Spring in Derbyshire

Spring in Derbyshire

“So what shall we do for the Easter hols?” I asked my husband a few weeks ago. “How about camping?” he said, and before I could ask if he was kidding or something, he also said the magic words: camping in Derbyshire.

I do like camping, don’t get me wrong, but camping in April is not exactly my cup of tea. Still, I’d happily put up with almost anything for the chance to go back to my most favourite part of the world!

So earlier this month we did go camping in Derbyshire. I have to admit that when I got up at some ungodly hour in the morning, I might have muttered “Bloody hell, there’s ice on this tent!!!” But ice or no ice, it was worth it! Some of us had a whale of a time cycling (Derbyshire has some of the best cycling tracks I’ve ever seen, converted from disused railways). And some of us went to Pemberley of course – and a few other gorgeous places.

One of those was Bakewell. Jane Austen is said to have visited it in 1811. Cars and buses aside, she might have recognised the main road and the Rutland Arms Hotel at the far end.

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The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop – not so much. It was established after her time, in the 1860s.

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The Bakewell Pudding Factory looks old enough to have been around in 1811, although perhaps as a coaching inn rather than a tourist attraction.

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From Bakewell there’s a couple mile’s walk to Ashford-in-the-Water, a gorgeous little village, a gem in itself. But it has one more claim to fame: the stone that was used to decorate the elaborate Baroque chapel at Chatsworth had been quarried from here.

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The village is recorded as Aisseford in the Domesday Book. It grew around a ford over the River Wye on an ancient trading route known as the Portway, established in Roman times.

Other than the odd aerial poking up on top, the cottages look like they haven’t changed much in 200 years.

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Some look like they haven’t changed at all.

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Neither has the medieval packhorse bridge, built over the Wye near the site of the old ford.

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Until recently, sheep were brought to be washed in the river before being sheared, and were penned in the stonewalled enclosures on the left. The ewes, with halters around their necks, were pushed into the water, ducked and made to swim downstream, to rejoin their lambs on the bank.

The Derbyshire tradition of well-dressing is kept in Ashford as well as in a few other places (one of the most notable ones is Tissington, some 10 – 15 miles south as the crow flies). Intricate pictures are made pressing alder cones, flower petals, moss and other natural materials into a background of wet clay. Several wells are dressed in Ashford for Trinity Sunday and remain in place for about a week. If you ever find yourself in Derbyshire at well-dressing time (usually in May) and you can tear yourself from Pemberley, then Tissington and Ashford are certainly worth a visit.

In my case, I don’t think I could have stayed away from Pemberley for very long. I went to Lyme Park first and, unlike my visit last summer, this time the weather was absolutely glorious. Which was great – but it also meant that visitors were not driven indoors by the rain, so getting a people-free shot was a bit of a challenge. I wasn’t alone in that. There was a gentleman with a tripod and a very fancy camera, a lovely lady visiting from the US with her daughter and several others milling around on the far side of the lake and groaning in frustration nearly as much as I did when, at the crucial moment, just as a group was ever so slooooooowly walking out of the shot, another group happened to pop out from underneath the arches and stopped right there to chat or check the map or rummage in their rucksacks.

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After a while I just gave up hunting for the elusive people-free photo and sat down to absorb the beauty of it all rather than huff and puff my way through the day.

I had better luck later, with the Dutch garden,

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and also with the spot where Mr Darcy stood to see Elizabeth and the Gardiners off,

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or where he was shown riding towards Lambton, little knowing what a fine mess he would find there.

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Somehow it was easier at Chatsworth. The place is so vast and full of grandeur that you can barely notice the people wandering through the grounds or the cars parked where by rights you should see gilded carriages.

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Chatsworth is a truly amazing place with a wealth of history. The stunning Painted Hall took my breath away 1504150306_s, but no less than the thought that, unlike so many others, this grand estate has survived all the challenges that hundreds of years had thrown at it, is still owned by the family who built it, and they share it with the rest of us in so many inspired ways and with such welcoming grace!

Amongst other things, I learned that the name of the ever so famous Duchess is pronounced ‘Geor-jay-nah’. I wonder if that’s the case for Georgiana Darcy too, if that’s the way the name was pronounced at the time. Surely not! It doesn’t sound quite right for Miss Darcy – not to me anyway.

