When the latest National Trust magazine arrived last week I realised I hadn't visited Hardwick Hall for some time. In fact the last time we went was back in May as part of the Chesterfield Walking Festival. With a sunny morning to myself I headed off so see what was happening at the moment.
At the moment the roof is undergoing repairs. It's an expensive project but the original owner, Bess of Hardwick, never did anything on the cheap. Her initials 'E S', from when she was Countess of Shrewsbury (thanks to her fourth marriage), adorn the top of the house. The walls of the garden themselves are pieces of architecture and provide a great background for the South Border.
So full is the South Border at this time of year that the door out of the gardens can be seen thanks only to being painted in the Hardwick blue colour.
I came to Hardwick hoping for some autumn colour and I wasn't disappointed. As I turned through the entrance into the West Court in front of the house I was greeted by a vibrant pop of purple provided by the aster.
The last of the lace cap hydrangeas are just hanging on before the petals turn to their brown skeleton state for the winter.
In front of the Stumpery is a shady area. Early in the year it is filled with snowdrops and crocuses but at the moment ground is covered with autumn cyclamen.
Most of the plants in the Herb Garden aren't fans of the cold, damp British climate. Although it has been mild around these parts recently the change in the season is certainly having an effect on them. One of the survivors is the echinacea but I feel it won't be long before the last of the petals drop off.
There's a few winter brassicas in the veg plot hoping to make it through to spring but these are completely overshadowed by the bright stems of the chard.
Round the back of the house is the East Court Rose Garden and you can see why it has been called this. There are still a number of roses in bloom and I was stopped by the scent of some of them as I walked past.
It's not all about flowers when it comes to colour – just look at this tree bark! I didn't even check to see what tree it was. Anyone good at bark identification?
When I first arrived at the gardens the ladies at the gatehouse told me that the dahlias were out in flower in the border of The Orchard. I love dahlias. The brightness of the blooms, the size of the flowers and range of varieties available. Who could not be cheered by the sight of a dahlia border?
Before I got to the dahlias some of the volunteer gardeners were deadheading the chrysanthemums. In fact while I was walking round I only encountered two other couples but the volunteer gardeners were busy dealing with the neverending tasks. It makes it a great time of year to visit gardens if you want the feel of having your own private garden.
I wasn't the only one appreciating the dahlias. The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) was enjoying the sunshine and some of the last of the nectar available.
As the days start to shorten I will leave you with one last dahlia. This one is named Christmas Carol and it is certainly one to make my heart sing.