Tuesday 23 April 2019

Return to Calke Abbey

As a National Trust member I am always looking to make the most of my membership and for new places to explore, which can sometimes mean you neglect the old ones you love. It had gotten to the time last autumn when I was well over due for a return trip to my most beloved local Trust property; Calke Abbey.

All the times I have visited Calke it never fails to impress and charm, and this was no exception. On a rather wet and windy day I was happy as ever to vanish into this timeless temple of decay and peruse the collections of weird and wonderful things. I can't help but wonder if as a self confessed hoarder, the piles and piles of things are what appeal to me, or all the incredible birds and other marvels captured in the once so popular taxidermy, or the general decrepit nature of the building, which has an honesty and charm to it I can't always seem to find in the pompous grand houses pristine and full of Chippendale. Perhaps its a combination. But nevertheless Calke's spell is still cast over me as I snap away at the tattered beauty around me.

There is never any shortage of photographic opportunities at Calke. There is always plenty to capture and its never anything but a delightful experience. This particular trip it was interesting to compare the differences between the seasons at Calke, and while the fading light of autumn did not provide the bright illumination of spring for photographs, I was more than rewarded by the incredible gourds and pumpkins which had taken over the gardens. As a lover of Autumn and Halloween I was in my element, what a dream!

Photographing Calke this time felt more of a challenge (in a good way I hasten to add!) as I was attempting to think differently to my previous visit and capture photos entirely different to my previous visit. One element which helped with this was visiting the coach house, which I don't think was open on my previous visit. Something immediately struck me, frames filled with Butterfly and Moth specimens arranged in such a way that they formed a pattern. This is something that I did a project on at University and interestingly had been planning on revisiting this as a natural progression on from my recent moth studies (and all these months later I've still not found the time to move this idea forward! More hours in the day please!). As ever, Calke is an inspirational place and you always come away with a head full of ideas and imaginings. If only I had the time to realise all my ideas and use all the inspiration I absorb, wouldn't that be a glorious thing!

Calke Abbey is still the most unique, decadent, curiously charming National Trust property I have visited. Its approach of preservation not restoration has always sat very well with me and truly tells the tragic reality of owning a grand property and the crippling effect death duties have had on these once glorious estates.

I urge anyone who has never visited Calke to take the plunge! You will not regret absorbing and observing the faded magnificence of this wonderful place!

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