I wasn’t thinking of Chatsworth when I wrote the camellia scene in my first book, ‘From This Day Forward – The Darcys of Pemberley’ (a scene where Elizabeth awakes in their London home to find a camellia on her pillow, in the middle of winter). But it was a lovely surprise to discover that camellias have a special place at Chatsworth. The old hothouse shelters a wonderful collection, and as early as April they are blooming in the gardens too.

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I wish I had visited Chatsworth a little later in the year. Magnolias looked like they were just about to burst into flower, and the flowerbeds held fantastic promise but they were still pretty bare. It was just narcissi and daffodils that bloomed everywhere, dotting the grounds in specs of white and gold.

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Many learned people still debate whether Jane Austen was inspired by Chatsworth in creating Pemberley. She might have been – or not. But one look at the grounds was enough to show that Mrs. Gardiner might easily have spoken of Chatsworth when she said: “If it were merely a fine house richly furnished, I should not care about it myself; but the grounds are delightful. They have some of the finest woods in the country.”

I also wonder if Jane Austen might have seen a display like this one when she wrote: “There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines and peaches soon collected them round the table.”

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You must have seen plenty of images from Chatsworth by now, but maybe you’d like a glimpse of a few more.

Bedchambers with all the mod-cons (some of which are tucked away in something that to the unsuspecting eye looks like a wardrobe):

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Other bedchambers with Edwardian mod-cons:

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Something that looks like a gravy-boat might seem out of place in a bedroom – but of course we know it was not used as a gravy-boat 😉

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The dining room looked stunning too, although the tablecloth and the eye-catching display had nothing ‘Regency’ about them.

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And of course, at the far end, we can glimpse the exquisite sculpture gallery. Mr. Darcy’s bust is no longer there. It holds pride of place next door, in the Orangery Shop. I wish the portrait commissioned for the 1995 P&P was as faithful a representation of the original as this bust is – or at least that it was kept at the property!

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Which brings me to my final stop on the Pemberley tour: Sudbury Hall. Sadly, the music room is bare these days. It was only furnished for the adaptation. But they’ve recently acquired a beautiful Broadwood square piano and it’s placed exactly where Georgiana sat down to play, while our favourite couple exchanged ‘The Look’.

I’ve always wondered how the National Trust, who are always so very careful and punctilious to a fault, allowed the use of candles and Darcy’s whippets to roam through the house. Little did I know that as Darcy was striding candle in hand through the moonlit gallery with his dogs to go back to the music room and dream of Elizabeth, he was followed closely by someone carrying a fire extinguisher and the dog handler was just around the corner too.

I’ve also heard a quirky little story about the intricate Gringling Gibbons woodcarvings that adorn the drawing room at Sudbury and many of the rooms at Lyme Park and especially the music room. At Lyme Park they said that the artist had a little signature piece: a peapod that he would incorporate in every carving. If he was paid, the peapod would be open. If he was not, the peapod would be closed, for everyone who visited the country-house to see and smirk, if they were in the know. But the opinion of a lady at Sudbury Hall was that it might have been a myth, because how would he know while he was carving whether he would be paid or not? “Besides,” she added, “this peapod is closed but I know he’s been paid and we’ve got the receipt to prove it.”

The Queen’s Room a.k.a. Darcy’s bedchamber was having a great overhaul, with the bed dragged to the middle of the room and stripped down to its framework, but the Long Gallery was as beautiful as ever,

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Elizabeth in the gallery

as was the grand staircase, where Darcy and Georgiana stood.

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Not even the temptation of National Trust scones could drag me out of the house, and the family nibbled their treats without me. I could have stayed for ever and photographed every square inch of plasterwork. Not possible, of course. But, in the immortal words of a former Governor of California, ‘I’ll be back!’ 

And with any luck, I might meet you there someday!

39 Responses to Spring in Derbyshire

  1. Thanks so much for your pictorial tour and comments. How wonderful to live close enough to visit those beautiful places! And you are very special to share them with those of us who aren’t able to visit.

  2. Oh Joana! Bless you for sharing these fabulous pictures! I am forever Googling and gazing at images from Derbyshire and “Pemberley”, yet never, ever tire of seeing more. Amazing! This is quite possibly a camping trip this dedicated non-camper could manage. LOL!

    • So glad you liked them, Sharon! I know the feeling, I can never get enough of them either. Short of actually upping and moving there, which we can’t do till the kids are on their own feet, I can think of nothing better than staring at a slideshow for ages 🙂

      Hope you can come over soon and see them for real. Hugs!

