The ground is carpeted thick with leaves, brown and red and orange; curling up and crackling underfoot like flames, licking out at my ankles. Overhead the gentle thwack of feathers as a bright green parakeet takes cover high in the treetops, blending in among the green and yellow. The air is cold and crisp yet the sun shines hotly, filtering through the trees and dappling everything with a warm glow.
Walking through the park at lunchtime is a calming experience, especially now that Autumn has arrived.
Last week I was feeling rather ill and sorry for myself – after a whole Friday spent laying listlessly in bed I desperately needed to do something that would cheer me up. When Saturday arrived it was cold, but with brilliant sunshine – the perfect Autumn morning. And although I still felt rather under the weather, I couldn’t waste the day – we decided to pay a visit to the British Wildlife Centre.
Without realising it, I think I had become a bit disheartened with it all, as is not too uncommon a feeling for me. My lack of motivation combined with my low mood led to my writing and photography hiatus – it wasn’t intentional, but I can’t say I actively fought with the apathy. If you’re a creative in any sense of the word, you’ll be familiar with the feeling i’m describing.
On Sunday morning we awoke to sunshine and cold, blue skies; it felt like a day for adventure. Having spent our Saturday in a state of blissful laziness, we decided this day would be perfect for a walk- and Woburn Abbey Deer Park was on our list.
Gareth and I just recently bought our very first home. Located in St Neots, it’s a little further afield than I am accustomed to and, whilst I feel excited to be moving, I am not without apprehension too. To make the transition a little easier Gareth and I have spent a couple of weekends exploring St Neots and the surrounding areas. Where we currently live I am spoiled by lush green country parks and woodland. I spend a great deal of time walking in these spaces, feeding the deer and spotting nature.
Naturally I am quite sad to wave goodbye to my favourite haunts however there is one major draw to our new location; The Lodge. Situated a town over, the Lodge is the RSPB headquarters. We are RSPB members and always enjoy exploring new reserves so we were very keen to check this one out. Last weekend we collected up my younger brother Ben and my mum and we did just that!
I have always thought that it is difficult to take photographs of beautiful things; what you can capture with the camera lens is invariably different to what you can see with your own two eyes. I actually find it a lot easier to take ordinary or even ugly things and snap them in a flattering light. Anyway, I knew this would be the case when we visited Hever Castle because quite frankly the place is amazing.
Childhood home to Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle is situated in Hever, Kent and stands proudly on 125 acres of grounds and award-winning gardens. It was actually the latter that attracted us to Hever Castle in the first place as we both love to walk through manicured gardens and I adore looking at flowers. On Sunday the sun was shining and it was incredibly warm for so early in April; it was the perfect day to pay a visit.
Entrance in to the grounds and castle is quite steep at £16.90 per adult but let me be upfront about it; it’s so worth it.
Entering the grounds I was immediately enamoured with the gardens. Even so early in to Spring such a lot of work had gone in to them. Tulips bobbed in the breeze, roses were blooming and the air was thick with the scent of lavender. Upon entering we walked through the walled gardens which were immaculately kept and very impressive.
We walked through these gardens for a little while, taking in the surroundings and marvelling at just how nice everything was (me desperate to capture a shot of a bee.) On our walk we discovered that there archery lessons going on in one of the fields. There is a small fee for those who want to take part but you choose how many arrows you want to pay for and it’s very reasonably priced. Naturally Gareth wanted to have a go at this despite my protests about my lack of hand/eye coordination. In the end I relented and it was a lot of fun (even if I was utterly hopeless.) One of the great things about Hever Castle is that there is a lot to do with mazes, archery, craft activities and more to keep you occupied for the whole day; it’s a true family day out.
Afterwards we stopped for lunch at the one of the restaurants. I believe there are three of these, each serving delicious food from stone baked pizzas to handmade sausage rolls, sandwiches and cold lemonade. We ate on the grass in the sunshine.
Later we explored the water maze which was a really fun little attraction that seemed to amuse all the children; Gareth and myself included. We were definitely giggling as we tried to avoid the spouts of water that jetted up randomly as we navigated our way to the centre and safety. I’m proud to report that we remained completely dry.
Finally we stopped for ice creams (our first of the year; mine wild strawberry and cream his chocolate) before heading inside the castle. At first we were not sure if we should skip it, having spent a long afternoon walking through the gardens. Eventually we decided to venture inside as we had paid for it and didn’t want to miss it if it was particularly stunning.
