While Donald Trump might be well known now for putting his name all over his buildings, he certainly isn’t the first to do so. Head back to the Elizabethan period and you can find another example of someone who wanted you to know who they were. Bess of Hardwick had an interesting life that led her to be one of the more powerful people in England. Indeed her daughter could conceivably have been queen. That wasn’t to be but Bess acquired a substantial estate and built an impressive house on it.
Hardwick Hall is just outside Chesterfield (home to a church with a twisted spire that is worthy of a post of its own if I had only got close enough to get a shot of it). There is a new Hall and an old Hall. The new hall is only new in relative terms but it is a grand affair. For fans of the Harry Potter movies, it is Malfoy Manor although a certain amount of CGI added elements to the actual structure. You approach along a road that loops around the back of the house and gives you plenty of time to appreciate its grandeur. Once you are closer, you walk through a small enclosure of estate buildings and past the ruins of the old hall. They were both used at the same time but the old hall fell out of use and has deteriorated accordingly.
We only briefly looked inside but there was a great introductory talk about the history of Bess and the hall which was well worthwhile. We also got to look around the grounds and also appreciate the view over the valley below. Until the M1 was built, I imagine the view was pretty unspoiled! The building itself has an inordinate amount of window space for its time. This was a statement of how important Bess thought herself to be and if you look to the roofline, her initials are all along the tops of the walls. I guess she wasn’t a shy person.
As we left the house at Chatsworth, we walked along the river that led back to where we had started our walk from. It is a pretty large river and has a strong flow including a cool weir. Shortly before we got back to the car, we came across an old mill house. I am not sure whether the river has realigned over time or whether there was a strong flow down from above that is no longer in place but there was once a working mill in this location.
The stone walls of the building are still in good shape. The roof and any other wooden elements have pretty much gone at this point. Inside the building you can still see some of the iron work and the remnants of the axle of the waterwheel. There are gaps in the walls that show where other parts of the building were once located. The entrances are closed off so it isn’t possible to get in to the building. The wildlife obviously finds a way in. A sheep was quietly using the walls as shelter while we were there.
Plenty of people have rock gardens. When you have a country estate, the scale of your thinking can change. A rock garden now turns in to something that is a little more grand than average with rocks that should really be classified as boulders. We were actually beginning to wrap up our visit to the gardens at Chatsworth when we came through the rock garden. This place would be phenomenal if you are a kid. So many places to climb on and jump across. The opportunities for bumps and bruises would be many but it would be so worth it.
Exploring the grounds of Chatsworth House took us to places we had not seen on previous visits. Even if you exclude the majority of the estate and just focus on the organized garden areas, there are so many parts to see that it is easy to overlook them. This is why, despite having been to Chatsworth on a number of occasions, this time I saw areas that I had not seen before. One of these was the Grotto Pond.
Because this area is one of the furthest away from the main house, the number of people making their way that far out is pretty small. It is not deserted by any means but it is pretty quiet. This is ideal given how tranquil the setting is. It was very easy to just stand and look. Given how far out in the country you are, there isn’t much background noise so you can let your mind wander…
If you have a big country house, you will be housing a lot of people. No doubt, there will also be times when you will host a large gathering. You need to be able to feed everyone. The estate produces a lot so it will cover many needs but the kitchen also has to have its own garden. Located a short distance from the main house and slightly up the hill, Chatsworth’s kitchen garden is very extensive. It has a lot of space and many different types of food in production.
As with everything else about a place like Chatsworth, function does not override form. The gardens are laid out beautifully and with structure. They are functioning still yet they are a place worthy of visit just for the appearance. Some areas are restricted to keep the visitors from inconveniencing everything too much but much of the space is fully open to wander through. The staff is busy but were willing to talk if you had questions.
The Peak District is a pretty area and, if you are staying in a pretty area, you really need to have a pretty hotel. Nancy searched out a place for us and came up with the Peacock Hotel. This is obviously an old hotel but it is certainly not showing its age (unless you count trying to find power outlets where you want them – there are some things that older places do have a problem with!).
The hotel had a variety of areas that could be used. Aside from the rooms, there was a nice hall area in which you could sit and relax if you wished to. There was also a nice little bar area which you could use ahead of going to the restaurant or in which you could eat from a pretty impressive menu. There was a little nook in the bar which we adopted while we were there.
The outside had a nice garden area that would have been nice to sit out in if the weather had been a bit warmer. The garden actually extended quite a way along the river and a little exploring took you down to some farm fields that were just beyond an old rail bridge that is now disused. I had a nice time exploring some of the gardens prior to heading out for some hiking.
As country estates go, Chatsworth House is probably up there as one of the more grand ones. Seat of the Duke of Devonshire, the estate is substantial and the house and grounds are quite something. We have visited on a number of occasions including touring the interior. While I don’t normally bother with the insides of these places, Chatsworth is certainly one that should be experienced. Some parts of the interior are quite stunning. This is not a collection of musty furniture that some long deceased monarch once slept on. This is a grandiose place.
This trip did not include an interior tour though. This was part of a hike that took us in to the grounds. It is fair to say that the distance we walked inside the grounds was actually longer than the rest of the hike but that is an example of how extensive they are. I will post separately about some aspects of the grounds as there are many different places that might fill up a single post. We had never explored the grounds so extensively before so some of these parts were new to us.
The house itself is a very grand structure. Located along the river with an attractive bridge leading you there, the setting is very impressive. Much of the surrounding countryside is elevated relative to the house so wherever you are, you get a view down to it. The effect is to remind you regularly of just how grand it is!
Imagine a stereotypical village in the Derbyshire Peak District – the sort of thing that might be snow covered on a Christmas card. The type of place that you think doesn’t really exist anymore other than in the minds of artists striving for some sort of tranquil setting for their work. Guess what – it does exist. Situated on the Chatsworth estate and right in the path of our hike is the village of Edensor. This is England so, of course, it isn’t pronounced the way it is spelt. It sounds more like Enzor.
As you walk down off the hills, you see the church spire in the distance so it isn’t hard to know where you are going. The village is small – a group of buildings off the main road through the estate. It appears to be a combination of converted large estate buildings and houses for the estate workers. Everything is built from stone and the lawns and roadsides are all beautifully maintained. I don’t know whether there are rules about how well you have to keep your garden or if it is just social pressure that does the trick but the place is immaculate.
We came in alongside the churchyard and walked down past some lovely houses. On one side appeared to be a converted stable block which was not accessible to the general public and on the other was a tea room but we did not check that out. This was just somewhere we were walking through en route to the main house at Chatsworth. I imagine on a sunny summer day Edensor is packed with people visiting. A slightly cloudy September makes for a far more peaceful visit.