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Stratford Ramblers Group continued their monthly programme of coach excursions with the annual visit to the Northern regions at the beginning of July.  It was a smooth journey going North on the M1 as the group passed the stationary traffic on the South bound carriageway and the arrival at Hardwick Hall was ahead of schedule. Travellers on the M1 will be familiar with the sight of this impressive building standing proud above the road. The setting is a considerable area of parkland which gave opportunities for varied walks together with the chance to visit the house and gardens for part of the day.

The group were welcomed by an experienced guide who set out the options for the day and a large party set out on a 10 mile walk around the estate and the neighbouring villages. This took them past a varied herd of horned cattle near to Ault Hucknall and on down to Stainsby Mill. This has been a working mill for hundreds of years and the property is used to give a “vivid evocation of the work-place of a 19th century miller”. The site seemed to be over-run by school parties learning about the process of transforming wheat into flour. The group moved on.

 The walk continued through arable land to the village of Rowthorne which was the lunch stop. The highlight of the afternoon was passing through the wood which is associated with Lady Chatterley and is regarded as the setting for her meetings with the game-keeper. The party spent some moments imagining the scene before moving on. The walk then followed a disused railway track close to a visitor centre and back to the main house. The walkers who had set out slightly later had followed a shortened version of the route which had allowed them more time to appreciate the woodland and additional time in the café and the house.

Visitors to the house had been charmed by the stories of Bess of Hardwick and her descendant Duchess Evelyn Cavendish whose life is celebrated in a special exhibition. One member had attended a lecture about stone-work and the marks left by stone masons at both the Old Hall and the more recent building.

By then the school parties had reached the toilets and it was time to go. So back on the coach to rejoin the M1 and take note of the stationary traffic on the North bound carriageway. It was a smooth and quick journey back to Stratford until one of the organising group took the microphone to comment on how comfortable the travelling had been. That was the moment when the traffic on the M42 came to a standstill but the party arrived back at Bearley in good time. Overall Elizabeth and Roger Cooper had set up a well organised and highly successful day.

Alan Cumming

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