First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
‘There’d be 40 gardeners here back in Victorian times,’ said the National Trust volunteer, digging the rhododendron verges at Clumber Park, ‘and not one of them was to be seen by the lords and ladies. They’d hide in the bushes and creep out with the shears – snip, snip! – when the fine folk had gone.’
Henry Douglas, 7th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme, founded the Chapel of St Mary the Virgin by the lake at his family seat of Clumber in 1889. The church of deep pink sandstone stands as tall and elegant as many a cathedral, full of glorious stained glass by Charles Kempe, delicate wood carving, and enough stone demons to keep the Devil good company.
It was the 2nd Duke, handsome Henry Pelham-Clinton, who poured out his money on landscaping Clumber Park and creating its great serpentine lake in the mid 18th-century. We walked the lake as far as the dock where the 4th Duke once kept a miniature frigate, with a sailor employed full-time to tend it. The path looped inland and back to the water, where tufted duck sailed with brilliant white flanks and intense golden eyes. A mother coot scooped seeds from the lake surface to feed her tiny scarlet-faced chick, beak tip to beak tip.
Beyond the lake we turned off across a belt of heather, broom and silver birch – a wild contrast to the neatly contrived artificiality of the landscaped park. A bridleway led through the birch and pine of Hardwick Wood to the outskirts of Hardwick, built as an estate village for the park, its cottages with steep ornamental gables and giant chimney stacks. In the E-shaped yard of the model farm, a peep through a chink in a barn door disclosed a collection of beautiful old agricultural wagons in the gloom.
A long stretch by the southern shore of the lake, looking across to the chapel spire, and we were crossing the Palladian arches of Clumber Bridge. Coot sat tight on their domed nests in the shallows, and a duck of mixed parentage ducked its head ecstatically in the lake, sending showers of diamond droplets flying in all directions.
Start: Clumber Park main car park, near Worksop, Notts, S80 3AZ (OS ref SK625746)
Getting there: Clumber Park is signed from B6034, off A616 between Ollerton and Cuckney.
Walk (6 miles, easy, OS Explorer 270. NB: online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): From car park follow ‘Chapel’. From chapel (627746), left along lakeside path. At Boat House dock, left (632748), heading north close to fence. In 150m, right through stone gateway; pass gate on right; at pair of stone gateposts, right on gravel path. At ‘In The Wood’ info board (633755) right across neck of lake, then left along causeway road. In 300m, beyond lake, right off road (631756, ’16’ marker on left side of turning) on gravel path. In 400m, right along road (630759); in 200m, right (‘Bridleway’) on bridleway. At road (634760), right into and through Hardwick. At T-junction, right (639754); opposite farmyard, left past log barrier and NT ‘No Parking’ sign (‘Route 5’). In 50m, left across water (639752); follow path along south side of Clumber Lake. In 1¼ miles, meet road at a car park (623740); continue along road. In 300m, right across Clumber Bridge (621738). Fork right along road. In 150m, right past log barrier on woodland path. At road with barrier, right to car park.
Lunch: Clumber Park tea rooms
Accommodation: Forest Lodge Hotel, Edwinstowe, Notts NG21 9QA (01623-824443, forestlodgehotel.co.uk)
Clumber Park: 01909-544917, nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park