Belton

A wonderful few days spent with extended family near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Introduced to the adventure playground – one of the best I’ve seen – in the original C18th romantic rustic ‘Wilderness’ laid out by the Brownlow family in the lea of their family seat at Belton. (Now National Trust). Grandchildren & oldies set forth on the Easter Nature Trail, once we’d all had refreshments and a 7 minute long fun ride on the fabulous miniature railway that threads through the extensive playground constructs among wood & water. Setting off on our family nature walk we soon left the crowds behind, slipping seamlessly into an artfully molded parkland bordered by a sinuously winding green glazed River Witham. A small tributary flowing in from the north had been damned two centuries since to form picturesque ponds, crossed by a long drive flanked by triple rows of limes and chestnuts: – suitably impressive approach to the great house. The National Trust, through building reefs in the ponds in 2009, have enhanced the habitat of native white clawed crayfish, a threatened native species. Water voles and otters, we were told, also frequent the waters. We heard green woodpeckers, their distinctive laughing call earning it the nickname of ‘Yaffle’. In the near distance herds of fallow deer grazed below great specimen trees in their 750 acre high fenced part of the great park. The Limes, those most favoured of parkland trees, with their dense brush, small leaves and impressive height were the favourite carving wood of craftsmen like Grinling Gibbons who so admired the wood’s fine properties. Everywhere the landscape felt spent, loaded under a grey sky, still waiting to reveal their fresh Spring finery. The children found and identified oak, yew, lime, beech, yew, sycamore & chestnut, happily completing the challenge that the NT rangers had set them and we adjourned for lunch before the threatened downpour finally broke.

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