An early start to Christmas, before it gets too busy; this year's theme at Chatsworth House is 'The Nutcracker,' my favourite ballet.
I arrived at Sheffield quite early and immediately caught the bus to Baslow so that I could walk through Chatsworth Park at a leisurely pace and arrive at the house not too long before it opens for the day.
Just before entering the park there's a pretty row of thatched cottages which I've photographed before...however, I don't think I've included a shot of this cottage, just a few yards further on.
I was careful to stick to the tarmac and gravel paths; I didn't want to have muddy shoes. The route I chose stayed well away from the areas that had recently been flooded.
The large main entrance gates at Chatsworth House were opened a few minutes early and we were allowed to wait inside a temporary wooden hallway constructed in the courtyard. I was standing in a different area to everyone else and felt a bit self-conscious; I'm a 'Silver Friend of Chatsworth [a season ticket holder] and some people seemed to think I was a guide and was going to be taking them round the house. This misapprehension was heightened when the woman checking their tickets, who was herself only a volunteer, kept asking me to confirm what she was saying. I must have a natural look of authority about me.
Once I'd stepped inside the house, the first room, like most of the others, was magical; a totally different experience to the other times I've visited. Throughout the house there are dozens of brightly lit and decorated Christmas trees, seven thousand wooden toy soldiers [every one wearing a moustache as far as I could tell], plenty of simple wooden toys to play with, delicate snowflakes of all sizes, an enchanted forest, a giant cake, mice, cheese, clocks and clockwork contraptions, sweets scattered everywhere...and a couple a real-life ballerinas dancing and posing...and answering questions about The Nutcracker. Oh, and of course, the wonderful music by Tchaikovsky piped into most rooms; except for a couple where there were sound effects associated with the story.
I then had a look round the Christmas Market. There was so much delicious food to tempt me; I resisted everything except the game pie.
Because a one-way system of traffic management was in operation the buses weren't driving up to the front of the house as usual, so I had to walk over to the bus stop at Edensor Gates. The bus arrived on time; the driver had to perform a difficult reversing movement on the narrow road before waiting a few minutes before continuing to Bakewell. I stayed in Bakewell for a couple of hours until it started drizzling.