England isn’t the place you would think about for an eco-tourism escape. After all, it’s the home of the Industrial Age and one of the busiest capitals in the world, London. Even its most notable park area, the lovely Lake District, is inundated with vehicle traffic during the height of tourist season.
So, I was not expecting to find what I did on the grounds of Callow Hall. Built in 1849, the mansion has undergone a $15 million (£10 million) renovation that was completed in September 2021. Relaunched under a new environmentally focused brand, Wildhive, Callow Hall is a marvel of what eco-conscious entrepreneurs can achieve.
Located in Derbyshire, a county in the East Midlands, about three-and-a-half hours north of London by car or an hour from Birmingham, the two-story Victoria country home is large enough to contain 15 bedrooms, each outfitted with stately decor and distinct touches (a digital music player that resembles an old-time radio and tiny jars of milk, ideal for your in-room tea). As cozy and lovely as the interior is of Callow Hall, it’s what’s outside that is exciting about the place.
Surrounded by 35 acres of undulating, deep-green hills dotted with sheep and willows, existing beneath slate skies that seem to perpetually portend rain, the soulful terrain meanders beyond the back of the house to a forested area rich with vegetation and pristine accommodations that elevate the Callow Hall experience.
The property’s new owners have built 11 cabins in the woods (dubbed “Hives”) and two large treehouses that can sleep four people each. They are decorated with accoutrements and finishings you might expect to find in a Canadian parkland cottage, including cozy comforters, vaulted wood ceilings, and wildlife images framed and tacked to the wall.
Eco-focused experiences include a seminar on beekeeping. The honey from the hives is used in cocktails and food recipes, including a delicious crème brulée.
Guests can venture to the Peak District, known for its hikes that lead to viewpoints of the English countryside in Derbyshire County, and explore the picturesque little town of Ashbourne, as well as other notable attractions in the Midlands.
Explore Chatsworth’s Artful Elegance
While using Callow Hall as a base for your visit to the region, you’ll want to make the 40-minute drive to Chatsworth House, a 35,000-acre property owned by members of the British aristocracy. Home to the Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth is regarded for its stunning architecture, classic and contemporary art collection, and, perhaps most importantly, its deep commitment to environmental initiatives.
Not only does Chatsworth take impeccable stewardship of its environment, it is focused on sustainability in the breadth of the term.
“Sustainability isn’t just about energy and efficiency but also about taking care of your community,” says Thomas Hendry, the Sustainablity Officer for Chatsworth House Trust, the charitable organization that owns the property.
The organization has “science-based targets that are aligned with the Paris Accords” and its own set of “10 goals for 10 years”, which includes decarbonizing the landscape, fostering community engagement, and improving employment and quality of life for its neighboring community. Among the features and initiatives designed to help achieve net-zero goals are a gravity-fed water system that takes advantage of Chatsworth’s lakes, biomass boilers, and solar panels.
The sustainability efforts of Chatsworth are commendable and makes a tour of the mansion all the more pleasing. The interiors are laden with spectacular murals and sculptures, and drawings by historic names — including a room with a Rembrandt and Picasso. There’s a library with 17,000 books on display, most of which are centuries old, and a formal dining room first used in 1832 by Princess Victoria, the future queen.
The predominance of the Chatsworth’s past is fascinating and so is the modern art experience, including a first-in-the-U.K. exhibition called “Radical Rising” that showcased the art from the Burning Man festival.
Chatsworth is a destination that sublimely blends the quintessential opulence of the 18th- and 19th-century English age with the sensibilities of our time that demands conservation and consideration for the future. Those efforts, if more broadly supported, can ensure that a leisurely trip to the country remains a pleasant option for decades to come.
MORE ABOUT CHATSWORTH HOUSE
Location: Chatsworth House, Bakewell, United Kingdom
Admission: Christmas at Chatsworth is an annual celebration that runs until January 8, 2023. Adult admission is £29.50 (approximately $44 CAD) and includes access to the mansion, gardens, farmyard, and playground. Check the website for details.
MORE ABOUT WILDHIVE CALLOW HALL
Location: Mappleton Road, Ashbourne, United Kingdom (see map below)
Nightly Rates: Room rates for spring start at £219 (approximately $325 CAD).