One of the things I love to do on a fine weekend is take a trip out to Tissington. We park up and walk our dog over the fields to the marvellous Bassettwood and have a cup of tea and perhaps a little cake. In my opinion, the plain scone is the ultimate test of the baker and they happen to make a wonderful version which is as light as you like and served with clotted cream and jam. It’s run by nice, friendly people and you can enjoy your
refreshment surrounded by farm animals, chickens and a big friendly dog of strange parentage (don’t ask). They love other dogs too and it’s the only place I know where they offer dog biscuits in china saucers. You may stumble across a wedding tipi but you can also marvel at their Airstream chrome caravan and the shepherd’s hut. Your fellow travellers could be walkers, riders, cyclists, Duke of Edinburgh Award explorers or folks just like you wanting a pleasant day out.
Tissington itself is a strange but charming confection. It is chocolate-box pretty in a “country estate” way and you never know what you are going to stumble across. It may be the well-dressings but also, on two recent visits, we were presented with the local hunt! There are many walks across the fields (showing Mediaeval farming traces) from the village and the eponymous Trail runs nearby too which brings in tourists from every direction. There are some lovely little shops to visit. The marvellous White Peak butchers produces possibly the finest sausage in the world. I was weaned on to them by H. Smith (before their demise) and Bennett’s (before they changed hands) and I still think they take some beating. Of course there is also On A Wick And A Prayer. They make decorative and scented candles. How much nicer to buy something locally crafted? – just as well they are available in a few of our local gift shops. The Tissington Christmas weekend was an ideal opportunity to buy from the source. And finally there is Edward And Vintage; a real throwback to days gone by when most corner shops had rows of jars selling sweets. It’s impossible to take it all in but you are guaranteed some waves of nostalgia whenever you visit. It is situated by one of the little gates that take you over the fields to the Trail in a perfect spot to feed the weary rambler and their little ones. The tone of Tissington was sealed by a sign on one of the garden walls advertising quails eggs for sale in aid of Help For Heroes – an affluent surprise with a kind heart!
On my most recent visit we bumped into the Tissington Church Fete in the grounds of Tissington Hall, the stately home looming over the heart of Tissington. I love a fete. There is something special about the simple pleasures of tombolas and other stalls. The money that changes hand is all for a good cause, the air is full of goodwill and bonhomie, and no-one cares about winning except the excitable young. It’s a family occasion and a beautiful sunny Summer day there is no finer way to loaf for a couple of hours. Immediately through the beautiful stone-arched front gate was a second hand stall with clothes, books and bric-a-brac. My wife found a copy of a book that we have been looking for in second hand book shops for years! Further on was the bottle stall and a large plant stall. The staple of these events, which tend to be awash with skilled home bakers, is the cake stall. I felt duty bound to test the produce and duly bought a Weetabix Cake and a Lemon Drizzle to go with it. Sir Richard himself was busy meeting, greeting, organising and feeding stallholders with tea throughout the day.
Around the corner there were cream teas being served on one of the lawns. The tiered gardens create little “rooms” which are perfect for this kind of thing. We could here the sound of music and sure enough, sheltered in a corner by the house were the Osmaston Wind Band. We sat down to hear them they playing a pessimistic Rain medley under a large gazebo. On this particular day it was serving more as a parasol than a shelter thankfully. The set moved through folk music to film themes as the clarinetists can-canned in their chairs as they played. They had a healthy and appreciative audience of young and old sitting on benches and deck chairs which reflected the demographics of the band themselves. We sat down next to a charming lady from Buxton and passed the time of day with her between the music. After demonstrating our skills, or lack of them, at milking, bowling and splat the rat we made our way up and took in the beautiful rose garden. I was last here some years ago to see Cosi Fan Tutte as part of the Ashbourne Festival. It really is a gorgeous setting. My daughter’s prom group set off from Tissington a couple of years back and Sir Richard Fitzherbert, seeing them outside, generously invited them in to have some photos taken in the stunning gardens before heading off. Even though I’m now well into middle age there is still something rejuvenating about seeing some of the enormous trees which look made for climbing. The formal gardens themselves are worth a look and at this time of year they are spectacularly colourful. The butterflies, bees and hoverflies were in their element working their way along the borders of flowers and shrubs. The Rose Garden in particular is a fabulous and fragrant display.
So there you have it: on one level a beautiful house in a beautiful village. For the passing tourist it is a chance to shoot photographs for the family album and have a cup of tea. For the residents there must be enormous pressure to tend to your property year-round as part of Team Tissington. In my view fetes are one of the few occasions which bring together the local community and the tourists into one happy charitable event – wherever they may be. They are a clear reminder that underneath the veneer is a community like any other and voluntary get-togethers such as this show that it is still thriving. For Ashburnians it is an opportunity to be a benevolent tourist on our own doorstep. Tissington is over for another year but dotted through our town and surrounding villages this Summer are plenty of other organisers looking for footfall.