hutch0 (hutch0) wrote,

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one wedding, a big house, and some apples

We're just back from an eventful and interesting weekend. On Thursday, we drove up to Renishaw, just outside Sheffield, for my brother Geoff's wedding.
And very nice it was, too. The wedding was at an hotel called The Sitwell Arms, which was where we were staying. The weather was brilliant, the ceremony very nice, and the dinner and reception very enjoyable.
This is my brother and his daughter before the wedding.

This is Geoff and Kirsty signing the register after the ceremony.

This is Bogna outside the hotel after the wedding.

And this is me and Geoff at the reception.

And no, we do not look like each other.
Anyway, a fun time was had by all. The disco in the evening was a little...80s for my taste, seasoned with the odd house and rave number, and very loud, but everyone enjoyed it and much dancing was done. Some of it by me. Although not very much.

We don't get up-country very often, so we'd decided to stay over on Saturday and go sightseeing. Bogna hadn't seen the Peak District before, and she fancied a trip out to Chatsworth House, so Saturday morning, after the hangovers had faded a bit, we lit out for Chatsworth.
The next bit won't mean anything to anyone except robsoft - who will probably shake his head sadly if he ever reads this - so feel free to skip ahead. Chatsworth is actually not very far from Renishaw - about half an hour, forty minutes by car - but the route isn't enormously scenic, so I decided to navigate Bogna there via Dronfield and Holmsfield and Nether Padley and then down through Frogatt and Curbar, which has some startling views.
Anyway, we got lost. Fortunately, Bogna is still not aware just how badly we got lost. We got lost in Dronfield. I'm ashamed to say we got lost in the only part of Dronfield I actually know quite well. We drove up and down steep streets, found our way to an A-road, and wound up some time later in an industrial estate in northern Chesterfield. Then we retraced our route, found another A-road, and shortly afterward were on the southwestern fringes of Sheffield. There, I picked up the road to Holmsfield again and we swept up and over the moors and down the hills to Chatsworth.
Which looks like this:

Chatsworth, although it's in Derbyshire, is, by a strangely English logic, the family home of the Dukes of Devonshire, and it's a totally awesome place from start to finish. The estate is larger than some towns. The original house was built at the behest of Bess of Hardwick, a much-married Elizabethan lady who was born poor and married well several times and wound up one of the most powerful women in the country. Hardwick Hall, fifteen or twenty miles away, was another one of hers, and is regarded as one of the greatest Elizabethan houses in the country.
Anyway, her son was the First Duke of Devonshire and he had the original house torn down and began a programme of building which went on well into the Eighteenth Century. The grounds of the House are incredible.
The First Duke was responsible for The Cascade, which looks like this from the bottom

And like this from the top

As you might guess, Chatsworth is more than adequately covered online, and all you have to do is google it. It was a lovely day, we walked for absolutely miles, and considering the weather today it might have been the last summery day we have this year.
Going home, Bogna insisted we use the satnav, which got us back to Renishaw in about forty minutes. But my route was better.

This morning, we checked out of the hotel and instead of going home the logical way - which would have involved turning left out of the hotel, driving a couple of miles, turning right at the top of the hill to join the M1 and then just driving until we reached Mill Hill, Bogna said, "Let's use the satnav. Type in our postcode and tell it to give us the route that uses the least amount of motorway and see what it does."
What it did - and I could have told Bogna this - was navigate us around Worksop and onto the A1, which is the fastest non-motorway route back to London. Which was fine by me - homeward bound is homeward bound, after all. Somewhere in Nottinghamshire, Bogna said, "You know, you can get the satnav to display places of interest." And I went, "Hm, let's just worry about this thing not delivering us to Newcastle."
So we toddled on - toddling in Bogna's case involving charging down the A1 at around seventy miles an hour - until, somewhere in southern Lincolnshire, not far from Grantham, she spotted a sign that said `Woolsthorpe Manor.'
"Oh look," she said, "a manor. Shall we take a look?"
Me - knowing that she'd spotted the National Trust symbol on the sign and done the sums that said it would probably have toilets and at least a place for a coffee and a chance to stretch our legs: "Sure, if you want."
So we got off the A1 and drove down some narrow country roads for a little while until we pulled into a car park with a sign that said, `Woolsthorpe Manor, Birthplace Of Sir Isaac Newton.'
I should pause here and afford Bogna 'nuff respect, because she has previous at this. Years ago, when Thog lived in Exeter, we went down to visit him, and on the way back, charging up the A303, Bogna spotted another National Trust sign and turned us off the main road, and we wound up at Stourhead, which has one of the greatest country house gardens on Earth and, incidentally, inspired me to write `Discreet Phenomena.'
Anyway. Woolsthorpe Manor was indeed where Newton was born. It's not a big place

in fact, it's pretty austere, as you might expect, but this is the place where Newton was born and the place where he did a lot of his work on optics and the place where he saw the apple fall. The family orchard is just across the path from the house, and the tree itself is still there

The National Trust have done a pretty good job with Woolsthorpe. It's not a big, flashy operation. They have a little educational centre with lots of hands-on experiments to demonstrate Newtonian principles to kids, but it's all very simple compared to some Trust properties and I was heartened to discover, after talking to one of the ladies who look after the building, that people are still going there, even though it's not well-known and it's pretty off the beaten track. She said they had about five thousand people in over the Summer. Which is probably what Chatsworth gets over a weekend, but not too shabby.
And all the time I was thinking, "Neal Stephenson writes about this place in The Baroque Cycle..."
The only thing that did rankle with me was that the sidelining of Robert Hooke is, apparently, still continuing. Hooke was every bit as great a scientist as Newton - his work on microscopy was literally groundbreaking, he was a pivotal figure in the early days of the Royal Society, and he went on to survey the City of London after the Great Fire - but he was of fearsome appearance and something of a sonofabitch and that lost him friends. He's continually written out of history - he designed The Monument, which marks the site of the Great Fire, but it's ascribed to Wren. And at Woolsthorpe again and again I saw stuff about Newton which said, "...Robert Hooke thought this, but Newton proved him wrong..." You'd expect a Newton hagiography at his home, but seeing Hooke dissed like this seemed unnecessary, and it annoyed me. I am, you might guess, a fan of Robert Hooke.
Anyway, we spent more than an hour at Woolsthorpe, then rejoined the A1, schlepped at great speed to the Arkley turnoff, and thence down through Barnet and Whetstone and home, stopping off at Marks & Spencer to pick up some bread and some microwavey stuff for dinner, before finding the cats - who had been looked after by our friend Ewa - relatively pleased to see us.
And that, Best Beloved, was what I've done on my holidays so far. The second week will not be anything like as eventful.
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