Monday 7 April 2014

Holmesfield, Derbyshire - Caching & Dashing, Chatsworth, Carlton Leas & Hardwick Hall

Day 4 - Monday
We decided we needed a nice easy day today, after all, we had a big Geocaching walk with mum and dad round the Chatsworth Estate planned for tomorrow.

After a cheese and mushroom omelette for breakfast, my speciality, we headed out on a caching and dashing route, aiming to end up at Chatsworth Garden Centre.

For the uninitiated, caching and dashing is the lazy way of Geocaching.  Basically, you jump in the car, drive to some co-ordinates, jump out of the car, find the cache and drive off again and on to the next one.

We managed to pick up 9 caches in total today, but the three most interesting were part of the 'guide stoops series', a drive-by series based on Guide Stoops, which are ancient waymarkers.

Apparently, In the early 1700s Parliament decreed that local governments should erect guide stoops to help travellers cross bleak and featureless parts of England. 

Nearby to the 3 of the series that we did today were also Companion Stones, commissioned by Arts in the Peak.  these are a series of modern stone sculptures placed close to the 300 year old Guide Stoops. These also hold directions, not to the nearest market town, but to the future. 

I'm not sure if you can read the inscription on the sculptures but the one on the sail reads 'Canvas all points, Graze the Azimuth, Quit the tide, From 1709 to 2008, To see you right'.  The other one is just as intriguing and reads 'For the other rode, go inward, by cranesbill and leaf star, clear the stream'.  I have  no idea what the mean but found them absolutely fascinating.

We finally made it to the garden centre on the Chatsworth Estate, where we had a very welcome lunch break, before Martin bought some cut price Hellebores.  I know, where are we going to plant them?  He was only going to buy two but I insisted on a 3rd to keep the planting as it should be.  I think I know where we have a spot for them.

We finished off our day out with a visit to the Chatsworth farm shop, always a favourite and well worth a visit, before heading back to the cottage for a nice evening chilling out in front of the log burner and the TV.

Day 5 - Tuesday
Today was our big walk with mum and dad.  Martin got up early to get dinner in the slow cooker, he really is the best!  Mum and dad arrived at the cottage at about 9.00am for a sausage sandwich breakfast before we headed out.

After breakfast we loaded up the car with boots and other, just in case, paraphernalia and headed out into really thick mist!  We had a geocaching walk planned around Carlton Lees on the Chatsworth Estate, which we knew had a pretty long uphill drag to start us off.  We all had our fingers crossed that the mist would lift and we'd be lucky with the weather.

We parked up at Carlton Lees car park, the mist had already abated and it looked like a really promising day from a weather point of view.  We booted up and headed out on the long uphill stretch.  As this was broken up with stops for two or three caches it didn't seem as bad as we'd remembered.  We did flake out about two thirds of the way up though for a quick drink and a breather.

By then the weather was gorgeous and we were all beginning to shed layers as we were just too warm.  We carried on to the top of the hill and were really pleased to see the start of the downhill stretch. 

The view from the top was amazing, we could see the whole of Chatsworth House, the Emperor Fountain was in full flow and the panorama was the kind of thing that makes you wonder why anyone would want to holiday abroad.

We wondered through a field of sheep with young lambs and spent ages watching them gambolling about.  We did get a bit worried when we saw one that was clearly crying for mum and not having much luck.  It tried two 'aunties' and got butted away before mum finally sent out a guiding bleat.  It was a relief to see them reunited.

We carried on our walk to Edensor, picking up more caches on the Carlton Lees series on the way.  We did a quick multi in the churchyard which was fascinating as the clues we needed came from the grave of  Kathleen Cavendish. 

Kathleen, nicknamed 'Kick', was the Marchioness of Hartington.  She married William 'Billy' Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington,  He was the powerful 10th Duke of Devonshire's son and heir, not only to the title, but to the palatial Chatsworth House estate, along with other rich properties.  Kathleen was 24 when she married Billy on May 6, 1944.  Four months after their marriage, Billy was killed by a sniper during battle near the German Front.  With his family's blessing, he was buried close to where he fell. 

Her husband's younger brother thus became the heir apparent to the Dukedom as Billy left no heirs.  Kathleen died on 14 May 1948 in a plane crash in France.  Her Brother John F Kennedy visited the grave, in 1963, shortly before his own death.   A stone to commemorate his visit can be found in front of Kathleen's grave.

