Derbyshire 44 - Chesterfield/it feels like Christmas and December again/Another visit to Bess's pile


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March 20th 2018
Published: March 20th 2018
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John Geddes wrote " Decembers wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summers memory" As I looked out of the window on Sunday it looked like December. It felt like December. The snow had fallen overnight and coated the trees in white. The green grass was covered with 4" of the white stuff. The paths were invisible hidden under their winter coat. The mini beast from the East had arrived bringing with it snow showers. Being a Sunday there was little traffic on the roads and they remained impassable until the afternoon. Myself, the driver and a neighbour took our snow shovels out and cleared the path, cleared a route through our road and gritted what we could. Swimming was impossible and it looked like the haircut tomorrow would go on the back burner. The beast had closed the routes over the Pennines and it looked as if it would not clear until Tuesday. It wasn't December though. It was the third month of the year. March not December. Another birthday had passed by unnoticed, the Spring Equinox had arrived and this weekend it will be British Summer Time.

Our holiday is creeping ever closer and it is in the balance. We have made the decision though that we will go although it may be a shorter holiday than originally planned. Any holiday though in Gabby will be better than nothing. We can still make it to France. It may have to be Northern France and the weather may not be what we hoped for. However, we can still drink cidre, eat crepes and take in Brittany and Normandy visiting places we have put off in the past . We will get our holiday even if it is only two weeks out of four. We will be close enough to come home if we find we need to.

Today looking through yonder window the snow has gone. There is very little sign of the fact it snowed at all. The wind chill is cold and a thick coat, a scarf and gloves are required for our walk. We thought about where to go. We have run out of places locally that we want to visit. Even scouring the internet I find nothing of any interest. Instead we plump for a place we have visited many times. The first nearly twenty years ago. The second time on a visit when we came over from Wales. The third a wintery December walk where the cobwebs of Christmas were blown away. Hardwick Hall is one of those places you can go back to time after time. It is like Erddig in Wrexham. Every time you go you see something different. You are forced to look at it with a different head on. Today was another visit to Bess's pile.

There were a few folks parked up on the car park. All out walking their dogs. The car park was still covered with a thin layer of snow and where it had melted puddles of varying deepness. Our first stop was the café/ restaurant where we shared a bacon sandwich washed down with an Americano and a double espresso. We eyed up the lunchtime menu - a choice of lamb casserole or a spinach and cheese flan. We ended up not having lunch as the restaurant was closed. Whilst we didn't eat we did manage an entertaining hour or so walking around the grounds and gardens of Hardwick. We fell into conversation with the lady on the gate who after selling us a raffle ticket told us she used to be a teacher at a local school . Since retirement she had worked as a volunteer. Her job today was to man the gate. She sat in her small room with a heater in the corner and a blanket to put over her knees. I felt rather envious as she sat there talking to visitors and listening to the hum of the traffic on the nearby M1 in the valley below.

The house was sadly closed today so it left us with just the gardens. The rain had started to fall. We sheltered under the portico listening to it falling on the roof. It rain down the lead guttering. It gave us chance to look at the many windows filled with glass and to spy out the snake that curled in lead around the guttering. A small thing we have never noticed before today. The gardens wrap around the house. I think I had expected to see spring bulbs out but was surprised that they were still closed. The weather here up north has not encouraged them to open. Amongst the grass were the remnants of snowdrops and the splashes of pink of the Cyclamen. The trees were starting to colour up but yet again there was little out.

We wandered through the herb garden bounded by small box hedging. Lavender and thyme, flowers planted in between them. In the summer they would be a delight in all their colours. The volunteers were digging and weeding. Talking amongst themselves they laughed as they dug the borders in readiness for summer plantings.

Whilst there wasn't much to see at this time of year we spent a lovely time there and probably will come back again. Hardwick is one of those sort of places. Hidden corners and still more to see in the house.

Coming home we stripped off our wet coats , put away the scarf and gloves ready for the next time . The kettle was put on , the water boiled and we warmed up over a cup of tea. Tea is welcoming after a cold walk and we enjoyed every mouthful.

Sometimes you read something that resounds with you. There is a Chinese proverb relating to tea and goes something like " I drink tea and forget the worlds noises" Somehow that felt rather reassuring as we sat drinking our tea.

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