The lake at Wimpole Hall in glorious winter sunshine with hardly a soul about, but the day didn't start like that.
The Hall itself is closed for the winter and the statues and stonework are all snugly wrapped up against the frost. The formal gardens are also in hibernation but the National Trust keeps the extensive grounds open for walkers to explore at this less crowded time of year. So it was a surprise, and a shock, to find a seemingly endless stream of buses and cars pursuing me as I pedalled my bicycle up the drive. "Schools' cross-country running championships!", the lady at the car park told me.
I thought I'd walk up to the lakes anyway and hope it was not on the route of the race, even though the sky was grey, obscuring the sun that had been forecast.
I soon forgot about the runners and indeed I saw nothing more of them; by the time I got back after my walk their buses had departed and they were no doubt back at school enjoying their school dinners - everything tastes better after a run in the cold!
Besides these two fine swans there was a lot of bird-life around the lakes - Tufted Ducks, Mallard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Coot, Greylag Geese, Black-Headed Gulls, Jay, Green Woodpecker and Treecreeper.
Eventually after much hanging about and waiting the sun came out, suddenly there were clear blue skies, though it was still chilly.
These are not natural lakes but were formed by the damming of a small stream as part of the landscaping of the park by Capability Brown. “We tread Enchanted Ground... Mr. Brown has been leading me such a Fairy Circle and his Magic Wand has raised such landscapes to the Eye...” wrote Jemima, Marchioness de Grey.
In 1751 designs had been drawn up for a "castle ruin" by Sanderson Miller, who was the leading designer of such "follies". It was eventually built as part of Capability Brown's plan. In recent times the Folly had been neglected so that the make-believe ruin was in danger of becoming a real one. However, at considerable cost, it has now been made safe so that visitors can once again wander beneath its towers and arches.
Up behind the Folly there's a belt of woodland atop the low hills. It was also part of the grand design for the grounds though now is an important refuge for wildlife - nothing obvious or spectacular but a habitat for beetles, bats, bugs and birdlife as well as lots of fabulous fungi...
The path winds through the trees cresting small rises and then descending into muddy bottoms until it suddenly emerges into open country.
I think I always take a picture from this spot, overlooking Cobb's Wood Farm, whenever I pass this way.
Then I rejoined the minor road back to the Hall.