I’m a little bit behind with some of my posts at the moment. Unfortunately, I have the attention span of a goldfish which means I get easily distracted by shiny objects. Luckily, I have Lightroom to jog my memory about the places I’ve visited!
It was a cold January morning. There was frost on the ground and a winter nip in the air. As I sat in the car carefully wrapping myself up in multiple layers, I silently hoped I’d brought enough with me to keep warm. The heater was on full blast, and I found myself looking out of the window, happily watching other people go about their business. Some were walking their dogs, others were admiring the plants, and some were sat outside the café enjoying a hot drink, while their four-legged friends lay patiently at their feet.
I opened the door and stepped out of the car into the cold winter air. I pulled my hat down over my ears and breathed out, watching my breath hang in front of me. I pulled my mittens on, readjusted my bag, and decided I was ready to explore.
The venue was Sizergh Castle, and the event was my best friend’s birthday. Although it wasn’t our original destination, it provided us with a good backup plan when we discovered Levens Hall hadn’t opened its doors for the year yet. In our usual style, we’d taken to the road without checking out the details of our intended destination – so part way up the M6 we had to make a detour. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we’ve done something like this, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.
A medieval house set in spectacular landscaped grounds, Sizergh Castle is over 700 years old and is still lived in by the Strickland family. With water gardens, herbaceous borders, an orchard and the National Trust’s largest limestone rock garden – there’s plenty to explore. And with prices available to visit either the house, the garden or the whole property, there’s something to keep everyone happy. Hoping to spend a few hours there we’d planned to pay for the whole shebang, but we soon discovered the house was shut, and our money was to stay in our pockets.
Everywhere was frozen; the white frost clung to the foliage for dear life, and the sun was hiding behind the trees, leaving most of the stump garden in shade. Occasionally, it would twinkle between the leaves reminding us of its presence, treating us to a magnificent display of sun flare like a giant glitter ball in the sky.
As we meandered around, I found myself lost amongst a sea of plants, spoilt for choice of what to photograph next. There were small ferns, luscious and green, with water droplets glistening on the leaves where the ice had melted away. Next to them were green and brown ferns still dressed for winter, covered in bright white frost. We watched the gardeners as they worked hard under the cold January sun, preparing the soil and planting new life, and we commented how colourful everything would look when it finally came into bloom.
Walking slowly along the pathway we found ourselves heading towards the greenhouses, and through the windows, I could see a vast array of plants. There were tiny seedlings waiting to be put into the ground and boxes of potatoes piled on top of one another. It was becoming abundantly clear how much work it took to prepare Sizergh for the busier months when the gardens would be filled with visitors.
We eventually found ourselves overlooking the limestone rock garden, the National Trust’s largest in any of its properties. The sun still hadn’t made its way over, so it was cold and grey with the heavy frost leaving the trees looking spindly and bedraggled. But as we started to explore, the sun slowly began to rise, casting a hazy golden light onto the trees, highlighting their twisted winter branches that hadn’t even thought about starting to bloom yet.
Wandering around the frozen gardens my hands were becoming painful from the cold, so we made our way towards the sunlight and in the general direction of the lake. Apart from the occasional ripple here and there the water was still, and we found ourselves staring into it playing a guessing game of what could be moving just below the surface. We watched the sunlight glisten on the water and spent some time talking, laughing and generally catching up on life. When we couldn’t ignore our rumbling bellies anymore, we decided it was time to head back to the car and fill ourselves up on jamwiches and salted caramel nibbles.
Fat and happy from our bread feast and warm and toasty from the heater, we once again left the warmth of the car to explore the rest of the gardens. With not everything being open there wasn’t too much left to discover. But we took a route off the beaten track and found ourselves walking through woodland and alongside another lake. The ground was still frozen, and with every footstep, it crunched beneath our feet. Taking another detour, we followed a narrow track that was overgrown with tall bushes along one side and soon stumbled upon a gate leading to a field. We watched hikers and dog walkers crisscross along the grass, and we squinted against the bright winter sun before retracing our steps alongside the lake and heading back to the car.
It’s not the first time we’ve misread something or turned up to somewhere that’s closed, and we frequently end up in random situations where our favourite catchphrase comes courtesy of Joey from Friends: ‘so, I’m in my map….’. And although it may not have been our intended day out, as always, it turned out well in the end.
For opening times and prices, I suggest heading over to the Sizergh Castle page on the National Trust Website.