So, I'm dropped off at the car park in Baslow where PC is already waiting and I transfer my meagre belongings to her car. Some I have in a bum-bag, the rest go into PC's rucksack. Then we drive through Chatsworth Park to the car park at Calton Lees which, since it is holiday season, is starting to fill up. We duly pay the parking fee - £3 this year, but it gives us all day without having to stick to a return time - and pay a quick visit to the loos in the garden centre. Then we're off.
Today we are dogless, which does make things easier, and PC is looking very fit since she has been accompanying her husband on some of his training walks for his trip to do the West Highland Way next month. My fitness levels, needless to say, are not what they were.
We take the slope down to the road from the garden centre entrance and cross over the bridge, avoiding the holiday traffic. From here there is a short walk on the narrow verge until we turn away from the road and go left at Beeley Lodge where we climb up the narrow lane towards Beeley Hilltop. The sun is out and the views are, naturally, superb. In fact, it is good to pause in the shade from time to time as it is getting quite warm, certainly warm enough to walk minus fleeces and layers.
It's a lovely walk up here, surprisingly quiet too as we don't see anyone else. The views are far reaching but there is a heat haze which gives them a fuzzy blur to spoil photographs.
Once past the edge of Hell Bank Plantation (what a name!) we take the stone stile next to the gate leading onto Rabbit Warren. Fortunately I get over this obstacle without any problems even though I'm only using one hand.
At the far side of the stile we pause as a wave of scent hits us. The heather on the moors is currently in bloom with swathes of purple and lilac wherever we look, but the floral honey scent of the blossoms was quite unexpected. It is certainly something I have never experienced and can only assume that the warm weather has brought out the best in the blooms. After all, whenever we have walked through heather before it has tended to be dull or raining, or both.
It is a very pleasant path across Rabbit Warren and we see quite a few people here, a sign of the holiday season. At the end of the path we have another high stile to cross, and again it poses no problems. I'm feeling quite pleased with myself!
Our usual route through here is by turning left along a small track, but today we follow the more obvious track around to the right, then at the crossroads of tracks we go straight ahead. There are lots more people now and some are quite noisy.
The track takes us on a loop of a walk to arrive at Swiss Lake - or rather, the remains of Swiss Lake. The last time we were here the lake was full and had wildfowl on it. Today it is a muddy mess, drained of water and with a sparse covering of weeds. At the far side the stone walls have flapping drapes of black polythene - not terribly attractive and seemingly serving no useful purpose whatsoever.
Continuing on for some way we see the Emperor Lake through the trees, at least this seems to be full. We walk down to it but there isn't anywhere to sit just here, though we can see that we have missed the usual spot and go back to the road to walk around a little. Then we see a newly constructed feeder pond/lake next to the track which feeds directly into the Emperor Lake. Is this the reason for the Swiss Lake's demise? It may well be, and whilst it is probably more effective it certainly isn't particularly attractive being functional rather than aesthetic.
We walk down to the Lake and find that the single bench is vacant - perfect. So, coffee (not the best, alas) and sandwiches followed by cream doughnuts - all of which went down very well.
After our leisurely lunch we return to the track and continue to follow it, we pass the Hunting Tower tucked into the trees and start to lose some of the other walkers as they veer off down towards the house. We continue on the main track and ignore the path down to the left which would take us into the park.
We've never actually taken this route before so even in somewhere as familiar as Chatsworth we are finding something new. The track comes to a halt at a field gate but to the left of it is a narrow path which leads to another stile over a high wall. At the far side of this there is a small white arrow (permissive path) and a clear track across Dobb Edge.
Wow! the views open out and we have a vista in front of us that we haven't seen before. Far ahead are the Three Ships and Nelson's Monument on Birchen Edge and Baslow is down to the left. There is a ladder stile in front of us which, undoubtedly, will lead us to the Robin Hood on the A619 to Chesterfield, but there is also a path leading downhill on our left. We choose the left hand path.
Up on the hill to our left - we must have missed seeing it on our way down - is a huge rock structure which may be Jubilee Rock. We continue downhill though and emerge, as we suspected, into the main Chatsworth Park. From here we meander in the general direction of the House.
As we are continuing in our vague downhill and left direction we spot a herd of young male deer sheltering in a copse of trees. We try to skirt around them without disturbing them as we head for a small stile over the wire fence, but the deer see us and take flight, leaping over the fence as though it isn't there. We cross the fence via the stile with much less grace!
It's a fair distance across this part of the park to the house, and as we get closer to the stately home we see the reflected gleams of hundreds of cars in the extended car parks and we start to see a few more people taking a gentle stroll within easy reach of their vehicles.
At the car parks PC heads for the plush loos whilst I go to buy us ice creams. Large (very large) 99s. Naughty, but very nice!
We eat our ice creams as we walk down through the cars and over the bridge where we pause to admire the Emperor Fountain and remark (again) on the gilding around the windows of the house.
Over the bridge and we have the final walk across the park to complete. It is here that there are the most people - other than those up close to the house and visiting that and the gardens. Still, Chatsworth is a big place and huge numbers of people can be accommodated without taking up all the space.
It doesn't take long for us to reach the car park at Calton Lees where we sit and enjoy a little more of the sunshine before setting off. It has been great to get out, and having a familiar walk with some new places added on is a distinct bonus.