Today is a Bank Holiday, and we had planned to have a lovely day out - the seaside perhaps or somewhere a bit further afield. However, we were all more tired than we thought and had a lie-in this morning. One peek out of the windows told us that it was not the sunshiny day we'd been hoping for, oh no. Very grey skies and drizzle greeted us and we knew that we needed to adapt our plans. B and D were busy so that left P, J and I - so we decided to use our National Trust membership again to go to one of our old haunts, Stourhead.
It's not too far from here and we've been many times since the children were little. Although the house itself is well worth a visit, it's the garden that we always head for as it's a fabulous 18th-century landscape garden with a lake, grotto, temples, and all sorts of interesting features. We arrived in time to have a late lunch in the lovely cafe there, and then headed off into the garden. As you can see, it was a pretty gloomy afternoon.
As always, my attention was instantly drawn to any flowers which I could find, and I wasn't disappointed - just look at all of these primroses.
They're such sweet little plants, neat and cheerful with their nodding pale yellow flowers and soft green leaves. They really make me smile!
These gorgeous dark hellebores called me to them.
I bent and lifted the flowers and marvelled at their deep, rich colour. I really must get a dark one for our garden one day!
In spring the gardens at Stourhead are full of rhododendrons, and despite the low light levels they were very bright today. I'm not a huge fan of them but really did enjoy their exuberance.
These pale sugar-pink ones are delicate and frilly.
And these red ones instantly reminded me of the 'fifty-foot-high' rhododendrons in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca:
'on either side of us was a wall of colour, blood red, reaching far above our heads... they started me with their crimson faces, massed one upon the other in incredible red, luscious and fantastic'.
In the novel they are sinister and intimidating, but on this almost monochrome day I welcomed their intensity.
What a shot of colour on a dull, wet day!
I spotted this gorgeous delicately striped camelia, so well set off by its glossy green leaves.
Around the next bend a wonderful view of the lake came into view with one of the estate's temples high on the hill and a lovely magnolia in bloom below us.
A sugary pink magnolia was growing nearby next to a red rhodoendron.
A more delicate relative of the rhododendron, this azalea looked more graceful than its cousin, and was a very pretty shade of pink.
Compared with all of that bright colour, this pure white magnolia looked very striking. When I see magnolias I'm always reminded that they are apparently pollinated by beetles - not sure why I remember that fact.
By now the rain was coming down in quite a heavy drizzle and it was pretty squelchy underfoot (by the way I don't have mismatched walking boots - one of our youngsters borrowed them for a Duke of Edinburgh expedition a few years ago and as a result one boot ended up very faded!).
Looking across the lake, the rain fell harder and the colours of the landscape became more subdued.
I never fail to enjoy the elegance of this view, but we enjoyed it fairly quickly because it was definitely time to walk back. I'll show you the rest of the lake and gardens another time on a drier day.
As we walked back up the hill we passed some sheep and were enchanted by two lambs. They were doing that thing that lambs do, gamboling and springing around - it really was very sweet indeed.
As you know, I'm not great at capturing photos of wildlife but I had to include a couple of fuzzy close-ups of the lambs - aaaah!
Afterwards we went home and dried off, finishing the day with hot cross buns for tea. I would show you a photo, but they were eaten fairly quickly! Hope you had a good Good Friday too x