    • Great to hear you liked the post so much! Thanks! The Colin Firth version was filmed in two places, fairly close to each other. The outdoor scenes were filmed at Lyme Park (near Manchester) and the indoor ones at Sudbury Hall, some 30 miles south. They said in the book about the making of the film that there were issues with the handover of Lyme Park from one organisation to another, so they couldn’t film indoors, but I’m so thrilled they couldn’t! The interior at Lyme Park is wonderful, but not as bright and light, and they haven’t got anything as gorgeous as that amazing gallery where Elizabeth saw the portrait. I literally can stay and stare for hours and the rooms they used for the adaptation. The room stewards might give me a strange look after a while, but that’s OK 😀

  3. Joana, This was such a treat. The photographs and the commentary helped me imagine I was there. So beautiful. And you are blessed to have a man who shares your passion.

    • I’m so pleased you liked them, Barb, thanks! He is the most tolerant person I know! He actually sat and watch the miniseries, the whole 6 hours of it, and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is 😀 I still haven’t managed to get him to dress up for a Jane Austen Festival, but I know I shouldn’t push my luck!

  4. Thanks for a delighted and most invaluable guided tour, Joana. I love the pictures that you took and quite envious of your good fortune. I hope to be able to visit England in the near future and experience the rich culture and heritage that you have.

  5. I am very interested in the Rutland Arms. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Rudland,but some of the family spelled it with a t.
    Marilyn

    • That’s so intriguing, Marylin! I know that Rutland is a very small county tucked between Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire and largely dominated these days by a huge reservoir. (‘Lord Rutland’ also rings a bell, but from fiction, I think). I wonder if your grandma’s ancestors were from that neck of the woods.

  6. This is all so interesting! I have been to Chatsworth and Bakewell, but not Lyme Park (I never could get past the name) or Sudbury Hall. It all looks so gorgeous and sounds like a fabulous holiday. Major points for your husband!

    The man and I are going back to Europe this summer and I’ve been trying thinking of how I could get him to go to Derbyshire. Thanks to your bike trail tip, I just might be in – he loves cycling. Thanks for the gorgeous post!

    • If you’re thinking of going, Elizabeth, do let me know and I’ll dig up some cycling info for you, maybe that’ll help persuade your hubby. If he’s into cycling, he’ll LOVE those tracks! They go for miles though gorgeous countryside and sometimes through some very wide and grand-looking tunnels. And there are some amazing pubs along the way!

      I see what you mean about the name 😉 They should have called it Lime Park, there are hundreds of limetrees all over the place. Maybe that’s what they originally meant and medieval spelling messed things up.

      I do love Sudbury for the lightness and brightness of that amazing plasterwork. I loved the Regency parts of Chatsworth (the wing added by the 6th Duke, Duchess Georgiana’s son). I think that no room decorated in Regency style can be overdone, no matter what’s in it. The furniture is light and graceful, the colours are pastels or whites, you can’t go wrong with that! I must admit I found the older parts of Chatsworth a bit overbearing, the dark panelling, the marble, the Baroque style. I wish the famous ‘double-cube’ room was on the tour!

  7. You are so fortunate to live where you can visit these sites. Thank you for sharing. The photos are lovely. It does make one want to watch the movie again but I don’t have 5 hours at present to do so. Love “the look” scene – it is imprinted on my brain as it is a favorite of mine, and others, I am sure.

    • Thanks so much, Sheila! So glad you liked the photos! I loved sharing them. The Look scene is such a masterpiece IMO, warm glance, dimples, the lot 🙂 It’s my firm favourite too, forever!

  8. How wonderful! Thank for this and the thought of camping in April. One suggestion if you have any computer skills: Just take multiple photos with a camera on a tripod and piece them together in a PhotoShop like program (there are even free online programs). That way you can assemble a people free photograph of a stately home. It even works if you don’t have a tripod, just remain in one spot. Admittedly those English clouds can make difficult maintain a consistent lighting levels and this solution works best when it’s just one clump of tourists that’s ruining the shot.

  9. Joana I wonder if you know how blessed you are to be able to do to these places whenever time and funds permit. I know I shall never see them in person, so seeing them through your eyes is such a treat. Thank you for sharing these pictures with us. I almost feel as though I was there. 🙂

    • So glad they made you happy, Brenda! I know it’s such a blessing to live so close to those magical places. I do hope you might get to see them someday, but until then I’d love to take you on as many virtual tours as I can put together. Thanks for your lovely comment and all the best!

