Lonely as a Cloud
Wayfarers show you the best of Britain on foot
Text and photos by Toby Saltzman
for the day was inspired
by simple pleasures. Take a
good walk in Chatsworth Park.
It was a day for the birds. They came to tease, to frolic alongside
and flaunt their glorious colors. They let us listen but not touch,
look but rarely photograph. Gorgeous pheasants, blazing with the
colors of fall, pecked at our boots before we could focus our cameras.
Ruffed grouse, mottled in camouflaging hues, clucked for attention
and fled. Wild ducks played in the river's current, then with wings
stretched skyward, sailed to private retreats. Only Buff Cochin
Cockerell, parading a red wattle headgear and feathery spats on
her feet, let us approach. She was obviously cocky about being the
favorite hen of Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, and was
accustomed to courting the public as Queen Hen of Chatsworth, the
It was a typical English day in the East Midlands, the kind that
could be either in spring or autumn. The sun evaporated the dawn
mist to reveal a brilliant morning. Rapid clouds shadowed the sky
and the air was invigorating - nippy but not cold.
Our plan for the day was basic, inspired by simple pleasures. Take
a good walk in Chatsworth Park. Visit the gardens. Hike into the
woods. Stop along the way to inhale the scenery.
Decked out in sturdy shoes and light jackets, we followed Christopher
and Basil, our Wayfarers guides, into the same rural beauty that
had inspired the hearts of writers and poets for centuries.
The Gardens at Chatsworth, comprising 42 hectares of rural landscape,
reflect the typically English passion for embellishing their countryside.
The grandeur is civilized, the scale magnificent, yet the whole
seems effortless in its structure and built for human enjoyment.
You may walk on the grass, caress beechnut leaves and toss pebbles
in the stream. The gardens exist solely to enhance your day, a lovely
gift from the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
We peered into the greenhouse and spotted rare buds, then climbed
terraced steps to gaze out on an intricate maze of yews. Strolling
in the company of wild birds and rabbits, we passed pretty waterfalls
and flowing streams. We stepped over picturesque bridges and followed
the banks of the River Derwent, stopping in hushed amazement to
enjoy the intimate sensuality of a deer nuzzling her fawn, and in
the distance, the sheep that dotted distant pastures like puffs
of cotton. We slipped through metal "kissing gates" and hopped the
"sunk" fences tucked into the little slopes between properties.
Chatsworth Estate encompasses several towns and villages that appeared
as we mounted a hill or rounded a bend into a valley. Little Edensor
is the quintessential English village; we could discern the district's
literary past in her quaint honey limestone cottages, her spired church
silhouetted against a gentle pastoral sky, her little cemetery of
ancient gravestones floating in a sea of daffodils.
the village of Edensor
Just as we neared the historic pub at Beeley Village, a pheasant
who had teased us with peek-a-boo antics all morning dashed headfirst
into the pub's stone fence, broke her neck and lay still for good.
We were horrified, but Basil was thrilled. He scooped up the bird
and chuckled with glee: "Lucky for me, you silly bird. You'll be
my special dinner tonight." The weathered sign outside Beeley's
pub said "Theaksons Own Peculiar Brew." We were ready for a bit
of sustenance - a bowl of hot soup and a soothing draught. In the
beamed and stuccoed intimacy of this charming old place, we shared
good cheer and warmed our bones with Theaksons Own and savory, stick-to-your-ribs
comfort food before heading out for our afternoon jaunt.
We continued to walk at a steady yet leisurely pace, about three
kilometres per hour, reminiscing about high school poetry and learning
a little North Country English along the way. We passed "becks"
(little brooks) and "berns" (smaller streams) that traversed wooded
"dales" or "vales" (small valleys) where tufts of wildflowers and
long grasses bordered ribbons of rushing water.
We ambled down to Rowsley to see the mill town which was now an
artists' haven. Later we shared aromatic tea and delicious Bakewell
tarts at the Randolph Hotel after negotiating forest paths along
the River Wye to Bakewell. By then we had walked enough - a minibus
awaited to drive us to our rooms at The Cavendish Hotel.
village of Edensor
An inn for over 200 years under the jurisdiction of the Chatsworth
Estate, The Cavendish is a superb little hotel. Impeccable, proper,
all chintz and antiques and priceless Victorian art, it epitomizes
elegant English country life without - thank goodness - any trace
of nouveau pretension.
The Cavendish is blessed with Nick Buckingham's culinary talents.
One of Britain's celebrated chefs, his culinary artistry dazzles
the eye and leaves an indelible imprint on the palate. Nick convinced
me to try the venison from the Earl of Spencer's farm - the late
Princess Diana's father - and it was delicious: robust, woody, yet
Next morning, we returned to Chatsworth, the Duchess' mansion,
which is now open to the public like so many great English houses
to help offset the exorbitant property and inheritance taxes. We
sensed no arrogance here, when the Duke and Duchess descended the
grand staircase to greet us, just a loving concern for the land
and its denizens. The only haughty being around, in fact, was Buff
Cochin Cockerell, Queen Hen of the Chatsworth Estate.
guides lead you into the same rural beauty that has inspired
the hearts of
writers and poets for centuries.
Visiting the East Midlands:
Admission to Chatsworth Park is free. There is a small charge to
visit the estate castle. The Cavendish Hotel, which has garnered
Britain's to "5 Crown" rating, sits on the Chatsworth Estate in
the heart of Peak District National Park. It is renowned for excellent
cuisine, as well as guided fly-fishing and walking tours.
For details, contact: The Cavendish, Baslow, Derbyshire DE4 1SP
The Wayfarers' inn-to-inn tours have earned an admirable reputation.
Besides Derbyshire, they conduct rambles in the Cotswolds, Somerset,
the Lake District, Wales, the Scottish Borders, Cornwall and the
Yorkshire Dales. A Wayfarer tour covers about 16 km, some 5 to 8
miles, a day at a leisurely pace and features a friendly "rescue"
wagon close by with light snacks and a cheery lift up a steep hill
when you need it. For details call: 1-800-249-4620 British Tourist
Authority Website: www.visitbritain.com