Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Hardwick Hall

We're back in Highgate, having woken up in Hayfield, and spent much of the day at Hardwick Hall, just outside Chesterfield. All the Hs!

I've often driven up the M1 and seen the two halls of Hardwick sitting proudly and impressively on the top of a hill. I'd never known what they were until today.

Besse of Hardwick was one of the wealthiest women in Elizabethan England, a close personal friend of the Queen herself, and a woman who wanted to live in the finest building in the country. She renovated her ancestral home and then built an astonishing new house in the grounds of he old one, which featured whole walls of windows, which at the time were the most incredible display of wealth.

The old hall slowly fell into disrepair, and in the Victorian era, when these things became immensely popular, was maintained as a "romantic" ruin... No doubt, at some stage, a hermit was paid to live there, and the guests of the newer house got to sit and picnic within.

The building is set in beautiful grounds, although most of its views include the M1 silently snaking its way along the base of the valley a mile or so away.

The inside of the new house is covered from top to toe in tapestries and wall hangings. It's really quite impressive. Gaudy in the extreme, not at all my aesthetic cup of tea, but hugely worth a look, and with plenty of extras thrown around to entertain the kids.

We had tea and cake afterwards whilst Nathan taught little Lily to knit and the boys carved miniature dinosaur skeletons out of blocks of plaster of Paris. The weather was absolutely glorious and the scones, though a little dry, were tasty enough.

The drive back down the M1 was really very speedy. On a good day the Peak District is actually only about 2 hours North of London, which makes it hugely accessible, and something of a hidden gem in my view. We've had a brilliant mini-break there and I would recommend it to anyone.

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