“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.
Other than the odd aerial poking up on top, the cottages look like they haven’t changed much in 200 years.
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.
I had better luck later, with the Dutch garden,
and also with the spot where Mr Darcy stood to see Elizabeth and the Gardiners off,
or where he was shown riding towards Lambton, little knowing what a fine mess he would find there.
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.
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.
“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.”
Bedchambers with all the mod-cons (some of which are tucked away in something that to the unsuspecting eye looks like a wardrobe):
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 ;)
The dining room looked stunning too, although the tablecloth and the eye-catching display had nothing ‘Regency’ about them.
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,