Saturday, 8 August 2020

Guess where?

Yes, I'm back at Kedleston again, with its wonderful wildflower display.

This National Trust property on the opposite side of Derby has become one of my most visited places during this semi-lockdown period. I regularly see news/police reports about the high numbers of visitors at Derbyshire beauty spots, and they put me off attempting to visit. I don't want to go out and then be surrounded by crowds. I've seen photos from friends of remote moorland places looking empty, but, with the laziness of lockdown, I've become unfit and I don't feel like going for a hike, just a nice gentle walk. 

Kedleston works well for me at the moment. It's not far to travel, visitor numbers are restricted by advance sales, and it has a choice of various length walks - you could amble round the gardens and pass the afternoon in a deckchair, stroll by the lakes, or join the Wilderness and Long Walk together to make about six miles (maybe that's something to aim for by the end of summer). 

Anyway this visit was more of a social affair than an outing with strictly exercise in mind - meeting up with my elder daughter, pottering round the wildflowers, then a more purposeful stroll along the Short Walk.

The wildflower beds continue to impress me. Last year I saw them once; this year I'm visiting every couple of weeks, and seeing them change throughout summer is delightful. I'd rather had the impression that wildflower seed mixes flowered in one burst in June/July, then died back. These definitely haven't; on each visit there's been something new in flower.

We arrived in a short shower of rain but, with the weather improving, we headed up the path of the short walk, stopping at the seats which give a fine view over the wider estate and the Derbyshire countryside. The sun came out, with a pleasant breeze to keep things cool.

Then onward and upward (though not greatly) to the high point of the circuit, where we turned and came straight back down the hill to the hall.

I always seem to run out of time to do everything I wanted, so I'll be back again before long.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Kedleston on a scorching summer day

If my trip out on Monday was marked by rain, Friday's visit to Kedleston will be remembered for the heat.  

We'd booked a time slot, as you have to do these days, with the intent of walking round the parkland- a new route for us, and one to help with my 'extra steps' fitness plan, but the day started hot, and the temperature was forecast to reach around 33 degrees by mid-afternoon. I'm not fond of heat, especially walking far in it, and I mulled over the idea of cancelling but decided it was better to go, even if all we did was sit in the garden and look at the wildflowers, preferably from under a tree.

As it turned out things weren't quite as scorching as I'd feared. Kedleston isn't far from the built-up suburbs, but it feels like somewhere miles out in the countryside and a pleasant breeze (that wasn't apparent at home) was blowing over the grounds. 

So back to my original plan - the Wilderness walk; along the lake and river bank, where even the geese thought it was best to find some shade under a tree, then turning east under trees before reaching the entrance drive and following that back to the house.

Most visitors were staying by the gardens or the lakes, so we had the paths almost to ourselves; a major consideration in these times of social distancing.

It's slightly rougher underfoot than the Long Walk, following a line cut through long grass, then a worn path through open fields, but there's less uphill walking.

There are plenty of seats along a the route, but all of them were in full sun, and it was too hot to rest for long. Eventually I decided the best thing to do was flop on the ground in the shade of a tree.

I thought the last section, back along the driveway would be quite dull, but it wasn't.
It was now nearing four o'clock, the last visitors of the day had already arrived so there was no traffic to dodge, and for quite a distance I was back under the shade of the trees.
There's also a good spot to catch a glimpse of the hall; something that rushes past when arriving by car.

Definitely a walk I'll return to in autumn, if not before.


Thursday, 30 July 2020

Four seasons (perhaps more) in one day

Monday wasn't a brilliantly sunny day, but, although it seemed too wet for OH to head off to the allotment or for me to do anything useful around the garden, it did seem a reasonable sort of day to go out. The rain was no more than a drizzle, and I figured that little bit of damp would keep most folks at home.
So off to Carsington we went.

Things seemed promising when we arrived. The sun was trying to break through. Wild roses were flowering in the picnic area. I took my waterproof jacket off and tied it round my waist, and off we went along the dam.

