Last weekend I was in the Peak District with my local rambling club when we visited Bakewell, home of the famous Tart, or is it a pudding? More of that later.
I joined the ‘B’ party and we started our walk from the beautiful village of Ashford-in-the-water.
We headed westwards along the valley following the River Wye.
We climbed up through some woodland before dropping down to Monsal Dale.
We then had another stretch of riverside walking until the railway viaduct came into view.
Monsal Dale was eroded by glacial meltwater during the last ice age, forming a gorge through layers of limestone that were deposited 350 million years ago.
The Headstone Viaduct at Monsal Head was built in 1863 on the Derby to Manchester section of the Midland Railway. It is 300 feet long and has five 50 foot span arches making it one of the most impressive viaducts in Britain.
It the time of its construction the viaduct and the railway came in for a lot of criticism, notably from John Ruskin, a leading poet of the time.
He said “The valley is gone – and now any fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour and every fool on Bakewell in Buxton”
However the viaduct became one of the railways best selling points and appeared on many of its posters.
Eventually when the railway was closed there was talk of dismantling the viaduct but there was lots of opposition to this and in 1970 a preservation order was placed on the structure.
Just before we reached the viaduct we took a path to the left and climbed up to the viaduct and walked across it.
There were pleasant views looking down on Monsal Dale and the path along which we had just walked.
We were now on the Monsal Trail which follows the route of the dismantled railway track. The line ran for 8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill in Chee dale and Coombs Viaduct in Bakewell. The majority of the route was opened in 1981 but four of the tunnels had to remain closed for ‘Health and safety’ reasons. However in May 2011 these tunnels each 400 yards long were finally opened to the public with lighting installed.
We did not walk through the tunnel but followed the steep path just before the entrance to climb up to Monsal Head where we paused for lunch.
Suitably refreshed we started on our return journey with a short diversion through Little Longstone before re-joining the Monsal Trail.
It was easy walking and you felt that you ought to be able to relax, but you had to keep your wits about you. The trail is very popular with cyclists. Some of them have very expensive bikes, lightweight frames and 27 gears minimum. Unfortunately they never have room for a bell!. Perhaps it would be too heavy. Most of them slow down when they are passing you, but not all of them.
Nearer to Bakewell we left the trail and followed an old drovers route entering Bakewell over the old packhorse bridge.
We had plenty of time for refreshments and I tried a pint of Bakewell Best Bitter 4.2 %, brewed by Peak Ales. A refreshing amber coloured ale with a dry and bitter taste and flavours of roasted malt and hops.
It is almost impossible to visit Bakewell without sampling the famous cake. But is it a Tart or is it a Pudding?
Bakewell Tart and Bakewell Pudding
Bakewell Tart, on the left, consists of a shortcrust pastry base with a layer of jam and a sponge using ground almonds. Using shortcrust pastry, cover with a layer of jam, add a mixture of eggs, sugar, ground almonds and margarine. Fill the base with your ingredients an sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake in a warm oven.
A Bakewell Pudding although containing the same ingredients, looks and tastes different. It is thought that it was first made by accident. In 1860.Mrs Greaves, the landlady of the White Horse Inn was expecting some important guests and she left instructions for her cook to prepare a jam tart. But the inexperienced cook, instead of stirring the egg and almond paste mixture into the pastry spread it on top of the jam. During cooking the jam bubbled up to the top and the texture was different.
There are loads of shops all proclaiming to use the original recipe. I could not decide which to buy so I bought both, purely for research purposes. I bought the large size just to make sure.
So far I have sampled both cold with afternoon tea. Tonight I will have them warm with custard. There should be enough left to try them with ice cream later in the week.
Which one do I prefer. I can’t decide. They are both delicious.
There is a lot of discussion even in Bakewell as to ‘When is a Bakewell Tart a Tart and when is it a pudding. The easiest way to differentiate is a Bakewell Tart is made with shortcrust pastry and a Bakewell Pudding with Puff pastry.