Too many flowery sods…the stately homes of Derbyshire

This week, we’ve been talking about the stately homes of Derbyshire, and making a collage of one of the most famous grand houses in our area: Hardwick Hall, near Chesterfield. Derbyshire is well known for its mansions and ancient aristocratic houses, from medieval Haddon Hall near Bakewell, to the Classical Palladian mansions of Chatsworth, Kedleston Hall and Calke Abbey. Many of them are  now open to the public and are a firm favourite for day-trips and cream teas.

We read the poem ‘The Homes of England’ by Victorian poet Felicia Dorothea Hemans, which was the first time that the phrase “stately homes” was used. We were also rather amused by the phrase “flowery sods” in the poem!

Here is our reply to the poem:

No flowery sods for us!

We wouldn’t like to live in a stately home.
There are too many windows to clean.
Too many flowery sods about!
How many miles would you have to walk, sweeping the floors?
And if nature called in the middle of the night,
Imagine how far you’d have to stumble down the corridors?
If the heavens opened, the leaky roof would have you
Running everywhere with mops and buckets.
The electric bill would be enormous,
Lighting all those rooms.

Doing the garden would be an endless chore.
(Even though a ride-on mower looks fun!)
I’d need a giant leaf-blower too!
None of this is for me.
I’d rather have my semi-detached!

May Day and Springtime

On one of the coldest weeks in spring for a long time – in fact there was a blizzard as I drove home from my session at Newholme Hospital in Bakewell, we talked about spring blossom, warm weather, dancing around maypoles and the ancient festival of Beltane.

We wrote our own poems on the subject too. I hope you enjoy them!

cherry blossom

Cherry blossom – one of our favourite signs of spring!

Walking in the Woods

Walking in the woods
Looking at the changes at the start of the year.
First, the snowdrops grow,
Then the daffodils,
Followed by the wood anemones –
The pungent wild garlic, rich green with white flowers.
And then the bluebells.
So lovely and fresh – a true sight of spring.

In the summer,
I love walking on the beach,
When the sand comes up between your toes,
Feeling the sea water
Swirl around my ankles
Dreaming of Cornwall
The hotel on the headland in Newquay…
Until I step on a razor shell,
And I come back to reality.


Springtime in Buxton

It’s cold outside and trying to snow.
Scrape the frost off the car before you go.
But on the trees, the buds are growing.
In the fields, the farmers are sowing.

The lambs are playing, jumping high
Above our heads, the swallows fly.
The garden blackbird building his nest.
Busy rabbits in the garden never seem to rest.

We’re making the most of longer days
Look forward to summer holidays.
Around the maypole children dance
The May Queen gets many an admiring glance.

The cherry blossom falls like snow.
Sun on my face – I feel aglow.


Apple Blossom and Bluebells

Lambs frolicking in the dales
Jumping around, shaking their tales.
The purple heather blooms on the moors
The yellow primroses around our doors.

The bluebells form a carpet of blue
We wash our face in the morning dew.
And smell the fragrance of them too
Lovely cherry blossom – what a view!

Apple blossom white and pink
Over before we’ve got time to think
On the bough the blackbird sings,
And lots of birds spread their wings.

The cuckoos and swallows come back home
And new seedlings grow from loam.
Still time for cold and wintry blasts
We pray that summer comes and lasts!

Mixed-up Proverbs

This week, we’ve been looking at proverbs, quotations and sayings. We had lots of fun looking at local Derbyshire sayings, such as “It’s gerrin black ovver Bill’s mothus” (translation: it looks rather cloudy towards the horizon and it’s likely to rain). No one has the foggiest idea who Bill and his mother are!

Stitch in time

We still use ancient proverbs and sayings.

We’ve written some poems that mix up some of our favourite proverbs and sayings:

Mixed Proverbs

As one wise prophet in Chesterfield once said:

There are plenty more that shouldn’t throw stones
A rolling stone wins the race
A picture is louder than words
Cleanliness is worth two in the bush
A picture makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
When the going gets tough, the tough save nine.
Keep your friends close and gather no moss.
You can’t make an omelette without fish in the sea
What makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise don’t make a right
The early bird is a penny earned
An early bird shouldn’t throw stones
The squeaky wheel is worth two in the bush
People who live in glass houses get the worm
Don’t count your chicken – it never boils!

