A Limestone Walk : Mam Tor and The Winnats

book and map

Peak District Walks by John Merrill (1976)

Decisions! Decisions! Which walk should I choose? I found it difficult to decide between one which started from the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate and another which began in Castleton. The variety offered by the Mam Tor walk won the day and we set off bright and early last Saturday for the 14 mile drive to Castleton. This was to be a totally different walk from the day before – no literary connections. But then we parked up and there, towering above us, was Peveril Castle. Of course, ‘Peveril of the Peak‘ by Sir Walter Scott.

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Stepping into the pages of Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Robin Hood: The Jane Eyre Hathersage Trail

It’s hard to believe that our younger son has been living at his cottage on the edge of Sheffield with the Peak District and Ladybower Reservoir on his doorstep for three years already. His neighbour owns a holiday rental cottage in the same terrace and I finally managed a few nights stay there last weekend. The location has the best of both worlds – near to the vibrant and cultured city of Sheffield and yet just a short drive from the beautiful Derbyshire Dales/Peak District National Park. The outlook from the cottage is pastoral and peaceful. And there is perhaps too much choice when it comes to excursions to fill three full days.


North Lees Hall

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Bolsover Castle to Hardwick Hall, and back, and on foot

This month’s ATG Saturday Walk is a new one for them (and for me) : ‘Bolsover and Hardwick Hall’.

Here’s the itinerary :

Starting alongside the impressive 17th century castle of Bolsover, this walks heads south along the Doe Lea, passing the Saxon church at Ault Hucknall en route to the impressive Elizabethan home of Bess of Hardwick – Hardwick Hall. After strolling through the extensive grounds, we head north back to Glapwell for lunch. After lunch, quiet farmland tracks take us back to Bolsover for tea. 12.75 miles.” [ATG brochure]

I was so attracted by the idea of the walk and its route and the fact that today I would be travelling down the M1 from Leeds to Leicester with a whole day to spare that I failed to register quite the distance involved! There are opportunities to be picked up and returned comfortably to the start/end from both at Hardwick and at Glapwell but most of us soldiered on to the end. Luckily the route is not too demanding as regards climbs but it’s quite a long tramp and I’m now happily down in Leicetershire.

Bolsover Castle

I’ve written about Bolsover Castle before – a misty, foggy visit in November 2011. Today we passed through several weathers but only one brief shower otherwise sunshine, cloud, heavy black threatening cloud and cold winds all took it in turns.

New Bolsover

New Bolsover

From Bolsover town we headed down below the Castle to New Bolsover which is actually not so new just newer than the old settlement around the Castle. It was a purpose-built miners’ village of neat red-brick terrace houses enclosing a large grassy area and is still occupied today even though the pits around this coalfield closed in the 1990s.

In New Bolsover

In New Bolsover

The theme of much of the walk was past or along the remains of the coal industry: along a disused railway track and past grassed over open cast mines on the Stockley Ponds and Trail maintained by Bolsover Countryside Partnership.

We could still see Bolsover Castle

We could still see Bolsover Castle

The Stockley Trail

The Stockley Trail

Stockley Ponds

The Stockley Ponds (Beware! Contaminated water) no fishing today

Apart from the two very significant buildings – Hardwick Hall (NT) and Bolsover Castle – we stopped by a small Saxon Church. The Church of St John the Baptist at Ault Hucknall was closed unfortunately but it would have been good to get inside. Read more about its chapel, windows and the grave of Thomas Hobbes, the author of The Leviathan, here.

St John's Ault Hucknall

St John the Baptist Church, Ault Hucknall

Saxon Arch and figures

Saxon Arch with figures

Close-up of the Saxon Arch

Saxon Arch details

Saxon Window

Saxon Window

By lunchtime we’d arrived at Hardwick Hall, “more glass than wall”.

Approaching Hardwick Hall

Approaching Hardwick Hall

Hardwick Hall More Glass than Wall

Hardwick Hall

But it wasn’t our lunchtime so we just walked through the grounds, admiring the house as we went and continued along Lady Spencer’s Walk and other tracks on the estate finally arriving at Glapwell where lunch was waiting for us in the Community Centre.

Lady Spencer's Walk

Our Leader, Rob

Hardwick Hall avenue

Hardwick Hall from the Avenue of Trees

Comfortably refreshed, the best part of the walk, although fairly short now, lay ahead. After crossing several fields we followed a ridge directly back up to Bolsover with magnificent views west right across to the Derbyshire Dales.

