Saturday, May 17, 2008

Over the Causeway

Yesterday we went to Staunton Harold to meet up with friends from Nottingham for a birthday lunch (not mine, but one of my friend's). We had a lovely time, consequently I didn't take many photos as I was too busy enjoying myself, chatting, eating and mooching around the lovely craft and art shops in the stables courtyard.

I love the journey to Staunton Harold from Stoke firstly because we just have to pop down to the A50 and travel along it until we see the signs for Melbourne and Swadlincote. We turn off the A50 and take the road towards Swarkestone, then, and this is my favourite bit of the journey, we drive over the Swarkestone Causeway.

Designated an Ancient Monument, it is just under a mile long and as such is one of the longest bridges in England. It was built in the 13th century by two sisters, who, according to a local legend watched helplessly from the safety of their home as their menfolk were drowned trying to cross the River Trent on horseback. Vowing than no one else should suffer the same fate they spent the rest of their lives having the bridge built and died in poverty after spending all their wealth on the project. We then passed through the pretty villages of Stanton-by-Bridge and Ticknall and down the winding track to park up at the back of the garden centre.

The Hall itself is now a private home so I didn't photograph it yesterday. Below is a photo I took about three years ago. The building we see now was built in the mid 18th century by the 5th Earl Ferrars. During the second world war it was requisitioned by the army and later used for prisoners of war. Saved from demolition in 1954 by Group Captain Lord Cheshire, VC it first became a Leonard Cheshire home and then it was used as a palliative care home by his wife Sue Ryder's charity.

Below is one of my favourite views at Staunton Harold; the tree and the church, for some reason I just love that tree. The history of the church is interesting. It is one of very few interregnum (between kings) churches in England. It was built in 1653 by Sir Robert Shirley, at this time the Civil Wars that had split and ravaged Britain had ended, Charles I had been executed; his son Charles II was in exile in France after escaping from the Battle of Worcester two years earlier and Oliver Cromwell was appointed as Lord Protector.

Apparently Sir Robert Shirley had the church built in defiance of Oliver Cromwell's laws and died whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London. He left money and plans for the completion of the building, now owned by the National Trust, which is actually known as the Chapel of the Holy Trinity.

We saw some lovely things in the Ferrers Centre shops and the food in the tea shop was warm, comforting and tasty on such a cold day, made colder by the shock of the change from the heat of the previous few days. Above is the Victorian Model Workshop which is absolutely fascinating. I decided to part with 20p to watch the firemen making a daring rescue in a 'Dickensian' street but decided that, although they looked interesting, I wouldn't watch the working biscuit factory or the circus. I loved the animated fairies sitting around the workshop, flapping their luminous wings and the crow in the shop window. Paul was intrigued with the Dr. Who and Torchwood models and cartoons.

All too soon, after a cup of tea and the purchase of plants and seeds at the garden centre, it was time to say our goodbyes. We set off back through Ticknall and Stanton-by- Bridge, back over the Causeway to the A50 and home.


  1. What an interesting story about that bridge and how sad.
    I enjoyed reading about your trip!
    I love reading about all the history in England. I guess because it`s my roots even though I wasn`t born here. Have a great weekend!


  2. hello tea, glad you enjoyed the post - it is a sad story about the building of the causeway, isn't it?
    Hope you have a great weekend too :)

  3. As you laready know I grew up in the area and as I no longer live there look forward to your stories and photos. Swarkestone Causeway is a familar place and the Crewe and Harper Hotel at the side of it was somewhere I have been many times. Also as a child I used to visit Saunton Harold with my mum and dad when it was a Sue Ryder Home. We would go to the garden centre and then I would be able to run around the beautiful grounds. I had no idea that it was a private home now.
    Calke Abbey is not far away another interesing place to visit should you be going that way again.
    Thanks again for reviving some memories. Where we off to next?

  4. rosie, I think Calke Abbey is great - I love the way they have left the rooms just as they found them when they opened them up - it's the nearest I'll get to time travel I think :)

    Where next? Hmm..... a lovely garden not too far away from here.