Looking behind us everything looked fine

but clouds were gathering ahead. I hoped they'd pass by at the far end of the reservoir
and before I had chance to put my jacket on properly rain and wind hit us, possibly even some hail.
This was also the point at which I discovered my cunning exercise plan wasn't helping me lose width yet - and although I could fasten my jacket I couldn't pull it down over my hips!

I was soaked.
I could barely have got wetter if I'd sat down in a puddle.

The only thing to be done was drag ourselves back to the car, and go home

Then the sun came out!

So, with another change of plan, we carried on in the direction we were now heading, through the picnic area and along the eastern side of the water for a little way to where a stone cottage sits with an interior made completely from wood.
If we'd walked this way earlier, we'd perhaps have been able to shelter inside from the torrential rain.

Looking out over the water, back towards the dam, we could see clouds gathering again, and decided to quit for the day. 

It takes about twenty minutes to get home, and by then the sun had come out completely, and stayed that way all evening!

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Back together again, at last

It's been an extremely long, and intensely weird, four months since I last saw my younger daughter. We were last in Manchester about the middle of March, a week or so before the lockdown was announced, and, like so many families around the country, we've had no chance to meet up again till now.

Once lockdown rules started to ease, it was fairly easy to see my elder daughter because she lives comparatively close by - we've met in our gardens, and once on a rainy day sat at opposite ends of a room.
But with my younger daughter living much further away - two hours - it wasn't possible to just 'nip round'.

She lives alone, so when restrictions were relaxed allowing the creation of 'bubbles' with another household, it was obvious that she'd be better meeting with local friends who she could see regularly rather than with us. Add in the fact that, due to my husband's health, we're staying home and keeping our interactions with the world to the minimum, and things looked tricky.
But this last weekend we decided the time was right to go.

The months apart have seemed interminable, but once we were back together they just melted away.

Our plan had been to go out to the local park (outside is safer, they tell us) but that got ditched in favour of an afternoon of chatting, playing Scrabble, and being rubbish at Mario Kart. Good family fun that I miss.

 My daughter always encourages me to step out of my safe comfort food zone, so with lunch there was her own recipe fried chicken, and stuffed vine leaves, and for dinner instead of eating out (I'm still not comfortable with that) we had a wonderful spread of Indian food delivered from Bundobust - including tarka dhal, bhajis, paneer tikka, and, my favourite, bundo chaat. And as so many family celebrations have been missed we had cake - an excellent sticky ginger one, the remains of which I finished at home the next day with a late, late birthday present bottle of Foxhole gin. 

The weather for the day decided to play 'pathetic fallacy' with sunny blue skies on our drive north, and heavy rain as we returned. I'm not quite as depressed as that though as I'm hoping we'll all be able to meet up comparatively regularly for a while, even if we're all keeping an eye out for the dreaded second wave of the virus.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Chatsworth again

Weren't we there a fortnight ago?
Well, yes we were, but we're back for two reasons. Most importantly, it's a good place for a not too strenuous walk; 105 acres to roam around from manicured lawns to wilder woodland, and booked timed entry slots keep the number of visitors down. And, we have annual 'friends' passes, so an extra visit only costs fuel and the car parking charge.

Entrance to the garden is only at the top 'stables' entrance at the moment but I walked to walk round in the opposite direction to the one we took last visit - this way we wouldn't spend half of our visit in the kitchen garden!

So we headed downhill to the house and canal pond with the huge Emperor Fountain.

Walking down by the pond you can spot glimpses of the wider park, and sometimes spot the deer grazing there.

Staying on the outer fringes of the garden, where there are always less people, we followed one of the many streams uphill up to the Grotto Pond, stopping frequently along the way because in this area the paths are quite steep.

From the Grotto, again avoiding the more popular paths, we headed into the Pinetum, an area of specimen pine trees, which, this year with grasses and wild flowers being left to grow under the trees, feels quite like a wild woodland.

We'd now reached the highest point of the garden where following a winding path you discover more ponds, which feed the many water features and fountains lower down.

Then downhill again, through newly planted glades with flowers in a pallet of white, purple and lime. It already begins to look like a wildflower meadow accidentally occurring in the spaces between high trees, so I imagine in future years it will look fabulous.

