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Pan For Gold.
National Stone Centre (Derbyshire)
Member Name: daseaford
National Stone Centre (Derbyshire)
Date: 12/12/00, updated on 15/02/02 (198 review reads)
Advantages: Great Family Day Out
Disadvantages: A little walk
There is a large free car park and entrance to the centre is also free. The centre covers the area of six disused quarries and you can now see a typical prehistoric tropical seascape from about 330 million years ago. The area is mostly limestone and an enormous number of fossils can be seen in the rocks, which visitors are asked not to hammer at, or take away. The views over the surrounding countryside are also stunning as you look out over the Derbyshire Peak District.
There is a gentle stroll around the area of the quarries and a guide leaflet can be bought for 10p from the visitor centre giving details of the landscape and showing which fossils to look out for. This walk takes about 30 minutes, but we normally take a picnic with us and stop on the way in one of the many ideal spots for looking over the beautiful scenery.
During the walk you will see fossil-rich tropical reefs and lagoons, mineral veins, old mine shafts, quarries and panoramic views over the whole area.
If you don’t take a picnic and fancy some refreshments after your stroll then drinks and snacks are served in the visitor centre. There is also a shop where you can buy rocks, minerals and fossils, plus a number of other books, gifts and souvenirs. The staff are always very helpful and the centre is kept immaculately clean. Inside the centre there is also a “Story of Stone Exhibition” (Admission: Adults £1.60, Children 80p) which shows how the geology of the area was formed and how the rock was quarried and for what uses.
However, the biggest attraction at the centre always seems to be the panning. In the visitor centre you can pay 50p and get a container of sand (with minerals) and a panning dish. Outside there are shallow pa
nning ponds and you pan your way through the sand using the water and the dish to see what minerals you can find. You are also given a sealable plastic bag to keep all your gems in, to take home with you. This is one of the best 50p’s you will ever spend. It becomes very competitive to see who is the best gold prospector, and the staff ensure that there are plenty of gems to be found in each load of sand. You won’t get wet yourself as the ponds have been raised and you can sit on the wooden edge surrounding the ponds and merrily pan away.
After your panning experience you can take a short walk along the High Peak Trail, for about half a mile to a narrow gauge railway and have a very bumpy ride along the track which is about three-quarters of a mile long. At the end the volunteers running the line tell you the history of the track and the area before an equally bumpy ride back.
On the edge of the car park at the Stone Centre there is an old diesel railway engine that children can investigate and climb all over, then a short walk in the other direction are a number of old railway sidings that are a delight for youngsters to explore.
During the Summer there are a number of special events organised at weekends and during the week there are facilities for school parties to visit and also have activities planned for them.
To mark the Millennium a collection of stone from all over the country was brought to the centre to build a Millennium Wall. This wall contains stone from eighteen different parts of the country and is believed to be the most extensive collection of vernacular dry stone walls in Britain. Each section is six metres long and was constructed by the members of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain. One member of the Association travelled all the way from Orkney to help build their part of the wall.
Overall a visit to the National Stone Centre is always interesting and enjoyable because of
the variety of activities that appeal to all age groups and all interests from fun panning to serious geological studies.
We always enjoy our visits and as a free attraction it must rate very highly on the “must” list of anyone visiting this part of Derbyshire.
PS. I am the best gold “panner” in our family!