RACHEL FOX

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Chatsworth House

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Over the last couple of years, I have fallen more in love with stately homes and beautiful gardens and grounds. As part of my job as a Welcome Week Ambassador, I was lucky enough to be taken to Chatsworth House, located in the heart of the Peak District near Bakewell and was the location of the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice. I got to spend the day taking in the beautiful grounds and works of art including an exhibition of contemporary sculpture.

The House

Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. After visiting the house, I now understand why it is renowned for the quality of its art, landscape and hospitality. It was also evident that it has evolved through the centuries to reflect the tastes, passions and interests of current generations.

The house contains works of art that span 4,000 years, from ancient Roman and Egyptian sculptures, and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese, to work by outstanding modern artists, including Lucian Freud, Edmund de Waal and David Nash.

I didn’t expect to also be able to view and explore over 30 rooms, I saw such a vast spread of spaces, from the magnificent Painted Hall, regal State Rooms, the Dining Room, restored Sketch Galleries and beautiful Sculpture Gallery.

Although all of the rooms were stunning, I particularly enjoyed seeing the North Sketch Gallery that showcases contemporary art and ceramics, as well as the Painted Hall which was definitely grand! It was a contrast to the modern gallery, however equally as interesting to witness: it is impressive and used to welcome guests. This is the largest and grandest room built by the 1st Duke.

The Garden

The garden is perfect for country walks and fun with the family. It is extensive with a large rectangular lake so there is plenty to do and see to fill the most of a day! I found out that the garden is managed by a team of 20 gardeners, 3 trainees and 50 volunteers, which explains why it looks so magnificent and well kept.

The 105-acre Chatsworth garden is famous for its rich history, historic and modern waterworks and sculptures and its Victorian rock garden and maze. I saw the 300-year-old Cascade, the Willow Tree Fountain and the impressive gravity-fed Emperor Fountain. The waterworks made the landscape even more picturesque and added to the calming soundscape.

As a result of being an ambassador and working, I didn’t get a chance to explore the five miles of walks. However, I would love to go with my family to discover the rare trees, shrubs, streams and ponds.

Chatsworth Outdoors: Grounds for Sculpture

Possibly one of my favourite parts of the day was exploring the stunning garden and grounds surrounding the house. Although it was cloudy and rather dull, it remained a lovely autumn walk, giving me a fresh perspective of the landscape. This was aided by the mixture of contemporary and classical sculptures placed as a part of the garden exhibition, Chatsworth Outdoors: Grounds for Sculpture.

The sculptures really shone a spotlight on art and nature through the creation of ‘viewpoints’; points of interest on the Duke and Duchess’ favourite walks. I really think that this is the perfect way to get visitors and families to explore new corners of the garden or even offer familiar favourites from a new perspective.

I studied Antony Gormley as part of my A-level art course, so I was excited when I came across one of his post-war works. Other elements of their existing sculpture collection features many of the leading lights of post-war sculpture such as, Elisabeth Frink, Allen Jones, Angela Conner, Michael Craig-Martin, Nic Fiddian-Green and Barry Flanagan. Some of these pieces are said to be rarely seen in public. The sculptures really did become centre stage and were very much positioned in response to the landscape; the garden being a sculpture itself having been shaped, built, planted and hewn from the Derbyshire landscape. I always wonder how long it takes to maintain the pristine appearance each day.

Also, as part of the exhibition their 2018 artist-in-residence, Linder Sterling, created a temporary installation Bower of Bliss in response to Queen Mary's, Bower in the park. Wandering round really did give me an alternative view; once at the ‘viewpoint’ I looked outwards, but similarly scanned upwards, and peered downwards. It really gave me a more expansive and comprehensive look at everything surrounding me and allowed me to take in the not-so-obvious, as well as the sounds, the scents, the natural and the manmade; while celebrating sculpture in all its forms.

Food

I was in some ways surprised by the amount of choice of eating places and places to pick up a drink and cake. There was everything whether you fancy a light bite, hearty meal or indulgent afternoon tea. I chose to visit the Carriage House restaurant, located in the beautiful 18th century stable block. This restaurant offered a wide variety of local and seasonal food, from full roasts and sausages to sandwiches and a salad bar. As a result of the weather being very cold and windy, I opted for the sweet potato, carrot and parsnip soup with fresh bread and croutons. I also saw on the hot Sunday roast station they were offering roasted vegetables. I really fancied this so I asked for a plate of the colour seasonal veg. The soup was divine and the vegetables definitely satisfied my craving.

I really loved Chatsworth! It offers such a lovely day out with something for everyone. The house is gorgeous with interesting history, fabulous gardens and impressive kitchen garden. It would be amazing to take a picnic and eat it on the grounds.

Rachel

LeisureRachel Fox