We couldn't have had a more perfect day. With an outing to Chatsworth House in the plans, we were elated by the clear blue sky, warm sunshine and nascent fall leaves. What better way to spend this gift than out in the countryside? Yes, my friends Jo and Peter made a very good choice for the day.
Our trip to Chatsworth took us through the beautiful countryside of Derbyshire and a fringe of the Peak District. There was a bit of mist still hovering in the valleys, but it didn't detract from the tidy villages we passed through and the green pastoral countryside. Every way I looked, the view was pure England.
We were visiting Chatsworth not to tour the lush country house but rather to enjoy the grounds. The park that surrounds the house is over 1,000 acres in size, much of it free to the public for walking. We headed for the central gardens immediately adjacent to the house. Immaculately kept with great variety in the plantings and themed gardens, it alone would easily have been a day's entertainment. But our visit also coincided with annual exhibition of contemporary sculpture. Over 30 modern sculptures were integrated into the landscape to add to our viewing pleasure.
Paths led throughout the gardens, and the sculptures gave us a ready itinerary for touring the area. With the sun shining down, it was idyllic weather for just strolling along. And as it was only my second day in England, it was the perfect activity for my sleep-confused system.
Some of our first sights were a bit unusual. We were there early enough that the sun reflected off dew-dipped cobwebs on some of the outdoor ornaments. Nature adding her own artistic touch.
I can't say we understood all the art. Some we dubbed “construction site” pieces. At others we could only shake our heads. Sometimes the meaning escaped us, but we enjoyed the interplay of the art with the surroundings and the artsy views they provided.
One piece in particular sparked recognition on Jo's part. Based on Manet's “Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe“, she explained the painting behind the sculpture and the furor it incited in its day for its scandalous content. Soon she had an audience, as another couple lent an ear to gain from her expertise. She showed us the original when we returned home, but it's her interpretation that will stay with me.
There were plenty of garden elements to interest us as well as the sculptures. The 300 year old cascade of water driven by gravity, with each of its steps made of a different material to produce a different sound from the falling water. The maze of thick tall shrubbery. Peter and I never did find our way to the center. But at least we made it out the other side. The reflecting pool with views in many directions. And the myriad flowers still in bloom. All carefully tended and manicured.
Taking time out for an outdoor lunch in the center of the stables, we basked in the sun and marveled at our good fortune with the weather. It made for sublime walking, talking and viewing. Indeed, it was a grand day out.
(With apologies to Wallace and Gromit… My family and English friends will understand!)