Much attention is devoted to the central, western and northern areas of Derbyshire and in particularly the places encompassed within the Peak District National Park.
Whilst the dales, edges and high moorland areas are rich in beauty, the south of the county equally has a lot to offer.
From lovely, thatched cottages in charming villages to country houses steeped in history, I would recommend spending some time exploring the south of our county; a place to escape to for some quiet relaxation and contemplation.
In this feature I would like to share ten locations that for me, as a keen photographer, are my favourites.

Great British Life: Brailsford, poppy fieldBrailsford, poppy field (Image: Gary Wallis)

Poppy field, Country Lane at Brailsford
In early summer I am always on the lookout for a field where the owner has allowed nature to reclaim their farmland – usually only on a temporary basis.
Whilst exploring villages between Ashbourne and Derby I came across the field pictured here, which was host to a stunning display of poppies. This image was taken in 2020 and it will be interesting to see whether this beautiful scene will again be allowed to flourish in 2021.

Great British Life: Calke AbbeyCalke Abbey (Image: Gary Wallis)

Calke Abbey
Calke Abbey, owned by the National Trust, is located near the village of Ticknall. The historical site dates back to the 12th century.
The gardens and grounds are a firm favourite for me and a photographer’s paradise all year round. In February, the woodland areas adjacent to the gardens are covered with a white blanket of snowdrops.
In spring, Primrose Woods in the grounds offers one of the finest displays of bluebells in the county. Throughout spring and summer the gardens, with their wide variety of plants, flowers and sub-tropical trees are a delight and I can spend many hours trying to capture the perfect picture there.
In addition, the grounds host a herd of deer and a delightful thatched cottage stands on the edge of the park.

Great British Life: Longford MillLongford Mill (Image: Gary Wallis)

Longford Mill
This former water mill is situated in the village of Longford, about six miles south of Ashbourne. The mill is now a private residential property and is adjacent to a pond with a small weir.
Directly opposite the mill and again a private residential property is a former cheese factory and, in fact, the first in England. It was founded by a dutchman named Cornelius Schemmerhorn.

Great British Life: Melbourne HallMelbourne Hall (Image: Gary Wallis)

Melbourne Hall
This impressive hall and delightful gardens, which are open to the public, is situated just east of Melbourne. Currently home to Lord and Lady Ralph Kerr, there has been a house on this site since the 12th century with records detailing a manor owned by the Bishops of Carlisle.
The house and grounds are well worth a visit and a stroll around the gardens affords some great subjects for a photographer.
The image captured here is the most striking of the many features in the gardens. The wrought-iron arbour, known as The Birdcage, was forged locally by ironsmith Robert Bakewell between 1706-1708.
It was a work of art that subsequently made him famous, however it is said the endeavour left him bankrupt.

Great British Life: OsmastonOsmaston (Image: Gary Wallis)

In my opinion Osmaston is the most picturesque village in South Derbyshire. There are several beautiful thatched cottages, a fine church and other historical buildings. The village is popular with visitors and also is a base from which many people enjoy a walk around Osmaston Park.
Designed as a conservation site in 1972 the village is sometimes referred to as a ‘model village’. The conservation area extends to 41 acres and encompasses eleven Grade II-listed structures.

Great British Life: SnelstonSnelston (Image: Gary Wallis)

Snelston is another lovely village with some beautiful cottages. Some of these historic dwellings feature Flemish brickwork, Tudor chimney stacks and lacy-style windows. The village church, St. Peter’s, dates to the early 15th century and has been rebuilt twice.

Great British Life: Somersal Herbert HallSomersal Herbert Hall (Image: Gary Wallis)

Somersal Herbert
This small and secluded village eight miles south of Ashbourne was designed as a conservation area in 1979. The church of St. Peter and St. Blaise dates back to the 12th century.
Adjacent to the church stands Somersal Herbert Hall, a Grade I-listed building and a private residence. The building is a timber framed country house and appears to belong more to a location such as Stratford-upon-Avon rather than a quiet Derbyshire village. It was constructed in 1564 on the site of an earlier Manor House.

Great British Life: Sudbury HallSudbury Hall (Image: Gary Wallis)

Sudbury Hall
A spectacularly impressive stately home, Sudbury Hall and estate is now owned by the National Trust and open to the public.
This Grade I-listed building, built between 1660 and 1680, is popular with visitors, particularly those interested in historical architecture.
The National Trust have also established a Museum of Childhood within the building, which is interesting to explore.

Great British Life: Swarkestone BridgeSwarkestone Bridge (Image: Gary Wallis)

Swarkestone Bridge
This famous landmark spans the River Trent and is popular in part due to the location of a pub/restaurant which sits adjacent to the bridge.
The Crewe and Harpur Arms is a Grade II-listed coach house and dates back to the 17th century. From its riverside gardens there are fine views of the bridge.
Swarkestone Bridge is the longest inland bridge in England and is a Grade I-listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument with a long history. Construction of a bridge here began in the 13th century and was first referenced in 1204.
The bridge is three quarters of a mile long and consists of 17 arches and was the main crossing of the Trent in the area for some 300 years.
The section that crosses the main flow of the River Trent has five arches, this part was destroyed by floods in 1795 and reconstructed between 1795-97.
The bridge is associated with two key events in the nation’s history. During the English Civil War, the Battle of Swarkestone Bridge in 1643 saw an army of Royalists defend the site from Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, with those loyal to the crown losing the conflict.
About 100 years later, Swarkestone Bridge was the furthest point south that Bonnie Prince Charlie reached in his endeavour to regain the crown.

Great British Life: TicknallTicknall (Image: Gary Wallis)

Ticknall is another village in the south of the county worth exploring. Recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Tichenhalle’ meaning ‘at the kid nook of land’ this charming South Derbyshire village is located about two miles south-west of Melbourne and eight south of Derby.
Ticknall’s impressive church, St. George’s, was completed in 1842 and was designed by a local Derby architect named Henry Isaac Stevens. In the grounds of the church, the ruins of the original house of worship which was dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket can be found.
Originally constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries, the building must have been built solidly as parts of it managed to resist the efforts of the Victorian demolition experts who attempted to reduce it to rubble using gunpowder.
The photograph I have chosen to include in this feature encapsulates a familiar scene of village cricket in Ticknall. I sincerely hope we are once again able to enjoy a British summer this year with the eventual and gradual return to some form of normality.

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