Visiting Family Friends in Derbyshire
07.09.2007 20 °C
Arriving before opening time at Calke Abbey (back in England) we stopped at a lookout nearby overlooking the resevoir where a number of farmhouses and a small bridge were submerged in the flooding back in the late 1800s. Finding our way back into the immense estate of the Abbey we set up under a twisted old oak tree for tea, scones and LOTR. Deeply engrossed we were stirred from our reading by the sight and sound of more than 500 stampeeding sheep. Laughing at the display the most interesting aspect was listening to the huge variety of 'voices' as they baaa'ed' and we now fully appreciate the term to follow like sheep.
Once we made it into Calke Abbey (NT) it was easy to appreciate the baroque mansion, which was commenced in 1701, for its quirky inhabitants. The family has long since left yet the 1000+ taxidermied animals and extensive collection of natural history artifacts impress upon us the eccentricities of the previous owners. The house is unique compared with others that we have visited in that it has primarily been preserved in a state of decline rather than restored. Finally, from the courtyard where plumbing work uncovered a 13th century skeleton our visit ended by taking the 200m service tunnel to the brewery and bakehouse.
Sudbury Hall (NT) was our final house for the day with notable inclusions such as the costume trail displaying many outfits used in the BBC adaptations of Jane Austen novels, interior rooms used in Pride and Prejudice (BBC) and the exhibition of popular toys over the last 100 years. Our visit also included a long stop in the shade of a large moss covered tree overlooking the lake and reading LOTR.
This evenings destination would be another of the regions finest establishments. Arriving on the doorstep of Brian's (Mike's/Dad's friend from school/scout days) we felt right at home after a warm welcome and a wonderful meal of Chilli Con Carne prepared by Elaine, Brian's girlfriend. We all enjoyed a night of getting to know one another and planning our coming days in Derbyshire.
Today we woke up late (after 8am) which was bliss before mustering up the energy for a 'Sunday' (today is Thursday) consisting of tea, breakfast, tea, internet, Chilli Con Carne reheated, movie (Amelie), tea then welcoming Brian home from a day at w..., w.... it is too difficult to say but we will try again, w...ork!
Fully rejuvenated we joined Elaine in the early evening in her garden for a Pimms cocktail before toddling off to Duffield for the grand tour of unmissable family history sights such as the Hall family home, high street, scout hall and school. After the tour we walked along the quite streets to meet Frank and Beryl, Brian's parents and old time friends of grandma and pa. It was a real delight to be invited into their home, shown the agricultural prowess of Frank with his tomato house and how the neighbourhood trade in home grow vegetables affects GDP. On a lighter note we really cherished our time drinking tea and indulging in Beryl's fresh baked cookies while listening to them reminisce about life in Duffield and happy memories from when the Halls lived in England. We wish them the best of health and happiness and hope to visit again in the not too distant future.
A perfect finish to any 'Sunday' came at Brian's suggestion. We ate at George's seafood take away and had a fabulous meal of Haddock and Cod. Unfortunately, due to popular demand the supply of mushy peas had been depleated so baked beans would have to suffice, nevertheless a great meal at the end of a great day.
Our first day in Derbyshire commenced with a scenic drive to Lyme park, the famous film location and fascade of Pemberly in the BBC Pride and Prejudice. As the house did not open until 1 pm we spent the morning walking through the extensive grounds. At one point, far from the safety of the house, we were confronted by a placid herd of highland cattle. They may look cute and cuddly from a distance or when being showed, however close up they are not dissimillar to hairy, smelly and horned cow.
Far more attractive was the herd of speckled deer (50+) we encountd on our way back up to the house. Splashing out we joined the guided tour which engaged us in the family history and the constant alterations done to the house over the years. Lunch was enjoyed by the pond, infamous for the scene where Lizzy encounters Mr Darcy soaking wet. Our reenactment had all the sizzle and romantic intrigue of a herd of highland cattle. Steve needs to watch the series a few more times to get the scene just right.
Back in Denby with Brian and Elaine we visited the Dead Poet's Inn, a wonderfull dinkey English pub for traditional ales, ciders and wines all leading to a bundle of laughs. Dinner was a team affair of chicken topped with stirfry vegetables listening to the beach boys and then watching the Rolling Stones tour DVD.
Today proved to be one of our busiest days yet under the leadership of our local guides. Starting the tour of Derbyshire we stopped at a great second hand bookstore before heading to Matlock Bath. A short stroll along the river in the sun took us to the Victorian era bath house, petrifying spring, aquarium and hologram display. Feeling lucky we plaed the 2 pence slot games, winning 10p and losing 30p. Upwards and onwards we followed our noses to the Bakewell farmers market then into the home of the original Bakewell pudding.
Settling ourselves amidst the colourful flowers in a small park the four of us devoured our freshly baked goodies for lunch. While the girls chose to window shop the boys ducked off to the Orvis flyfishing tackle and hunting store with a strict time limit in place. Needing more than a quick shop to work off lunch Elaine guided us to the Froggarts Edge walk (NT), a precipice commanding stunning views over the Derby countryside.
