Monday, 20 February 2012

Hardwick Halls

Happy Presidents Day Readers,
I had the pleasure of having the kids home all week since they were off for break.  The English school year has breaks every six weeks or so with a six week long summer break.  Easter and Christmas breaks are two weeks long while the other breaks are one week long.  Our first break was in October but since we had just arrived we didn't go anywhere.  Christmas break we went to Scandinavia and this last break we stayed home again.  Our next break is April where we will be heading to the UP and Indy.

Since we didn't go anywhere and I had two helpers I figured this would be a great time to clean the house.  And the kids did really good dusting, spraying, vacuuming, picking up, etc.  I mostly supervised and helped out a little.  It was nice to have help cleaning - I have to admit that cleaning is my least favourite part of the experience so far.  As a reward for their hard work and lack of complaining we saw Monster in Paris.  Reviews were so-so but I figured they would have outdoor scenes which the kids would recognise when we do go to Paris.  Once again I was wrong.  They showed the Eiffel Tower and not much else.  A disappointing movie overall for me and KJ but KK enjoyed it.

Kalle cutting up strawberries for her dessert.  Shortbread covered with custard, strawberries and blackberries topped with whipped cream.  Tasted good but I wasn't a fan of the custard.

The final product.  I think I can get into the kids cooking and baking.

A rare treat for us was a visit from some more bloody Yanks.  Joe, Rob and Wes were over from Indy and came out one night for supper and Euchre.  It was great to see some more people from home.  This was Wes's first trip to Bizzaro World (Superman reference for those who didn't read comic books growing up) as he called it so hopefully he had fun.  Joe probably would have won more Euchre games but Wes was the team's anchor - more of a boat anchor than relay race anchor in this case.  Just kidding Wes - it was great to see you again.   

On tap this weekend was Hardwick Old Hall, Hardwick New Hall and Duffield Castle.  We stretch goaled Sainsby Mill into the day as well. 

First up is Hardwick Old Hall.   The Old Hall was the birthplace of Bess of Hardwick (read about her here) in 1527.  My regular readers will recognise Bess' name as her influence is very heavy in Derbyshire.  Cliff notes story on Bess is that she was a friend of Elizabeth I (who ruled England from 1558 to 1603 - love our dual threat wall decoration/English Rulers poster) which gave her influence.  She was also married four times which was important because each time her husband died she married a man with increasing wealth and prestige.  Single women in that age had to marry since they didn't have any rights of ownership or business dealings.  Apparently Bess was a savvy business woman since we are still discussing her 400 years after she died.  Now back to Bess' family home.  Bess renovated the Hall, completing the work in 1591. As a testament to her wealth she constructed the New Hall and renovated the Old Hall at the same time.  At some point (I forget the details) one of her descendants intentionally demolishes part of the Old Hall to sell the building materials.  Interesting but not useful Hardwick Hall guide book tidbit - Hardwick means sheep farm.

Info board of the Hardwick Estate.  A large estate overall (about 400 acres total) but not as impressive as Chatsworth.

Hardwick Old Hall ruins.

An older Bess with The Lemmy.  I can't believe The Lori isn't digging The Lemmy.

I love the irregular stone construction over here.  Upper half and lower quarter of the wall is mostly uniform stone.  But if you look at the middle left you can check out the mish mosh stones.  Brilliant!

The Great Hall.

This week's Lori Seppanen pic - the bread ovens.

Looking up at the Hill Great Chamber.

This rotund fellow was taking a break in the Old Hall and allowed me to get quite close.  Not sure what it is yet, my bird book let me down.  Ornithologist I am not.

Bed chamber of William Cavendish - Bess' favourite son.

Overlooking the area.

Hardwick New Hall in the distance.

Next up is the gardens.  Probably very colourful in the spring and summer but just a nice walk this time of year.

Garden statues and shrubs.  Brilliant!

A Jim Seppanen pic - the mushroom shaped tree is an English Yew tree according to one of the workers.  The Yew tree's claim to fame is being the wood source of the mighty English longbow.  Strong yet supple the wood gave English archers a long range advantage over the French and other adversaries in medieval war time.  The famous Battle of Agincourt is an example of the longbow's prowess. 

The Wineglass garden in the distance.  The conical trees are more Yew trees.

A Dana Johnson pic - after the gardens and before the hall was a snack.  I had coffee and a bacon roll.  The bacon roll was very good, soft bread plus warm bacon equals tasty.

The restaurant is actually the Hall Kitchen.  If I had realised it at the time I would have taken a room picture.

Next up is Hardwick New Hall (check it out online here).  Bess started construction of the New Hall in the 1580's while she was also renovating the Old Hall.  By now she is in her 60's, is a "formidable widow" (from guide book)  and wanted to build a new hall.  The literature says she was heavily involved in the architectural design and calls the Hall "her proud memorial".  Interesting house dominated by wall tapestries and a bone chilling cold.  It was mid 40's F outside and much colder inside. 
What's not to love about a sword and armour wall decoration?  Brilliant!

I love this info boards.  Pictures, concise descriptions - perfect for attention span deficient people like me.  Brilliant!

Ornate wood desk.  No flash photography allowed inside and all windows had sheer blinds so lighting was okay at best.  Fortunately it was blindingly bright outside which helped seeing inside. 

Wall tapestry example.  Brilliant. 

The Main Staircase.  Interesting winding design.

The High Great Chamber.  You can gauge the room size by the people.  You can see the chairs and canopy along the back wall.  One thing I found interesting is that most non-bedroom rooms had this canopy and chairs set up.  I guess Bess liked to feel regal while in the house.

Fireplace in the High Great Chamber.  The 3D plasterwork running around the room on the top half of the walls was brilliant.

