The car park was busy.
Not a good sign.
But the fresh air felt good. Like new air, somehow. Crisper. Different.
It felt like a new world. It felt like we were far, far away from home.
Whilst our recent adventures may have shrunk to the size of our hometown, I’ve discovered their potential is still unbounded and limitless. The freedom to explore the place we live, the town we take for granted is one of the most beautiful gifts we’ve been given from this difficult situation.
I’ve started to see things with new eyes and with a deeper level of gratitude, but also with more interest and intrigue. Travel doesn’t have to mean a plane. Or a hotel. There are so many stories waiting for us every day, if we just open our eyes (and hearts) to the possibility.
Stories From Errwood Hall
I’ve always wanted to explore the ruins of Errwood Hall, nestled in the Goyt Valley, right on the Derbyshire/ Cheshire border, but I’ve just never gotten around to it. It’s only ten-fifteen minutes from my house, yet people drive miles to explore this historic site. I guess I took it for granted. I guess there was always something else to do. But one sunny Sunday afternoon last month we finally decided to give it an explore.
As the lockdown restrictions have eased, we’ve only just slowly started venturing out. And walking through the shady, spacious path toward Errwood hall, it felt like the perfect route for us to start to explore this old-world ruins, as we made our timid steps into a new one.
At first, the ruins fighting against nature took my breath away. The idea that these bricks, archways and walls were once a home, was just incredible. How? How did they even get the materials up the windy path, through the trees, atop of the hill? I mean what a view though. And then, I wanted to know more.
The begins of the Hall
Let me take you back to 1830. I mean, it seems fake, doesn’t it? Can you even imagine what the world looked like then? Anyway, back in 1830, Samuel Grimshawe, a wealthy Manchester businessman, said,
“Alright, I’m going to build a house in the Goyt Valley. Its views will reach out over the Peak District, but it will still be within commuting distance of Manchester. Sound.”
I mean, it’s still the dream today, right?
Little did Samuel know the house he built, Errwood Hall, would be the home of the Grimshawe family for over one hundred years. The Hall was smack bang in the middle of their huge estate. The Grimshawe estate included a school, farms even the Cat and Fiddle pub!
But how did this incredible estate end up in ruins?
Some people say it’s because there were no heirs, no one else to take on the mammoth task of managing (and paying) for the estate. Another article I found blamed it on the folly. But the description here made it feel like the Peak District version of Gatsby’s house. The scandal! The excitement! Which is super ironic as apparently the site is now used for lots of illegal raves today. Who knew? Yet conflicting stories from Errwood Hall tell tales of the generosity of the Grimshawe’s and their support for local towns and villages.
The destruction of the Hall is all to do with the reservoir that now covers most of the Grimshawe estate. The same one that keeps local towns supplied with water. But as a little bit of a kick in the teeth, the rezzy was even built using bricks and stone from the Hall!
Samuel’s grandchildren were the last people to live in the Hall and saw it demolished in 1934. What a tragedy. You can see what the hall used to look like here. Before Its demolition though, it was used as a Youth Hostel. Which I love. It would be the most perfect place for a youth hostel today. Don’t you think?
I reckon there is a little more to this story, though. It strikes me as odd. Why did this guy move his family here? Surely it can’t just have been for the killer views? Maybe it was.
A couple of hundred meters from the ruins, you can also find the family graveyard and it feels like it should be there, near their home.
But do you know what else is a little more interesting, near the hall, there is a small shrine built by the Grimshawe family in memory of a teacher who used to work on the estate at the school.
The teacher was Miss Dolores de Ybarguen, a Spanish aristocrat. Apparently, it’s still used regularly as a shrine. We couldn’t find it on our visit, but I guess that’s a pretty good excuse to go back. Especially when further research showed me what was inside. Am I the only one that loves old stuff like this? We’re going back ASAP and I hope the inside of the shrine still looks like this!
The Grimshawe Legacy
The last remaining legacy of the Grimshawes’ is the abundance of Rhododendrons. Don’t worry, I didn’t know what they looked like either. I do now. Beautiful red flowering bushes that look like trees you might find in Hawaii. And it’s for that reason these striking flowers stayed with me after our visit. They seemed out of place, but then so perfectly magical. Just like the Hall. Wikipedia tells me these flowers have to be strictly managed, whatever that means, maybe they go rogue? Maybe this family’s history wants to shout to all the visitors to make its mark. Let the world know it was here. It existed. They existed.
So much of the estate, their land, is now submerged under the reservoir. But there are some parts of their history time couldn’t erase. According to Derbyshire Heritage, “When the water level of Errwood Reservoir drops significantly you can see the remains of the lower part of the Driveway to the Hall, the Lodge, Cottages, Farms and the Old Packhorse Bridge which were at the heart of this community, the last time these were visible was 1991.”
I mean, I’m queuing up for when this happens again. Can you imagine? History revealing itself, hidden from time under litres and gallons and tons of water. So many more stories from Errwood Hall, so many secrets.
This time of isolation and lockdown hasn’t erased my thirst for adventure and exploration, but it’s most certainly made me re-evaluate where I can get my fill. I’m more than happy to slow down time and see the world in slow motion. I’m still working on my post-Corona bucket list, but exploring and adventuring all the wonderful places on my doorstep, before leaping into the places far and wide. What about you?
If you liked this post you can read more of my travel stories here.