In 1926, one of the 20th century’s greatest authors wrote in a letter ‘...go to Eastwood, where I was born and lived for my first 21 years. Go to Walker Street and stand in front of the third house – and look across at Crich on the left ... and I know that view better than any in the world.’ This was the scene that DH Lawrence considered ‘The Country of my Heart’
At last they came into the straggling grey village of Crich that lies high. Beyond the village was the famous Crich Stand that Paul could see from his garden at home.
Lawrence obviously enjoyed taking the train to Alfreton and then walking on to Crich, because he describes such an outing in vivid detail in his semi-autobiographical novel, Sons and Lovers.In the story, his hero, Paul Morel, and a group of friends make this excursion.
From Alfreton, they walk to Wingfield Manor which they enter for sixpence. Then they amble on and across a meadow ‘that sloped away from the sun’ and was ‘bathed in a glory of sunshine, and the path was jewelled’. One wonders if they passed through what is now Devonshire Gardens. Couldn’t that development have been named after this famous episode with its streets bearing names like Paul Morel Close, rather than the title Harron Homes chose? I’m sure the residents would have it found it more intriguing.
Anyway, ‘At last they came into the straggling grey village of Crich that lies high. Beyond the village was the famous Crich Stand that Paul could see from his garden at home.’ We must imagine them walking on up past the church, almost certainly having a peep inside, because Paul’s girl, Miriam, loved looking in churches. We would recognise the description of Crich Stand and the view across Matlock and Ambergate, though the Stand itself was ‘sturdy and squat’. We would certainly recognise the wind ‘blowing so hard, high up there in the exposed place, that the only way to be safe was to stand nailed by the wind to the wall of the tower’.
From there they walked down to Whatstandwell, where they bought a ‘loaf and a currant-loaf’ and sat on the wall near the bridge ‘watching the bright Derwent rushing by’. We get a sense of how busy a tourist spot this was 100 years ago. Lawrence describes the ‘brakes’ from Matlock pulling up at the inn and the crowded excursion trains from Manchester, Birmingham and London.
And then Lawrence gave the name of Gerald Crich to one of the central characters in Women in Love. He would doubtless have approved of the choice of Oliver Reed to play him in Ken Russell’s 1969 film version. In case you’ve forgotten – think of Alan Bates and Oliver Reed nude-wrestling.
It’s amazing what thoughts a visit to Crich can conjure up!