Last Tuesday, having dropped Dade in central Nottingham for another photography training course, the day was my own. On the net, I'd seen a hall and deer park - Wollaton Hall - to the west of the city that looked pretty interesting. Having no map and a SatNav that failed to recognise the name of the park I was reduced to just heading west and hoping. Fifteen minutes later, I was there! I drove in to the park and immediately saw some deer but no sign of the huge house! It was free entry but you had to pay to park and being a disorganised soul, I had no change. I was about to head off in search of a cafe to get some, when a very nice man knocked on the car window and handed me his all day parking ticket. He'd only used it for half an hour!
The hall didn't open for another half an hour so I set off (in the rain) to find more deer. I spotted a big group and carefully circled them, keeping my distance, wary of the big males and their rather impressive antlers. I'd seen a sign saying it was calving season so I knew to be on my guard. Just as I'd almost completed my circuit, two more appeared from behind a clump of trees about twenty yards away from me. The only thing between them and the rest of the group was the patch of open ground I currently occupied! My brain said "Just keep walking" but my legs were yelling something very different. When they broke into a run, so did I (the most exercise I've had in a while!) Once the adrenaline kick had worn off, I at least managed to take a couple of pictures.
By then, the cafe was open so I hid from the rain with a cup of tea and let my heartrate return to normal. It's a cute cafe with the expected clientele - elderly couples, middle -aged people with their elderly parents and thankfully few kids, despite it still being the school holidays.
Finally it was time to hit the hall, which was rather odd. The house itself is very impressive - a slightly less Gothic version of Gormenghast. Inside was a "natural history museum". Hmm - I found myself rather bothered by the exhibits. The Tudor entrance hall was beautiful and from there I entered "The Bird Room" which contained stuffed birds of all sizes and descriptions, none of them very nice. Undeterred, I carried on into The Insect Room - not quite as disturbing but the trays of butterflies made me sad and the tarantula gave me the creeps! Then came The Wildlife Room. It was about as far from "life" as you can get. Stuffed with every mammal you can imagine, mostly big game and obviously hunted. I know it was a different time, blah blah blah, but the sight of zebra, lions, buffalo, giraffes and gorillas which had clearly been shot, stuffed and then bequeathed by some colonial old fart who thought there was nothing better in life than killing defenceless animals got the better of me in the end. It improved after that with the mineral, gemstone and fossil collection which was, as Stephen Fry would say, Quite Interesting. And that was that for the house. It's a huge property but the museum part only takes up a small part of two floors.
The very wet morning had given way to a sunny afternoon so I wandered out in search of the gardens, camelia lawn and greenhouse, all of which were very pretty as well as nice and quiet. The greenhouse was a little odd - I can only assume that it had been used to grow something which had already flowered as it simply held a couple of dozen huge green bushes! The camelias smelt gorgeous though.
My tum told me it was time for lunch so I went back to the cafe and treated myself to a jacket potato with veggie chilli. It was absolutely delicious, huge and a bargain at £4.50.
As I finished eating, I started chatting to an elderly guy at the next table but soon regretted it when it turned into an attempt at religious conversion, but I think that's for another blog post. After lunch, I went for a long walk through the deer park, ending up at the lake where I watched a very amusing duck-feeding display by three seemingly "hard as nails" blokes who were all reduced to gibbering wrecks when the ducks came at them en masse having spotted the bread they were carrying! I found a comfy bench and read my book by a secluded bit of the lake until the sun went in and my bum went numb. By then, Dade had finished his training and it was time to pick him up, find some dinner and start the drive home.
All in all, it was a lovely place to spend a day, great value with only paying £4 for parking (if you have to pay at all of course), a tasty reasonably-priced cafe and plenty to do. If you're in the Nottingham area at any point, I can highly recommend it.
All my pictures of the day are HERE. Apologies for the quality - all taken on my iPhone.