Wild-Olive...


Jantar's jewellery and polish pottery...



Atticus Boo's present heaven...

 
 
Restoration and renovation is underway for The Crescent Hotel and Spa...



The thermal waters for which Buxton is famous...

2 comments:

mountainear said...

Delighted to see things are looking up for Buxton at last. It always seemed such a shabby genteel sort of place just crying out for an injection of 'oomph' and some sympathetic restoration.

Used to love getting the train - seem to remember that Buxton was at the end of the line? - and admiring its past elegance.

HER ON THE HILL said...

Hi Mountaineer - indeed Buxton is the end if the line! Good to see her fortunes being revived a but.

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