Every horse has a silver lining

People who live in glass houses are mightier than the sword
Fortune favours fish in the sea
Don’t be a borrower – be louder than words
Never look at a gift horse, but prepare for the worst
Don’t bite the silver lining!

Hope for the worst and prepare for a free lunch
The early bird gathers no moss
When the going gets tough, get them home
No man is louder than words
A picture is worth keeping your enemies closer
A watched pot gets the worm
A penny saved has a silver lining.

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Advice (we were also looking at a book of household hints!)

You can’t make an omelette without any eggs
– Always keep eggs refrigerated and stored in the carton
There’s plenty of fish in the sea
– Look for the fish with the shiniest eyes
Neither a borrower or a lender be
– Keep hold of household possessions and their value for insurance purposes
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
– Save egg cartons for planting seeds
Every cloud has a silver lining
– Hang them outside in the sun to dry
Never cast a clout before May is out
– Store your woolen hats, gloves and scarves away from moths

A Celebration of all things Scottish – a Belated Burns’ Night Celebration

Last week, I was unable to update this blog due to a computer malfunction, so here it is! Patients and staff in Derbyshire hospitals looked at the traditions of Burns’ night – a celebration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

We celebrated all things Scottish, from haggis to tartan, and here are the poems that we came up with.

A Celebration of Scotland

As we sit here eating shortbread
We’ve been listening to Rabbie Burns’ poems
Haggis, neeps and tatties,
The mountains and heather that Scots call home.

Porage* oats to make you strong
With some salt sprinkled on.
Made with water if you can’t afford milk
To keep warm from Scottish rain pouring down.

Tartan outfits worn with pride
The Queen in her favourite Balmoral home
Queen Mother lived in a Scottish Castle
Where the Monarch of the Glen does roam.

William Wallace, Braveheart Warrior
To John Brown, Queen Victoria’s favourite
Played by Scotland’s own Billy Connolly
In a kilt and Highland garb

Lots of actors from north of the border
From Will Fyfe to Ewan McGregor
Sean Connery, the first James Bond
To Robbie Contrane, our Scottish sleuth.

scots keep us entertained
Lulu, Annie Lennox, lovely Lorraine Kelly
The stories of Robert Louis Stevenson

And without Alexander Graham Bell,
We couldn’t chat on the telephone.
We wouldn’t have TV without John Logie Baird!

The land of Robert the Bruce –
We’ve got a lot to thank you for!

* Yes, that’s the way that Scott’s have been spelling their famous oats for many years!


A Weekend in Scotland

Iron Bru – I love you
A tot of finest whiskey too
All-butter shortbread, petticoat tails
In a winter blowing snow and gales.

Men in skirts – they call them kilts
We love how your accent lilts
The colours a sounds of Edinburgh tattoo
Stroll around a loch to find Nessie too.

But that bag piper’s driving me mad
And the midges itch me something bad!
No thanks to that haggis, it sounds offal!
Deep fried pizza and Mars bars must be awful!

But with the wonderful wildlife and scenery too
We’ll still be coming and visiting you.

Scottish Wildlife

I searched for Nessie in a loch
I saw Canada Geese in a flock
The beavers had built their dams
Surrounded by leaping spring lambs.

I walked my Westie on a lead
Watched red squirrels as they feed
As Flora and Morag the Highland cattle
Watch red deer stage fight their battle!

Favourite Places

Last week in Derbyshire Hospitals, we talked about our favourite places, near and far. It was interesting to see what each group came up with when it came to writing poems about the places that we love.

In Chesterfield, our minds dwelt on sunny climes and golden beaches, but our deep love of being at home, in familiar surroundings. We are lucky in Derbyshire, to have some of the world’s most fantastic scenery on our doorstep, and sometimes we don’t even need to go outside. The views out of our windows can be spectacular!