  10. What fun! Looking at the photos and movie clips makes me want to read P&P again — or at least watch the movie(s)!

    • I know the feeling, Linda! They screened P&P back to back here at Easter (twice) and I sat and watched it (twice!!!!) even though I have it in DVD, VHS, the lot. This is something I can never resist. Best spent 5 hours every time 😀

  11. Thanks Joana for a grand trip report! Since you enjoy incorporating lots of details in your novels, I hope the next on swirls around Pemberley! Any plot bunnies in the works? Were you up late at night in the tent scribbling ideas by flashlight (torch?) while Al was zonked from a busy day of sightseeing? Al deserves a medal for giving you such a holiday – camping in Derbyshire – inspired idea! Any photos of the Queen bed that was stripped down to the frame? Did they use crisscrossed ropes to support the mattress? Any hidden priest holes or hidden room entries? The current trend by writers seems to be novellas so am hoping to see something soon, inspired by your wonderful trip! Cheers!

    • Thanks so much for the lovely comment, Dave! So glad you liked it! Actually, the next one swirls around Darcy’s London home (a lot!!). Before I went away I had a post prepared about it, but I had to leave it till next time, the Derbyshire photos were too tempting not to make this month’s post about them.

      Yep, I have a couple of plot bunnies hopping around. And you know me so well!!! Yes, I was scribbling ideas by flashlight (in the car, MUCH warmer!) Also at 5 am on a bench, waiting for the sunrise (fabulous experience, I’d LOVE to do that again!) What was I doing on a bench at 5 am, I can hear you say? Good question 😀 It’s surprisingly bright in a tent as soon as there’s a bit of daylight, and when you go to bed as soon as it gets dark (Regency style) coz there’s not much to do if you can’t stay in the pub with the kids till closing time, you tend to get up rather early 😀

      He does deserve a medal, but he likes Derbyshire too, for all the cycling and caving possibilities, so it wasn’t a terrible hardship (though it would have been if I forced him to sit about while I took my 500 photos). Didn’t take one of the bed though. I should have. Funny you should ask about the priest-holes. There might have been one at Lyme Park, they were devout Catholics, but if there was, it wasn’t on the tour. I should ask about it next time. Thanks ever so much for the kind words!! Hugs!

  12. Wonderful photos. I’m lucky enough to live near both Pemberleys in fact I am only a 10 minute drive from Lyme Park and have visited from being a child too many years ago. Glad you enjoyed your trip icy tent and all.

    • You’re so lucky, Glynis! One of these days I’ll ask about houses up for sale in your areae 😀 Either that or in Ashbourne, so that I can be close enough to both Lyme Park and Sudbury Hall.

  13. Oh my heavens! I am getting so excited to see these places! What history! What magic! Thank you for sharing all those juicy details to make us feel we were right there. It was not some set that created for the movie anymore, Chatsworth exists! And I’d sleep in an iced over tent any day to be able to see that place. Beautiful! Congratulations!
    Jeanna

    • You’ll have such a magical time, Jeanna! (Not to mention that the gardens will be fantastic by then.) I bet you’re so excited! Looking forward to see YOUR photos and can’t wait to meet up at Basildon aka Netherfield.

  14. What a wonderful camping trip, even if a bit cold. And what a wonderful husband to take you to one of your favorite places. Thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures. What fun you had. I so eagerly want to see these places for myself, one day.

    • I hope you will, Debbie! You must let me know when you do. It was a great trip (he’s too good!!) and I loved every minute of it. Hope we get to do it together sometime! Hugs!

  15. This is so gorgeous!! What a fun adventure you’ve had. And a wonderful husband too! He definitely knows the perfect place to take an austenite. Derbyshire is just so wonderful. Thank you for sharing with us a little of the fun you’ve had. 🙂

    • So glad you enjoyed the post, Jenni. He really is wonderful, and far more tolerant than I deserve!! It was a great trip, some parts of Derbyshire are just breathtakingly beautiful! I’d move there if I could. Maybe in my old age, to volunteer for the National Trust and stare at Sudbury’s plasterwork all day!

      • I wouldn’t blame you one bit! I’d definitely spend hours looking at the plasterwork too. And could imagine all the servants entrances and secrets passages and history you’d get to know as well??? Gah! Do it!

        • That must be so exciting! And getting to see parts that aren’t open, or get up close and personal with the collection! One of the ladies who volunteers there told me about how she had to lay the table in the small dining room and how she freaked out about cleaning the absolutely priceless Sevres porcelain. I’d be terrified, with my butter-fingers 😀

Your thoughts are precious!