Tuesday, 13 November 2012



We're well into autumn now, not our usual time of year for visiting the grounds of Derbyshire's most prominent stately home since we tend to reserve its easily accessible parking for more unpredictable weather, but we were wanting to try to catch some autumn colour. We've missed some walking again - holidays and viruses - so we have fingers firmly crossed that the trees  have held out just enough for some good photos.

We park in the Calton Lees car park, pleased that the little man isn't collecting money on this bitterly cold morning, and attempting to avoid the massed ranks of an organised walk. We hope they aren't going our way.

By the time we have donned our many layers the group has disappeared and we meander down to the garden centre loos before setting off. We have Mollie with us today, and she's raring to go.

We drop down to the road bridge over the River Derwent as two dogs at the adjacent cottage bark frantically at us and chase us along the fence line. The Alsatian looks as though it means it, but we can't really take the giant poodle seriously! Mollie ignores them both.

At the far side of the bridge we walk up the road and turn left at the side of Beeley Lodge and take the lane that rise up to Beeley Hilltop. We're able to see some good colour in the trees when we turn to look back, but it isn't as spectacular as we had hoped.

We continue upwards past the farm and onto the rough, rutted "other route with public access" - which tends to mean vehicular access. Fortunately we see no 4x4s today and we pause half way up to admire the view towards Matlock with the sun illuminating the hills.

At the top of the lane we clamber over the extremely high stile onto the path through Rabbit Warren. 

We're very exposed here and we feel the intense chill of the wind. And rain clouds are gathering too.

When we reach the end of the path we climb another high stile to enter the woods at the top of the Chatsworth estate. 

Here we are in a beech grove and these trees do not disappoint with their burnished brassy leaves.

We decide to walk along the top path towards the ponds, something we have never done at this time of year, and we're surprised at how soon we come to Swiss Lake. There are some ducks bobbing about on the water but there is nowhere for us to sit so we press on until we come to the Emperor Lake, which ultimately feeds the Emperor fountain in the grounds of the House.

There is a bench here, so we sit down as Mollie investigates the water and keeps the ever-hopeful ducks away. Coffee first, to warm us up, then our sandwiches before the buns. This week PC had only a limited choice, so it's chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. They look very good, but sadly don't quite live up to their promised delights, although they redeem themselves slightly by having gooey chocolate in the centre of the vanilla bun. We finish off with more coffee then set off again. It's very cold sat here and we're both feeling the chill.

The path takes us past the hunting tower, now (we believe) used as a holiday cottage, and continue on until we reach a left hand track which drops down to a wall beyond which is the parkland.

Once in the park the sun comes out and it feels surprisingly warm after the chill of the woods. Sadly it doesn't last very long and by the time we reach the house the sun has disappeared.

The car park to the house is full and we wonder if it is time for the Christmas decorations to be up yet. We drop down to the bridge, cross over then set off across the park.

The house is on our left on the opposite side of the river, and we see the gilded window frames glistening in the weak sunlight. We're not sure if the expensive gold leaf suits the house, or just looks trashy. It certainly makes a statement!

We take the straight route above the river and soon find ourselves on the road a few yards away from the cattle grid next to the Calton Lees car park and only a short stretch from the cars.

We've done quite well with our aim of finding some colour, though the trees are by no means as spectacular as they have been in previous years. Maybe we've just mis-timed it, though we tend to think that it isn't a particularly good year for colour.

Next week we hope to go exploring somewhere new again!

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