The castle has a rich history spanning over 700 years so it is definitely not one to miss. Inside the castle walls are beautifully decorated bedrooms, elegant libraries and dining rooms. There is definitely a feeling of opulence about the place but that aside it’s just really interesting to imagine Anne Boleyn growing up in a space like that (and then imagining yourself growing up in a space like that.)
Overall we had a fantastic day at Hever Castle and I can’t recommend it enough. From the vibrant flowers bordering the gardens to the magnificent castle and all the interesting activities to immerse yourself in; there truly is something to please and delight everyone. I can’t wait to pay another visit to this wonderful place.
Weald is one of my favourite country parks and for good reason; whether you’re walking in Autumn, Winter, Spring or Summer it’s really beautiful and there’s plenty to see.
On Sunday I found myself home alone and without any plans. I hadn’t visited Weald this year and with the sun shining down I decided it would be a good time to take a walk.
If you have read my Spring Appreciation Post you’ll know that this season is one of my favourites. I just love all the flora and fauna that’s around this time of year. I knew that Weald would be just lovely.
With the sun warming my skin I walked down towards the deer enclosure and the vast lake at the bottom of the hill. I always like to visit the deer when at Weald as they are such sweet little creatures. You can actually buy food to feed them with at the cafe. Lots of families had spent the morning feeding the deer though, so instead of desperately seeking out the pellets in visitors hands, the deer basked in the warmth- clearly overfed! (So I didn’t bother to buy any deer food on this particular trip.)
After spending some time watching the deer and the ducks I decided to head back up the hill to the little cafe and get myself something to eat. The cafe sells lots of goodies; soft plush animals, books and pin badges. I purchased a cup of sweet tea and a generously sized scone with butter and jam. I took my food outside and ate at one of the benches as the weather was so pleasant.
Weald is composed of many rolling hills and hollows, meadows and woodland. After eating and still clutching my cup of tea, I trundled up another hill and some concrete steps to reach a wooded area where the floor was littered with buttery yellow daffodils and soft green moss.
Weald was very busy with families playing football, flying kites and picnicking. Laughter and children’s excited squeals were carried on the gentle breeze and I could feel my mood lighten as I took in the scenes unfolding around me. Blossoms had started to bloom and Weald was a riot of colour once again.
As I mentioned earlier, there is plenty to see at Weald; all that’s required is a keen eye. I spotted lots of different types of fungi, flowers and plants. As I stooped to snap a cluster of mushrooms a young child approached me and asked me what I was taking a picture of. As I pointed out the mushrooms the child exclaimed in delight “I’ve never seen mushrooms outside before!” His mother helpfully reminded him that they weren’t edible (thank God for responsible adults.)
I walked for around two hours, taking time to sit and soak in my surroundings every now and then. I left Weald feeling much happier and positive. More Spring walks are definitely in the pipeline and I can’t wait to get my picnic basket out again!
Sunlight filters through lush green leaves and the sky is a brilliant blue, dappled with soft, lazy clouds. The scent of lavender hangs on the crisp air and birds can be heard singing and chirping from high above. Everywhere you look there is life and colour; Spring heralds a new season and new beginnings.
There’s something about the seasons Autumn and Spring that speaks deeply to my soul. One brings death, the other brings birth; both bring a spectacular change in the flora and fauna around us. Both dazzle me with their beauty.
And there’s something about Spring that always makes me feel like I have a fresh start. A fresh chance to take adventures, appreciate natural beauty and find inner peace. March through to July are happy, calm months for me. I enjoy sitting outside in the comfortable climate and soaking up my surroundings. Walks in the countryside are particularly pleasing; I still feel a thrill every time I see a white cotton tail darting out of sight or spot some delicate crocuses pushing through the soil to soak up the sun.
The moment I spot daffodils I feel that Spring is on its way in. The buttery yellow flowers are symbolic of the changing of seasons to me, and I love how cheerful and bright they make everything seem. I love the flowers that begin to bloom as it gets warmer, and the heavily scented blossoms that hang from the trees. I love to watch the butterflies finally emerge with their powdery wings, and the bees buzzing between the flower beds and borders of a beautifully manicured garden. Most of all I love to watch the birds collect twigs and straw to make their nests, raise their young and start to fill the mornings with their beautiful song.
Spring feels like a gasp of fresh air after the dark nights, stark trees and bitter chill of Winter. It is a beautiful season and it is almost upon us. Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how wonderful that is?
The ground was thick with frost this morning, but with the brilliant sunshine beaming down and chasing away the cold it was a lovely time to take a walk. We decided to visit Langdon Nature Reserve as we have driven past it a few times but have never stopped to take a proper look, plus it is only a short 15 minute drive from our house which makes it ideal.
