A Trip to Calke Abbey

24 September 2020

After renewing my National Trust membership recently, I decided to take a trip back to one of my favourite National Trust locations, Calke Abbey. It's named as the un-stately home and country estate, although some parts such as the house and stables have been restored. Follow along its paths and you will walk through the beautiful walled gardens, the orangery, auricula theatre and the kitchen gardens with so much colour to see throughout all of the seasons. Walk out of the gardens and into the house and you will find not your average grand building, but walls with peeling paint and collections of belongings all left as they were found. And then step into nature as you wander the pleasure grounds, you'll find the red and fallow deer and acres of greenery thriving with wildlife. 

During these difficult times, Calke Abbey, like many other National Trust locations, are open for pre-booked tickets only. I decided to get an early ticket so I could spend some quiet time wandering around the gardens which I've never visited before. I enjoyed every moment walking around the gardens which I almost had all to myself! It was ever so peaceful and enjoyed walking along the path amongst the trees to get to the gardens and had a robin serenading me as I set off towards the gardens. I walked through an archway into the main part of the garden and was blown away by just how brilliantly looked after all the flowers were that surrounded the whole of the garden. I've been to quite a few gardens over the past few years and I've never seen one in such perfect condition. I saw so many of my favourite blooms as I walked amongst the flowers such as helenium, anemone, cosmos, rudbeckia and many more. I then set off through another archway and followed a path of wildflowers into the kitchen garden. I've never really walked around a kitchen garden before but I was just taken away by how beautiful it was. It was the highlight of my day and I could have spent the whole day walking around looking at all the fruits and vegetables and other beautiful flowers. My mind went straight into autumn harvest mode when I saw the gourds and pumpkins! 

After spending a while walking around the gardens I looked at the time and saw that it was nearly coming up to 11 o'clock which was when the house would open up. At the moment due to the restrictions only a small number of people are allowed in the house at a time. When I got into the house there was a short video explaining the changes that have been made due to the current pandemic situation and what rules needed to followed when walking around the house. Unfortunately there were parts of the house you couldn't walk into, but this was for our own safety and they had done so well to create a one way system to walk around most parts of the house. I'm not a big fan of taxidermy and so I quickly made my way out of one room! But my favourite room of all was full of old books, the walls were covered in books top to bottom, I've never seen anything like it before. I carried on through the house and then made my way out of the exit and back out of the house. 

I decided to go and visit Calke Explore, which is separate area away from the house and gardens which is situated in a more wooded section of the grounds. On my way I decided to stop for a while to have my lunch and sat amongst the trees. I could see birds flying in and out of this tree in front of me and I was trying to identify what birds they were. After having my lunch I crept up to the tree and zoomed in with my camera, I saw the loveliest little long-tailed tit sat on a branch and I managed to get a photo. I then heard the call of a chiffchaff and also managed to get a photo of one in the tree. I set off towards the Calke Explore section and decided to grab a cup of coffee and sat beside one of the little ponds where I watched dragonflies dart across the water. I spent some time walking amongst the pine trees and taking in the atmosphere surrounding the trees. There's always been something so calming about walking through a woodlands and so I enjoyed a peaceful moment walking amongst its paths. 

I noticed autumnal changes as I was walking around Calke Explore. Seeing the copper tones of the ferns beginning to change, acorns growing on the trees and orange leaves on the horse chestnut trees. I look forward to coming back again when autumn is thriving. After wandering around Calke Explore for a while, I decided to head off back to the car, but before leaving I decided to say goodbye to the deer who were up and about in the deer park. With my legs feeling tired, I set off back out into the countryside to drive back home. 

A Walk Around Attenborough Nature Reserve

8 September 2020

A few weeks back I hopped on the train and spent the day at Attenborough Nature Reserve. With my walking boots back on and camera bag all packed, I set off to the reserve to see what wildlife I could find. From the train station I wandered through a village, following sign posts for the reserve. It look me along a long footpath amongst the trees and beside the waters edge and straight away I could already see plenty of wetland wildlife right in front of me. Mute swans with their young who came to greet me, a tufted duck who kept dipping it's head into the water and an egret in the distance sat upon a tree branch. 

I carried along the path until I reached the nature reserve centre which was surrounded by Canada geese, Egyptian geese, mute swans and greylag geese. I followed the path to the right with the Coneries Pond to my left. I stopped for a moment as just below some steps, stood at the edge of the water, just metres away from me was a grey heron. I couldn't believe it! A grey heron right there in front of me, the closest I had ever been to one. It spotted me instantly and flew up into the tree with it's branches hanging over the water. I slowly walked down the steps and sat by the water, admiring the grey heron who was watching me from the tree. They're such beautiful birds, almost prehistoric looking and you'll mostly find them beside any kind of water such as lakes, ponds and rivers. They stand as still as a statue with their neck stretched out looking for food, which will mostly be fish but they're also known for eating small birds and mammals. I sat there for a while, taking photos of the beautiful bird that stood in the tree right beside me until it stretched out its wings and made flight across the pond. 

I set off across a bridge and into the heart of the nature reserve. I lost my bearings most of the time, but I loved wandering off through different pathways, and making up my own little route. You can follow trails throughout the reserve though! I set off along a long path towards one of the hides, which was unfortunately closed (for safety reasons of course!) but I managed to see two horses in the field beside me and a heron who was sat in a boggy part of the field waiting for his next catch. I turned around and set off along another path to walk a circuit around the main pond. Walking alongside the pond I could just about spot a few sedge warblers amongst the reeds, who were too quick and too well hidden for me to get a good shot! I came across a small wooden jetty at one of the ponds I was walking beside and caught a glimpse of a dragonfly darting across the water. I got my camera ready and followed it along, flying so fast back and forth across the water. I managed to capture a few shots of it in flight and turns out it was a migrant hawker dragonfly, I could have stood there for ages watching it zoom up and down and across the water. I carried along the path until I reached another small wooden platform next to the pond. I sat here for a while, taking photos of the damselflies that flew across the pond and two swans came up to greet me. I looked up and all of a sudden a grey heron appeared, soaring in the sky above my head. I was too slow to get a capture but it was fantastic to see one fly so close to me. 

I continued along the long path, which took me right back to the start again. Before leaving the reserve I decided to go back to the place where I saw the grey heron and sat on the steps again taking in the views across the pond. I watched as the swans gracefully swam across the pond and watched as cormorants dipped their whole body into the water and popped up again moments later. I took a slow stroll back to the train station and set off back home on a peaceful journey on the train.