History whilst Geocaching is so much more interesting than it ever was at school.  Though from what I remember we used to spend most of our time in history lessons at school ducking to avoid being hit by the board rubber, it just wouldn't happen these days.

After we'd got what we needed from the churchyard we couldn't help but call into the tea rooms in Edensor for a well earned break and piece of cake, well it is the Geocaching law you know.

Weighed down by cake with muscles seized up from having a sit down, we all creakily got back into the swing of things for the rest of our walk back.  This took us down by the river where the views were amazing, the weather was still gorgeous and we saw herds of deer and a fly fisherman in the river.

We managed to find all of the caches we were looking for, 15 in total and made our way back to the car, washing off our muddy boots in a stream on the way.

A short drive back to the cottage for gingered beef with bay, cheese and potato pie with roasted red onions and butternut squash followed by key lime pie was a lovely finish to a lovely day.

We waved good bye to mum and dad as they headed back to their hotel in Chesterfield with plans to meet up at Hardwick Hall the following morning.

We then flaked out in front of the TV for the rest of the evening and couldn't even build up the energy to log our cache finds, which is what you have to do to confirm that you've found them. That job would just have to wait for another day.

Day 6 - Wednesday
Wednesday morning greeted us with thick fog.  Not the early morning mist that clears to bright sunshine by 10.00am like yesterday, but a real heavy damp fog.  We could only keep our fingers crossed that things would improve as the day progressed.

We drove to Hardwick Hall to meet up with mum and dad as planned.  We passed some longhorn cattle with their calves as we made our way up the drive to the Hall and stopped to take some pictures of them in the mist.

Hardwick Old and New Halls are sited on a hilltop between Chesterfield and Mansfield, overlooking the Derbyshire countryside.  The Old Hall is now just a shell, with remnants of its plaster decoration remaining.  It is believed that the building probably incorporates the manor house begun by James Hardwick (1525-1580), to which his sister Bess made radical alterations in the 1580s. 

At the time, Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, was the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth 1, and as such, her New Hall was conceived to be a conspicuous statement of her wealth and power. The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the period and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was a luxury.

The drive seemed to go on for ages and we couldn't see more than a few 100 yards ahead.  We did wonder if we should be able to see the Hall on approach, but we couldn't see anything.

We found mum and dad on the car park, got the winter weather gear out of the boot, which was a bit odd considering how summery it had been the day before, and headed for what ended up being the first of three visits to the restaurant, it was a bit big to call it a tea room, for a hot drink whilst we waited for our outdoor tour looking at the architecture of the Hall, which we still hadn't spotted in the mist.

We met up with Harry the tour guide at 10.30am and he did at least let us know where the Hall was as it was still not visible in the mist.  We had a walk with him and did finally get to see both the old and the new Halls which looked very eerie and atmospheric in the mist.  Harry told us all about Bess of Hardwick and the history of her building of both halls.

The main Hall didn't open till 12.00pm, but at 11.30 we headed in on a taster tour which managed to get us into the 'warm', I use the term warm very loosely, but it was warmer than outside, which was just what we needed.

After the taster tour we ended up back outside, still thick mist.  As the Hall was now fully open we went straight back inside the to view the full property at our leisure and give the weather a bit more of a chance to perk up.

When we emerged for the second time, the weather had started to pick up and the mist had cleared a little.  We thought we'd head back to the restaurant for lunch before having a look round the old Hall.  Lunch just hit the spot.  Hot mushroom soup and doorstep ham sandwiches.  Lovely.  We were too full for cake so agreed we would have to come back again later.

The old Hall is pretty much a ruin but you can easily see how grand it would have been in its day.  You could also see how much of the design that Bess had transferred to the new Hall, including the plaster wall friezes and over mantles.  It's such a shame that it has gone to ruin.  We got some impressive views of the new Hall from the top of the old one and we decided we would definitely have to have a re-visit to take pictures in better weather.

We then had a walk round the gardens, which will definitely be worth another look In the summer, took more photos and had a chat with one of the gardeners who was planting broad beans and shallots.  His shallots looked fab, he'd started the sets off inside in modules about 8 weeks ago and they now had about 4 inches of really healthy looking growth in them and they were ready for
planting outside.  We also learned that we plant our onion sets too deep, his were just pretty much placed on the surface with just the roots of the set under the soil.

It was then back to the restaurant for our final warm and that piece of cake that we couldn't manage earlier, before mum and dad headed back off home and we made our way back to Gooseberry Cottage which was lovely toastie and warm when we got back.

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