Travels Near and Far

chesterfield spire 1

Chesterfield’s famous crooked spire

On our travels, we’ve been far and wide
The beaches of New Zealand, the water crystal clear
But when I’m flying home, my heart burst with pride
The Derbyshire Dales are the best, just near here.

The warm sun and golden beaches of the Med
But you can’t beat Yarmouth – such a lovely place.
A glass of sangria, as the sun sets red
Anywhere on holiday, life’s a slower pace.

Or a donkey ride in Blackpool, and a stick of rock.
A trip up the Tower and a drive to see the lights.
But the nicest sight to see if the crooked spire’s clock
You don’t have to go a long time to see the sights.

In Buxton, with a view of the Derbyshire hills and Solomon’ Temple out of the hospital windows, we thought about Chatsworth, one of the most famous stately homes in the world, a short drive down the A6.

The Palace of the Peak

chatsworth cascade

The grandeur of Chatsworth’s cascade – enjoyed by a duck!

A warm, welcoming place to stop
A beautiful view from the top
Buying cakes from the farm shop
And salmon with parsley on top.

A jewel in Derbyshire’s sparking crown
Gardens designed by Capability Brown
Watch the water in the Cascade run down
Bakewell is the nearest town.

Rooms full of statues and priceless art
Afternoon tea with sandwiches to start.
Victoria sponges and a chocolate tart.
Days out like this really lift my heart.

Having a trip around the country fair
There’s livestock, showjumping -everything’s there!
Take a picnic with Champagne to share
What a wonderful way to take the air.

In Bakewell, we thought about the way that snow transforms places. We had a slight dusting of the white stuff last weekend, taking us back to childhood memories of sledging and snowballs.

Derbyshire Snow

snow in Derbyshire

Fun in the snow

When the snow falls on Derbyshire
It mutes the whole world.
From the valleys of Dovedale
To the height of Kinder Scout.

Wrapping up warm and stepping outside
That tingling feeling in fingers and toes
Building snowmen with coal for eyes
A borrowed scarf, and a carrot nose
Or a snowball fight in the park – who knows?

Then coming inside – bang your boots on the wall
Hands around a hot chocolate, and a sweet snack.
Hang your wet coat and gloves up to dry
And watch the flakes falling down from the sky.

What the man in the moon wants for Christmas…

The man in the moon

John Lewis Christmas advert 2015. The advert is a partnership with Age UK to highlight loneliness at Christmas. Watch the video here.

Before Christmas, I worked with dementia patients at Walton Hospital in Chesterfield on the theme of Christmas. We looked at some Christmassy music videos, and one of the films I showed the patients was this year’s John Lewis advert, which is about a little girl who sees a lonely old man who lives on the moon through her telescope and decides to send him a special Christmas present.

I worked with the patients and staff to write this poem – about what the man in the moon really wants for Christmas. This is what they came up with.

What the Man in the Moon Wants for Christmas

A glass elevator to bring him home to his granddaughter.
An Alsatian to protect him from aliens and keep him company.
Ginger Rodgers to foxtrot him around the moon crater,
Or John Travolta to do some disco dancing!
A good Christmas dinner with turkey and sprouts.
A tin can telephone with the string stretching to earth.
Some tinsel for his hut and solar lights.
A Christmas tree sparkling with stars.

And then he’ll get out the sherry and mince pies,
Then Santa can visit him, bringing the man’s granddaughter,
So she can bring him the best gift of all –
A big hug!

A poem about the man in the moon is quite appropriate for today – the day that Major Tim Peake has blasted off into orbit on the International Space Station.

As a bonus, here’s another poem that the patients and staff wrote together, based on ‘The Night Before Christmas’.

A Christmas Surprise

The children are sent upstairs to wait for Father Christmas.
The stockings are hung at the end of the bed.
A carrot for the reindeer, mince pie and a sherry –
To make sure Rudolph’s fed and Santa’s merry.

The children are excited, and cannot sleep.
The oldest one wants a sly little peek.
Santa is due any time soon.
Down the stairs, the boy starts to sneak.

Under the tree, he feels the gifts.
One by one, shaking and squeezing in turn.
He tips his new drum over with a terrible crash.
And hides it under the Christmas tree.