Return to Bolsover

Return to Bolsover

Arriving in Bolsover more sustenance awaited us at The Bluebell pub – a generous spread of home baked scones, butter, cream and jam and pots of tea, to boot.

Less than an hour’s drive I am comfortably ensconced in my homely B&B for the night!

A Dam Busters Walk and A Damn Good Lunch

Our younger son lives in Sheffield so we arranged to go Christmas Shopping (with a difference) together today. We met up at The Ladybower Inn then headed to a small car park beside the upper part of Ladybower Reservoir in the Derbyshire Peak District National Park.


Lovely Ladybower

There are good paths along the edge of the ‘lake’ and there’s a visitor centre and cafe and other facilities at the northern end of the reservoir.

Dambuster books

A Selection of Dam Busters Books in the Visitors Centre

From there it’s a bit of a climb up to the Upper Derwent Reservoir where the ‘Dam Busters’ trained and practiced their low level flying during the Second World War.

Upper Derwent Reservoir

The Upper Derwent Reservoir

Derwent Dam and Sign

Note the Derwent Dam (very loud!) in the background

Derwent reservoir was used by the RAF’s Dambusters to practise their low level flying techniques during 1943, in preparation for delivering Barnes Wallis’ famous ‘bouncing bombs’ to German dams. Located in the West Tower of the Derwent Valley Dam is the Derwent Dam (617 Squadron) Museum which houses a collection of memorabilia dedicated to the famous Dams Raid carried out by 617 “Dambusters” Squadron.

Dam Museum

Dam Busters Memorial

Dam Buster’s Memorial

It includes photographs and other material covering all aspects of the Dams Raid, including details of the training flights carried out by 617 Squadron over the Derwent Dam and material relating to the film “The Dambusters” starring Richard Todd as Guy Gibson, made in 1954. There is also an example of the famous “Bouncing Bomb”, which forms the centrepiece of the museum’s display. Opening times are 10.00am to 4.00pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays only.” 

[from http://www.derbyshireuk.net/derwentvalley_reservoirs.html website]

West Tower

The Museum is housed in the West Tower

The museum was closed as our visit was on a Saturday but definitely worth a return visit. We climbed up to the see the West Tower and were intrigued to see a memorial to a loyal dog nearby.

TIP Memorial

The Memorial to faithful Tip

Our walk continued on the eastern side of the reservoir past a National Trust owned farm but only too soon it was time to turn back to the cars. N often runs right round Ladybower: a total of 11km including the additional 2 km to and from the car park at the Ladybower Inn. But the days are short at this time of year and we hadn’t even started our shopping.

Old House Farm

Old House Farm

So, back at the cars we headed for Hathersage and the lovely Country Shop at David Mellor’s Round Building. I also recommend the Cafe where we had fresh warm soup and chunky bread for our late lunch. There’s also a Design Museum showcasing David Mellor’s work within the building.

Design Museum

The David Mellor Design Museum (yes, those are his traffic lights!) and Café

By 4 o’clock it was dark and time to head back up the M1 to Leeds. Yesterday the weather was icy and  freezing cold (-3C)  but with typical British contrariness today the temperature hit 8C. I’m glad I was able to make the journey without any hitches. It was well worth the trip. I hope the recipients enjoy their gifts. We certainly enjoyed shopping for them!!

The Old Ways Part Two : Mastiles Lane Revisited and Meet the Author

Well, it finally happened a few weeks ago in the middle of July, I walked the length of the Yorkshire old way, Mastiles Lane. The weather stayed reasonable and it’s a dry track most of the way but there was a fair wind blowing on the top. Amazing to see the remains of the Roman Camp – how did those soldiers feel about the winds and rain up there in such an exposed location? – and we managed to spot for sure one of the two remaining stone cross bases where the monks from Fountains placed crosses along the way.

“Along the lines of monastic roads it was the custom to place crosses at prominent points, partly to stand as landmarks pointing the way and partly as a symbol of consecration or dedication to the service of the church. Crosses were usually a very plain and rather stumpy shaft, roughly squared or sometimes bevelled to a rough octagon and set in a socket cut in a large base block but in others it is squared up and tooled. five of these crosses lie alongside the old road across Malham Moor, one near Strete Gate.” [Malham and Malham Moor, by Arthur Raistrick]

Most Dales hikes that I undertake tend to be circular but it made a nice change to do a there and back one and my fellow hikers agreed. Mastiles Lane starts in the village of Kilnsey.

