“Never ever give up your Dream” Venetia
When I was a young girl, my mother sometimes took us all to see our grandfather. My mother was always happy to see her father after a long absence, for we were then living far away in the Channel Islands. She used to look forward to seeing her family and friends once again, who were still living in Derbyshire. I remember very clearly the time when she wanted to show Grandpa her latest newborn Juliet, whom we all called Dreamy because she was such a pretty baby!. Uncle Dudley sadly remained in Jersey for some one had to take care of the farm and the animals while we were all away.
I don’t remember exactly if we flew there by airplane or if we took the ferry from Jersey to the port of Southampton which is on the south coast of England. I think we may have taken our car with us on the ferry, as it was easier to drive around England if we had our own transportation. After the long journey there, we finally arrived at Kedleston Hall. It was already late in the evening, so Dingding our nanny took us children upstairs to the nursery rooms on third floor. We were almost fast asleep so she put us straight into bed. I on o lay in bed for a while and recalled what had happened the time we had come to see Grandpa before. It was just after Caroline was born I must have been four years old. I became sleepy and was soon fast asleep in the world of dreams.
That night I dreamt of a time when I must have been about four years old. My mother often took me there to see her father who she was very fond of. I don’t remember any thing very clearly except for the many fox hunts that were often held at Kedleston. I still have a photograph of the time when I rode in a miniature pony trap with a very pretty lady, who was giving me a ride at the fox hunt meet. Over the years Charles and I went there to stay quite often during the half term breaks from boarding school. We always used to stay in the same guest rooms on the third floor. We used to enjoy playing hide and seek in the State Apartment’s bed chamber. I especially enjoyed hiding under the Kings four poster bed blue silk big double poster bed, or looking for secret doors in the walls, which would reveal a hidden passages down to the kitchen or to other parts of the house.
The State apartments began to be built in 1749 that were at last completed in 1762. They were generally used only for parties or for special occasions. Grandfather would tell us how strange it was, for all these special apartments had been built especially for the Kings possible visit to the Hall, however since the house was completed in 1765 he had stopped coming to visit! He exclaimed. “Amazing isn’t it, that all these rooms have never been used!” However the music room, ballroom and the state drawing room were used time to time for special occasions such as debutante balls, Christmas parties and concerts.
The next morning, Charles and I woke up very early. We got dressed quickly and went downstairs to see if we could find Grandpa. We found him in the breakfast room reading the morning paper. He was waiting for the coffee to arrive from the kitchen downstairs.
“Good morning Grandpa” I said as I entered the breakfast room “Morning, lovely day isn’t it?” he said as he bent down to kiss my cheek, good lord how you have grown since I last saw you both! I smiled. “Help yourself to what you want for breakfast”. The smell of the food on the sideboard was enticing. We went over to the hotplate and picked up a plate and piled it with pieces of fried bread, grilled tomatoes and scrambled eggs and a few slices of thin toast. We then poured ourselves a glass of orange juice and sat down next to our grandfather. I began to sip my juice politely, slowly taking care to minding my manners. A few minutes later Aunt Tilla made her entrance. Our Step grandmother came in smiling, with her beautiful long silver gray hair tied in a French plait at the back of her head. She always looked so slim and elegant in her pastel cashmere sweaters and beige slacks. She was then followed by her two black Labrador dogs, which both seemed to be very hungry.
“Venetia darling, how are you,” Are you enjoying school on the Island? I nodded yes, for I was too afraid to say no!”
What would you all like to do today?” she asked. “I’d love to go down to the island in the lake to make a hide away with Charles, if that is alright?” I answered.
“Okay that should be fun, I’ll ask Mr. Smith, the gardener to get out the rowing boat for you and Charles and maybe Mrs. Knight the cook could prepare you both a picnic lunch to take with you. That will be exciting for you, won’t it darling? Please make sure that you don't capsize the boat! “She smiled.
