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Destination Errwood Hall

We had read the story of Errwood Hall and how it had fallen into ruin after 1930 when Fernilee Reservoir was built. The official doctrine is "for reasons of pollution". This seemed an odd explanation and one that might be investigated at a later stage.

We parked at the car park on the southern tip of Errwood Reservoir r in the Goyt Valley in the Peak district National Park. It was yet another glorious day and the car park was moderately full. The first surprise was that the car park was free-pity this is not the case at other venues within the Peak District. We set off with full gear and immediately made our first mistake. Our eagerness got the better of us and we took the wrong footpath (BIG mistake). The correct footpath is back down the road over the road bridge over the reservoir and immediately on the left.

As we trudged up Shooters Clough we could see the renowned rhododendrons and mature specimen trees behind a stone wall that we presumed marked Errwood Estate. Unaware of our stupid error we took a breather half way up and watched the new Paula Radcliffe virtually sprint past us on what seemed to us to be a tough training regime. We made a mental note to give up smoking. At altitude your mind tends to play tricks, so we decided to break protocol and scale the wall that marked the Estate boundary.

Fortunately, at our scaling point the wall had collapsed, probably from the pressure of traffic from previous lost souls. We were now in Errwood Hall Estate.

It was once boasted that 40,000 rhododendrons and azalea shrubs were planted on the estate. This was no mean feat, because as we followed what we thought was a footpath through rows upon rows of plants we only rarely got a glimpse of the valley below. It was clear that the route we were following had not been used for some time, probably years, and the foliage was getting quite dense. But then through a gap we saw The Grimshawes private family cemetery. The graves of Samuel Dominic and Jessie Grimshaw and their three children - Samuel Arthur, Mary, and Anne Genevieve - as well as the spouses of Mary and Anne, are all in the cemetery. Also included are the graves of the former captain of the Grimshawe yacht, John Butler, and several of the servants of the family. We decided to scramble down the side of the steep incline into the valley. Sadly, we didn't find the cemetary again but we did find the official footpath.

Following the excellent signage we wondered the estate toward the ruins of Errwood Hall and wondered what it would have looked like 150 years ago. The glorious blooms of the rhododendrons and azaleas, in the wooded splendor of Errwood, are visited by thousands each year, enjoying the walks around the ruins of the Hall. When we reached the Errwood Hall it was difficult to picture what it must have been like. The Hall was a turreted, double winged structure of millstone grit sandstone, of some Italian style, with a central tower and a chapel, which formed the upper storey of an extension to the northern end. A French window opened onto a terraced garden at the southern end, with wide steps leading up to the main entrance. It is well worth finding original photographs on the web to see the Hall in all its splendour. The ruins have been consolidated, and are in the care of the Peak Park Authority.

A staff of twenty were employed in the house and gardens and not far away, at Castedge, are the ruins of the servants' cottages, the laundry, greenhouses and the vegetable garden. The Hall also had its own coal mine further up the valley which was worked until 1929. There was also a private school attended by about thirty local children and their teacher was Miss Dolores de Bergrin, a Spanish aristocrat, who died on a visit to Lourdes. The family built a shrine to her memory in 1889 on the moor below Foxlow Edge. We went in search of the shrine.

The shrine is quite a walk from the ruins of the Errwood Hall but when you get there it is worth while. Reading some of the messages left by previous visitors was a humbling experience.

Look at our panoramic photographs to see for yourself.

Chris Sabian, Peak District View - 2006-09-20 22:21:42





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