October’s walk was led by Chris West and Mandy James and took place in the beautiful surroundings of Hardwick Hall Estate on a perfect, bright and sunny autumnal morning.
Twenty of us met up at the Miller’s Pond National Trust car park and set off around the pond followed by a steady ascent through woods and up grassland before following a flat and gravelled drive to one of England’s tiniest villages, Ault Hucknall, (not a hamlet, despite its tiny size, due to its Saxon church which was the worship place of Bess of Hardwick herself!) We then picked up a footpath crossing two fields followed by another leading to the pretty village of Rowthorne, where we stopped at the start of the Rowthorne Trail for our coffee break.
After continuing along the tree lined trail for half a mile or so, we turned off to take the path through woods and fields to Norwood, on the edge of the Hardwick Estate. Re-entering the estate, we walked through Lady Spencer’s Wood (where the ladies of the Hall would take their exercise) up to the Stable Yard where we stopped for lunch, making the most of the tables, benches and ‘facilities’, not always a feature on our walks- luxury! We admired the exterior of the Hall (currently undergoing repair work), the impressive home of the formidable Bess of Hardwick, the second most powerful woman in England in Tudor times, after Queen Elizabeth I, largely due to her outliving four, increasingly wealthy husbands, and hanging onto her inheritances….
The last leg of the walk involved a gradual descent across a grassy hillside down to the ponds and car park, followed by a well-earned drink, for some, at the Hardwick Inn.