Upstairs

Lyme Park, in all of its rugged beauty, captured my attention from the moment I set eyes on it.  Course grassland and rocky crags hide interesting architecture from a time gone by, giving way to a house designed to impress and impose.

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Home to its 600 year old red deer herd, the park rises up from the house nestled within, onto the aptly named Park Moor and the edge of the Peak District National Park.

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After several rather fleeting visits to Lyme, last weekend I managed to find the time to go inside the house.  I’ve a love of stately homes, and Lyme didn’t fail to impress.  I can’t help but try to imagine what it would have been like to live here, in a time before the red ropes.

 

Did they collect artifacts from around the world and bring them back to exhibit in their homes?  Which of the many hundreds of books in the library did they read whilst they sat around a crackling fire in the drawing room after dinner?  What really went on below stairs, and who played that organ?

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Long corridors seem to ask more questions than they answer…

And finally one of my favourite rooms in the house – the dining room.  A room that fascinates me in any stately home.  How many conversations have taken places around this table? Good news shared, worse news contemplated, business discussed and children chastised for poor manners.   It’s a room of entertaining and extravagance, yet there’s something so ordinary about sitting down to a meal with family that it brings it all down to earth slightly.  And all the while ancestors look down from walls of ornate wood carvings, warmed by a fire in a marble hearth.

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Of course, we don’t all set the table with candelabras.

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The Bow Valley Parkway

After a couple of nights in Calgary to get over the jetlag, we hired a car and headed west towards the Rocky Mountains.  The view once we left Calgary was spectacular – Calgary faded away behind us, but in front the mountains rose out of the prairies, cloud bubbling over them like rapids over rocks.

Once we got into the Rockies we took a slight diversion off Highway 1 – the TransCanada Highway – onto Highway 1A, also known as the Bow Valley Parkway.  The Bow Valley Parkway runs from just after Banff, alongside the Trans Canada as far as Lake Louise, taking a more scenic route with a higher chance of seeing wildlife than on the main highway.  There are also several places to stop along the route.

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A wildlife bridge on Highway 1

The first place we stopped at was Johnston Canyon.  There is a resort with cabins at the bottom of the canyon, and a restaurant, as well as a car park for visitors who are hiking the canyon.  The car park was full and so we did what many, many other people were doing and parked alongside the highway, and then walked back to the entrance.

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In Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon was formed by Johnston Creek, and within the canyon are lower and upper falls, with the upper falls being 1.7 miles away, and taking about 45 minutes to walk to.  From there you can continue almost 1.9 miles (3km) to the Inkpots – seven coldwater springs which rise beside a meadow.  We didn’t make it this far as we wanted to stop at other places on the way so we only went as far as the Upper Falls, however having seen a picture of the Inkpots when I got back to England I wish we had carried on!

The walk through the canyon is an easy one, along wide paths and metal catwalks.  There were a lot of people when we visited – it’s certainly a popular spot so aim for low season or either ends of the day.

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A catwalk in Johnston Canyon

In terms of wildlife, the most exciting thing we saw was a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, although there were signs warning of wolves in the area which had become bold around humans and were stealing from picnics!

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A Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

We ate at the restaurant at the bottom of the canyon before we left, which was very pleasant and surprisingly quiet given the popularity of the trail.  It was perhaps slightly expensive, but that was to be expected given its location and the lack of other eateries in the area.

Carrying on up the Bow Valley Parkway we stopped at Emerald Lake in the Yoho National Park.  When we arrived the weather had deteriorated somewhat and we looked around and took some photos in the mizzley rain.  We decided to hire a canoe anyway, and luckily the rain stopped and we even had a bit of sunshine!  We paddled to the other end of the lake, where it was very peaceful with a shallow creek running across a beach into the lake.

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Emerald Lake – the sky was a little murky but it was beautiful nonetheless! 

We left Highway 1A at Castle Junction and continued on the main Highway 1 to Canyon Hot Springs where we swam in the hot springs and stayed in a cabin overnight.  From there we went to Sicamous where we hired a houseboat and spent four days on the Shuswap Lake, which I will write about in my next blog.

Highway 1A was beautiful, but naturally much slower than the main highway.  To drive on Highway 1A, or to stop anywhere in the National Parks, you need to buy a parks pass from Parks Canada.  There is a kiosk for these at the entrance to Banff NP, or they are sold in lots of places within the parks.  At the entrance to the Bow Valley Parkway, Parks Canada were stopping every car to check for a pass.

Heifers

I’ve been spending many, many hours sitting inside at the weekends, looking at the sunshine and fields full of tractors and cows, revising agricultural rent reviews and other such matters.  But there comes a time when my brain can only take so much of compulsory purchase compensation, and then the inevitable happens.

Camera Cows

As quick as a flash I’m downstairs, boots laced and camera in hand.  The cattle have become my photography subjects.

It goes something like this.  The cattle are relaxing, chilling out in the field.  Some are lying down, others are eating.  They know where they are and they’re happy and comfortable.  So I walk into the field.

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One by one they look up.  ‘Who is this person in our field? She’s not the one who feeds us…’

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I crouch down.  These are young, maiden heifers and I’m 5ft10.  Cattle look strange when you take photos from above! This confuses them even more.  There’s a public footpath so walkers passing through are not uncommon, but someone stopped, crouching in the field? That’s unusual.  And so more begin to appear.

