Even though the day started with a ground frost so cold that I had to pour warm water over the wheelie bins so that I could open them and the frozen water in the bird bath had to be broken, by the time we reached our destination the sun was warm and casting so many shadows that even the reflections had reflections.
We packed a picnic of a flask of warm, homemade butternut squash soup and sun-dried tomato rolls and set out to visit Staunton Harold which is now in an area designated as The National Forest. I love this view of the lovely cedar tree by the water in front of the Hall and church. It is private now but I remember going in there years ago when it was a Sue Ryder home.
I love these two statues on the entrance gates (known as the Golden Gates) - a hound and a stag - they are the supporters of the Shirley family coat of arms. .
The church belongs to the National Trust and is open for viewing in the afternoons. I remember being shown around many years ago by an elderly lady dressed all in black - she was full of fascinating information. The church was built in 1653 by Sir Robert Shirley in open defiance of Oliver Cromwell's puritan regime. It is one of a very few churches built after the execution of Charles I in 1649 and before the restoration of Charles II in 1660.
The present house dates from the 1760s and 1770s and was built by the 5th Lord Ferrers. It was the family home of the Shirley family for over 500 years. During the second World War it was used to hold prisoners of war. Sold in 1954 it became a Leonard Cheshire home and later a Sue Ryder hospice. It is now in private hands.
The Stable Block now houses the Ferrars Centre for Arts and Crafts and there are some lovely shops in the courtyard.
A lovely Deli - this wasn't there the last time we visited.
The Green Man Gallery
We went back to our car for lunch then set out on a walk into Bignalls Wood.
The light was so intense in the low winter sun I was struggling to take photos as I have great difficulty seeing anything at all in the strong sunshine.
There were many different saplings and young trees in the plantation including these spruce trees.
The sky was so blue with lots of lovely cloud formations; crows cawed in the trees, kestrels hovered over open ground before swooping for prey and Ryanair planes passed quietly overhead on their way to and from East Midlands airport - leaving trails in the sky.