As its half term here, we have been out and about lots, trying to take advantage of any sunshine that we may have. Yesterday we took a trip to Calke Abbey which is a National Trust property in Derbyshire, and one with a difference too, but I’ll talk about that later. We packed up some picnic things, as we’d get there for about midday, so ate as soon as we arrived, then wandered around the house and grounds.
Calke Abbey is a Baroque house, that was built on the site of a former priory. Completed in 1704 by Sir John Harpur and his wife Catherine. It was a large and rich estate, but in later days the property fell into disrepair, and the family was in incredible debt due to taxes and death duties.
The family through the generations seem to have had two very recognisable traits, one of collecting, this house is full of treasure especially natural history, from birds to shells, butterflies and larger items like crocodile skulls. To being reclusive and unsociable. Calke Abbey is known as the unstately home and country estate. It has pretty much been left as it was first found and taken over by the national trust. What’s really interesting is this is such a fabulous as well as sad example of what is happening to many of our stately homes in Britain. As families are unable to afford the upkeep, many rooms were shut off, and areas left in decay. It’s this decay, along with the amazing collections that the NT is preserving, so we can really have a feel for what it would be like to live in such a mansion as Calke Abbey.
Armed with our new Anorak woodland picnic blanket (£36) and a couple of Kissing Rabbits stacking snack boxes £15, we sat in the grounds on the grass enjoying our salad and sandwiches in the sunshine. The blanket is waterproof backed, so no wet bottoms, it’s also really lightweight to carry. If anything does stain them, they are machine washable too. Rolling it back up into adjustable carry handles, which keeps it neat and again easy to carry. The snack boxes were a revelation for picnicking. My girls love salad and sandwiches, so I made a greek salad for one section, and cheese or ham sandwiches for the other. They open and close really easily, and kept everything safe and fresh, despite being moved around in the car, and as we walked. Very well made and I loved the addition of the thick elastic grey band to keep everything in place. I think next time I’ll get some of the matching plates and mugs for Tall Dad and I.
Once we had eaten we set off exploring in the Abbey, there was something to see at every turn.
This was the kitchen range, left just as it had been found.
The stable area was really interesting. I just loved this painting set on a easel depicting what we were looking at. It created an interesting if not optical illusion vista to take in.
We spent some time in the flower garden. We chatted to a really friendly volunteer of the NT, who told us all about the yellow borders, as we realised we had lots of these plants, including a more rare and expensive one, that since I have come home the name has escaped me. Hate it when that happens. The auricula theatre is the last surviving one of its kind, though its was displaying an extremely impressive display of pelargoniums when we visited.
I think you can safely say we had a great time at Calke Abbey and Gardens, I think next time we come we will arrive earlier though, so we can spend more time in the grounds, as there was lots we didn’t discover.
Prices (Gift Aid)
- Adult: £13.00
- Child: £6.50
- Family: £32.50
- Group adult: n/a
- Group child: n/a
You can choose to just visit the stables and park, or park, stable and garden for less of a fee.
Sat-Nav: If using SatNav please use postcode DE73 7LE
For more details visit the NT site.
Other National Trust places we have visited