Well that’s got your attention hasn’t it? More about that later. The same attention was received by all the ladies at the Lathom Abbey Lodge No 6286 Ladies Festival weekend. This year the venue was the Palace Hotel with stunning views over the popular spa town of Buxton in Derbyshire which is on the edge of the Peak District National Park.
Built in 1868, the Palace Hotel is a much loved historical focal point of Buxton’s culture. The exterior was designed by Henry Currey, architect to the Duke of Devonshire during that time and the interior is equally as exquisite.
WM Bill Dutch and his wife Edna warmly welcomed all the guests to the venue on the Friday afternoon before they settled into their accommodation, with time to familiarise themselves with the hotel facilities and surroundings before the evening meal in the Dovedale restaurant.
On the Saturday morning after a substantial breakfast the rest of the day was spent at leisure to explore the many delights of the town and surrounding attractions. Buxton is steeped in history, famous for its natural spring water and Georgian architecture and is home to the Pavilion Gardens which has 23 acres of award winning ornamental landscape. There is a historic Winter Gardens conservatory linking the exquisitely beautiful Edwardian Opera House with restaurants and leisure facilities.
Many of the guests took the opportunity to visit Poole’s Cavern for a personal guided tour. The cavern extends to over 300 metres into the limestone of the hillside above the town. During the tour it was explained that the caves have been explored by Celtic and Roman visitors, medieval outlaws and Elizabethan Royalty. This journey beneath the earth took in crystal stalactites and stalagmites in many interesting formations.
Also situated high above the caves at the top of Buxton Country Park is Solomon’s Temple, (or Grin Low Tower). This is a circular prospect tower with arched windows and a windswept internal staircase which winds up to a viewing platform, from which there is an excellent view of Buxton and the surrounding countryside. Sadly this has nothing to do with King Solomon or any Masonic connection as it was built in 1896 by local farmer Solomon Mycock, as a folly to provide work for the unemployed folk of the surrounding area. This proved an exhilarating and challenging walk for some, taking time to enjoy the woodland spring flowers and the many squirrels frolicking about in the trees. Those guests who were not feeling so energetic took the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll into the town centre for some well-earned retail therapy.
The highlight of the weekend commenced at 5pm with a sparkling wine and photo reception in the foyer before Bill and Edna were formally welcomed into the High Peak Suite for the four course Gala Dinner. The guests were treated to melon plate, mint and pineapple salsa; beef brisket, Yorkshire pudding served with herb crushed new potatoes and panache of vegetables; elderflower pannacotta with peach compote; cheese board platter followed by coffee and chocolate mints.
The evening’s proceedings were in the very capable hands of ADC Jamie Lomax. The ladies toast was presented by John Mercer with great warmth and sincerity. The toast was very well received and was followed by the song to the ladies sung by Bill Weston MBE, who is also the Buxton Town Crier. Bill suitably attired was accompanied on the keyboard by Adam Dutch, eldest son of the hosts. Edna responded on behalf the ladies with a heartfelt speech thanking everyone for attending with a special mention to members and their wives from the many other lodges attending which had helped to make their weekend so very special.
Following the raffle which raised £340 for charitable good causes, the evening continued with dancing to music supplied by the resident DJ who also took the opportunity to perform close up table magic to the spell bound guests.
With the sun firmly shining the following morning the guests having once again enjoyed a hearty breakfast, many took a last stroll around the park before making their way home again after what was a very enjoyable weekend.
And yes, I have not forgotten about that ‘shark’. Whilst visiting the boating lake on the Sunday morning, I your ardent reporter, witnessed a dark fin cutting menacingly through the water, visions of Jaws came to mind and the havoc that could be raised from such a manifestation. But rest assured it was only a remote control model boat made to fool the unwary and controlled from the shore by its owner.