An un-stately home

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Not in the National Trust’s usual style, Calke Abbey in Derbyshire is dubbed an “unstately home” at the entry to the extensive park and grounds, and it definitely lives up to this description. It parades its faded grandeur and shabby chic with pride and shows what a large country house and grounds look like when they’re not restored and tarted up.

The National Trust is not especially in my good books right now because I learned earlier this year they allow drag hunting on National Trust land, a permission which has been bent and abused by some hunts which have used it to illegally hunt foxes. As a member of the Trust I’m not happy with that and expressed this view. Sadly, the Trust seemed unwelcome to objections (there were many) so my membership will probably not be renewed.

In spite of getting some things wrong, they do manage to get some right, and leaving Calke Abbey in a state of peeling paintwork and crumbling, picturesque decay is one of them. I really like the messy outhouse workshops used by gardeners, groundsmen and stable lads.

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I’ve yet to visit the house, only open at certain times, but the gardens are tended and maintained, the vegetable garden getting a lot of TLC and attention while the conservatory is left with crumbling interior walls – it all adds to the unstately effect.

How refreshing to visit an un-posh, rustically convincing property managed, but to not within an inch of it’s life, and left to allow nature to flourish. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen a stoat at close hand, racing away for cover as it was chased by a crow. And the fritillaries in the shaggy orchard grass were a delight to see.

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