The Essex Wildlife Trust reserve is set on 461 acres of woodland, meadows and former plot land gardens and at the very heart sits a huge, glassy lake, filled with ducks and water fowl.
A shop and cafe are nestled in the parking lot. We did not stop to eat here but we did take a quick peek and it looked very cosy, serving cakes, sandwiches and crisps as well as the all essential garden bird feeders and fat balls.
Next to the cafe/shop was a small manicured garden with benches and lots of bird feeders. We spotted plenty of plump, well fed robins as well as blue tits, great tits, sparrows and dunnocks. Areas with bird feeders are always my favourite so we spent a lot of time here, lurking around and listening to the birds.
Walking through the reserve we spotted lots of different species of birds – some we couldn’t identify, as well as a little mouse/water vole (I couldn’t get close enough to check!) The area was abundant with wildlife with the lake being a real hub for water fowl. The lake had actually frozen over from the cold and the ducks looked quite happy to skid and flap across the ice.
The park also has a wonderful Peter Rabbit trail to keep younger minds occupied and happy. As someone who read and adored Peter Rabbit and friends as a child, I myself really enjoyed wandering around and spotting the beautiful wooden sculptures. Mrs Tiggy Winkle was always my favourite so I was delighted to find her!
All in all we spent an hour at Langdon Nature Reserve and really enjoyed it. The mix of open fields / woodlands and water worked really well making it a good all round country park to walk in with something interesting to spot around every corner. In the summer time there is fruit picking in the orchard with apples, pears, cherries and more – so I will definitely be heading back then to pick some fruit!
A few weekends ago we decided to make the 50 minute drive to RHS Garden Wisley. You may have read about our trip to RHS Hyde Hall recently (if not you can read about it here!) We were so impressed and had such a nice time that we thought we’d visit some more of the RHS gardens.
Entry to RHS Garden Wisley costs £11.70 per adult IF you buy in advance online. (We didn’t do this but I recommend it.)
Upon entering the gardens I was immediately very impressed with them. There’s some beautiful landscaping and the gardens are larger than those at Hyde Hall with separate areas for different shrubs/heather etc.
My favourite part of the gardens were at the start. The gardens rise up in tiers with concrete steps leading up a hill to further levels and rock gardens. Amongst the rock gardens are some very pretty streams/ponds and waterfalls. At the top you get a magnificent view of the whole park including the greenhouse.
One thing we really liked about the gardens were the variety of plants including all the pretty wildflowers which added splashes of colour to every walkway and path.
RHS Wisley has a greenhouse (which I can liken to that of Kew Gardens.) Inside is an assortment of trees, ferns, cacti and succulents and a big waterfall at the heart. This area is set out very well enabling you to get around efficiently and see everything you’d want to.
There are several lakes and ponds winding through Wisley and the added water features provide plenty of space for ducks and various water fowl.
One area we found ourselves particularly attracted to was the heather garden which had a beautiful aroma and plenty of colour. At the end of these gardens is a wonderful bird lookout from which we spotted goldfinch. We didn’t get much time to spend in the hide so I’d like to go back again with my camera and see what I can snap!
Both of us absolutely loved RHS Wisley and can’t recommend it enough. It’s a large garden but two hours should be sufficient enough to see the majority of it making it a great day out for families with younger children. It’s particularly interesting to those with a passion for ornithology or those who enjoy getting back to nature and spending time somewhere particularly beautiful.
Today we woke up and decided upon adventure. Our last few weekends have been lovely but incredibly lazy and we thought it time we got out exploring again. Luckily for me the weather was somewhat overcast (perfect for healing tattooed arms) yet warm with a cool breeze. After some researching we settled on RHS Garden Hyde Hall because it’s a 20 minute drive from us, a relatively cheap day out and because we’d almost visited before – before turning away at the last moment.
I have to say, I may have just found my new favourite place in Essex! I am so glad we paid a visit.
Upon arrival the staff were very helpful, explaining to us where everything was and highlights of the park. We were handed a map and headed off in search of flowers! The garden itself is not huge although it is a good size with plenty to see and explore. If you’re going to pay a visit an ideal amount of time to allocate to your trip would be about 3-4 hours. You can easily explore the gardens in around 2 hours but if you want to take your time (and lots of photos) it’s best to allow for a little more than that.
The gardens are divided up in to sections, with a large pond and converted barn at the very heart. The converted barn cafe is a gorgeous building strung with fairy lights and serving fresh handmade cakes, sandwiches, soups and more. I tried the Victoria sponge with a cup of tea whilst Gareth went for chocolate – we were both surprised and delighted with our choices – if you’re paying a visit to RHS gardens I can’t recommend the cake enough!
