Driving through some narrow roads, made worse because of parked cars on the side of it, meaning that there really was only space for one car to pass at a time, we followed the satnav to the post code for North Lees Hall, i.e. S32 1BR. The Heritage site had said to “turn into Coggers Lane” in Hathersage, which was a road sign we never saw, so eventually, up on one of the hills, we came to a turn-off where the friendly female voice said we should “go left”. It had a sign informing satnav users that it was a private road. Private and unpaved.
We thought that as the Hall is rented out as holiday accomodation, that might be it (not that any other signs said “North Lees Hall this way”, but we hadn’t seen any down in Hathersage either). They might just not want people using it as a through road or something. There have been stories in the news about very small towns that have had a lot of lorry traffic going through all of a sudden, because of satnavs saying that’s the best route – which might be true for people in small cars, but big lorries … not so much. Although in order to drive a lorry up those hills, you’d have to be either suicidal or mad.
Speaking of which, we went down the unpaved road. As we went further along it, the condition it was in deteriorated, the road became a bit narrower, but surely that’s where we were going? Then it started going downhill in a very steep decline and now we were really questioning ourselves. Surely the Hall could not be down this sort of hill, in this sort of road condition? It’s crazy!
There were quite deep grooves in the road when we had gotten down it a bit and the Squeeze was concerned we’d hit the underside of the car (we have a small and economical car, the sort of thing Jeremy Clarkson would laugh at – or, actually, try to spend 24 hours in and pretend it’s a living room). It wouldn’t work to reverse all the way back up the hill, simply because the car’s not powerful enough, so we’d have to go down the bottom and turn around. I suggested that I get out, as that would lighten the load and perhaps make it easier for avoiding the grooves. So he got out, I climbed over and out through the driver’s side (couldn’t open the door on the passenger side, as it was next to the grassy bank on the side of the road). He then got back in and carefully trying to make his way down while avoiding getting caught in the groove … and ended up halfway up the bank, nearly flipping the car over! Fortunately, he didn’t.
So there we were, car tilting dangerously on the side of a very narrow and very steep unpaved country lane in the middle of nowhere north Derbyshire. What the hell to do? Couldn’t remain there, obviously, but how to get out? Reverse? Continue forward? Anxiously, I asked him to put on his seatbelt, but it wouldn’t stretch out at all, probably some sort of safety feature (oh the irony), so he had to be without. On the verge of crying because I was so worried the car would flip over and him without a seatbelt, I climbed the bank to get out of the way so that he could reverse (had he not braked when he did, we would’ve had a stone through the bumper – which is why he couldn’t go forward). He did and got safely back on the road.
Moments after this, a boy spotted us and went to get his dad, because at the end of that suicidal road was a little farm. The man asked if we were heading to North Lees Hall, which of course we were … Obviously we weren’t the first people to come down that road – although we were the first ones that weekend. They had been suggested to put a sign up by the people who own the Hall to make sure visitors to the Hall don’t go down there, because apparently, the Hall owners can’t be bothered to give PROPER BLOODY DIRECTIONS on the website. Personally, I think a sign saying “North Lees Hall is NOT down this road, continue the way you were heading, i.e. THERE ->” would’ve been a lot clearer, but there you go.
He was really very nice and helpful and showed us on the TomTom where we were supposed to be going, and we apologised a lot for coming down there in the first place. The weird thing is, he actually had a small car himself, and of course had absolutely no issues going up or down. He then offered to drive the car back up the hill for us, which we gratefully accepted.
Turning left at the end of the road, we continued and made it (on paved roads all the way) to North Lees Hall – the inspiration, or at least one of, for Thornfield in Jane Eyre.
To be continued …