Home to the Cavendish family for nearly 500 years, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is set in 105 acres of fields, woods and parkland. We visited on a drizzly day in August – most of the other visitors began with the house so we had a garden tour all to ourselves.
Chatsworth House: Note how the heatwave has exposed the remains of a 17th Century garden in the scorched grass. See link at the end of the article for more details.
Our knowledgeable guide began with the formal gardens and glasshouses, then led us up the hill through the spectacular rock garden, past the trout stream and along the ponds which were created to feed the cascade and fountains.
We all marvelled at the scale of the rock garden and the feats of engineering required to move hundreds of tonnes of rock – each carefully balanced to create outcrops, tunnels and the waterfall. This section of the garden was my favourite - I loved the way the naturalistic upper garden felt like it belonged in the wild landscape.
The kids enjoyed exploring the gloomy coal tunnel – built to transport fuel underground to heat the vast Great Conservatory designed by Joseph Paxton and completed in 1840. The history of the gardens was brought alive by Mrs Paxton and the Under Gardener (in period costume) when we met them in the maze.
They explained how the conservatory had been demolished by an explosion in 1920 when it became too difficult to heat. There was much excitement when both children found pieces of glass in the flower borders from the conservatory - many are still found in the soil 100 years later!
On the way back to the house, my son was astonished to see the height created by the gravity-fed Emperor Fountain. My daughter wrote on her summer postcards that the fountain could reach 80 times her height at full power!
We played a game of croquet on the lawn and then visited the house which also had many activities for children, like building a monumental urn and collecting cards that celebrated some of the people who helped design, build and restore the house over the past 500 years.
A visit to Chatsworth is fun for all the family and we left with a real insight into the skill and craftsmanship which goes into building such a magnificent house and garden.
Chatsworth Autumn Trail Map by Lisa Maltby for Chatsworth House and Gardens