Elvaston Castle Country Park in Derbyshire is a picturesque estate featuring more than 200 acres of formal gardens, parkland and woodlands. At the heart of the estate is Elvaston Castle itself, a large country house designed in the early 1800s and based on the original house dating back to 1633. It was home to the Stanhope family for many years, then during World War 2 it was used as a teacher training college until 1947, after which it stayed mostly empty for the next twenty years. It was sold to the local county council in 1968 and in 1970 the estate was opened to the public as one of the first country parks in England. Unfortunately the building itself has been in a state of steady decline and disrepair, and due to its condition has been closed to the public since 1990.
Leading up to the castle is The Ride, a long, wide tree-lined grassy avenue where families can picnic or play ball games, and at one side of the building is a large formal garden with well-trimmed box hedges and trees cut into different shapes. At the other side is a large picturesque lake which you can walk all the way round, and there's a tea room in the rear courtyard. Buildings in the estate grounds include stables, kennels, several cottages, gatelodges, a Moorish temple, an ice house and a boathouse, and at the end of one of the tree-lined avenues are the ornate Golden Gates.
Every year, on the first full weekend in July, a large steam rally is held in part of the castle grounds, with a couple of fields across the lane making a temporary camp site. With old fashioned steam-driven fairground rides, vintage tractors and steam engines, stalls of every description and various demonstrations and displays in the main ring the rally has something for everyone. The highlight for me though just has to be the dancing diggers - five huge JCBs and their drivers, performing precision manoeuvres to music and tilting themselves over at alarming angles. Definitely a demonstration not to be missed! Some photos of Elvaston Castle and grounds can be found in my post from July 11th 2011.