I could have started my new blog with a post about one of the more famous and glamorous houses in Derbyshire; Chatsworth maybe, or Kedleston or Hardwick. These places are lavishly maintained and attract thousands of visitors every year.
Instead I decided to go with one that few people have heard of. It's a sad place, allowed to fall into ruin in the 2oth century. It attracts only a few visitors, there are no tearooms or gift shops and no-one there to collect an entrance fee.
It was built in 1724 for Nicholas, 4th Earl of Scarsdale and was sold to settle his debts. Two centuries later, its contents were stripped and sold to an American buyer in 1920. After that it was just left to decay, roofless. It is now in the care of English Heritage. It's style is reminiscent of Chatsworth, on a much smaller scale but I bet it was really something in its day.
It stands in a grand elevated position above a wide valley, across the other side of which is Bolsover Castle, also owned by English Heritage and which has been beautifully restored. There is no chance of that for Scarsdale as it is too far gone I fear. Even so, it is a lovely place to visit and wander round inside and out, imagining how life was when it was in its heyday.
The M1 motorway slices along the bottom of the valley between the two great houses. You can see Scarsdale from the motorway and I often wondered what it was. It is only recently that I started to visit it regularly. Lulu and I usually have it all to ourselves and she loves sniffing around inside the ruins of the grand rooms and then running about outside where the gardens would have been.
Not that long ago I stood at the back of the house and watched the endless stream of huge lorries travelling north and south along the mile of the M1 that you can see from Scarsdale. I thought to myself how pointless they seemed, carting cheap foreign rubbish for our shopping centres and then going back for more. I wondered what the Earl of Scarsdale and his fine guests would have made of it if they could have joined me there in the afternoon sunshine.