Steps then led us down to the formal bedding at the end of the maze. The maze itself isn't open (I don't suppose there's any hope of social distancing in its tight twists and turns) so we had no chance to test if we remembered the way to the centre.
Also, we'd reached that time of day when the ice cream vans switch off their generators, the fountains stop playing, and, just as we walked past, the water ceases flowing down the steps of the cascade. Time to be thinking of heading home. Expect me to be back before long though.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Stopping the slide - taking more steps

Over the weeks of lockdown I've become increasingly indolent, lazy, unfocused, too fond of sitting down for a 'minute', and not noticing the hours tick by.

I feel like I'm sliding towards a black hole of inertia, and I'm at a time of life when 'use it or lose it' really begins to kick in, whether you're talking mind or muscles. It's time to stop the slide, and clamber away while I can. I want to keep my brain active, and pursue a variety of creative projects I have sitting around but I'm starting with more exercise.

In the first month of so or lockdown I was full of energy, which I applied to the garden, clearing long-neglected vegetable beds, sowing seeds, planting out small plants, hauling watering cans about as the weather turned hot. But once veggies are established, there's less to do other than occasional weeding, and a return to the more normal rain meant I didn't need to water.

My few attempts at walking locally weren't pleasant - too many people not bothering with social distancing - so I just stayed home, did online jigsaws if the weather was bad, sat in the garden on sunny days.

And that lockdown weight piled on. And on.

For a whole week I tried to watch what I was eating. But at the end of it I'd still put weight on!

Now I'm trying a different plan; more steps. I always wear my Fitbit but mostly ignore it. Now, I've set the hourly reminder to get me up and moving, and my idea is to try for more steps each week, through making every day a fairly active one, rather than go on a long walk one day, and slump on the sofa for the rest. Maybe this will have an extra pay-off in weight loss, maybe just in muscle tone.

One week in, my plan is going well. Over the seven days I walked just over 43,000 steps which is a great increase over the previous week's figure - 20,884 - but it still owes a lot to just a couple of days, which is something to work on. I'm not sure if I can keep this up but I'm going to try.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Another National Trust Adventure - Hardwick Hall

My latest mini-adventure took me out to yet another National Trust property - Hardwick Hall which sits on a hilltop over-looking the motorway in north Derbyshire.

There are actually two halls sitting next to each other on this site - an older ruinous one, now cared for by English Heritage, and the flasher one with which Bess of Hardwick decided to replace it in the 1590s. Neither buildings are open at the moment, just the new hall's gardens and parkland.

Hardwick isn't particularly further away than our other local National Trust places but for some reason it seems to be a place we only visit at Christmas, so I'd no idea how busy it would be.

For once though, we'd hit on a sunny day for our trip out, and the grounds were full of visitors picnicking and relaxing on the appropriately-branded deckchairs

There are a variety of gardens at Hardwick, surrounding the hall on three sides, and divided from each other by hedging. The two gardens to front and rear are laid mainly to grass edged with flower border - herbaceous plants at the front, roses at the back.

And to the south sits a larger area, subdivided into four by hedging and 'walks'.

I assume these were once the more 'productive' garden areas; two of them are still orchards with fruit filling and ripening, one a lawned area with specimen trees, and the last, my favourite, a herb garden with yellow santolina fronting the beds filled with culinary and medicinal plants such as thymes, hyssop, opium poppies, and even hops growing rampantly up wigwams.

To one side was a bed given over to flowers arranged in formal rows - presumably a 'cutting' bed growing flowers for indoors. One of my great-uncles grew flowers this way, in among his vegetables, and as a child I always though it was strange; now I can see why you'd do it, if you have the space.

 Leaving the gardens, we followed Lady Spencer's Walk which leads from the car park between trees. It starts flat but when we reached steps leading down the hillside I decided it was time to turn round. Looking at the web site I've since discovered that the complete walk isn't long, looping back to the car park from the opposite direction after about a mile, so we could easily have carried on, but at the time I didn't have a map and didn't want to stray too far. Maybe something for another time. I imagine the trees will look lovely in autumn.