May 29, 2012
The Peak District; Chatsworth and Bakewell – a day to remember
Wednesday morning we allowed ourselves a bit of a sleep in. Breakfast at Lion Quays included a show from the resident peacock, Eugene, who really paraded his stuff for us. He’s absolutely stunning. He arrived one day about four years ago and decided to stay. Then again, I can think of a lot worse places to live too.
Driving from Oswestry to the Peak District, we encountered tiny villages with churches hundreds of years old, miniscule laneways, where passing another vehicle meant holding your breath and more pubs than you can possibly count. This trip mostly saw us avoiding the motorways – which I was pleased about as they can be quite dull and dangerous. We ventured through some major towns as well as the villages, the last of which was Buxton. This reminded both of us of Bath and we later learned that it was built as the ‘spa town of the North’. I’m not sure that it ever lived up to its name but apparently there has been quite a considerable amount of money invested in the area recently, renovating old buildings and encouraging new development. It’s really very beautiful.
As we headed toward Bakewell, the villages were like something from a fairytale. Quaint cottages and narrow streets and again of course, at least a pub or two. On this rare day off on the tour we decided to visit the Chatsworth estate, renowned as one of the most beautiful country piles in the UK. It is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. There is a farm shop and a village with an ancient church and then as we rounded a bend in the road, careful not to upset the sheep and their lambs, my mouth literally fell open. The scene in front of us was like something from a movie. The most enormous mansion surrounded by formal gardens including a cascading water feature that must have been half a mile long. And then there were the stables and rising from the trees atop the peak, the hunting lodge. Of course there was also a river flowing through the bottom of the park and people – everywhere enjoying the glorious weather and the hospitality of the Duke and Duchess.
Bakewell is famous for Bakewell tarts, which I’m afraid I didn’t sample although they looked delicious. We found our accommodation at the Bagley Hall Sleep Lodge. A slightly curious place, there is a telephone number to call for check in. We wandered around and saw the main Hall as well as the Sleep Lodge and stumbled upon the son in law of the owners who was very helpful and offered to take our luggage to the room. It was called the Ranulf Fienes Suite and the room was huge with a king sized bed. The bathroom was upstairs and was large too. I think the owners had spent a considerable amount of money converting what was previously backpacker accommodation; however, the cleaning and maintenance wasn’t the best and the place had aged quickly. Nonetheless it was very comfortable and the bed was heavenly.
We stumbled on the school we are visiting tomorrow on our way to the hotel – S. Anselm’s was literally at the top of the hill around the corner and was gorgeous.
We stopped in a pretty village called Ashford on the Water for dinner at the local pub. The whole experience was quintessentially English. John’s a great guy and we really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet him after many emails to arrange the visit. It’s his first year at the school and it’s clear that he loves it. I was looking forward to meeting the children in the morning and working with a range of classes. We had been made so welcome – the Peaks had won us over already!