Sunday, 27 January 2013



We're back in action. After being hampered by holidays and illness we are staging a comeback, and aren't about to be put off by the presence of a few inches of snow. However, given that some roads still have a lethal amount of ice on their untreated surfaces we are opting for the safe option of Chatsworth.

We pull into Baslow car park only to find it covered in ice and with a lot of cars arriving for an organised walk. At PC's suggestion we move out and decide to try the main house car park at Chatsworth, hopefully avoiding the high probability of one of the very worried looking drivers running into us!

Fortunately we arrive at Chatsworth on clear roads with gritted access. Even the car park has been ploughed, and since the little man isn't in his kiosk to collect his £3 we don't have to pay.

It takes us a while to gear up, pulling on sufficient layers to keep out the chill and wet.

We amble up towards the Stables area, find it virtually empty apart from some workmen at the toilets and ducks on the frozen water feature. Then we take one of the well-cleared paths down the car park towards the main house entrance and park.

There are plenty of photo opportunities today, the whole landscape is transformed and the structure of Capability Brown's design really seems to come to the fore.

The River Derwent winding along the front of the House is iron grey providing stark contrast to the white blanket of snow punctuated by the near-black silhouettes of the trees.

We pause to have a look at Queen Mary's Bower, constructed in the 1550s by Bess of Hardwick and reputedly named for Mary Queen of Scots who was briefly held prisoner at Chatsworth in 1569 with the Bower being one of her favourite spots.

We come to the bridge where two Japanese tourists are taking dozens of photographs. We take a couple before moving on. In the distance we spot a herd of deer but they are too far away to see clearly.

At this point we have to make a decision. We don't actually have a plan and we need to have some kind of idea of where we are going to walk. It doesn't take us long to decide to 'make it up as we go along' so we head off uphill towards the deer, the snow deep and pristine apart from a few animal tracks.

As we trudge higher - walking in deep snow isn't the easiest surface - we are getting better views behind us to the house and the majestic Emperor Fountain which is reaching straight up into the wind-free sky.

We circle behind the deer, who keep a cautious distance, and find a bench - snow covered but with a good view. PC suggests we stop for a coffee, I readily agree. We have to clear the bench first then, of course, we have a nip from one of the secret flasks (which aren't really so secret after all), and PC gets to hers first, so it's Cointreau. Lovely and orangey and warming on such a cold day. The coffee is very welcome too, but by the time we've finished it we realise that it is past noon, so we quickly eat our sandwiches but save the buns for later.

Leaving the bench behind - ready cleared for the next walker wanting to pause - we head towards Edensor village. The slope down to it looks very inviting, if potentially lethal, and a couple are sledging. What a shame we don't have a sledge, it looks such fun!

When we arrive at the snow covered path we turn left back towards the house, then deviate through the trees, cross the road and start walking through what we consider to be the main part of the park in front of the house. Ahead are another herd of deer and as PC waits with Mollie I decide to try to get a little closer to them.

It is hard to stay hidden in snow and the deer watch me suspiciously as I slowly walk towards them - hiding behind conveniently placed trees doesn't fool them one bit. But I do manage to get quite close even though I am being constantly watched. They obviously decide that I'm not much of a threat, armed only with a rucksack and a camera.

Once the deer have been snapped we return to our amble. We're keeping higher on the hill and soon find another convenient bench (there are quite a few dotted around) and the lure of buns becomes too great to ignore.

On the bench we fetch out the fresh cream eclairs which are, as PC momentously points out, the perfect shape for eating when on a walk. No fiddling, messing or crumbling. Just total, unfussy indulgence. We finish the coffee then set off again towards the Mill. Before we reach it, though, we spot a heron on top of the weir and manage a photo before it flies away.

The Old Corn Mill, built in 1760 and in use until 1950, still has the old rusty remains of its last wheel in situ. Today we can hear, and see, the water rushing through it.

We have a brief detour to the garden centre toilets then set off back, this time keeping to the riverside as we walk. There are a few more walkers out now, and near the river are the sagging remains of snowmen and an igloo built over the last few days by eager and optimistic visitors.

It is very soggy underfoot in places, the snow manages to hide it until you step on the waterlogged surface, but it isn't too bad. By this time, mid-afternoon, it is starting to feel colder as daylight is being leeched out of the sky.

We aren't long, though, before we're walking over the bridge and back up the drive towards the car park. Activity is slowing here as people are heading away and we soon follow them.

It has been a good day; PC can still feel the effects of her virus but the walk has been just enough for her without over-exerting herself, and it has been worth the effort to see the snow in the park.


Monday, 21 January 2013


Hope everyone is having a good New Year, sorry we've no walking blog to post at the moment.

PC has had a very nasty bout of flu which has left her with a secondary chest infection, so walking has had to be postponed until she's able to get out without wheezing and spluttering like an out-of-date steam engine.

And, of course, as an added bonus we now have the snow to contend with. Although we live miles apart we both struggle with difficult access in bad weather. PC has a murderous downhill slalom to negotiate before reaching main roads, I have over 2 miles on an untreated, single track rural road to contend with before reaching civilization.

But the snow won't last forever, and PC will get better soon, so fingers crossed, we're hoping to be back in action in the next week or two.