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A Week of Culture – Part One – Hardwick Hall

We spent a few cold January days up in Derbyshire and Yorkshire for a culture fix. It was extremely cold and occasional rain and hail storms lashed us but we did not give in. We bravely went onward defying whatever the weather threw at us and enjoyed every moment. Day one of our winter adventure found us stopping off in Derbyshire at Hardwick Hall for a spot of architecture appreciation.

Although the day was a memorable one, not all the memories were happy ones as my trusty friend my Nikon DSLR packed up and it did not allow me to focus or use flash so it is now being looked at in the camera hospital at Nikon UK. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery. Isn’t it devastating when your camera goes awry? So all the pics following are taken on my Samsung Galaxy Phone, which does have a quality camera, thank goodness.

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The grounds of Hardwick Hall , now under the auspices of the National Trust, is unusual in having two “big houses”. The newer hall was built in the late 1500’s by Bess of Hardwick, a powerful woman at a time when powerful women were few and far between.  She wanted everyone to now how important she was hence the size of Hardwick. She features her initials all over the building including huge letters along the top of the building The letter E refers  to her name Elizabeth and the S refers to Shrewsbury. She married George Talbot who was the Earl of Shrewsbury at the time making Bess Countess of Shrewsbury. No-one could have visited this place when she was there without knowing how powerful she was.

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From the rear gardens we were able to appreciate close views of the heritage cattle, the Shorthorns.

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The gardens are small but the parklands are impressive and extensive. A range of buildings once stable blocks, workers’ cottages and workshops have been lovingly restored and put to good use as holiday cottages, shop, restaurant etc.

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Signs of a recent den building activity day for children were in evidence in the grassed area enclosed by the stable block buildings, as were wood sculptures celebrating the skills of the craftsmen who would have helped to maintain the grounds at Hardwick. The carvings were created from trees that had been felled due to disease. Even the tables and chairs in one of the buildings celebrated the work of the estate millers.

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We were highly impressed by the “green credentials” of the building revamp and felt it needed celebrating. Well done to the National Trust! As well as excellent insulation there are several innovative ideas in action. Water collected from the roofs is used to flush toilets, solar panels on the roofs pre-heats water to be used in the kitchen, heat generated by the condensers of the fridges and freezers is collected and the boiler is of a bio-mass type.

The more formal gardens are enclosed areas snuggly fitted close to the house surrounded by tall hedges so that each area is a surprise to the visitor. Some beautiful coppicing work in “The Nuttery” was evidence of the skilled gardeners here now. The trees here are Hazels, their prunings providing brash stacks for wildlife shelters.

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We discovered some beautifully and skillfully trained and pruned plants, a rose and some Yew which brought a smile to our faces. It was cold day so a smile was most welcome! Just after taking these photos the sky turned black with heavy storm clouds, the temperature dropped, the wind speed increased and we were attacked by a ferocious hail storm. We took shelter in the entrance to the hall where I took these photos some showing the wet glossy paths to illustrate how wet it was.

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After sheltering out the time of the storm we looked for architectural details of the building and discovered these gems.

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So let us have a look at a few shots of the “new” hall before we explore the old hall.

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As we approached the old hall, which was the family home of Bess, our first view was in silhouette. As we moved around the building the detail revealed itself.

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As we passed through the gateway we came across this piece of stonework. We had no idea what it was but were interested to find another set of Bess’ initials. You can just about see them if you look really carefully.

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A close up look around the tall walls of the old hall showed how beautiful it must have been. It had a certain beauty even in decay.

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We were drawn to the signs of old plaster work hanging on the inside walls.

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Many old windows and doors had been filled in at various times and this resulted in what appeared as framed textured paintings. Beautiful!

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As we walked away from the old hall I looked back and took this shot of it as the sky cleared and the sun returned.

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As we returned to the car park the sun was setting behind the tall trees alongside the path showing just how long we had been discovering the delights of the old halls at Hardwick. We also came across this stone sculpture based on seeds found in the grounds.

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We travelled further North and made our way out of Derbyshire into Yorkshire where we stayed a few days in Wakefield. Here we would experience more of our culture fixes.

By greenbenchramblings

A retired primary school head teacher, I now spend much of my time gardening in our quarter acre plot in rural Shropshire south of Shrewsbury. I share my garden with Jude my wife a newly retired teacher , eight assorted chickens and a plethora of wildlife. Jude does all the heavy work as I have a damaged spine and right leg. We also garden on an allotment nearby. We are interested in all things related to gardens, green issues and wildlife.

4 replies on “A Week of Culture – Part One – Hardwick Hall”

This has brought back some memories. I worked in the gardens 1987/88 and there used to be 2 huge Oak trees on the approach to the hall, that blew down during the bad storms of that time. It took us days to cut them all up. Also, in the top right hand corner of the herb garden, there’s a drain that we dug and we wrote our names in the wet concrete ! This is where I learnt how to prune Apple trees properly and still carry it with me today. Must go back for a visit ! LJ

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