Lyme Park

pemberleyI think I mentioned that I took a few days off over my birthday, leaving myself with a 5 day long weekend.

Given the fact that C and I are busily saving, and he still had to work for some of it, I went for ‘staycation’ options and took the opportunity to do some UK-based things, mostly spending time in the country or checking out some places that have been on the to-do list for a while.

The day after my birthday I kept as a ‘London’ day and tried to spend some of it getting my chaotic life back in some semblance of order, which basically translates into furiously cleaning the house and doing loads of life admin, before I could properly relax (another one of those OCD things of mine). Although, on the plus side, I did take time out for lunch and a natter with a friend and then dinner with some other friends at my fave burger place.

The third day however, I went on a little trip up north to Lyme Park. This has been on my to do list probably since I was about 17!

The Background:

You may not have heard of Lyme Park in the UK before, but if you’ve ever read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or watched the BBC mini series, you quite possibly have heard of Pemberley. Lyme Park was the building used as ‘Pemberley’ in the BBC mini series starring Colin Firth – possibly everyone’s favourite British male actor?

While I was doing my final year at High School and I was studying the book, I became a little obsessed with the BBC version. Not quite sure why to be honest but I have seen all 6 hours of it about 60 times (not kidding), and went through a stage where no matter what I was doing I’d just have to have it in the background, and knew it all off by heart. I think it was during my Jane Austen obsession days that I really became fixated on moving to the UK after school. It had always been on the cards, but this period of my life definitely cemented it! What a geek!

Now, before you decide that this is going to be a Jane Austen/Colin Firth gush session please read on.

I’d be lying if I said the theme tune to the BBC mini series wasn’t playing in my head the WHOLE way there, especially on the walk from the train station down to the house, but you don’t even remotely have to have any knowledge of, or passion for any Jane Austen work to appreciate Lyme Park for what it is.

It is, in it’s own right, just a stunning place to visit. And in actual fact, apart from a few bits and pieces in the gift shop, there is absolutely ZERO P&P paraphernalia anywhere inside or around the house itself. Really, if you weren’t there for that reason, you might not know it was even associated. The only thing that does give any indication is a somewhat unfortunate recent addition to the pond outside – a giant ‘Colin Firth as Mr Darcy’ statue that has been positioned in the pond in an attempt to replicate one of the most famous scenes in the movie. (In fact, sadly, it does kind of ruin the whole thing which is a shame.)

'Colin Firth as Mr Darcy' statue

‘Colin Firth as Mr Darcy’ statue

Why you should go there:

Lyme Park is an old manor house that is set in the middle of a huge National Park in the north of the Peak District and although I’ve always wanted that classic picture of ‘Pemberley’, I was also keen to go there for the country air, the beautiful views and to soak up some more British history.

It’s about a 2.5 hour train ride outside of London, which a lot of people thought was a long way to go to see a house. But given that work has been so busy and my brain has been so frazzled of late, I was actually quite looking forward to a day on my own, a long train journey where I could read a book and switch off a bit, a bit of a sight see and a long country walk.

These houses fascinate me purely because on the one hand they are so old, but on the other they are always a bit of a mash up of architectural styles, given the many owners and renovations they go through and the sheer number of years they exist for. Let alone the massive size of them, the interesting little design features and funny rooms and incredible things that have gone on in each of them.

The courtyard (another famous scene from the film) for example, resembles that of an Italian palazzo and, as another example, the inside features a ‘squint’, which is where a huge painting swings out from the wall on hinges to reveal the Entrance Hall. Most often found in Churches, it was through the squint that the family used to be able to look out and see who the visitors were before they entered and decide if they wanted to receive them. If they didn’t want to, they’d merely pull a little rope and the servants would know to say they weren’t at home and able to receive guests.

courtyard or Italian palazzo?

courtyard or Italian palazzo?

courtyard or Italian palazzo?

courtyard or Italian palazzo?

Lyme Park dates back to the middle ages but one of the most amazing things is that one family, the Legh’s had a 550 year tenure of it. The Legh family took ownership of it in the 1300s as a gift from Richard II as a reward for their participation in one of the many wars. I think it’s pretty astounding that they had it for so long particularly in the following few hundred years where lands changed hands loads of times at the will of the monarch of the time.

It might sound nerdy, but I actually love looking at these old places – the layouts, the ceilings, the plasterwork, the metal work, the paneling, the fireplaces, the stained glass, the intricate wood carvings or wall decorations, the furniture, the tapestries and paintings, ceramics, china, silverware etc etc. It baffles me how old these things are, considering how young Australia is as a country, and to think that these things have lasted through the ages, and the moves around the house and the people living there and using them or walking past them… the craftsmanship of some of this stuff is just mind boggling.

This is one of those places that hasn’t been so modernised that you can’t see the age of it anymore – some of the walls are lopsided and the fireplaces at an angle, some of the floors slope and there are cracks or fading on a lot of the paintings and tapestries, but it all adds to the experience.

Sadly, I couldn’t take any photos of the interior, but if you’re not ‘manor-house-curious’ like me, you may have appreciated the gardens and the surrounding National Park for an incredibly picturesque country walk. I spent a bit of time in the gardens of Lyme Park checking out the pond that ‘Mr Darcy’ swam in, and checking out the gardens themselves but then I took myself for a walk in the surrounding areas, where I was surrounded by the beautiful English countryside – rolling hills, lush green grass, deer, rabbits and fresh air. It was just what I needed.

I will admit though, there was a little part of me that was imagining myself as Elizabeth Bennet, breaking with tradition and social acceptability and going off the beaten track. That was of course until I lost my footing when I landed in a rabbit warren and twisted my ankle. Thank god no one was there to see that!


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