“Oh, thank you Aunt Tilla, we will be very care full I promise you. Can we go down to the kitchen to say hello to Mrs. Knight and collect our picnic”
“No that’s not a good idea” she said “you shouldn’t go downstairs to the kitchen, I’ll tell Adams, the butler to give the picnic to you on your way out of the house”.
We all sat quietly eating our breakfast. Grandpa got up and smiled, “I’m going down to the office to talk to the estate manager. See you all later at tea time, be careful with the gates won’t you”. “Yes Grandpa!” we said in unison.
Caroline gobbled down her breakfast. We all went upstairs to the nursery to brush our teeth after breakfast. “I want to come with you too.” Caroline cried. Dingding said, “You are too little to go with them yet, it is still far too dangerous for you to go on the rowing boat, you might you just capsize and fall into the lake! Come with me, it's a lovely sunny day, we will take baby Dreamy with us in the pram and go for a long walk around the grounds of the estate. The house is not open to the public today so you can run any where you like. Let’s go and look for the secret lion and play Hide and seek together. It is supposed to be hiding somewhere near the rose gardens. “Dingding smiled, while Caroline looked very disappointed and made a funny faces at me. She then smiled at her little baby sister, who was lying happily gurglgling in her cot.
“See you later Dingding” we both cried as we left the room.
“Take care” she replied.
I can’t wait to race you down to the river!” Charles and I laughed, sliding down the banisters to the ground floor. We went into the hall to look for our Wellington boots, for the lake was very muddy as it was near the tributary of the Derwent River that runs through the whole estate. In the hallway we took off our shoes and put our boots on and rushed outside into the fresh air.
The Parkland was dotted with ancient oak and beech trees. To our right was a huge park, as far as the eye could see, the ground rose steeply to a fringe of trees on the horizon; to the left was a gradual descent to a brook, which opened into a series of artificial lakes. A stone fishing lodge was perched on the bank of the nearest lake. We ran down the lawn, the view never ceased to amaze me. The south side of Kedleston Hall, with its stone pillars was looming up into the sky. “It was so huge and stately that it seemed overwhelming and daunting to someone who is as small as me. “ I thought to myself. Mr. Smith then gave us the keys to the boathouse with a big grin he said “Going out for a picnic are you”? he asked, in a northern Derbyshire accent “Be careful to avoid any stray dogs that might be around, they may scare the sheep that are roaming freely around the park ”.
It was early September and the golden autumn leaves had almost all fallen from the trees. Charles and I ran down the lawn towards the river.
“You forgot your picnic.” Dingding cried, she tried to catch us up as she ran down the hill after us, calling out our names. She finally caught us up and was out of breath puffing and panting. “Have a nice day and be careful on the boat “she said as she handed us our lunch. “Take care, and be sure to tie up the boat if you stop some where”. We waved goodbye to her and ran as fast as we could towards the fishing room. It had been built during the Georgian period, for the gentry to go fishing on the lakes. We unlocked the gates of the grey granite boathouse and went inside to explore the rooms inside. Sea urchins and monsters were carved in stone on the walls upstairs and faded paintings of fishing scenes decorated the walls.
Downstairs there is cold bath, flanked by a pair of boathouses. These were made for the dark-green painted rowing boats that were tied to the quay on the lake. We got into one of the boats and set off. Charles was quite good at rowing, so we set out happily towards the island. The sky was filled with fluffy white clouds, and there was quite a cool breeze blowing. Many of the gold and yellow leaves were being blown from the trees and they floated down into the lake. I peered into the muddy water to see if I could see a fish. Grandpa sometimes managed to catch a trout there for his supper! The island was about ten meters out from the shore so we rowed silently across the small lake taking our picnic lunch with us. Charles was always a very quiet child, he never really chattered with people unless it was some thing that he was really interested in such as model trains or some kind of gadget. At last we reached the island so we jumped out of the small boat. We tied the boat to an old tree stump that we had found on the edge of the shore. Charles slowly and quietly began to collect many slender branches and twigs to build a hideaway house on the island. He asked me to collect any other fallen branches that I was able to find. He told me that he was expecting some pirates to come and visit us on our desert island that afternoon!Charles had a very vivid imagination that I always admired.
