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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Hopton Hall Snowdrops

On Wednesday morning, I took a bit of time off to enjoy the snowdrop walk at Hopton Hall, near Carsington Water in Derbyshire. A cock pheasant stood proudly on the wall above the entrance sign but unfortunately I wasn't able to get a picture. Every February, the gardens at Hopton are open to the public and there are stunning displays of snowdrops within the grounds. They bloom alongside aconites in large numbers amongst the trees. For me, the blossoming of snowdrops signifies the ending of winter rather than the beginning of spring. I know that frogspawn has already been appearing in some places in the south of England but here in Derbyshire it will be a few more weeks before it starts to feel like spring.
Snowdrops at Hopton Hall
There are several different varieties of snowdrop growing at Hopton. Some of them have double petals like the one pictured below but I think the prettiest and most elegant is the most common variety that you might see in any wood.
I have stated before on this blog that I really enjoy being in woodland and yesterday the sounds of blue tits, great tits and blackbirds came out of every tree, or so it seemed. There was also a treecreeper climbing a large trunk.
Fungus growing on a tree stump
As you follow the walk around the trees, you eventually come to a small pet cemetery. Here lie several animals kept by the Gell family in the early twentieth century. They include Boris, a Russian wolfhound "who met death beneath a motor car" in 1916.
Hopton Hall's pet cemetery
Before continuing the walk into the formal gardens, we popped into the tea room. I had a piece of homemade chocolate cake which was simply scrumptious. The tea room is in the hall's kitchen and pantry area. There are numerous hooks in the ceiling and along the beams where meat, game and poultry would be hung in times past. In my mind's eye I could see the kitchen staff busily preparing meals for the family and numerous guests.
After some refreshment, we off to the formal gardens. This is where you can see beautiful roses in the summer but there is still plenty of interest in February. The wall at the top of the garden is what is known as a "crinkle-crankle". This south-facing, curved wall is designed to maximise the light and heat needed to grow fruit trees.
There is also a large wildlife pond. A tawny owl hooted in the trees just behind it but didn't show itself. A solitary swan glided over the water and there was the odd coot and moorhen.
The duck house and pond
It's always fascinating to visit old houses and their gardens as there is so much history to these places. I definitely recommend Hopton Hall but there are only a few days left if you want to see the snowdrops this year. The walk will close on the 1st March (Sunday) but the gardens will be open again in June. You can find more information here. In the meantime, I will get back to my stitching. I am currently working on a flower but it couldn't look more different from a snowdrop. When it is ready you will see it on this blog.

All photos (c) Karen Eley 2015

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