After our short exertion our blood-tea levels were critically low so we made a bee line to Eyam, a small medieval village devastated by plague in the 1600s. When we arrived we were unexpectedly surprised to come across the tradition of dressing the town well in thanks for the years supply of water. Elaborate plaques were erected using local flora embedded in clay to make images and by the looks of them would have taken hours upon hours to prepare. Who would have thought a tea house in England could be busy enough to run out of tea cups! Thankfully some delicious Eyam lemon cake kept us calm. Walking through town we learnt from plaques on each house how the plague, which was spread from London via textile deliveries, had killed a large proportion of the townsfolk. In one household the tragic circumstances left a women to bury her husband and 7 children in only 9 days.
To lighten the mood for the afternoon we visited Moors Head lookout, significant as one of the beautiful places Brian took Mike and Chris (Steve's parents) when they visited on their honeymoon over 30 years ago. Our final tourist stop for the day was the amazing Chatsworth House Estate. With the late afternoon sun catching the gold leaf window frames the house glowed from every angle throughout the parkland.
Brian and Elaine had earlier made reservations at their favourite pub and treated us to a delicious meal at the Old Poets Corner in Ashover. Warm and drowsy from great fish & chips and pork blood pudding sausages both with heaps of mushy peas (finally) we had one last stopoff on the way back to Brian's.
With only a faint light on the horizon Brian pulled over at the edge of his fishing club resevoir. In the brisk still night air we stood in silence the suddenly made out the silouette of a squadron of migrating geese coming in to land on the glassy surface. The sounds of night animals mixed in with the chatter of numerous birds in the darkness filled our senses and left a lasting impression of the beautiful English countryside.
Taking charge in the kitchen we prepared the best Aussie / English breakfast possible for our hosts. The delicious breaky (if we do say) fueled us in preparation for our first flyfishing lesson with only the next door neighbours petunias as a target. We tried our hand at the art of casting with a hookless line and now can't wait to try properly back home. A walk through Duffield was selected for the day from a comprehensive book on treks starting and ending at a pub.
As we followed the course Brian retold tales of his childhood growing up in the area and how he and Mike/Dad explored the fields, river, narrow stoney paths, forest and nearby chimney stack. Behind the gardens of Little Eaton the path led us down to an abandoned railway, small stream and relic of an old mill wheel before climbing back up to fields on the plateau. Settling in the grass for a picnic lunch in the sun Elaine's mothers cheesy scones went down a treat along with sambos and apples. The temptation of the surrounding blackberry bushes was too much for Steve and soon after we were all collecting berries for a creation later that evening.
Walking back to our starting point at the Bridge Inn it seemed only fitting to have a quick beverage before returing to Brian's for our first roast chicken in months including all the trimmings. To follow was the promised fruits from our labour, a fresh blackberry and apple crumble. Desert never tasted soo good. Eating by the back fence as the sun set over the distant fields. The adjacent cow paddock to the back fence was full of some very curious bovine who must have smelt desert as the entire herd congregated only feet away. Camilla the cow whisperer made friends quickly patting thier wet leather noses while Brian contemplated a potential future in farming.
Unfortunately our morning commenced with farewells to Brian and Elaine who have been wonderfull hosts over the last 5 nights. It has been great sharing so much time chatting, laughing and forging a new friendship, we look forward to reciprocating their generosity soon.
Our only stop for the day was along Hadria's Wall (NT) where we learnt some of the details regarding the 125km long baricade erected to keep the Northeners out of the Roman Empire. Birdoswald Roman Fort (NT) was an interesting visit with ruins to explore and some good exhibits. Further east we stopped for tea at Cawfields mile-castle and quarry set against a picturesque row of crags jutting out of the surrounding farmland.
On the road again we failed to restrain from one of the worst indulgences, KFC before arriving a bit later than expected in Glasgow, Scotland. Standing on the doorstep of Douglas and Anne's we were excited to meet relatives from the other side of the world for the first time (Anne is Mike's cousin). After a warm welcome and a hot cut of tea we slept soundly with plans to head further north tomorrow and return to Glasgow later in the week.
Leaving early in the morning we stopped on the banks of Loch Lomond where, as if on cue, a kilt clad piper jumped out from behind the bushes and started playing. Excited by this chance encounter with a wild native piper we wondered what lay ahead of us in the Scottish highlands. A pit stop for tea by a stream and we drove to the Falls of Lorne, a horizontal tidal phenomenon through a narrow gap leading out to the sea. Little did we know that later in the day we would cross the road bridge see the falls running in the opposite direction as the sea pushes its way up the valley into the Loch.
Our lunch venue was in the delightful seaside town of Oban. Perching on the wharf alongside the seagulls we ate while watching the ever moving scene of boats, pipers and birdlife.
After lunch we made the rare decision to go our seperate ways, Steve attending a tour of the Oban distillery (oldest and one of the smallest in Scotland) famous for their 14 year single malt while Camilla strolled the town window shopping and soaking up the atmosphere. When we met up Steve explained in full detail the process of making fine whisky and proudly displayed an investment that will be enjoyed on many special occassions in the years to come.
Our afternoon was spent driving the scenic roads around Lochs and through valleys to Fort William. As the camping equipment has been honourably dismissed from duty we nestled into a stunning B&B by the water for the night. Dinner was enjoyed in the park opposite watching the sun crack through the clouds in the final moments of our first full day in Scotland.