In A Vintage Year, Laura Walters yearns for running her own gourmet general store filled with local produce, meats, jams, jellies, preserves and nuts. She knows exactly what it will look like and where it will be positioned on the property, what they will sell and how wonderful it would be. Alas, her dreams are dashed about a quarter of the way the book, and she is truly crushed. While not quite as obsessed as Laura, I too had a dream for running a small, pretty little farm shop that carried local produce, etc.
Over the Christmas break, 1998-99, my husband and I were invited to a wedding outside of Sheffield, England. We took advantage of the kindness of friends and family, farmed out our two kids (the third not even a glimmer in our eyes at that point), and went on a much needed holiday to mid-England. We had a travel agent extraordinaire at the time – in the days when people used travel agents — who booked us into this lovely little B&B outside of Bakewell, close to where the wedding would be.
When not attending the festivities or visiting with the bride and groom, we hiked through the Darbyshire Dales, enjoying the walks and the weather. On one of our walks, we discovered Chatsworth. While I had seen Pride and Prejudice on A&E a few years earlier, I didn’t know that Pemberly was actually Chatsworth — that is until we saw it. I recognized it immediately. We walked the grounds as I explained to my husband exactly what had transpired in the novel at Pemberly/Chatsworth….I think he might have tuned me out.
After the grounds, we drove around the vast estate and came upon the Chatsworth Farm Shop. I fell in love. I am an architecture buff at heart and this little farm shop was the cutest place I had ever seen. I wanted to live in the area just so I could visit it and buy my food from it every day. It stayed with me. I described it in the book the way I remember it, but memories change as did the Farm Shop. Old stone walls, blue door and shutters, waist-height windows flanking the entrance. From the website, it looks like it’s expanded somewhat.
The Chatsworth Farm Shop stayed with me in my head and heart. I thought of opening my own in a small town outside the city…but I needed capital; oh and I’d have to uproot my family when my husband was the number one bread earner; oh, and I had no experience (but I do like to cook). So that didn’t happen. Occasionally I’d pull out the old photo album and take a look at it and dream. And then I saw a way to finally use the place — I’d put it in a novel. In a way, I knew what Laura’s yearning for it was like, since I too, had yearned for it. My yearning, however, was not realistic and better belonged on paper.
If you ever get a chance to visit the Darbyshire Dales, Chatsworth is well worth a stop if you’re a history or architecture buff. The countryside is stunning, and the farm shop is wonderful.