We usually take at least a week off at this time of year – always Mark's birthday week and usually the week before or after too. This year, it was just the birthday week and it was a week of two very distinct halves, as far as the weather was concerned. Monday and Tuesday was all about rain and going nowhere. Wednesday wasn't awfully different, but we'd had enough of being shut in and so took ourselves off to Anglesey Abbey for the day.
This wasn't our first visit there, but it was certainly the quietest! Last time we visited was around the same time of year, but it was a lovely day and the place was absolutely mobbed with people. Although it rained on the drive there and was chucking it down when we parked up, the weather broke just as we stepped into the grounds and stayed dry for the rest of our time there. How lucky?! The sky was grey and wet looking, but we enjoyed a lovely long walk around the huge gardens and park, where there's plenty to see. One of my favourites is the cyclamen walk where the broad tree lined pathway is bordered by a carpet of pink and white cyclamens. My photo is very poor quality, but you get the idea!
The formal gardens are much less my kind of thing, but they're very well planned out and there seems to be a statue around every corner:
Wall to wall dahlias are another big attraction – although these were past their best and a little off limits due to muddy lawns:
The white birches at Angelsey really are a bit of a cliche photographically speaking, but I couldn't resist anyway. What I really love about these trees is their incredibly smooth and tactile bark – with trees like these, I'm completely sold on the concept of tree hugging:
My picture of the mill that lives in the grounds is particularly soggy, although the greenery is still so lush looking. I'd love to go back when Autumn is firmly set in and on a day when the sky is blue!
The parkland is dotted with features like the Jubilee walk:
And was certainly getting into the Autumn spirit with piles of golden leaves everywhere:
It wasn't until we were back in the gardens and walking one of the many little pathways that take you from one formal garden area to another, that I actually stopped and looked at one of the large horse chestnut trees. We'd been surrounded by them for hours but taking little notice of them really – it's not until you're up close that you think about the vast size of them. I've tried this shot upwards with my camera phone a number of times, but it's never worked before – I really like this shot, the tree looks powerful and a little bit magical (I read Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree many times as a child)…
We had a bite of lunch and went for a look around the house. I like that you go into this house by the side door and come out at the tradesmans' entrance around the back. The original priory was built in the 12th century and was converted to a country house around 1600. Its last owner occupier was Lord Fairhaven who lived a luxurious life there from the 1930s and left the house to the National Trust, who have kept the house as it was when he died. This was our second look round and this time, with far fewer people, it was really nice.
Thursday was Mark's birthday and he must truly be righteous since the sun shone beautifully all day! His number one favourite place to go is the seaside and as I quite like it too, that's where we went. We headed up to the North Norfolk coast in the morning and straight to the Blakeney National Nature Reserve, famous for winter breeding grey seals. When we arrived at the car park at Morston Quay, we were pleasantly surprised by how quiet it was and less pleasantly surprised by how muddy and unattractive the area appears at first sight! Not to be put off by that, we headed off over the salt marshes and were rewarded by some lovely coastal views:
The seals are on the beach on the far horizon – we could just see them and we could certainly hear them singing. The salt marshes are alive with birds as well and we found a nice sandy hillock to sit and eat lunch on. The only way to see the seals close up is to go on a boat trip and as we walked back across the marshes to the quay area, we found hundreds of people queing up to do just that and the car park now completely rammed with cars and coaches. Whilst I could see the attraction of going off to see the seals on a little boat with a handful of people, a super sized boat overflowing with people wasn't that attractive, so we gave that a miss. The highlight of this visit was probably a schoolboy called Albion who we saw trailing some distance behind his group towards the boats. Albion had quite clearly been shoved into his quilted jacket and swaddled with a winter scarf and hat set against his will – he certainly didn't have the look of an outdoorsy child and whined constantly as he dragged his feet in an exaggerated stompy walk for a short distance before throwing himself (with total commitment) to the floor and announcing that he was "just exhausted". Excellent 😀
We had been toying with the idea of visiting Holkham Hall while we were in the area, but as we wouldn't have time that day to explore it thoroughly, we went to their beach instead. £3.50 for the car park almost put us off, but I'm glad it didn't – what a beach! The car park is really a couple of long verges either side of a long road with fields of grazing cattle on either side. You then walk up into a pine forest which, it turns out, runs along the sides of the vast beach, which is something of a surprise as you come to it through the trees:
There were quite a lot of cars in the car park, but plenty of room for everyone on the beach, with masses to spare!
We had a lovely walk to the sea and wandered around the beach for a while before heading back home. We'll definitely be going back there again next year to see the house and do the coastal walk.
I suppose that if you're going to have a holiday week of two halves, it is preferable to have the good half at the end 😀