R and I went out for the day today - a lovely walk around a beautiful part of the Cotswolds, we thought, would be just the thing. The morning did not go well.
We began at NT Sherborne, which was very disappointing. Once it's explained to you that you're not allowed anywhere near the Brook because of important wildlife habitats, the ban is understandable, if frustrating; but in my opinion they should make it clear on their web site. The bits of the estate you can walk around are quite boring, and feel somehow oddly barren, though it may be nicer at the weekends when the Lodge area of the park is open. On the plus side, the village shop and café is nice, but that didn't really justify a forty minute drive to get there.
Never mind, we said - we'll just swing round the corner and take a stroll through Bourton on the Water. It'll be busy at this time of year, of course, but probably not madly so because it's not yet the school holiday. The number of coaches in the car park dropping off and picking up school parties put paid to that little fantasy, and when we arrived in the middle of the village it was hell on a stick. We stayed long enough for me to introduce R to the joy of Winstone's ice cream, and then left.
Driving rather sadly back towards home, R asked if I wanted to push straight through to Croome, and I immediately agreed and cheered up; but then I realised that we had just passed the turn to Sezincote, which I visited last summer, but where R had never been - so I suggested we went there instead. Given the disappointments of the earlier part of the day, I must admit that I was a little twitchy as we walked up the drive, in case he didn't like it, but he took one look at the house and laughed in delight at its mad wonderfulness.
We had tea and cake (the best cake - trust me) and then strolled around the lovely garden, stopping for a while to watch dragonflies hunting over the largest of the ponds. It was while I was on the trail of a fabulous Brown Hawker (which doesn't sound all that enticing, but please trust me again - he was freshly handsome, and was glowing almost scarlet in the bright afternoon sunshine) that I happened on an enormous clump of astrantia in a patch of dappled shade, and thought they would make a nice image. I'm pleased with the way this came out, largely because the light was good, but also because of the shallow depth of field and the nice bokeh that come from using the 100-400 fully extended at close quarters.
This lens wouldn't be my first choice for recording architecture, but it did also give me the elements of a fairly decent panorama (six portrait shots, stitched in Lightroom), showing the side of the house and the lovely curved orangery they use as a tea room. I would like to place on record here my sincere thanks to Sezincote for rescuing our day and sending us home happy. Given that R fell as deeply for its charms as I already had, I'm sure this won't be our last visit.