It is hard to believe that the ever constant bustle of Derby’s traffic is barely a couple of miles away at its closest point. Kedleston’s park is an oasis of tranquility, with now naturalised groves and plantations, set around hundreds of acres of green-sward and lakes.
All this overlooks winding ponds separated by tinkling waterfalls, the breeding ground of visiting and permanent wildfowl, making a perfect foreground for the hall, ancestral home of the Curzons
With only a quarter of its park turned over to the golfing fraternity, the rest of Kedleston Park is perfectly designed for enjoyable walking, be it on one of the graded woodland walks or beside attractive lakes made by damming Cutler Brook. Modern walkers seem to have more energy than the Regency ladies and their squires who contented themselves with a gentle stroll of say half a mile in the pleasure grounds. Even though none of the strolls available for today’s walkers is more than 3¼miles, it can be longer, and in fact the walk I describe here links two of the longer walks, covering an easy 5¼miles. There is also the possibility of a visit inside the hall to appreciate its treasure-trove of links to generations of Curzons.
One of the finest of England’s stately homes, Kedleston Hall was built in the nine years between 1761 and 1770 by the great architects of the time, James Paine and Robert Adam for the first Lord Scarsdale, designed in the then popular classical style. Greek columns and classical statuary decorate exquisite rooms laid out in order to influence visiting royalty by their abundance of treasures. To improve the appearance of the finished house, the medieval estate village of Kedleston was demolished and rebuilt in its present position as a model village, partly hidden half a mile away to the north-west. Of that village only the ancient church remains as a fine example of Norman and later architecture. North and south sides of the house were the responsibility of each architect and as a result the building offers magnificent aspects of both sides.
The most distinguished member of the Curzon dynasty was George Nathanial Curzon, Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Lords. He is however, best remembered as the Viceroy of India at the height of Britain’s expansion as a world power. As a result of the influence bestowed upon him as Viceroy, he was showered by expensive gifts from the maharajas of the multitude of states then filling the map of India. Amongst all the silver and ivory on show, there is an elaborately expensive howdah in which he was transported by a huge elephant during the Delhi Durbar. All these treasures are on display in the ground-floor rooms beyond the hall’s entrance, but the most amazing item is the Peacock Dress made for Lady Curzon and worn at the Durbar Ball. The result of hours of painstaking work by craftsmen, its magnificence still shines getting on for two hundred years after it was made.
The Lady Curzon who wore the Peacock Dress died quite young and is buried in Kedleston’s church. Lord Curzon’s effigy lies beside her, but as he was still alive at the time, this is made apparent by the fact that his foot is shown kicking aside a corner of the couple’s winding sheet!
The 5¼ mile walk even when taken at a leisurely pace should only take a little over two hours, leaving plenty of time to explore other features such as a visit to the magnificent hall. While the map attached to the walk’s description can be used to follow this easy walk, it might help if you pick up a copy of the leaflet on offer at the National Trust’s visitor reception office.
The Walk :
From the National Park Visitor Centre bear right and go through a metal gate beside a signpost ‘to the footpaths’.
Turn right and go past two large stone gateposts and then on to a raised track entering mature woodland.
The gateposts are said to have come from the old House of Lords when parliament was being rebuilt following a disastrous fire in the nineteenth century.
Ignore the path descending to the left away from the track and continue to walk through the woods.
In about a quarter of a mile you will come on an area of disturbed ground with deep wide holes. This is a badger sett, but do not expect to see any because being nocturnal, they will be fast asleep.
A little further on a short side path swings to the left past the old stone building known as the Hermitage. In more leisurely times it would be where Regency ladies and gentlemen took their then fashionable (and expensive) tea.
Going slightly uphill, continue along the forest track and into the denser woodland of the Pleasure Grounds.
Bearing left with the track pause now and then to admire the wide ranging views sloping down towards the hall.
A seat marks the highest but still easily accessible point on the walk. Continue to walk through the woods for about a mile and three quarters.
Bearing left as the track turns. Go with it, now downhill through the woods in what is known as Derby Screen.
In just over half a mile, the track splits three ways. It doesn’t matter which one you take, but the right bearing tracks reach the final dam marking the end of the lakes.
Turn left along the lakeside and follow a now grassy path as far as the hall’s access drive.
The lakes were dug by hand at the same time as the house was built. Weirs were added to hold back Cutler Brook and so create the attractive lakes. Islands on either side of the bridge offer secluded nesting for visiting and indigenous water fowl.
Even though the lakes make a perfect foreground to Kedleston Hall, whoever named them showed little or no imagination by calling them Upper, Middle and Lower Lakes.
Turn right along the drive and cross the bridge.
The small well surrounded by an iron fence, (Bentley’s Well) stands just below the drive and was part of an attempt to create a fashionable spa at Kedleston. Another well now standing in the golf course on the far side of the lake (no access for walkers) is a sulphur well and must have tasted absolutely foul. Needless to say the spa project never became a reality.
The bridge was designed by the architect Robert Adam and is considered one of his finest.
Turn left on the far side of the bridge in order to follow another grassy path on the south bank of the lake.
Go past a bush and tree-covered island popular with ground nesting birds and enter woodland.
At the far side of the trees walk up to the end of the lake and turn left to cross a footbridge.
Turn left on leaving the footbridge in order to walk along the lakeside. Follow a grassy path past the brick and stone-built fishing room and boat house.
Reaching the drive turn right away from the bridge and follow the drive up to the hall. The café is conveniently to hand in the right-hand corner of the house.
Useful Information :
5¼miles (8.45km) of easy walking through woodland and across sheep-grazed parkland. Easy gradients throughout.
Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 scale, Landranger Sheet 128; Derby and Burton upon Trent.
Or Kedleston Walks National Trust Map available at the Visitor Centre.
Refreshments available in Kedleston Hall National Trust café.
Parking – next to the Visitor Centre. National Trust members free.
Access. Minor side roads from Belper or Mackworth are signposted to Kedleston.