Tag Archives: National Trust

A Chilly Place To Be Lying In The Water!

The grounds at Stourhead include some grottos.  One of them has a statue of a woman lying in some water.  It was not too warm when we were there and, once you go inside the grottos, they are decidedly cold and damp.  The idea of lying in water in those conditions does not sound too appealing.  However, she was clearly a hardy soul as she has been there for quite a while.


We got some good use out of our National Trust membership while we were over in the UK.  One of our destinations was Mottisfont.  I hadn’t been there before.  There was the main house but, as is the norm for us, we actually didn’t go in that to look around.  Instead, we wandered the grounds.  I did take some photos of the house, of course, since we were there.  It was a rather overcast day so a stone house with grey skies meant it wasn’t looking its best.  The grounds were lovely, though.  I shall post some shots from our wanderings in due course.

Start Of Fall Colors At Stourhead

A previous vacation to the UK had included a visit to Stourhead and, we liked it so much, we decided to go back on the latest trip.  We went with a load of the family for lunch and then a walk around the grounds.  The weather was lovely and there was a hint of the onset of fall in the foliage.  The place is just gorgeous and wandering through the grounds on a sunny day with your family is hard to beat.

Hardwick Hall

C59F3147.jpgWhile Donald Trump might be well known now for putting his name all over his buildings, he certainly isn’t the first to do so. Head back to the Elizabethan period and you can find another example of someone who wanted you to know who they were. Bess of Hardwick had an interesting life that led her to be one of the more powerful people in England. Indeed her daughter could conceivably have been queen. That wasn’t to be but Bess acquired a substantial estate and built an impressive house on it.

C59F3226.jpgHardwick Hall is just outside Chesterfield (home to a church with a twisted spire that is worthy of a post of its own if I had only got close enough to get a shot of it). There is a new Hall and an old Hall. The new hall is only new in relative terms but it is a grand affair. For fans of the Harry Potter movies, it is Malfoy Manor although a certain amount of CGI added elements to the actual structure. You approach along a road that loops around the back of the house and gives you plenty of time to appreciate its grandeur. Once you are closer, you walk through a small enclosure of estate buildings and past the ruins of the old hall. They were both used at the same time but the old hall fell out of use and has deteriorated accordingly.

C59F3174.jpgWe only briefly looked inside but there was a great introductory talk about the history of Bess and the hall which was well worthwhile. We also got to look around the grounds and also appreciate the view over the valley below. Until the M1 was built, I imagine the view was pretty unspoiled! The building itself has an inordinate amount of window space for its time. This was a statement of how important Bess thought herself to be and if you look to the roofline, her initials are all along the tops of the walls. I guess she wasn’t a shy person.


Lyme Park

C59F2655-Pano.jpgThe drive from the Lake District to Derbyshire provided an opportunity to check out a place that Nancy was interesting in visiting. Lyme Park is a country house not far from Stockport. It is a lovely looking estate but the reason is it well known is that it was used in the filming of Pride and Prejudice. The lake from which a damp Colin Firth emerged in the production is now even named on their map as Darcy’s Lake!

C59F2620.jpgThe area around the house has some beautifully landscaped areas and an impressive glasshouse. There is a lake in front of the house and a structured garden area to boot. Outside the house area is a far larger estate that covers much of the local area. Deer roam through much of this part of the property. We did our usual thing of checking out the outside area but skipping the interiors. Our National Trust membership got us wherever we want to go but the interiors usually leave me less inspired than the exteriors. We also had to keep an eye on the time.

C59F2576.jpgIt was a slightly overcast day – maybe not a huge surprise for the outskirts of Manchester – which made the stone of the buildings look a little subdued. Stone buildings with grey skies are a touch trickier to work with. However, sometimes excluding the sky is the way to go to try and make the building stand out more. Nice looking place and worth a visit if you are in the area.

