Thursday, 29 December 2011

Wimpole Ruins

On the hill behind Wimpole Hall stand the imposing remains of a castle. At least, that's what you're supposed to think. It was very much to romantic taste to have a ruined castle overlooking ones estate and if there wasn't a convenient ruin then you had one built. If you wanted a true top-notch ruin then you commissioned Sanderson Miller, the best architect of romantic ruins to design it. And that is exactly what the 1st Earl of Hardwicke did in 1759. It was built in 1770 when Capability Brown, the greatest landscape gardener of the time, landscaped the park.

I began my walk at the Hall itself in blustery, drizzly weather, crossing the wide pastures and descending to the lake.

Every garden had to have a lake too and, you've guessed it, there wasn't one handy so the Earl had one made by having a small stream dammed. In fact they dammed it twice to create two lakes; they didn't do things by halves. Mandarin Ducks appear on the lake from time to time but today there were only Moorhens, Canada Geese, Tufted Ducks. a single Pochard and a couple of young Swans.

The wind began to break up the cloud layer as I neared the ruin, or more correctly, the folly since that's the correct name for such artificial structures.

The National Trust, who own the estate, won't let you get too near to the folly as it is in real danger of becoming a proper ruin and falling down on unsuspecting visitors.

The observant will realise that you were never intended to get close; for, although the front of the building is of fine stone, its backside is shamefully made from cheap bricks!

I continued on my way in the rain for the clouds had now rolled in again and reached an area of woodland known as The Belts. Woodland was another important element in the ideal Picturesque Landscape. Do I need to tell you that the wood was created to complete the illusion?

Flocks of small birds made their way through the trees and a Buzzard cried overhead. But when not gazing upwards through the binoculars I was kneeling in the damp leaves photographing little details like these fungi which resembled butterflies perching on the rotting wood...

...beautiful colours...

 ...or else examining the grasses and fallen trees at the edge of the wood.

Then I was out in the open country again watching flocks of Fieldfares. A Sparrowhawk hunted along the hedge and hares bounded away across the fields. Short-Eared Owls have been seen around here recently but not today.

Eventually I descended to Cobb's Wood Farm where my progress was observed by an inquisitive equine. A little further along I came upon a rapidly decaying house and outbuildings. There always seems to be some kind of renovation going on here but unless they hurry up they could well be defeated by the natural deterioration caused by time.

And from there it was but a short stroll back the Wimpole Hall where my faithful bicycle awaited me.

Take care.


  1. How sad that little house looks and it would be a lovely home if someone would just bring it back to life again. I really love that photo of the tree against the sky, it's beautiful.

  2. I like the photo of the tree too! It looks like a beautiful walk.

  3. I'm getting confused now, John. Is the derelict house near the end truly derelict or was it built that way as part of the folly.

  4. A wonderful walk with lots of interesting sights along the way - I can't believe they actually built this fake ruin and now it's become a real ruin.
    Wishing you a healthy & safe New Year John and looking forward to more of your country walks in 2012

  5. Nice tour, John. Makes me wish I could have tagged along. That third photograph is another masterful tree silhouette, although I do much prefer this one in color as you presented it. The patchwork of clouds against the blue sky makes for a very interesting photograph. I also liked the term "folly." It well sums up what folks with too much money are tempted to do with their excess. It's comforting to know that my "follies" are held in check by my relatively limited financial resources. Jim

  6. What an amazing walk John, and so very interesting. Jack's comment made me laugh, what is real and not! Love the images from the 'woodlands', the butterfly looking fungi are pretty special. I have to say I'm terribly envious of the walks you can go on around the UK.

  7. Thanks for everyone's comments throughout the year.
    You're confused, Jack, but how about the builders who get brought in from time to time to maintain the folly as a ruin! The sky in the tree shot didn't look anything special till I looked at it through the wide end of the zoom, then there was just a hint of structure to the chaos. Luckily the parkland has plenty of large, isolated trees....The house at the end of the walk is actually quite large which seems to be the problem; someone lives in one end of it and doesn't seem to have time or resources enough to complete the renovation. Sad.

  8. I love your ramblings around the country side. I remember seeing Fieldfares in Iceland when I was stationed there for a year. Iceland was an amazing place to birdwatch. I would love to have a castle to visit here in Charleston, but alas, no luck :^)

  9. The last picture -- aren't these outbuilding by the old wood yard. I know the area well, a friends great grandfather and mother lived there, and though we called them (tool) sheds.

    In which case it's a shame really as they shouldn't be part of the NT estate, as Bambridge had intended to give the estates staff the properties. And the local administration of the NT at the time neglected them while they waited for the occupants to move out or pass away. And worse -- some of the renovation work done on them...has been quite bad.

    I actually think they would have been better preserved if they had been given to the occupants to maintain. Though somethings you can't see around there -- as they are lost to crouch grass and lawn is extensive cobbling.


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