From upstairs, he hears a loud creak,
And a tiny noise, like a mouse’s squeak.
(The cat is fast asleep, the mice are having a treat!
He didn’t catch a thing on Christmas Eve.)

The boy thinks it’s time to flee.
He runs upstairs as fast as he can.
Jumps into bed, and settles down,
Just as Father Christmas parks his sleigh.

Before they know, it’s Christmas morning.
No chance of Mum and Dad still snoring.
The children are all wide awake.
It’s Christmas day – so celebrate!

Christmas Angels made by Children at Mickley Infant School, Derbyshire.

Everyday People – Part 2 – Changing Times

This week, we carried on with our “Everyday People” theme, and took a trip down the high street. We started off with a quiz to identify the high streets of different towns around Derbyshire. It’s such a big county that the people who lived in Buxton couldn’t recognise places further down south, like Alfreton.

We talked about green grocers, cobblers, butchers and bakers, and watched the famous film of ‘Night Mail‘ by W.H.Auden. This inspired us to write our own poems about the amazing everyday things that we sometimes take for granted, disappearing shops on the high street, and old remedies and treatments you could get from the chemist.

I’m at Walton Hospital next week, but this was my last session in Buxton and Bakewell until January, and I look forward to returning with some interesting new topics.

Things we Take for Granted

The car starting in the morning,
Hot and cold running water,
Food to put on the table,
Warm clothes to wear,
Hospitals to look after us,
Electric power for all our gadgets,
Pubs open longer and Sunday shops opening,
The marvels of central heating,
The bin lorry to take away our rubbish.

But some things are a bit more of a pain –
The bin men used to carry our metal bins
Rather than wheeling them ourselves.
Sorting out our own rubbish at the tip,
Separating our recycling into green, blue and red.

But it used to take a whole day to do the washing
With the mangle and the starch
Dolly blue and rubbing boards
Flat irons heated on the fire,
You’d spit on them to check they were hot enough.
Terry nappies were a pain.
Ice on the inside of the window
Peg rugs on the floor;
Army greatcoats on the beds.
Pantries before the age of fridges.
Darning old socks and tights.
Black leading grandma’s range.
Outside lavs down the yard –
With squares of newspaper or scratchy Izal
Your mother used to do your hair
Basin cuts and wonky fringes.

We used to make do and men
Holes in our shoes with cardboard in,
Hand-me-down clothes,
The smart stuff saved for Sunday best.
Nowadays we take too much for granted.


The Disappearing High Street

No more high street Miliners’
Seasons of Buxton, Milligans
Madame Marsh and Madam Owen.
Hats on wire stands, ladies’ gloves.

Scotts’ behind the market for school uniforms –
The blue flowery polyester blouse for Buxton Girls’ School.
With a page boy collar, like an old lady’s nightdress.
A slight improvement on the previous brown one, with matching hat.

Potter’s Outfitters – for home furnishings,
A real old fashioned window display.
The only place you can buy proper curtains in Buxton
With a nice pencil pleat, not those big holes.

Clew’s Chemist shop with those big bottles
Disappointingly only full of coloured water.
Arsenic tablets labelled on the wooden drawers.
The greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers
Are few and far between; the Fairfield dairy shop long gone,
With its two ladies in beehive hairdos.

Now old-style sweet shops have returned.
I wonder what else will come back to our high street!

Old Fashioned Medicine (in Grandma’s handbag)

Butter for a bumped head
Indian brandy for tummy ache
Smelling salts in Grandma’s handbag
Would blow your head off – ammonia.
Camphorated spirits, Epsom salts
Andrew’s liver salt
Henneman’s horse liniment – for humans’ aches and pains!
Menthol crystals or Olbas oild for a blocked nose
Laxative chocolate found in Grandma’s handbag,
Would have an unusual result.
Senna pods and rhubarb to “make you go”
Syrup of figs to “make you go”
Liquid paraffin too – we must all have had trouble in those days!

