Friday, 26 May 2017

Middle-class, middle-aged bank holidays: Renishaw Hall and Derbyshire

Well folks its true, being suspiciously close to being both middle-class and middle-age I spent my last Bank Holiday in the only way I know how: visiting a country pile!

Edith Sidwell's birthplace
Renishaw Hall was built in 1625 and is still a family home today. Some of its most famous inhabitants were the Sitwell trio - Edith, Sacheverell and Osbert - they grew up there in the late 19th century. They were an eccentric bunch but they helped to cultivate lots of famous artists you may have heard of; Dylan Thomas, Aldous Huxley, and William Walton. You can see the remnants of these relationships in their special museum; in an excerpt from one of Walton's letters the handwriting looks rather like my Dad's!

The house itself is still a family home and only open on Fridays during the Summer season. This is no problem though if the weather is good as the courtyard and museum are open and so are the incredible gardens. We saw a meadow rammed with bluebells, a rose-covered walkway and lots of tulips in the walled gardens. Private houses are better than National Trust properties in that they offer you that extra layer of liberty; there was very little signage to moderate and interfere with your experience of the property especially around the lake. We spent at least 3 hours here just enjoying the gardens and surrounding area, thoroughly recommend.

Bakewell (tarts and puddings)
A fortnight ago my sister and I spent the afternoon in Bakewell. The town lent its name to the famous tart which today is presented coated in icing and a glacĂ© cherry on top. I, however, am always looking for the most authentic experience possible and so we sought out an original bakewell pudding. There are at least three wooden-beamed establishments selling this Victorian dish; we decided to purchase a small pudding to share (top left) and two more modern tart slices (middle right) - but not with icing or a cherry on the top. As you might expect the pudding is a more dense dessert and the almonds were chopped more roughly than its contemporary equivalent but both tasted pretty good.

Looking beyond the puddings, if possible, Bakewell is a small town of some beauty with local cheeses and a farm store. It also plenty of big brand stores you'd expect in a national park: Boots, Fatface etc. and we found a great cafe attached to a book shop; tea and new books, my favourite!

Tideswell: Cathedral in the Peak
When driving along the A623 I kept seeing signs for 'Tideswell and Cathedral in the Peak'. So, on the way home from Matlock and with a spare half an hour, I turned left to explore the little Derbyshire village. A medieval market town famous for lead mining, Tideswell is now home to about 2000 people. The church of St John the Baptist is at the centre of the village, it is a grade 1 listed building but is not technically a Cathedral. The church is ancient and was a dissenting parish in the thirteenth century. The pew ends and misericords have been carved with some interesting carvings some depicting baptism and confirmation, and this lady doing the monster mash!

Why not explore Derbyshire this May Bank Holiday? It has so much to offer!

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