Calke Abbey has a landscape park, pleasure grounds and walled garden, now occupying about 210 hectares, surrounding a hall. The National Trust has restored much of the site and the parkland is now a National Nature Reserve.
Sudbury Hall has a landscape park of about 150 hectares, with pleasure grounds and the remains of a formal garden. Other features include water meadows leading down to the lake.
Days out in Derbyshire
Derbyshire really is a gift for everyone when it comes to activities, attractions, and family days out. Together with the capital city of Derby, there’s a host of beautiful smaller towns to discover including Ashbourne, Matlock, Buxton, Glossop, and the larger town of Chesterfield as well. Whether indoor attractions or outdoor activities, there’s plenty to see and do.
Kicking off your visit to Derby, there’s plenty to see and do right in the heart of the city and Derby Cathedral is a great place to start. Though only promoted from parish church to cathedral in 1927, the building has a far deeper history and stunning architecture. If you have a head for heights, you can also enjoy a climb of 212ft and 189 steps for a tower tour.
The Royal Crown Derby Visitor Centre is the place to learn more about the city’s 200-year history in fine bone china production with a factory tour, museum exhibition, and tearooms. The Derby Museum and Art Gallery is home to extensive military, natural history, and world collections, alongside 18th-century art from local man, Joseph Wright. Pickford’s House is a small but wonderful museum dedicated to the life of Georgian architect, Joseph Pickford.
Chesterfield’s most famous landmark is the Church of St, Mary and All Saints with its crooked spire. Attracting visitors from all over the world, you can take a guided tour around the church and up inside the tower to get some great views across the town.
You’ll find a whole range of things to do in Matlock Bath. Gulliver’s Kingdom is an exceptional family-friendly theme park with rides and attractions especially for younger children. The Matlock Bath Aquarium and Exhibition is home to over 50 species of fish as well as a thermal pool and an impressive collection of beautiful Koi Carp.
For a room with a view, take an exhilarating cable car ride to the award-winning Heights of Abraham hilltop park. There are plenty of walks around Matlock Bath too, including the Lover’s Walks – a series of footpaths along the River Derwent and up over the rising cliffs. In nearby Thorpe, a short, steep walk up the 1,000ft tall limestone hill of Thorpe Cloud will reward you with breathtaking views.
Both Matlock and Thorpe are just inside the magnificent Peak District National Park – an utterly beautiful expanse of hills and uplands covering over 550sq miles and the entirety of the north-west of the county. Perfect walking country and ideal for any outdoor activity from cycling, horse riding, climbing, and caving to water sports, and air sports.
Topography, geology, and climate
With exceptional landscapes across the county, Derbyshire features a mix of soil types, several of which are unique to the area thanks to the Peak District. Combined, it gives Derbyshire a diverse environment that gives a range of different land qualities.
The Peak District covers the whole of the north-west of the county, between Sheffield and Manchester; the northern part is majority blanket bog peat soil with very low fertility, whilst in the southern areas, it’s largely made up of free-draining, mild acid but base-rich loam with high fertility.
Beyond this area, soils are mainly a mix of seasonally wet, slow-draining, acid loam and clay together with more acidic loamy areas with some clay and higher fertility levels. Just east of Chesterfield, there’s also a large area of free-draining lime-rich loamy soils.
The majority of the county is sheltered by the Pennines to the west so has good protection from extreme weather. Enjoying milder temperatures in summer, high temperatures average around 21ºC (69ºF), while winter temperatures hover around 2ºC (35ºF). Rainfall across the county can be heavy, especially over high ground, and can average around 825mm (32”).
Derbyshire’s parks and gardens
Together with the stunning natural beauty of the Peak District, Derbyshire has an exceptional blend of formal and informal gardens and arboretum to enjoy, many surrounding exquisite stately homes. Offering a relaxing day out, the gardens have plenty to offer casual visitors and committed gardeners and horticulturalists.
- North Derbyshire
Perhaps the jewel in the Derbyshire crown, the 18th-century, Grade I listed Chatsworth House near Bakewell features stunning 105-acre gardens, originally designed by designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Although some of Brown’s trademark landscape stylings remain, there have been stunning additions over the centuries and the estate now includes a Kitchen garden, Sensory garden, delightful Cottage garden, and stunning formal rose garden with 20 different varieties.
Renishaw Hall and Gardens, just north of Chesterfield, is a 17th-century country home with beautiful formal Italianate gardens with clipped yew hedges forming separate areas, all featuring colourful herbaceous borders and planting schemes to give colour throughout the seasons.
Just south-east of Chesterfield, Hardwick Hall is a 16th-century, National Trust-owned property with 1,000-acres of parkland, together with wonderful gardens. The beautiful walled gardens and their courtyards are separated into four areas: the Orchard, Lawn, Nuttery, and impressive Herb garden, all offering colour and scent across the seasons.
A real hidden gem, Cascades House and Gardens sit in the village of Bonsall, near Matlock. Covering just 4-acres, this peaceful, natural, and inspiring garden is perfect for meditation and relaxation. Surrounding a ruined corn mill, the multi-level garden rooms include perennial beds and borders and glorious displays of dahlias, chrysanthemums, and water plants, plus a wonderful border filled with shade-loving plants.
- South Derbyshire
Sitting next to Carsington Water on the edge of the Peak District, Hopton Hall Gardens is another hidden gem to explore. During the winter, there’s a glorious display of snowdrops covering the 5-acres of woodland and the Snowdrop Walk is highly recommended. There’s also a wonderful set of restored formal summer gardens to enjoy including a 1-acre walled garden with over 2,000 roses in 40 beds - truly an experience for the senses.
In Melbourne, the formal gardens of Melbourne Hall are a classic English garden style filled with colour, texture, and detail with a wide variety of specimen trees, shrubs, and fabulous herbaceous borders. There’s also a lovely 100-yard Yew walk leading to a delightful water feature and fountain, and a beautifully wrought iron arbour affectionately known as the ‘Birdcage’.
In nearby Ticknall, Calke Abbey is an elegantly near-ruined National Trust property with beautiful, once formal walled gardens and orangery. Set inside extensive, surrounding pleasure grounds, the formal gardens have a lovely collection of beds and herbaceous borders, plus a kitchen garden, a small orchard, and a walled garden complete with potted auricula theatre showing off a wonderful display of different bold, colourful varieties.