A walk on the wildside at Castle Howard

I've been doing a lot of work on the computer recently, remodelling and updating my website. Hours just seem to disappear, staring into a black hole where I lose track of time and space. The past couple of years have been crazily busy and consequently, as the website is the least enjoyable part of my work, it was the first thing to be sidelined. So with the start of a new knitting year looming in the autumn, I suddenly felt  the need to give it a facelift, a spring clean to get rid of some old wood and generally rationalise it - if only I could do that with my life too!

All good for the website, not so good for my sciatica, which started to play up again - the more I lose myself in the computer, the more screwed up my back becomes. I tend to be an obsessive type, always keen to get the job done, so I find it hard to take breaks, walk around or even make a cup of tea when I'm working.
You can just see the farmhouse in the distance
So... yesterday I was feeling particularly creeky and cranky, so when my friend Kate suggested we come for lunch and a walk on the Castle Howard estate, I seized the opportunity to get outside and stretch my aching limbs. Computers tend to make us focus on the small things in life, whereas walking and doing more expansive things help to bring the big picture into focus - I felt I really needed a dose of the big picture!
The unmade track to the house
P and I set off in our very old Passat, hoping the phantom knocking that it's been doing recently wouldn't return. A visit to the garage last week found nothing wrong, as it had stopped making the noise just before it arrived - this is one very cussed car! However, this time it manages to get us there and back without mishap - I can only surmise that as it was a Bank Holiday weekend, maybe even the gremlins had gone to the seaside?
Acer in Ray Wood
The weather looked a bit iffy, so on arrival we immediately set off for Ray Wood , where things were already starting to feel pleasantly autumnal. The woods were damp so the earthy end-of-summer aroma hung heavy in the air. I love the blowsy floriforousness of the camellias, rhodos, azaleas and magnolias in spring and high summer, but at this time of year there's something very lovely about the stillness and silence of a woodland preparing itself for the winter.
Beautiful silk-like bark

It was good to feel the warm sunshine when we emerged from the wood. We headed towards the lake passing a wonderful old tree with twisted and gnarled branches that perfectly framed a statue beyond.
Branches of gnarled tree touching the ground
View of statue through the branches

Then on around the lake, where this lovely old tree spreads its silver branches, sparkling like diamonds in the sunshine - with a double dose in its reflection on the water.
Sleeping ducks
It was a lazy day for the ducks too, they didn't move as I walked amongst them taking photos.
The Venetian Bridge
Capability Brown knew what he was doing when he designed the landscape here, the vistas are stunning. There's a fabulous sense of drama when you round a corner and suddenly see views like the Venetian Bridge and the Mausoleum.
The mausoleum
Some of you may remember Brideshead Revisited (shot at Castle Howard) and the beautiful shot of the horse-drawn hearse approaching the mausoleum?
Castle Howard
As we headed back, I turned around and caught sight of this dazzling view of the big house - very dramatic with the rainclouds threatening.
Timber monster

Love the swirling trunk
Wonderful habitat for wildlife
Passing these old trees, which probably came down in the great storm of October 1987, we reminisced about the good times many kids must have had playing in and on them over the years.
Dog roses and hips in the hedgerow
Waterlilies were conspicuous by their absence on the majestic lakes, but when we got back they were still happily blooming in Kate's little pond.  Maybe there are a few more weeks of summer left?
A spritzer in the conservatory beneath the swelling grapes hit the spot on our return...
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... contemplating the view over to the Temple of the Four Winds.
Temple of the Four Winds
Still more webwork to be done, but for now, life is good!


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