Hopton Hall is nestled below typical Peak District hills in the hamlet of Hopton, a few minutes drive west of Wirksworth and looks out towards Carsington Reservoir, which is another few minutes drive further on. In fact, when the reservoir was constructed in the 1980’s some of Hopton Hall’s estate was swallowed by the water, but nevertheless it is still surrounded by thirty acres of it’s own lovely countryside.
Many locals and visitors to the Peak District will know about the snowdrop gardens at Hopton Hall; the gardens and woodland surrounding this unassuming country mansion have been famous for a number of years for their early spring displays, providing a welcome splash of colour at this otherwise dull time of year. The Hall opens these gardens from the beginning of February until early March and they are an ideal place for all the family to visit for an early fix of fresh air. Most of the paths are hard-surfaced and accessible for old and young alike, although not all areas are suitable for wheel and push-chairs. Gently stroll around the woodland walk and enjoy the dappled light between the trees where clumps of snowdrops force their way through whatever the winter has thrown at them and then, if the day is clement, pause for a while where you emerge, at a picnic area behind the house. There is a mini-play park here for small children and a few wooden benches for the adults.
The walk becomes more formal now as you cross behind the house - there are tea rooms just within the main building if you fancy some light refreshment - otherwise continue round into the formal, walled gardens. These are a hidden and unexpected delight. The sweet scent of box assails your senses as soon as you enter, and even in late winter, without the blooms of the 2,000 or so roses to draw the eye, the beautifully laid out garden entices you to explore. In the summer, the garden tea room is open where you can sit and enjoy views down the terraces to the croquet lawn, laburnum walk and birch avenue. As you continue meandering down and round the paths, you will discover there is yet more to see as you are led along the formal walkways towards the wildlife lake, surrounded by the wider estate with an enticing glimpse of Carsington Water in the distance.
The final part of the circuit takes you back to the car park along the front of the Hall, which has a splendid statue of an eagle amongst the trees on its frontage. The house itself has roots back to the 15th Century and has entertained such esteemed visitors as Oliver Cromwell, Mary Queen of Scots and Princess Anne. For over half a millennium it was the home of the well-known Gell family but they left in 1995. It is now owned by Julie & Bill Thomas who are keen to integrate into the local community and ensure the house and gardens are preserved and improved for future generations of visitors. Their plans include a possible gift shop and micro brewery, and although the gardens are currently only open for the snowdrops in spring and for three days a week from mid-June until the end of August, it is possible to stay in one of their luxury holiday cottages and experience the enjoyment of the area right through the year.
After a visit to Hopton Hall, why not call at The Miner’s Arms, just minutes away, for a friendly pint or bite to eat? This former miner’s pub offers an extensive menu and is ideal for families, having a large children’s play area adjacent.
Judy & Simon Corble