I ended my long weekend Up North with a photography, research and memory-jogging expedition, some of which I'd intended to do on the way up but had to postpone due to lack of daylight.
My first shop was Chatsworth, where I picked up some interesting foods and books, while waiting for the house to open. Going back to the house after so many years was interesting, although I'll have to go back later in the year because I've been promised a trip up the scaffolding to take photographs (apparently they did it the same last year's scaffolding but haven't quite sorted the Health and Safety aspects for this year yet). They'd also had a bit of a rush on to get all the rooms ready for the season: the house had opened as planned the day before my visit, but at least one room was still shut off while they finished it.
To add to my joy at seeing how the house works (and I really do need to book myself on one of the 'behind the scenes' days) I was in one of the smaller bedrooms, admiring the wallpaper, when a small, hairy black and tan dog trotted in, closely followed by a member of staff and various of the Cavendish family. From their conversation I learned that the room had only just been got ready in time due to issues decorating the ceiling. The Duchess informed me that her dog is very friendly, which I';d gathered, although I think my Bear is a little disturbing for small dogs. After that we went our separate ways, and I found my favourite painting had been moved to an even grander location than its old home.
Back to nostalgia. My only problem with the visit was the lack of kitchens on the tour. I now can't remember whether they ever featured, or whether I saw them while 'below stairs' on a visit to the little car that really did live under the stairs at the time. I suspect there are other rooms in my memories that come from a charity visit to the previous Duchess (now Dowager and keeper of chickens) when she opened up her private apartments for the day.
I also visited the gardens, which I barely remembered from previous visits, and had a cup of tea and a slice of traybake (proper homemade, rather than shop-bought by the look of it) at a slightly windswept table. After which I popped up to the Farm Shop and accidentally bought far more than I intended, including two boxes of the Dowager's free range eggs (proper brown shells on some of them as well!). All in all, lots of useful research and somewhere I need to make a proper day of visiting next time I'm in Derbyshire.
My next stop, after a touch of confusion with Google Maps not recognising the road through the Chatsworth Estate, was Hartington for the Cheese Shop and to photograph the houses and other buildings. Sadly the Cheese Factory that I helped inspect as a student closed down two years ago, but I was still able to restrict my purposes to cheeses made within ten miles of the shop and come away with a good haul.
Hartington has a lot of pubs! It is also very much a village of the Cavendish family, with lots of 'Chatsworth', 'Devonshire' and 'Cavendish' names to the houses and pubs (it seems to have a lot of pubs!). Lovely grey stone (with yellow blocks of stone on the house corners and around the windows and doors), a churchyard I would have loved to been able to explore (time constraints again), and a proper red phonebox for those who follow josephine_myles' LJ posts of UKisms.
Conscious of the need for daylight at my next stop, and the offer of dinner towards the end of my journey, I set off again and was reminded for the umpteenth time of the weekend just how beautiful Derbyshire and the Peak District is when you drive over its hills.
My final stop was Meersbrook near Leek for the Tittesworth Reservoir. Parking prices were rather ridiculous if you weren't intending to stay long, but neither of the obvious ticket machines would take my money, so I just stayed within sight of my car to take my photographs and eat a snack. The reservoir was smaller (or perhaps more elongated) than I'm envisioning the fictional one to be, but at least my visit and photographs will give me an idea of scale.
Next up: more book reviews, or possibly something on 'Genre Conventions and Reader Expectations' with reference to diversity in English villages...