Period piece of Arabella Stuart, Bess' granddaughter.  You can read about her here.  Her life was a soap opera.  She had a claim to the crown but never was able to claim it, partly due to her meddling grandmother Bess.  She died in the Tower of London at the age of 40.

The Long Gallery, another massive room.  170 feet long by 40 feet wide by 26 feet high.

Another walnut carved furniture piece.  Brilliant.

The dining room.

Even the doorways have decorative mantels.

The Chapel.  Seating was around the room perimeter, kneeling wall is in front as you can see, and pulpit is to the right.  I guess church comes to the rich people, not the other way around.

Outside shot of the New Hall.  Impressive Hall.  The ES on the balustrade is for Elizabeth of Shrewsbury, one of Bess' titles.

At the Hardwick Parke Centre.  You can see the Old and New Halls on top of the hill.  To the right of the Old Hall is the Stable buildings which is undergoing renovation so we didn't tour it.

After the New Hall was Stainsby Mill (see link).  We should have done it first since we drove by it to get to the Halls but we didn't so here we are.  The Mill was the source of flour for the Hardwick family and surrounding area.  The existing mill was reconstructed in 1850, the site has had a working mill since the 13th century.  The mill had "modern" technology incorporated into the operational switches/levers/etc. which allowed one person to run the mill all from the ground floor.  Simplistically fascinating to me.  Brilliant!

Mill info board.  Brilliant!
Hands on exhibits are always fun.

The gears that turn the grinding stones, water wheel and flour bag hoist. 

A couple of flour sacks and chutes.  The seasoned fellow was our tour guide.

Mill kiln.

Grinding stone with flour chute.  Each grinding stone chute had a strap inside the chute attached to a bell which indicated the flour level to the miller.  Each bell has a different tone so the miller knows which stone is ringing.  Brilliant!   

Outside shot of the mill.  The 17 foot diameter by 5 foot wide water wheel is hidden by the walls.  The wheel is a high breastshot wheel which is not common here but is used in this application because of the low flow water supply.  The water hits the wheel at one o'clock, drops into a bucket, and the gears from the earlier picture help turn the wheel which turns the grinding stone gears.  The more common water wheel types are the overshot (water hits wheel on topside) and undershot (water hits wheel on bottomside) but those of those are high volume water supply applications. 

Other side of the mill.  I caught KJ running up the bank.

Lunch was at The New Ming Court in Belper, a Chinese place we stumbled upon.  This Dana Johnson shot is from the starters onslaught.  We had the all you can eat special which apparently included one of everything on the starter and intermediate main menu.  After that we tried some of the main menu items.  We were pleasantly surprised with the food and would stop by if we were in the area again.  It was not a buffet line, you ordered everything from the kitchen which we liked.  The starters and intermediates were really good and the mains were okay.  And the service was the best we have had since we've been here.  A little pricey overall but no complaining due to my bonus.  You'll have to scroll down to read about my bonus.

What a fine English park job.  I am starting to fit in with the locals.  And Lori still just shakes her head.  Someday she'll come around.  Double brilliant!

Last stop was Duffield Castle.  It actually took us longer to drive around the (ant) hill and find it then it took us to view the remains.  We used the ever confused SatNav which took us up a small hill to a residential street.  But I figured we close because 1) we were on a hill, 2) one of the roads was named Castle Hill, and 3) another road was named Castle Orchard.  We did a couple of circles until we spied a local who gave us directions which included "follow the signs".  What an exercise in futility.  After taking three more fruitless circular trips around the small hill we decided to call it a day and head home.  I turn onto the main road and promptly passed the well hidden, camouflage coloured, almost worthless castle sign.  So I turn into the first road, park on the curb English style (see above) and we embark on our final journey of the day.

The road side marker for the castle.  This is poor even by English signage standards.  Not brilliant.

I blinked and missed this sign driving past it.  All eight times.

Duffield Castle foundation.  Not sure what the conical stone structure is, maybe the well?  We climbed the hill and everyone said, this is it?  Not quite as disappointing as The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen but close.  So they left.  I stayed for a couple of pictures.

This week's Steve Fry pic - you can see the sheep (small white dots on the hillside) just above the garage.  This is also the view overlooking the castle area.

And finally, no "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" moment this week.  I doubled my pub glass collection!  When I was paying at the Chinese restaurant I asked if I could get one of the Carling glasses and the lady gave me one for free.  (That one's for you ma - inside joke between us for the rest of my readers.) 

Carling pint glass.  Simply brilliant.  A plain logo on top with contoured bottom to better hold the glass.  You can see a better picture of the glass in the food picture above.

Okay, I actually do have a "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" moment this week.  It is the Brits misuse of the word brilliant.  Merriam and Webster say it means glittering, striking or distinctive.  The Brits use it as a replacement for saying okay or thanks.  Not sure why it bugs me but every timer I hear them say brilliant I want to say, "was it really brilliant or was it just okay?  Because I don't think it was brilliant, it was just okay."  But I do keep my mouth shut, chalk it up to cultural differences, and move on.  Mentally complaining the whole time but still moving on.    

For a gaming update I started playing the DLC game Bastion.  That's Down Loadable Content for you non-gamers.  I think that's what it means at least.  I am a few years removed from being the cool gamer myself but would still play if I had the time.  I still follow it a little, nowhere like gaming obsessed KJ but I still find some of the games interesting.  One of the games I read about last year was a DLC only game called Bastion which was supposed to be different than most other games so I bought it.  You can read about it here or watch a trailer here.  Short story is the game is awesome although I don't have a lot of time to play it.  I may have to sacrifice the cleaning to gain some more Bastion time.  Just don't tell Lori. 

I hope y'all have a great week. 

Thanks for listening,

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