Last weekend we popped backed to the Midlands to visit my parents and collect those all important Christmas presents, payment for which was taken in full by having to endure hours upon hours of reality television. Thankfully the full impact of such an assault was lessened somewhat having spent Saturday walking at Brockhampton estate, a National Trust owned property with a Medieval manor house at its heart. Conditions couldn’t have been more perfect with a clear blue sky, frost on the ground and plenty of wildlife waiting to be discovered.
Arriving early allowed us an almost uninterrupted walk down from the top gate through mixed woodland to the view you see above. This imposing Georgian residence is now in private hands but still makes one hell of a statement amongst the rolling Hertfordshire hills. I just wish they hadn’t built a huge conservatory on the side as it does rather spoil the spectacle. Aesthetics aside I was pleasantly surprised to see just how many birds were about with a Grey Wagtail feeding along the banks of the pond above, three Stock Doves overhead, numerous Nuthatches, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds and perhaps best of all my first Siskins for what seems like an absolute age. I don’t know what the cause has been but they’ve remained incredibly elusive this year with even our most reliable spot on Mull having drawn a blank. I’m not aware of any national population crisis so can only presume that we’ve been unlucky making this small group even more special than usual.
Moving on through the woods I found myself revelling in the winter atmosphere and was particularly drawn to the stark, bare branches against that cobalt sky. Picked out in the morning sunlight they summed up everything which is great about the countryside at this time of year and I couldn’t resist attempting a few shots to try and capture the setting.
A short but muddy walk later (I swear my parents always pick routes that require at least some degree of paddling through mud) we found ourselves approaching Lower Brockhamption itself. Built sometime around 1380 this half timber structure remained inhabited by the same family for over five hundred years and thanks to careful restoration is now a stunning example of the classic English country house. Surrounded on three sides by a moat it was just crying out to be photographed, not something you can say about too many of today’s buildings.
Once again a Grey Wagtail was keeping me and my Dad on our toes but unfortunately it never came close enough for the camera. A Song Thrush and Blackbird however were more than happy to oblige with the latter allowing me to take one of my most pleasing bird shots for quite some time.
Also present were yet more Nuthatches but alas the light finally failed just as we found where they were feeding. Not to worry as we’d a great day out and, having sampled some of the traditional parsnip soup on offer as part of a remarkably accurate re-enactment, another recipe to add to Emma’s repertoire. It really was delicious.