This high limestone landscape is unsuited to arable but the monks of Fountains Abbey brought their flocks of sheep to this area and the lane itself was established by them. Mastiles Lane is almost totally for its full length a walled lane and those walls are just a small proportion of the dry stone walls that criss-cross the county (and other counties too, of course).

We reach Strete Gate

About ten days before the walk I had the good fortune to meet Robert Macfarlane author of The Old Ways book. He was speaking at The Buxton Festival. I was interested to hear him talk about how landscapes shape us and he talked (and wrote in the book) at length about the East Anglian walker and writer George Borrow who was one of the first people to note the connection between walking and health and memory-making and re-walking in the memory. His (Borrow’s) walks were full of meetings and conversations with people. A fine example is his book Wild Wales.

From Borrow Robert moved on to talk about his walk along The Icknield Way, which he chose because of its proximity to Cambridge where he lives. Edward Thomas’s “The Icknield Way was an inspiration to him as well. Thomas in turn was influenced by a poem by Robert Frost :

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost
This poem prompted ET to sign up to serve in the army during The First World War. He was killed at The Battle of Arras on Easter Day (8 April), 1917. Thomas and Frost had become friends and Frost encouraged ET to move from prose into poetry. There’s much more in The Old Ways about the two poets, about Thomas’s war service and death and about the South Downs Way. And Macfarlane asked, do we trust Frost’s poem?

Spot the Difference : Chatsworth

I love to visit Chatsworth! So much to see and do. Lots of art and lots of history. Famous people. Gardens and country house. Plus, you may take photos everywhere. Inside and outside there’s so much variety. It’s hard to decide just where to start.

The South and East Fronts today

The South and East fronts from my 1970s Guidebook

The best thing about my recent visit was meeting up with the online book discussion group friends. Hopefully we have now established a tradition of having a  summer outing in the country alongside our winter/Christmas ‘party’ in town. The weather on the 10th July turned out to be abominable – weather alerts, floods, torrential rain – but we all managed to get to Chatsworth, eventually, although instead of a jolly picnic on the grass we had a delicious hot meal in the Carriage House Cafe. Now and again the rain stopped and we ventured into the gardens but we did spend quite some time in the house and made three visits to the Cafe.

During the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s my granny and grandad used to visit stately homes travelling from Norwich at first by motorbike and sidecar and in later years in my uncle’s Austin A35. They travelled very long distances but always within the day as they never stayed away from home overnight. I now have the collection of guidebooks which they bought at the time and I have two for Chatsworth.

It’s interesting to look through my old guidebooks – most of which  were published by Pitkin (but not the above Chatsworth guides)- comparing the houses as they were then and as they are when I visit. So I’ve made this the theme of my Chatsworth post today.

A couple of times during today’s tour of the house you pass through the Painted Hall. This year, with it being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year, the Devonshire state chariot, used by the 11th Duke to attend the Coronation, is on display in there. I loved reading the little anecdote about the party getting lost on their way to attend the coronation in 1953.

The Painted Hall in 2012 with State Chariot on display

The Painted Hall and Tijou Balcony, 1970s

The Tijou Balcony today

From the Painted Hall and nearby corridor you can see out into an inner courtyard and the Tijou-designed balcony which would have been sparkling in the sunshine – had there been any!

Here is the Chapel today with its modern art and in the 1970s looking very traditional and rather OTT.

The Chapel Corridor now displays modern art sculptures and pots. I noticed a large group of Edmund de Waal pots on a mantlepiece.

One of the last rooms you visit on the tour today is the Dining Room :

Then there’s the sculpture gallery and the Orangerie now houses the shop.

My favourite wonder of Chatsworth is just a smallish painting. It’s a Trompe L’Oeil violin on the back of a door. Watch out for it next time you visit Chatsworth.

Trompe L’Oeil 2012

In my guidebook

Isn’t it amazing?

