Derbyshire Wildlife Trust opens café at restored Matlock Bath station

Ellen Fineran, left, Bertie the Badger and project partners celebrate the opening of the Whistlestop Caf� at Matlock Bath station.
Ellen Fineran, left, Bertie the Badger and project partners celebrate the opening of the Whistlestop Caf� at Matlock Bath station.

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.

The former station has an unusual 'chalet' style, inspired by the idea that Matlock Bath was like a Little Switzerland.

The former station has an unusual 'chalet' style, inspired by the idea that Matlock Bath was like a Little Switzerland.

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.

Railway historian Glynn Waite has helped to tell the story of the station on the caf� walls.

Railway historian Glynn Waite has helped to tell the story of the station on the caf� walls.

“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.

The caf� is open every day, 10am to 4pm, serving teas and homemade cakes.

The caf� is open every day, 10am to 4pm, serving teas and homemade cakes.

“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.”

Emma Dickinson-Wood in the nature garden outside the centre.

Emma Dickinson-Wood in the nature garden outside the centre.