Deene Park and Kirby Hall

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Start: Deene Distance: 3.8 miles (6.1 km) Climbing: 48 metres
Grid Ref: SP 95113 92858 Time: 2 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Deene Park
Start: Deene Distance: 3.8 miles (6.1 km)
Climbing: 48 metres Grid Ref: SP 95113 92858
Time: 2 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: This peaceful ramble crosses open parkland and goes along quiet lanes above the valley of Willow Brook. The walk starts in the tiny, unspoilt limestone village of Deene that lies in the trees along the northern edge of Deene Park. In a county renowned for its fine country houses it would be difficult to find one to surpass Deene Hall for the serene beauty of its setting and the splendour of its gardens which make superb use of the lakes formed by the damming of Willow Brook. The garden is noted for its rare shrubs and old fashioned roses.

St Peter's Church, DeeneSt Peter's Church, Deene
Deene Hall and the LakeDeene Hall and the Lake

Beautiful Deene Hall which has Elizabethan, Jacobean, Georgian and Gothic features has been the home of the Brudenell family since 1514. In 1661 Edmund Brudenell, Henry VIII's Chief Justice, was created first Earl of Cardigan as a reward for his loyalty to the royalist cause during the Civil War. Thus, he founded the family fortune. The most famous of the Brudenell's, however, was James Thomas, seventh Earl of Cardigan who was born 26th October, 1797. On 25th October 1854 he led the Charge of the Light Brigade against the Russians at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. Less than 200 of the 675 strong brigade survived and 475 horses were slaughtered. The heroic, but tactically misguided, assault was immortalised by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. Numerous portraits and mementos of Lord Cardigan and this event are to be found at Deene Park.

The 13th century church of St Peter in Deene Park was restored by Lord Cardigan's widow in the late 1860's and dedicated to his memory. The main features of interest are the ornate chancel with its brightly painted walls and barrel roof, and the splendid Brudenell monuments which are in a gated chapel in the south aisle. Lady Adeline Cardigan engaged the German sculptor Johann Erasmus Boehm to produce, in fine white marble, two life sized recumbent effigies of Lord Cardigan and herself. Round the sides of the tomb are carved scenes of his exploits in the Crimean War. At the four corners are four bronze seahorses.

The road that leads from Deene Hall to Kirby Hall is edged with wide grass verges. These are relics of enclosure days when they were left for drovers to graze their cattle and sheep on the way to market. Today they are ideal picnic sites and more importantly they allow space for cow parsley, rough chervil, red and white campion, dead nettle and the modest dog's mercury. Kirby Hall is worth a short detour as it is one of the most beautiful Elizabethan buildings in the country and demonstrates the extent to which classical influences were affecting the ornament and planning of English buildings in the late Elizabethan period. The formal gardens of the hall were laid out around 1685 and have undergone a complete restoration.

Acknowledgment: Text derived from the Out and Out Series; Discovering the Countryside on Foot. Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

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