And finally, just to show that we did get into the gardens :

The Knot Garden

Herb beds in the Walled/Kitchen Garden

The Emperor Fountain

The Cascade

I love Lucy! A Cavalier at Bolsover Castle


I’m really looking forward to reading this book. But it won’t be until the new year as I have a number of others to get through before I start on Lucy Worsley‘s ‘Cavalier: a story of chivalry, passion and great houses‘. I heard Ms Worsley speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August this year. But even before that I was a fan of her  ‘If Walls Could Talk’ shown on BBC television in the spring. In this fab programme the lovely Lucy trots around our modern day homes pointing out all the historical details and stories of the evolution of our bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms and kitchens from the earliest times until the present day. She even volunteered to dress up and play various roles in order to represent to us the differences between previous generations and our own.

For many years Lucy Worsley (she is now Chief Curator of The Historic Royal Palaces) was based at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire and over ten years she researched the story of William Cavendish and his family and the result is ‘Cavalier’.

Bolsover Castle itself isn’t really that far away from me – about 60miles south straight down the M1 motorway.

First,  forget the idea of castle. Seen from the M1 Bolsover may look like a fortress but it is rather a fairytale palace on a hill” says Simon Jenkins in one of my ‘bibles’ “England’s thousand best houses“. As you can see we chose a very atmospheric day to take a trip to Bolsover and give it the once over. The fog should have lifted but try as it might the sun just could not get through all day.

The Riding House from the Shoeing House – complete with cardboard cavalier!

After the obligatory cup of tea in a very nicely appointed cafe and a quick glance round the English Heritage gift shop we switched on our audio guides and made our way falteringly towards the castle itself, stopping every so often to listen to the character actors and narrator tell us more about Bolsover and its creator and inhabitants. Once through the huge entrance gate (or tradesman’s entrance as it was called on the audio guide) you’re in an impressive courtyard.

The Riding House

The first building on the left is called The Riding House Range and it contains “the finest surviving example in England of this rare, specialised type of building” (Bolsover Castle guidebook, also written by Lucy Worsley). Like the famous act by the white stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna this huge room was for training horses in the art of  “manege”  (circling, leaping, jumping). William Cavendish, 1593-1676) was the cavalier responsible for the greatest part of the building and development of the site at Bolsover. He had two obsessions – women and horses – and Bolsover was his “pleasure dome”.

The great oak roof of the Riding House

In the stables is an exhibition about the history of Bolsover and its place in English history, an excellent 15 min. video about The Little Castle and even a large model of it. We seemed to gain enough information from this room to make the audio guides superfluous.

Walk-in model of the Little Castle in the Stable

A walk around the Terrace Range, (with all the usual appointments of chambers and kitchens etc) and from where we should have had (but for the persistent fog) a long-ranging view over the valley and down towards nearby Hardwick Hall, lead us quickly to the romantic Little Castle itself.

Terrace Range and approach to The Little Castle

Here we saw for ourselves the incredibly preserved and restored artwork: the Pillar Parlour, the Star Chamber, the Marble Closet, the Bedchamber, Heaven and Elysium. This final chamber with elaborately decorated panelling depicting the heaven of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece appropriately overlooks the garden and its Fountain of Venus.

Bolsover, I’ll be back on a sunny day to walk the terrace, admire the view, picnic in the gardens and relax in full view of your Venus fountain!

The Literary Connection of North Lees Hall

“It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.

Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.

Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.”

Jane Eyre  (Chapter 11)

Today I visited a friend and former neighbour who, with her husband, moved to work in Sheffield. They now live in the Hope Valley in the beautiful Derbyshire Peak District . Our plan was to take a walk from her house to visit North Lees Hall, visited by Charlotte Bronte and her friend Ellen Nussey. Bronte later based Mr Rochester’s home Thornfield Hall on North Lees Hall.

The Vivat Trust has similar aims to The Landmark Trust. I have never stayed in one of their properties but my feeling is that they do everything much more comfortably or even luxuriously but that they don’t have such a ‘low’ (ruinous?) starting point. North Lees Hall is a Vivat Trust property.

The day started off very misty – but these always turn out the best. After a cup of tea and brief chin-wag we headed off up the hill from her house. It was a perfect walk – a climb up the lane to begin and over a couple of stiles and then green grassy paths for a good hour or so with wonderful views of Stannage Edge (a climbers paradise, apparently). Eventually through a wooded copse we spied the Hall. By this time the sky was fully blue and cloudless (Jane Eyre’s “fine autumn morning” indeed).  Another hour’s walk via an Ice Cream Parlour  (Hope Valley Ice Cream) brought us across a golf course and home for lunch.

Stannage Edge, Derbyshire