After a few hours, we began to get hungry so we decided to open our picnic. Mrs. Knight had prepared ham sandwiches and hardboiled eggs for us and we also had cartons of cold milk and a packet of McVities chocolate biscuits. Everything tasted so good out in the fresh air, just the two of us on a pirate island! I decided that I wanted to see what the world was like outside the gates.
I began to get restless “Charles, I really want to go and look at the cottages in the village, Mr. Knight told me that they are very pretty and look like fairies houses, shall we go and see them later on?”
“No Neishe not today, I have to stay here and finish the hideaway, but I’ll row you back across to the Fishing room on the upper lake if you like”. Charles rowed me back and then he went back to the Island to finish the hideaway. He waved to me and shouted, “You go ahead, we can meet later at the boat house under the fishing room.” I smiled and felt a little lonely to be on my own.
The green grass was blowing softly in the autumn breeze. The sun was shining high in the sky, as it became a little warmer I began to sing the Nursery rhyme Ba, ba Black sheep. As I sang this song, a family of wooly cream sheep passed by, most of them scampered away when they saw me! After walking about half a mile, I came to the Eastern gates of Kedleston. I knocked on the gatekeeper’s door. An old man with a ruddy red face and bright twinkling eyes opened the door.
“What can I do for you, my lady?” he smiled. Is it alright for me to go down to the village?” Inquired “I’ve never been there and I want to see what its like” “Yes, I’m sure that will be fine, but don’t stay out too late, it gets dark earlier these days” he replied.
“I is a secret that I went outside so can you please promise not to tell any one where I went too! “Of course, but don’t be too long my lady I have to go and check on the sheep later on.”
I had always been curious as to what the village would look like. My Grandfather had told me that two hundred years earlier one of his ancestors had moved the village so that he could build the huge stately home of Kedleston Hall.
That sunny afternoon, I walked down the lane, it was very quiet and I could only hear the birds chirping away to each other. The hedges of hawthorn and green ivy were high and filled with sweet briar roses and blackberries. Wildflowers were growing by the wayside, but I was too young to recognize the name of any of these flowers at that time. I walked past Tiny Corner Cottages in the village and then came to four red brick empty cottages that were overgrown with ivy and for the most part concealed by yew trees at the junction of Buck Hazels Lane. This cottage I had been warned had a sinister aspect to it. The village children were afraid to go past it on their way to school. A witch lived there, they imagined and the stories they invented about her made them even more frightenening. I ran past quickly beyond this cottage to what had once been the village cricket field. I turned the corner and was delighted to see a row of whitewashed cottages, their walls sparkling in the afternoon sun. How peaceful and cozy they looked. Each house had small gabled windows with boxes underneath filled with geraniums and pansies. Two of them had thatched roofing with small chimneys peeping out from the side of the roof. The whole building looked to be the same size as my bedroom in Kedleston hall. Each cottage only had two or three rooms inside with a small garden at the front of their house. The hollyhocks and lavender were almost finished but the roses climbing up the walls were still in bloom. I felt as if I was looking at the cottage of Hansel and Gretal or a fairy house from Grimms fairy tales. Two young girls were playing hopscotch on the country lane, whilst their mother collected the washing that had been hung out to dry in the garden. I felt a tear come to my eye when I saw how happy they looked, laughing and playing together. I realized that even though I lived in one of the biggest houses in England I had never seen so much warmth and familiarity amongst the people of the world I lived in. I wanted to go up to the girls and join in with their game of hopscotch, but my mother’s words echoed in my head “You’re not to play with the local children, you’ll pick up bad habits” she would say. So I watched them from afar. In my heart made a decision that one day, when I grew up, I would find a small cottage somewhere. I would live there with my husband and children and would make a garden filled with wildflowers, herbs and vegetables, just like those cottages I saw on that day………… A dream began. Little did I know that forty years later, my dream would come true.