The gardens are full to the brim with beautiful flowers, sprawling herbaceous borders, shrubs and fragrant pines. Alongside all this natural beauty you will find a plethora of birds including goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, sparrows, pigeons, song thrushes and many many more. I happily snapped away at as many birds as I could – feeling particularly excited at spotting some goldfinches.
We spent a good few hours in the gardens just marvelling at how beautiful everything was. Both myself and my lovely boyfriend were very impressed and will be visiting again. I took far too many photos to edit, but here’s a snapshot of our day.
On Sunday we were blessed with lovely sunny weather so we decided to make the most of our RSPB memberships and head over to Rainham Marshes reserve. The marshes were absolutely fantastic and whilst I didn’t get the shots I wanted, I did get to see a lot of wildlife and my most favourite- goldfinches! For anyone wanting to visit Rainham Marshes for the purpose of bird-watching I cannot recommend it enough. It is a lovely area also so if you’re not interested in the birds you’d still get a lot of enjoyment out of the walk. When I return I will make sure to take photos of everything and review it properly but for now here are some quick shots of the kind of wildlife you can expect to find there!
I have wanted to visit Kew Gardens for a good few years now but have always put it off for some reason or the other. However, my current job permits me free entry and the weekend before last (with the sunny weather) was the perfect opportunity to finally make that trip. It’s taken me a little while to get around to blogging about it, mostly because of how many pictures I took (and therefore had to edit- lazy, sorry!)
We drove down to Kew Gardens in the car – there isn’t really a specific car park or parking – you can park along outside the walls of the garden. Not ideal and we have read this gets busy very quickly. Luckily we arrived early, around ten and we managed to park okay- so if you’re planning on driving to Kew Gardens I’d recommend getting there nice and early!
When we arrived it was lovely and sunny and the air was unexpectedly warm for late March. Both my partner and I were able to enter for free which was a lovely perk. Upon entering these vast gardens we were met with an appealing sight for the eyes, a beautiful lake and carefully arranged beds of flowers.
By the lake there was a big glass structure- a tropical house filled with exotic palms and greenery. Inside was really hot and steamy, with water dripping from plant tendrils and thick air fogging up my camera lens. Because of this all of my pictures are a little foggy! I think it illustrates perfectly what it was like to be inside though.
Rambling through the greenhouse it felt like we were exploring some exotic forest. Among all the lush green foliage was an array of unusual plants and seed pods which were all very interesting to observe.
From here we walked past the lake and through to another large glass building – the structure much like a greenhouse. This was divided up in to sections, such as ‘desert’. We wandered through cacti patches (my favourites) and beautiful lush ferns. At the centre of the greenhouse was a large pond filled with darting fish and lillie pads.
After our stroll through the green house we were decidedly hungry and set out in search of a cafe. Walking through Kew Gardens you get to see some really beautiful scenery – tall trees and carpets of flowers.
At the cafe (which I believe is reasonably priced) we stopped for lunch. This was a fantastic cafe with a great selection of hot food as well as freshly prepared cakes, packed lunches and more. Gareth had sausage and chips whilst I had the child’s packed lunch! Don’t be fooled though, the packed lunch was filled with delicious goodies and I was quite full after eating it!
After lunch we strolled through the gardens with no real plan set in mind – just soaking up the sunshine and our beautiful surroundings. We were fortunate enough to spot a beautiful woodpecker.
Eventually we came to a bamboo garden. This, as you can imagine – was filled with bamboo – The Minka House – which is a traditional Japanese farmhouse – also stands here.
From here we crossed the river. Looking at our map we decided to head towards the treetop walk where we would get a lovely view of the entire gardens.
As you can see, the tree top walk (pictured above) is pretty high up. Once at the top I was a lot less interested in the view than I had anticipated and concerned myself more with keeping my balance! I never really thought I had a problem with heights, but the metal flooring is pretty rickety (albeit very safe and secure I’m sure) I wussed out! And whilst I did make it the whole way round I certainly wasn’t snapping any pictures OR letting go of the railing!
Back on solid ground we rested a little before heading to yet another green house. There are many of these dotted about, but the largest one of all was closed during our visit. The main attraction of this green house was the big pond in the centre, and the lillie pads and flowers that grew there.
Back outside again I snapped every flower I could possibly find as we walked. There were a great many trees laden with blossom which was beautiful to see swaying in the breeze. Flower beds were all neatly manicured and the colours were very pretty and spring appropriate.
