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Dawdling in the Derbyshire Dales – part two – The Manifold Valley

As spring tries tentatively to make its presence felt in the garden and the surrounding countryside we can enjoy looking back to a week spent in Derbyshire exploring the Dales.

Our first walk along the dales of Derbyshire while spending a week there in July took us to the beautiful little village called Illam. This is a village owned by the National Trust so has to remain unspoiled. They also own the hall at the head of Manifold Dale, where we found our essential feature of any day out, a place for coffee and cakes.

Once revived we made our way down to the River Manifold and took a footpath along its bank to explore the valley it had created through millenia of erosion. The Manifold is very much typical of Derbyshire’s little rivers, clear running, home to rare and unusual wildlife and picturesque.

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The wildflowers and grasses on its banks

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Sadly even in such a beautiful, peaceful place humans try to spoil it, scarring it with discarded drinks cans and take out coffee cups.

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Beneath this rock stack was a spring where the water from an underground stream burst out into daylight to join the Manifold.

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The trail we were following took us a short distance from the river along an old walkway beneath overhanging trees. This walk was designed as a “promenade” for the family and visitors of the house when in its previous glory. We were bemused to hear a mechanical humming noise getting louder with each step as we neared an avenue of Limes. We eventually worked out it was the humming of thousands of bees attracted to the sweet smelling, lime-green blossom.

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We were surprised to discover a memorial stone and fern garden alongside the track.

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As the path turned us back towards the house leading us over open parkland away from the river. Please enjoy sharing the views we saw along the way with us.

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We found a rocky outcrop where we sat for a coffee and some fruit and to take in the sights and sounds of nature all around.

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After enjoying our break with brilliant views we carried on across the open parkland back towards the house and the views just kept on coming.

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We were delighted to have one last look at the River Manifold at the end of our walk where we were amazed by this waterside plant with spiky flowers and huge rough leaves.

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I shall finish this wandering post along the valley of the Manifold with this little mini-garden created by Mother Nature, the greatest gardener of all! Our next post in my series from Derbyshire will explore Monsal Dale.

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Dawdling in the Derbyshire Dales – part one – limestone hills and old barns

We hadn’t visited Derbyshire for a long while so decided that a few days away in July would afford us the chance to walk a few of its dales and bring back memories while doing so. Limestone ridges, old stone barns and limestone walls as field boundaries are trademarks of the Derbyshire landscape. Well Dressing is an ancient tradition celebrated by the locals and friendliness an attribute of their characters. We found them all!

I kept trying to get a good photo of this old barn and the surrounding drystone walls, typical of the Derbyshire countryside. I moved around, tried all angles and am still not convinced I got it right. So here are my attempts for you to consider. My preference is the first shot because I like the way the walls lead the eye diagonally towards the barn. Do you think differently?

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This second barn nearer to the horizon seemed a little easier to photograph but I still tried several different shots. I enjoyed the challenge! I personally like the square format photo most of all but you may think differently.

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Limestone ridges are our second feature typical of the Derbyshire landscape and we were extremely lucky to have found a sunny bright day to view them. Their character changes with the light and on dull days they lack texture and sparkle. Shadows sit under the few trees stunted through lack of soil depth and lack of moisture.

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The farming landscape here is soft and friendly with its dry stone walls and a scattering of small trees.  It is an undulating landscape with occasional valleys which are in places heavily wooded.

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When tourists decide to visit Derbyshire many choose the Well Dressing season to make the journey. This is a traditional ceremony when villagers and often the children from the village school make fantastic displays created from flower petals. They make very colourful additions to the characterful villages of Derbyshire. We discovered these creations in one little valley.

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We can add another element to Derbyshire’s points of interest for the visitor. The locals are very friendly. These two ladies chatted away to us for ages as we relished our coffee and cake. As you can see the one liked having her photo taken to go onto my blog while the other claimed to be too shy!

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So with a smile from one friendly local I will finish this post about our week in Derbyshire. The coming posts will feature some walks along the dales.



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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.