Exploring the hidden secrets in the gardens of Chatsworth

Dating back to 1699 the Great Parterre measured 473 by 227 feet

Dating back to 1699 the Great Parterre measured 473 by 227 feet - Credit: Chatsworth House Trust

The heatwave has revealed the remnants of an ornate 17th century garden design at Chatsworth, but there are many more hidden features in the estate.

Once part of the Great Parterre, a level space in the garden occupied by an ornamental arrangement of flower beds and paths, clearly defined patterns were revealed under the South Lawn's scorched grass during the record heatwave in July 2022.

The remnants of an ornate 17th century garden design revealed by the July 2022 heatwave

The remnants of an ornate 17th century garden design revealed by the July 2022 heatwave - Credit: Chatsworth House Trust

Dating back to 1699 the Great Parterre measured 473 by 227 feet and was intended to provide a suitable setting for the 1st Duke of Devonshire’s newly completed South Front of the house. It was covered over and replaced with a new design around 1730 but because the grass on the new lawn has shorter roots it burns more quickly, creating a contrast and temporarily revealing the older garden underneath.

The historic garden is now covered by the South Lawn, part of the 105-acre garden at Chatsworth. Home to the Devonshire family for 16 generations, the garden is currently undergoing its biggest transformation for nearly 200 years with major changes to the Rock Garden and the creation of a new 15-acre area called Arcadia.

The aqueduct above Chatsworth

The aqueduct above Chatsworth - Credit: Helen Moat

Chatsworth waterways walk 

Helen Moat

At Chatsworth, apart from its Derwent weirs, an aqueduct was constructed in 1839 to channel water from the manmade Emperor Stream and Ring Pond in Stand Wood to the grand Emperor Fountain in the gardens of the stately home.  

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The channelled water plunges eighty feet where the structure comes to an abrupt halt.  

This five-mile walk takes in the Derwent weirs in Chatsworth’s parkland. Starting out from Beeley (please park considerately), cross the B6012 from Church Lane and through the wooden gate into a field of pastoral loveliness.  

A line of young trees takes you downhill to Calton Lees Bridge. Go through the kissing gate, cross the bridge, then turn right through a second kissing gate to continue along the Derwent River, the river on your right.  

Pass the ruined corn mill and follow the river bank and merge at the Three Arch Bridge below the stately home, the neo-classical crossing with its statues echoes the Roman bridge at Rimini in Italy. 

The three arched bridge over the River Derwent in Chatsworth

The three arched bridge over the River Derwent in Chatsworth - Credit: www.shoot360.co.uk

Continue up into the Courtyard and exit left to head towards the Farmyard. Just before its entrance, veer right into Stand Wood.  

Continue along the forest driveway and take the path to the left signposted ‘The Dell.’ Continue uphill, crossing a second driveway.  

Soon the Aqueduct will come into view. Climbing higher, the watery world, lost in lush vegetation, is calming and invigorating. You’ll come to a large boulder with its curtain of water pouring over its overhang.  

A path leads left through a tunnel of trees across the hillside, part of the extended Pleasure Gardens created by Paxton and planted with cherry, chestnut, rowan and spruce among ash, birch and oak. It has a fairy-tale quality to it.  

Look out for a staircase of hewn stone that leads up through rock. Turn right at the top to head towards the top of the aqueduct. The view will take your breath away.  

The channel of water leads the eye down to Chatsworth Gardens and its Emperor Fountain, Edensor Village with its tall spire, then the runway of green cutting through forest on the hill.  

The three arched bridge over the River Derwent in Chatsworth

The three arched bridge over the River Derwent in Chatsworth - Credit: www.shoot360.co.uk

Climb the steps to Sowter Stone, a pool of glassy water. From here, continue along the forest track in Stand Wood.  

Keeping left where the track splits, you’ll come to a crossroads of paths. Turn right, then left to exit Stand Wood via steps in the dry-stone wall. A stony track continues over the moorland edge.  

Looking out for a wooden post on your right, drop off the edge and continue down through a young plantation of birch and oak, then open land to Beeley Hilltop Farm. The path takes you down through fields to Beeley.  

When I walked this route in May, the buttercup meadows, splashed with clover were a delight along with the views of Beeley village below.  

Emerging onto School Lane, you can enjoy refreshments at the Old Smithy or the Devonshire Arms in this pretty Chatsworth estate village. 

6 walks near Bakewell and Chatsworth House

Fishing at Chatsworth by Mavis Tilbury

Bakewell and Chatsworth House attract thousands of visitors to the Peak District every year.

 6 walks near Bakewell and Chatsworth House