Udder cream for chilblains,
Caustic pencils for verrucas
Victory Vs for a sore throat
The nit-nurse’s fine-toothed comb.
Zinc and castor oil cream for nappy rash.
Dettol, gargling with TCP
Oil of cloves for toothache.
It all worked.
Sanatogen tonic wine for building your strength
Guinness and Makeson stout for pregnant ladies.

4711 cologne in Grandma’s handbag,
Witch hazel for sunburn
Camomile for conditioning hair
Plants are still our medicines –
Present, past and future.
Who knows what remedies are still out there
In the forests, waiting to be found.

Everyday People – Part 1

This week in Derbyshire Hospitals, we’ve been talking about everyday people who provide essential services – and some that we don’t see much any more. Door to door milk deliveries are dwindling, and the postal service has changed a lot, with fewer letters coming through the door, but more parcels due to internet shopping. We don’t often see our neighbourhood police officer (or “Bobby”), and the traditional rag and bone man, or “tatter” is long gone. Some patients remembered deliveries being made by horse and cart.

We also remembered the importance of hospitals and the NHS, so we’ve written two very different acrostic poems, using the same word! Life in the UK would be very different without healthcare that’s free for everyone, from the doctor’s around the corner to Accident and Emergencies.

Hospital (by the staff and patients of Cavendish Hospital in Buxton)

Healthcare that’s free for all
Outpatients and operations large and small
Sterile and clean wards – good sanitation
Patients getting better every day
Ingrowing toenails to cataracts
Tea and therapy with a smile
Ambulances to bring you in fast
Lasers and computers, now giving treatments

Hospital (by the staff and patients of Newholme Hospital in Bakewell)

Newholme hospital was originally built in 1841 as a workhouse, and was used as an auxiliary hospital in World War One for injured soldiers. We reflected the hospital’s long history in this poem.

Historic building – built as a workhouse
Offering shelter for the needy and poor
Soldiers from the Front came home to recover
Poor people came for their Christmas dinner
Infirmary for patients who need help
Treatments now for young and old
All welcome here throughout the year
Lives are improved by the care that is given

I’ve also put together some reflections from people about how things have changed in our everyday lives.


The bread man
The ice cream van
“Any old iron” of the rag and bone man.
He’d give out balloons for the kids, pegs,
Even new dishes and plates,
In return for the old scrap.
Or a dolly stone to clean the front doorstep –
No one bothers with that any more!
The milkman wouldn’t just bring eggs –
He had eggs, potatoes, orange juice in glass bottles.
The old dairy is where that big Tesco is now.
Now that’s where people get their milk from,
And the supermarkets do deliveries.
I miss the electric hum of the milk float,
The rattle of the crates.
I remember milk being delivered by horse and cart.
We used to take it in turns to feed crusts to the horse.
We collected the milk bottle tops to build a Spitfire.

Buxton High Street

There are no proper fishmongers in Buxton now.
Sometimes a man in a van comes, once a week.
Spring Gardens had a fish shop.
Now it’s a Shoezone.
Mycock’s is the only proper butchers.
There used to be Dewhurst’s and Booths,
Swindells at the traffic lights.
The International stores was the first supermarket.
You felt a bit cheated, loading your own basket,
The Co-op’ still there though.
We used to collect Co-op stamps, Green Shield stamps.
The streets are full of charity shops
Not so many jumble sales nowadays.

Bonfire Night, Stars are Bright…

Fireworks lighting up the night sky

Fireworks lighting up the night sky

As I sit here writing, the night is already full of fizzes, pops bangs as people make an early start on bonfire night. This week in Newholme, Walton and Cavendish hospitals in Derbyshire, we talked about the sights, tastes, smells and sounds of bonfire night, from fried onions and hot dogs, jacket potatoes cooked in the fire to the shooting rockets and colourful sparklers held by delighted children.

We also talked about the gruesome history of bonfire night, which is mostly celebrated in Great Britain, to commemorate the unsuccessful plot in November 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I. A group of Catholic conspirators were responsible for the plot, but they were all caught and came to a grisly end, with their heads on spikes outside the House of Lords. Guido (or Guy) Fawkes, was the plotters’ explosives expert, and he was discovered, along with barrels full of gunpowder, under the Houses of Parliament.