The last port of call for us was the rock garden. Upon entering this part of Kew Gardens we were greeted by a brilliant blue peacock sunning itself on a rock! Being a bird person, this was particularly exciting for me to see.
The rock garden was filled with lovely plants, flowers and shrubs as well as tumbling water features. Towards the end of the garden a small green house sits. Inside are beautiful plants – some potted, some growing in the earth.
After this we decided to call it a day as we were both really tired from all the walking we had done! I had a wonderful time at Kew Gardens and can’t recommend it enough. We didn’t even get around half of the gardens so we’ll definitely be back to see the rest of it when the weather is warmer and the flowers are fully in bloom. Spring at Kew is beautiful however so I definitely think it’s worth a visit this time of year. If you’re planning a visit make sure you set aside a whole day to explore – the Gardens are really large and there’s a lot to see!
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a proper day out. When we were living in London we spent almost every weekend ferrying ourselves in to Essex and beyond for big adventures but since moving to Brentwood we have been enjoying a slower pace of life and the ample countryside around us. Yesterday however we had the itch to explore and because I have wanted to visit Tropical Wings for awhile we decided it would be a good destination.
Tropical Wings is a small zoo with a family focus and it is located in South Woodham Ferrers. It’s very reasonably priced costing £10.95 per adult and £8.95 for kids. Of course, we unlike most at the zoo, did not (and do not) have kids…but I just really like wildlife and getting the opportunity to use my camera! So don’t be put off of going if you don’t have children.
The zoo itself is quite small but it’s a good size. You can get around all of it (at a moderate pace) in around an hour to two hours (we were there for the latter) and there’s a lot of really interesting animals there. If you want to see the bigger animals such as lions, zebra and hippos this probably is not the zoo for you. However it did have a plethora of interesting creatures including wallabies, Capybara, birds of prey, otters etc as well as farmyard animals and the more traditional ‘pet’ animals such as rabbits, guineapigs and chickens. The animals are really well kept too with ‘natural’ enclosures and plenty of space which was nice to see. The grounds are well maintained, everything is clean and it’s a really great place to visit. With some of the smaller zoos the upkeep isn’t always great, but Tropical Wings was really nice.
We started out in the butterfly house. In there it was very warm and there were hundreds of gorgeous butterflies floating around and landing on unsuspecting visitors! This was a highlight of Tropical Wings for me. We even spotted some quail (and as you may know, I love quail!) and some exotic birds which I couldn’t identify. I love having the aspect of walking around with animals and insects flying about doing their thing. Although some of the parents in there were rude and it made me cringe when one man in particular pushed a buggy out through the doors releasing at least two beautiful blue butterflies in to the cold. I hope those were put back in – and I’m sure they were, it just annoyed me a little to see someone be so inconsiderate!
From here we moved on to the birds of the world section. Naturally this was always going to be my favourite, but when I saw there were zebra finches I was even more excited! I know what you’re thinking. I have a whole charm of the creatures myself at home/why would I pay to see them. And yes, that’s true but zebra finches are amazing little creatures and it’s really interesting to see a big aviary of them together. There were a lot of chestnut flanked zebs in there too. I could easily have taken a pocketful of them home. I didn’t though!
Whilst wandering around we came across a great many unusual creatures, some of which I (sadly) couldn’t identify. Luckily for us the animal enclosures were all accompanied by signs that identified the animals and highlighted some interesting facts. I really should have jotted these down for the more unusual creatures however being the organised person I am, I didn’t!
As we walked around we came across a North American Turkey that was really friendly. He came right up to us and seemed very interested in my camera! If you visit the zoo make sure to say hi to him. Turkeys aren’t necessarily the most beautiful or exotic of animals, but this little guy had a big personality and it really shined through.
The zoo also has a wallaby/Mara walk-through. This was particularly fun and it was lovely to see a wallaby with a little baby stuffed in her pouch!
Finally we ended up in what I’d call the pets/farmyard corner. As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of chickens, goats, rabbits, guineapigs etc. I believe that they have a corner where you can experience the animals and hold them (don’t quote me on this!) But that wasn’t an option when we were there. If it was I would have definitely snuggled the bunnies!
All in all we both had a great time at the zoo and I couldn’t recommend it enough. If you’re thinking of taking a visit, you can find the website here
This last picture is not from inside the zoo, but just outside. I absolutely love sparrows and there was a great many of them flying about and making nests. The whole site feels very natural and that’s just one of the reasons it’s so lovely.