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And eventually I end up quite surrounded by these lovely girls.  They stand around and look at me, sniff me, snort at me. But, because I’m still crouching down they don’t come very close.  Still unusual.

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I stand up to leave and immediately they march forwards. ‘Oh!’ they say. ‘You’re just a person, really!  Well why didn’t you say?!’

And with that they’re all over me.  Licking, rubbing, scratching.  I back away slowly so as not to get chased, and leave them to it, to find their cousins, the beef cattle, for some more entertainment.

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A trip to the beach

The weather, having been rainy and windy for so long, finally broke.  And so we went to the beach.

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If there are two places I’m drawn to, it’s hills and beaches.  Today was no different and so we set off to Hoylake.  It’s not a beach I’ve visited before, but it is vast.

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Of course you can’t go for a walk on the beach without taking a dog, right?  Fudge had never been to a beach before and really didn’t know what to make of it.

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Lots of jumping around in excitement.

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Lots of wimpering and clingyness – the big wimp!  Maybe she’s agoraphobic?!

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Fudge had also never played fetch before! She looked at us like complete idiots to start with, but once she got the idea she thought this was the best game ever invented!

The sand buggies were out and it looked like they were having an absolute ball.  This is definitely something I want to have a go at at some point!

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The recent storms don’t seem to have been kind to the life at the bottom – the beach was scattered with star fish that must have been washed up from the depths of the sea.

DSC_0087DSC_0089 ‘Look! Are those penguins over there?!’ Ironically, you an find this ship wreck by walking out in a straight line from the life boat station.

We had a really fantastic afternoon, and had the beach pretty much to ourselves.  Who said beaches are just for the summer?

Los Gigantes

At the start of February we decided we needed to escape the endless cycle of rain, sleet and snow and head to sunnier climes.  We wanted to visit the Canary Islands, having never been and hearing good things about the winter weather, and finally decided on a trip through Thomson to Tenerife.  The chance to go to the top of a volcano, Mt Teide, was also a pretty strong influencing factor for me!

The view from our room Luabay Costa Los Gigantes

We stayed in Playa de la Arena, about an hours transfer from Tenerife South Airport and just along the coast from Los Gigantes.  Our hotel was absolutely enormous, in many small blocks and several pools, bars, restaurants, entertainment halls, mini golf, high ropes… the list goes on.  One thing I hadn’t really anticipated was just quite how touristy the area was going to be.  I purposefully chose a hotel away from the tourist central to the South, but even so nearly every building was a hotel.  But Playa de la Arena was a nice little town with lots of shops and beach with the natural black volcanic sand (some beaches have white sand imported, which I think is a shame really).

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Playa de la Arena

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The Thomson rep at the hotel was great and we quickly booked onto several excursions.  One was to the neighbouring island of La Gomera which is what I imagine Tenerife was like before it got too touristy.  We could see La Gomera from our hotel so it was great to go over there.  Being mainly agriculture and forests which survive because the top of the island is always covered in mist, La Gomera is a lot greener than it’s neighbour.

La Gomera at sunset We visited several villages and learned a lot about the local culture.  We also visited a fantastic restaurant where the local whistling language was demonstrated.  In a similar way to yodeling this ancient method of communication was used to pass messages across the mountains on the island.  Agriculture consisted of mainly bananas, potatoes and tomatoes, and a few goats.  There are around six cattle on the island.

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Potato Fields

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Another great trip was Flipper Uno – dolphin watching from a pirate ship under the huge cliffs of Los Gigantes.  We were told that these cliffs are the second biggest in the world, after only the Grand Canyon, while we ate paella, drank wine, admired the scenery and watched dolphins swim around the boat.

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On our last full day on the island we booked a trip up Mt Teide.  We had managed to catch a glimpse of the 3,718m high summit from the aeroplane as we flew in, but for the rest of the week it had hidden behind the clouds.  The National Park was like another world, and definitely worth a visit.  Unfortunately there had been snow overnight and the top was very icy, so the cable cars to the top weren’t running.  This was a shame as I’d been looking forward to going to the top of the volcano for months, so I would definitely be making the trip again if I go back!

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We did so much in our week long visit, I’ve hardly mentioned half of it here and there are so many things on the island that didn’t get a look in, so in my opinion Tenerife is really worth a visit.  The only thing I would change? More sunshine!

CHATSWORTH

Chatsworth is….

BEAUTIFUL

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Gardener’s Cottage in the evening sun

THE HOUSES ARE GORGEOUS

Chatsworth, derbyshire, edensor, cottage

Cottage by the Estate Office

THE VIEWS ARE STUNNING

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Gardener’s Cottage

THE RIVER IS MESMIRISING

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The River Derwent

IT DOESN’T DO WILDLIFE BY HALVES

 

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Red Deer in the park

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Red Deer does

Fallow deer and sheep

Fallow deer and sheep

OR ARCHITECTURE FOR THAT MATTER

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The Stables

IT WOULDN’T BE A PARK WITHOUT SHEEP

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Sheep behind Gardener’s Cottage

OR A GARDEN WITHOUT SOME SCULPTURES

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Sculpture in the Cascade

TICKS ALL THE BOXES!

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Horse sculpture

NOT A BAD BUILDING TO WORK IN!

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The Estate Office

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House

 

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I think I’m going to like it here.