It should be easy enough: go out on a sunny day to Lynford Arboretum in Norfolk and photograph the autumn colours.
But, while glancing through some of the many books and websites that inform this blog, I noticed that the church in the scarcely discernible village of Cranwich looked interesting. We could pop in there on the way.
And what a gem it is. A Saxon church with a round tower and a thatched roof set back off the road in an oasis of greenery. It's a church that could easily have fallen into disuse; its small and aging congregation could never have been expected to keep it in good repair. However a grant from the charity English Heritage sparked renewed interest in the building.
Everything I read online said it was open every day, but when we got to the porch we found the door firmly locked. Perhaps the keyholder was lingering over their bacon and eggs this morning....oh well, off to the arboretum.
Sun was streaming through to illuminate the maple leaves, though photographing the wider scene proved unusually tricky.
Someone was cutting the grass, making quite a mess and plenty of noise. We sought out the tranquility of the woodland.
The low winter sunshine was raking through the trees and lighting up the bracken which is just beginning to turn golden.
The gnarled oak trees were also backlit by the November sun. We made our way to the old bridge where we met a birdwatcher who told us there was a flock of Crossbills** feeding in the trees at the back of Lynford Hall. We steered our footsteps in that direction but had no luck locating these handsome birds. Our helpful friend must have told everyone he met about the flock, but no one we met had managed to see them.
** the links take you to the RSPB's new improved website that now includes outstanding photographs
Even if the handsome red birds had flown elsewhere, at least this handsome red tree had the decency to stay put and be photographed!
The local Mallards were swimming on a shimmering mirror of gold. Another friendly birdwatcher said he'd seen a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail up at the weir, so we dawdled on in that general direction. It was unlikely that the Kingfisher would hang around but Grey Wagtails often linger.
What does it matter if you fail to spot the birds (or take your intended photographs) when autumn is putting on such a splendid show anyway? Some of the trees here are species planted in the grand days of the Hall, when its grounds spread far and wide.
The same tree hanging upside-down in the waters of the lake - an ornament for the ornamental lake. Of course, the Kingfisher and Wagtail had moved on! Those of you who remember my excursions here in earlier years may recall that this is the place where the Hawfinches are and we made our way around to the meadow where they are most often seen. Thanks to some help from more birdwatchers we struck lucky and a pair of Hawfinches sat posing for us for several minutes. Too far away for photos, but near enough to see them clearly through the 'scope.
It would be good to say that I searched out this perfect trio of Shaggy Inkcaps deep in the woods, but they were actually growing right beside the car park as we made our way back to have our sandwiches!
In the afternoon the skies clouded over and caused a soft, diffused light to fall over the scene. The colours of the birches in particular sang out beneath the grey skies. The walk here, alongside the flooded sand and gravel pits gets a lot less visitors than the paths near the arboretum, but it is not without its charms.
Silver Birches were among the first trees to colonise the land once the quarrying ceased, though the Forestry Commission are also very active here, as they are in much of the wider area.
The sandy soils are not much use for agriculture, though free-range pigs do well nearby; the fast-draining sands mean that even pigs can't make it too muddy. The Forestry Commission has its largest lowland forest here and, though it was once uncompromisingly planted with endless conifers, it now contains areas for wildlife and recreation.
And here's a pretty pastoral scene - but it's actually part of "Stanta" or the Stanford Military Training Area, 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) that the army took over in 1942. The populations of six villages were evacuated and told they would be able to return after the war, however the army has always found some reason why they needed to hang on to the land.
I think I nearly always photograph this isolated house when I pass - there can't be many dwellings with such ornate windows. This was, of course, supposed to have been a simple post about the colours in the arboretum, but we seem to have digressed somewhat!
It was still mid-afternoon, but we were already losing the light. Time to pack up and travel homeward. As often happens I didn't quite get the shots I was hoping for but we still had a randomly varied day.
Perversely, once we were on our way home, the sun managed to find a gap in the clouds, just above the horizon, and line itself up with unerring precision to shine straight into our eyes.