Poor Miss Bingley did at least get one thing right, although she was simply hoping to secure Darcy’s approval by praising his home county. I’ve only visited Derbyshire twice – once a few years ago and again last week – but I was greatly taken with it. The scenery in the first flush of summer was beautiful; so green and so… well, cosy. I’m more familiar with Scotland and the Lake District, both of which are beautiful but sometimes a little bleak.
In Derbyshire, everything seemed that little bit closer together, somehow. There’s nothing too severe; the hills are gently rolling mounds of green, not precipitous cliffs. The fertile valleys carry crops, while sheep and lambs graze at higher levels. Undulating waves of green are turned into misty blue hills by the magic of aerial perspective. There is the occasional discordant note; fields of bright yellow oil-seed rape would be more at home in the burning landscape of Provence, and modern windmills are creeping into view. But the overall effect is of an England unchanged for centuries.
One little village, seen from the road, made me think of Kympton, the paradise from which Wickham was excluded. Isn’t the church striking, rising above the tress on the right? And nestled amongst them, no doubt, is the comfortable parsonage he hoped to secure. But such a pretty place would be wasted on him; I only hope the incumbent did enjoy living in such a beautiful area.
As I admired the scenery, I though of Elizabeth Bennett. In the 1995 BBC television series, she’s given a line not in the book: “I would be happy to spend my whole life in Derbyshire”. And I can see why. Everywhere you look in the landscape, you can see little paths running over the hills or alongside hedgerows, or cutting through tumbledown dry-stone dykes. She would have been delighted to explore new territory and find new favourite walks.
Have you ever been to Derbyshire? Or do you disagree with Miss Bingley and favour a different county? Let me know!