The French knight screamed in agony as his arm was hacked off, fingers still tightly curled around the shaft of the English standard. Thomas D'anyers wasted no time in retrieving the Black Prince's standard and rushing to his aid. Sir Thomas' reward for this act of bravery included the land now occupied by Lyme Park. The event is depicted in the family's grisly coat of arms, a dismembered arm clutching an English flag.
Lyme Park is one of several immense country estates in the Peak District. Thomas D'anyers' granddaughter married into the Legh family, who took over the land and later built Lyme Hall. Exquisitely manicured gardens surround the house, which sits in the midst of a medieval game reserve. For several hundred years, it was home to successive generations of the Legh family.
Meeting The Local Deer At Lyme Park
When we heard Lyme Park was home to a herd of red deer, we were keen to find some. Visitors have to keep to the paths, however, with a lot of open grassland, it was still easy to spot the herds from a distance. Rounding a corner, we came face to face with a small group of deer, just a few metres from the path. We watched them relaxing, munching grass and mooching around before they eventually wandered off.
Although deer in Lyme Park are no longer hunted for sport, they are culled annually to prevent overpopulation. Sadly the fallow deer that once lived alongside the reds had to be removed after a parasitic disease decimated the herd.
Fun And Games At Lyme Park
Lyme has a busy schedule of special events and we happened to be there on kite flying day. Walking along the exposed ridge at the centre of Lyme Park, we were buffeted by strong winds. It was the perfect place to fly a kite and we saw dragons, snakes and birds twirling across the sky deftly controlled by young children. Even the kite-flying teddy bear made it look easy.
Upgrading Lyme Hall
Lyme Hall was originally an Elizabethan house. However, in the 1700s Giacomo Leoni, an Italian architect, was tasked with remodelling the house. This new Palladian style was the height of fashion at the time. We thought the main entrance looked a lot like an Italian piazza.
Spying On Visitors To Lyme Hall
Arriving visitors were kept in this entrance hall until they had been vetted by the Legh family. They would spy on their guests from a secret squint behind a slightly misplaced painting. If they didn't like what they saw, the guests would be told the Leghs were not at home.
We overheard some visitors lamenting that it was impossible to properly appreciate the house without period costumes. Although the dressing room was closed that day, the staff made a special exception. We later enjoyed using the squint to spy on them as they cruised past in fine Elizabethan regalia.
Relaxing In The Saloon
The walls of the saloon are covered in elaborate wooden artwork. We thought the detailed carvings of birds, flowers and musical instruments were really unusual. They are thought to be the work of Grinling Gibbons, master carver to King George I.
The Paintings At Lyme Hall
As with any stately home, we saw a lot of paintings on the walls of Lyme Hall. Of course, there were many portraits of the different generations of the Legh family. There have been at least 14 Peter Leghs so it got a little confusing. Our favourite of Lyme Hall's artworks however, was The Bacchic Procession of Putti, attributed to local artist Jerome Hesketh.
Foreign Treasures At Lyme Hall
Thomas Legh, the man responsible for a lot of Lyme's 18th century renovations, had a keen interest in archaeology. He travelled extensively and brought home a lot of souvenirs. Thomas pilfered this 2,400 year-old carving from an ancient Greek tomb. The comedy and tragedy masks mean it was probably the final resting place of an actor.
Reflecting On The Gardens At Lyme
We had a colourful walk through the gardens where the rhododendrons, daffodils and tulips were in full bloom. Reflection Lake was specifically designed to reflect the south face of Lyme Hall on a calm day. Alas, the weather, although perfect for flying kites, was a little too windy for the lake.
Keeping Track of Time At Lyme
Clocks are a recurring theme at Lyme Park, with multiple sundials in the grounds and clocks throughout the house. Sir Francis Legh bequeathed his extensive clock collection on the condition that they were kept on display. More than 30 years later, two rooms are still dedicated to his clocks. It costs a small fortune to maintain them.
Lyme Park Travel Tips
There are several cafes and shops at Lyme though at peak times they can be extremely busy. If you bring your own food, it's a great place for a picnic. There is a sizeable picnic area near one of the lakes.
In the deer park, visitors must stay on the paths. While we were lucky and saw some deer up close, they don't always sit by the roadside. Bring binoculars if you want to get a good look.
Lyme Park is now owned by the National Trust so members can get in for free.
There are a lot of events at Lyme Park. Check their calendar before you visit.