Normally, when told by the proprietors of some tourist establishment
that they "have left the monument in a state of disrepair to show
how it was when it was last occupied", I tend to assume they are
just being cheapskates. Indeed, such an accusation is often
levelled at Calke Abbey. However, if you manage to visit this
amazing property, you will truly appreciate the intention. It
is so revealing to see the state in which a formerly staggeringly
rich family ended up living. There was no electricity until
1960, the kitchen is filthy and falling apart, the paint is peeling
off the walls. It is quite wonderful to visit...but I would
not want to live there!
And then there is the location. As one American visitor
observed, it was ill-conceived to build such a house under the
flight path for East Midlands airport!
Apart from the amazing house, there is a church, a wooded park with
bluebells to die for, a series of ponds, deer and other exotic farm
animals strewn about, a walled vegetable garden and an ice house.
The one real down side is the current obsession of the National
Trust, in common with most other institutions, with dumbing down our
heritage. Thus we find cultural events like apple fairs,
putting woolly socks on statues, Cadburys sponsored Easter egg
trails and other superficial nonsense.