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This year we haven’t used our National Trust membership very much, due to work and family commitments. So we were really pleased to have a few days off for a cousin of Wendy wedding. Last year we visited Tyntesfield near Wraxhall, North Somerset and Dyrham Park, near Dyrham Gloucestershire which was the first time I had ever been to any stately homes.

So we had planned to see some local stately homes and for no particular reason we chose Calke Abbey, in Derbyshire, about 45 uneventful minutes drive from home.

On arrival at the gatehouse you show your membership cards and you are given a CD to listen to in the car whilst driving down to the main car park, which gives a brief history of the house and estate. Unfortunately the drive from the gatehouse to the car park is only about 5 minutes long and the CD is about 15 minutes long.

After Parking up the car we make our way to the ticket office to get tickets for the house, because you don’t have to visit every part of the estate. You can, if you want to, just visit the parkland, or just the house or gardens, or everything. That’s one thing about being annual members of the National Trust is, you can visit as many properties as you want as often as you want all year. Which is very good value for money. Of course, you have to be interested in historic places and estates, otherwise if you are visiting just one or two a year it will be cheaper to “pay on the door” so to speak.

Anyway on busy days (this was one), you get a timed ticket to enter the House. Ours was 1:15pm so we had about 40 minutes to kill by having a good look around the shop they have at about every NT Property. They have a lot of very good gifts and books, local produce (of which we had some sausages) and beers.

After picking up a guide book (£5.00), which we now purchase without fail, we sauntered down to the front of this impressive mansion.

Calke Abbey

Front of Calke Abbey

The weather was being kind for once this summer by not raining, Wendy sat on the grass bank while I got busy photographing things.

The Mansion itself is not an Abbey at all, but was built on the site of a previous abbey or priory, and the National Trust market it as “The Un-Stately Home and Country Estate”. The reason being is the property has been Repaired only not Restored, consequently showing what happened to the vast majority of Country Piles during the 20th Century. Which sadly was decline and ruin, thankfully we have  organisations like the National Trust and English Heritage. Although the former is only a charity and not government funded.

Queuing to get inside

Most of Calke Abbey is exactly as it was when handed over to the NT in the mid 1980’s, so don’t expect the place to be in mint condition.

So we go inside and Wendy has to leave her umbrella at the door (which we picked

One of the Reception rooms

up later). On the left of the door is this room, which is a sign of things to come as there are an enormous amount of game trophy heads in this house.

In this house the interiors were a bit lighter than most we have visited, the blinds didn’t seem to be down as much which helps with photography.

All of the houses we have visited so far have a system were by you tour the entire house following a set route, so you get to see as much of the house as possible.

The Saloon below was originally the Grand Entrance Hall, but has also been used as a chapel at some point.

More Hunting Trophies

I always wonder at the peaople that have lived and worked in these places, the elaborate decoration of every last nook and cranny. I’m lucky to live in a country with such a long history and a lot of that history still remaining. Whether in use or just as a museum.

The huge kitchen is unchanged since it was fitted out by Sir Henry Harpur in 1794. The worktops and shelving cost £62 19s 6d in 1795 and it was last used in 1928.

Amazingly Electricity was installed anywhere on the estate until 1962, so it’s a good job there was a well stocked lamp room.

Oil Lamp Room

Metal Cases

Wendy and I really love the gardens at these estates, especially the kitchen gardens. And most of them do have them.

The Auricula Theatre

Walled Flower Garden

There were some Dahlia’s, which I love, (need some in our own garden)

Gardeners Bothy has plenty of pots on the floor, and a big seed chest just on the
right of the photograph. We would both love a potting shed just like this in our garden.

And a vegetable garden like this

Part of the kitchen garden

and this is the old orangery 

The windows have been replaced/restored because they were broken when the Trust came to take over the property in 1985, but otherwise it is the same as when it was built in the 1770’s and contains at the present time a small banana plant amongst other species.

Banana Plant

The green house is modest only having a peach tree in it.

we had a wonderful day, we arrived here about 12 and left about 4:50pm. Just as we were leaving they were setting up a stage on the lawn at the front of the house, for an evening of Shakespeare.

More to come soon as we also visited Kedlestone Hall and The National Memorial Arboretum….