Ever since then, Britons have commemorated 5th November with their own fireworks, bonfires and celebrations. Nowadays, mostly, the anti-Catholic element has been forgotten, but people still enjoy lighting up the night sky with a pretty explosion.

People from Chesterfield remembered the (slightly rude) rhyme:
“Bonfire night, stars are bright
All the little angels dressed in white.
One with a fiddle, One with a drum
And one with a pancake stuck to his bum!”

We commemorated Bonfire Night by writing our own poems, which I hope you’ll enjoy!

Bonfire Night Haiku


Whizz, band, crack, whistle
Pretty sparkles in the sky
Gunpowder smoke smell

Hot dog smells

What’s that I can smell?
Sizzling caramelised onions
Frying in a pan.

Brown, green and crunch
Sticky, yummy, delicious
Pappy toffee apple


Orange, yellow, red
Crackling, popping heat
Warming everyone
(Right down to their feet!)

A roaring bonfire - don't forget to check for hibernating hedgehogs before you light it!

A roaring bonfire – don’t forget to check for hibernating hedgehogs before you light it!


Burning bonfires, crackling away
On the fifth November, today’s the day
November nights cold and damp
Fireworks light the sky like a lamp
I see the children scream with delight
Rays of colour light up the night
Evening starts before tea time
Sweet treats and toffees taste sublime


Flashes of colour brighten the sky
I cheer and “ahh” as the colours flash by
Roman Candles and Jumping Jacks
Everyone dressed up warm, wearing macks
We crowd around the fire, keeping warm
Oh no! I hope there won’t be a storm!
Relatives gather to enjoy the fun
Kids make enough noise for everyone
Sizzle, bang, crash, screech – all night long!


Bang! The sound of Bonfire Night
All jump! The noise gives us a fright
Noisy night enjoyed by all
Guy Fawkes burns and starts to fall
Everyone’s ears ring with the sound
Roasted chestnuts – a bag for a pound!

Guy Fawkes (a potted history of Bonfire Night)

Guy Fawkes in front of the Houses of Parliament

Guy Fawkes in front of the Houses of Parliament

Gunpowder expert, put his barrels
Under the Houses of Parliament
Young men, angry with King James

For not giving Catholics rights
And they wanted to blow James up
Why didn’t the plot work?
King James was informed
Everyone was caught
Staked heads all round!


Roman Candles sprinkling
Ooooh! Pretty colours…
Crackle in the night sky
Kindling to light the bonfire
Ey up! be careful!
Terrific bangs everywhere
Sparkling sparklers


Toffee apples and treats
Roast chestnuts
Eating cinder toffee
Candy floss on sticks
Lollies made from bonfire toffee
Embers with jacket potatoes cooking.

A Harvest Festival

This morning, I took part in the harvest festival held at Walton Hospital in Chesterfield. The hospital chaplain talked about the power of love, and the love of humankind, which was very powerful.

Harvest festival

Harvest festival

After the ceremony, while we drank tea and ate biscuits, I asked the patients to tell me what love meant to them. I think you’ll like the poem that we wrote together.

I brought in my 1960s typewriter and used it to write the poem.

All about love poem

All about love poem

All About Love

It’s all about love,
The things we do.
What does love mean to you?

Caring for all humankind
Like the staff and nurses in the hospital
Kind words and cups of tea.

Love is bringing warmth to a wet autumn day
Holding hands together
Memories of childhood holidays
Sitting next to someone and having a chat.

Talking books and fresh air in the countryside
Keeping in touch with friends and family,
Increasing the love in everyone’s life.

I know what tha means – its true
Love is everything
Everyone should love one another.
Some people are at each other’s throats all the time.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.

It’s your health that counts.
Money’s no good if you’re no good.
Love means home and the wife, son and daughter.

It’s the small things – the moments of time
And the things for love we do!

Here are some more of our vegetable haiku too!



Unwrapping layers
Dried paper and silken threads
Discover yellow gems



I think it’s our cat I can smell
It’s round, red, ripe
Salads, chutney, mmm…



Dark green like tall trees
Fresh smelling and compelling
Should be tasty steamed.