We were in Derbyshire for the last days of November. We visited Chatsworth on Sunday afternoon and ate a roast pork bun in the grand old stables courtyard, whilst listening to a band play old tunes. It was already dusk but the music, pretty coloured lights and festive decorations added a kind of warmth to mellow the winter chill. The many visitors were good-humoured as they sat to eat and listen, or stroll around the courtyard and indoor shops to view the varied Christmas goods on sale. The house was brightly lit but we did not go inside to see the decorated rooms but, no doubt, many others did. We have been inside the house and gardens on other occasions. And we have often walked in the extensive park. I don’t think there is another country house quite like Chatsworth and we have visited quite a few.
We stayed at Cromford in the Alison House Hotel (Cromford is the home of the original Arkwright mill). The house is where Sir Richard Arkwright once lived (when not at his London home or elsewhere?). Quite likely, it was while residing in this pleasant abode that he planned the building of Willersley Castle as befitting his growing status in society.
We took a lot of photos of the house and lovely gardens — yes, lovely even in winter with its grand views and flower borders. In summer it must be a relaxing place to sit and soak in the Arkwright history, or just meditate in peace and quiet. Did Arkwright do much dreaming in that wonderful setting? If so, I guess it would be of expansion and new methods to boost production.
I enjoyed the public rooms with their elegant windows. We had a downstairs suite at the hotel. Actually it is one of their rooms for disabled guests. The huge double bed was quite something and the furniture quite pleasant.In the bathroom was a door, which we opened to find a narrow space with an outside door that didn’t open. It must have been the old back door. But what is so funny is that it could not have been cleaned for yonks! What a lark! Huge dust-covered cobwebs that might have been there for years! The rest of the suite was spotless, no doubt like the rest of the hotel. We said nothing as it seemed a shame to have it cleaned up. I loved it so much we took a photograph. The outside door was locked and an old bolt was in still place. My imagination set to work — what a setting for a yarn! The secret door to let in a vampire lover? No, don’t like vampire stories. It will have to be the handsome muscular gardener…
We did some shopping at Masson Mills. Anyone interested in industrial history would love a visit here (as well as the Cromford Mill) as some of the original works have been preserved. My mission though was to explore the one-time mill building’s huge floors of clothing and other goods. I found ideal Christmas presents in quite a short time.
Before we left the area, we had lunch with relatives and visited the Smedley factory shop at Lee Mills. We would have enjoyed visiting inside, but this is a working factory exporting fine knitted wear all over the world. I rejoice that factories in the UK can still export high quality (expensive) goods. Quality and fine workmanship is not always easy to copy. I was pleased to be able to buy a few more presents!
No visit to the Midlands would be complete without a visit to my sister who lives near Nottingham. As usual, we all went to the nature reserve at Attenborough to see the wide range of wild life and also partake of a light meal. Afterwards we drove a few miles to Highfields Park, the exquisite setting for the white Nottingham University building. The elegant building set on a green hill, beyond the ornamental lake, with the ever-changing sky as a backdrop, has never failed to move me. I have fond memories of my brother studying there and of him taking me to a ‘going down hop’. Also of him falling in the lake, when messing about in a boat with other students at the end of term. He was brought home with his shrunken clothes still wet and clinging to his shivering body. Worse — his spectacles were somewhere at the bottom of the lake. My thoughts about university when I was a girl, and ‘people like us’ not being considered suitable for such advanced education, are written into my novel, Awakening Love.
After a gentle walk in the grounds, along the university side of the lake that was once the preserve of students and staff, we took my sister home to her waiting cat. (Now why did the cat show us it’s tongue?)