Shugborough snaps

A first visit to the Staffordshire estate, former residence of a certain late well-known photographer. I’d better do my best today, but they’re only snapshots of a brief visit. There’s too much to see in a single afternoon – we’d better come again, perhaps mid-week when it might be quieter…

Shugborough Estate NT

Walled garden, snowdrops, deer

Attingham Park, in other words – walking out through the walled garden and the snowdrop woods, then around the perimeter of the park, along the path which passes through the deer sanctuary. Those in charge are keeping a wary eye on us, though they don’t seem worried.

Attingham Park NT


The sun was already low in the sky as we walked along the short path to Montgomery castle. It’s a good place for a cold afternoon – there’s no wind but it will be frosty when the sun gets lower. We’re soon warmed up again in the Ivy House – tea and Welsh cakes. An enjoyable outing!

Montgomery Castle CADW

Pumpkin time

We’re having a wander around Attingham Park. It’s dry and bright this afternoon (though breezy and chilly), and there’s a wonderful crop of pumpkins (some of them bearing messages) in the walled garden. There’s a rather fine colony of little pale toadstools on a stump in the woods, not to mention a large wooden frog.

Attingham Park NT

Acorn Bank

22 August: we’re heading north, and need a lunch break. Instead of motorway services, we take the Appleby road at Tebay, then the A66 to Temple Sowerby, for Acorn Bank gardens – and a light lunch, well away from the M6. Acorn Bank was home to poet Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, whose name is familiar to me – though I’ve no idea why.

Acorn Bank NT

The Walled Garden

Too warm for anything very energetic… A wander around Attingham Park, focusing on the colour in the walled garden.

Attingham Park NT

Buildwas and Cressage

Beside the Severn in Shropshire: a brief visit to Buildwas abbey, and a stroll along the river bank near Cressage.

Buildwas Abbey EH


This Elizabethan manor house in the Wenlock Edge’s Hope Dale, is a National Trust property – and a youth hostel. The steel-framed bunk beds may look incongruous in these timber-framed rooms, but it must be a great place to stay. We’re just passing, however – an hour is sufficient to explore the rambling and disorientating building, truly a 3D maze. Outside the house, Hope Dale is unbelievably quiet, and very green.

Wilderhope Manor YHA
Wilderhope Manor NT

Beside the Skell

The river Skell is perhaps best known (if at all) for flowing through the valley of Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal water gardens (a world heritage site, on account of the latter). It rises on the moors east of Nidderdale, and joins the Ure on the eastern edge of the city of Ripon (which is half the size of Beverley, the third-smallest city in England). We’ll start at the latter, for lunch down by the cathedral, followed by a visit to the restored canal basin. The canal, which takes its feed water from the Skell, closed in 1956 – forty years later, it had been re-connected to the inland waterways network.

It’s only a short drive to Fountains. The ruins need little introduction – the abbey is one of the largest and best-preserved of its kind, and particularly photogenic, even on a dull grey afternoon. There’s plenty to explore, and afterwards we walk the length of the water gardens, a very pleasant stroll which is concluded by fine views as we approach the abbey once more. Little more needs to be said – visit the NT site (below) for more.

Fountains Abbey (NT)


Tuesday am: We’re in Yorkshire for a few days – Wensleydale today, starting with the magnificent ruins of Middleham castle. It’s more colourful than we’d imagined – there are masses of pinky-purple flowers all over the stonework (“erinus alpinus”, also know as alpine balsam and fairy foxglove. I didn’t know that at the time…). This castle has an amazing assortment of dark nooks and crannies, making for a fascinating exploration. Afterwards, lunch at a small cafe across the road, where, sitting outside, we watch local life pass by – including numerous racehorses heading for, or returning from, the gallops nearby.

Middleham Castle English Heritage

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