Aira Force

C59F2393.jpgOne of the more frustrating elements of photography is trying to convey the sense of scale. In the past I have had the conversation with people visiting Yosemite for the first time that everything they have seen of it in pictures will not prepare them for the scale of the real thing. Wide angle lenses can bring in a lot of the scenery but they also compress it in a way that reduces the impact. This is a lot more of a problem when dealing with something impressive in a confined space. Aira Force is one such example. Located on the north side of Ullswater, Aira Force is a series of waterfalls of differing sizes. There is one particularly large fall that is in a narrow cleft in the rocks.

C59F2494.jpgA set of steep steps take you from the top of the rocks down to where the falls hit the water. Getting everything in a single shot of the falls needs a very wide angle on your lens. The downside of this is that it becomes harder to appreciate exactly what the shot is. You are looking down and the bottom becomes very small in the frame. It is hard to appreciate exactly how impressive the whole thing looks. If you get people in the shot that helps but they can be so small that they aren’t immediately obvious so the effect is diminished.

C59F2400.jpgThe falls themselves are great in person. You can walk down on one side, across the bottom and climb up the other side before crossing a bridge that runs over the top of the falls. The view looking down from the top is pretty cool too. You are just away from the edge so there is some detachment from the plunge the water takes. If you continue up the hill, there are further falls that the water undergoes as it comes down the hill. The way the water has cut through the rock results in some twists and turns on its way.

Plenty of people visit the main section of the fall but a lot less seemed bothered to go up the hill and see what else was there. They were the ones making a mistake because the whole thing was a really attractive sight to see.


C59F1685.jpgOne thing that there is no shortage of in the UK is impressive country houses. As a result of the financial circumstances of many of the old families that owned these places, a lot have ended up in the hands of the National Trust. One of the most attractive estates is Stourhead in Wiltshire. This was not originally on our schedule during our UK trip but we had a change of heart regarding our original plan for the day and decided to head to Stourhead instead. We are still members of the National Trust so this was a freebie for us (if you excluded the amount spent over the years on membership!).

C59F1741-HDR.jpgWhen we visit these estates, our focus is usually on the grounds rather than the houses themselves. While I am interested in the external views of the house, the interiors are often a bit repetitive and something I will only bother with if I have plenty of time and there is something special about the insides. Normally, I am far happier walking around the grounds. In Stourhead’s case, the grounds are quite stunning. There are many buildings scattered around the estate, there are lakes, bridges, temples and a village within the estate including estate cottages and a pub. I imagine you could avoid ever having the leave if you were so inclined!

C59F1847.jpgVisiting these places in September is a good idea. The weather is still pretty nice but the holidays are over and so the number of people attending has significantly dropped. I think it is fair to say we were amongst the youngest people there! If we lived closer, I would certainly enjoy visiting Stourhead at various different times of year. I imagine the fall colors will be impressive and winter would be very nice to see.

Sheffield Park Gardens

wpid7948-C59F9138.jpgOne of our transit days in the UK had us moving from the Cotswolds back to Surrey for my Dad’s birthday party.  En route, we decided to take a detour to an old favorite location of ours.  When we lived in Sussex, we were not too far from Sheffield Park.  This is an estate that has been divided up with the National Trust owning the gardens and parkland and the house being privately owned.  The gardens are a delight to visit.

wpid7933-C59F9102.jpgOver many years, a collection of different botanical species have been cultivated at the gardens so they have a great diversity of plants and trees including some sequoias.  The gardens are built around a series of lakes that make the whole place look just gorgeous.  Some of the older trees are really solid and gnarly looking.  Nancy thought it looked like something from the Wizard of Oz.  One of the National Trust guys told us to look for a spot that had a great view back up the lakes to the house.  It took a bit of searching since the tree cover is quite dense but we found it.  It was certainly a nice view.

wpid7940-C59F9117.jpgGreat to get back to this place after being away for so long and to see it on a lovely day was even better.  If you are ever thinking of visiting, they apparently have a nice day trip from London to get there.  You can take the normal train to East Grinstead and from there the Bluebell Railway runs a steam service to Sheffield Park.  A shuttle from the station operates on busy day but it is not a long walk if not.  Not done this myself but it sounds like a nice way to make a day trip of the whole thing.