Visit to Calke park.

Today I  revisited Calke park in Derbyshire. In order to get there from Belper, we had to drive across the Swarkestone causeway.

Swarkestone Bridge and Causeway, at a length of three-quarters of a mile, is the longest stone bridge in England and holds Grade I listed building status. There has been a bridge here for 800 years, and at one time a bridge chapel and toll house stood partway across the bridge. It is still today an important crossing place. 

According to local legend, the building of Swarkestone Bridge in the 13th century is attributable to two sisters who saw their lovers drowned trying to cross the River Trent on horseback. They crossed the flooded meadows safely, but then either missed the ford altogether, or were swept off by the strong current. The horrified sisters saw all this happen through a hall window and vowed to ensure no else met the same fate. They spent the rest of their lives building the bridge and died penniless as a result. The ancient bridge at Swarkestone crosses the River Trent about 6 miles south of Derby and was for about 300 years the Midlands’ main crossing of the Trent. The bridge is in total just under a mile long and has 17 arches. It was built-in the 13th century to cross the river and its surrounding marshes. It is the longest stone bridge in England and holds Grade I listed building status.

As you approach  Calke, Down the long estate road, with its ancient oaks and its many sheep, you begin to get a taste of how unspoilt and beautiful the estate is. Calke Park began its life as a ‘Park’ in the 17th century at a time when huge areas of common land were being enclosed and woodlands felled. During the 18th century, the Park was enlarged and re-modelled in an informal manner and a deer shelter was built. A flock of rare Portland sheep was also introduced – and can still be seen today.

Calke is home to a herd of red and fallow deer. A deer shelter was built in the park in 1773 amid old ridge and furrow land. Much of the 19th-century perimeter wall of the site, which has lean-to open sheds, has been lost. In 1973 and 1974 the deer were brought back as an enclosed herd and visitors can now walk round most of the perimeter.

Last but certainly not least, I must mention the “old man of Calke”. An oak tree, well over one thousand years old, a truly magnificent specimen of ancient native forest.

I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the Calke estate, The park, and Calke Abbey, The stately home which has, like the park, been preserved as a “time bubble” in which nothing much has changed at all in hundreds of years.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Froggy
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 18:27:09

    Fascinating story of the bridge. Living in such managed landscape easy to forget how significant bridges are. Makes me want to plod around in a marsh a bit, they are always the scene of such drama and excitement in books but they just look soggy and damp to me. I really like that picture too, a ribbon of stone between grass and sky as if the ground has swallowed up the river.


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