Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has officially opened its café and discovery centre in Matlock Bath, breathing new life into a much-loved old building.
The charity held a celebration event at the Whistlestop on Thursday, April 11, to mark the end of a six-month restoration project.
Built as a railway station in 1849, the trust has occupied the building since the 1980s, but it is the first time in more than a decade that it has had a permanent, public use.
Head of commercial development Ellen Fineran said: “It’s a beautiful building and there has been a real transformation. The reaction has been amazing already. People love this building. We used to get a lot of emails asking what was happening with it, now everyone is coming in and saying ‘wow’.”
The restoration has involved an extensive restoration of the Grade II-listed interiors and exteriors.
Ellen said: “The roof was the most complex thing. I don’t know how old it was, but the building was in danger of becoming derelict because it was in such a shocking state.
“Once that was done, we were able to put in new central heating, wood burners, and start painting , woodwork repairs and work on the retail area.”
She added: “We’ve had to be sensitive to its history. At times we were tearing our hair out, but it’s worth to it create a new gateway for visitors. I think we’ve preserved its integrity and its beauty.”
The café has been decorated with old rail paraphernalia which illuminates the station’s history, thanks to Network Rail, East Midlands Trains, Cross Country, and ACoRP.
Ellen said: “We’ve had lots of help from local rail buffs too, especially Glynn Waite. They have so much amazing knowledge and material.
“We have even been given an Edwardian clock which was a retirement present for one of the former station managers. Someone had bought it on eBay from a seller in Scotland, but it still has the inscription in it.”
The project has also been supported by Derbyshire Dales District Council, Derbyshire County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Ellen said: “It’s in a perfect spot to stop for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, plus children’s activities, information about the area and its wildlife.
“The income it generates will fund our conservation work, and it’s a great way for us to meet the public and tell them about what we do.”