Winter Stroll





Kingston Lacy: Winter and Summer


I’ve visited Kingston Lacy at different times of the year, and have been struck by the differences between similar scenes I’ve photographed.  The following were taken at the end of December last year, and this week.  Photographs©VCUzzell2016

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Kingston Lacy – a winter walk


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Summer is probably one of the most popular seasons to visit the countryside, but its opposite on the wheel of the year can also be just as rewarding. Winter reveals the structural beauty of woods, with patterns; shapes and forms of the trees come to the fore.  They are also less busy, and you can almost have a place like Kingston Lacy, which is just outside Wimborne in Dorset, all to yourself.

It certainly felt that way as myself and my family arrived there this morning in light drizzle, wondering if we’d done the right thing in venturing out, but decided we might as well make the most of it, and we were glad we had because the grounds were much quieter than in the height of tourist season; and although the house itself was only open on the ground floor due to the time of year, it was the woodland around it which most interested us, so we didn’t mind.

If you’re going to visit during the winter months, or even after plenty of rain, beware as the paths through the woods can be very muddy in places, making accessibility for some difficult. However, the walk around the grounds, which include the woods, Japanese garden and Kitchen garden, is generally level and easy going.  It took us about an hour and a half, but we didn’t rush and took photos along the way.

There’s a good café and toilets at the start, in addition to a kiosk and more facilities for a comfort break near the Kitchen garden and allotments. There’s also a National Trust shop and a few further buildings to explore, which have changing displays according to the season.  The house itself is lovely, and well worth taking your time over.  As it was low season, it had been shuttered-up, and the statues which surround it were also covered.  So if you want to appreciate the building at its best, then wait for the spring.

Being among the various browns and deep greens this morning, with leaves mulching under foot; the damp smell of the earth filling the air, was just what I needed to continue re-charging my batteries ahead of the coming year.

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Somewhere else


Heavy rain, cold winds and dark skies have all made it feel like we’re still in winter’s grasp today, and spring hasn’t managed to rescue us yet.  As an escape from the gloom, I looked through my photographs from a short break to Barcelona with friends last September.  As we left the airport, the heat was a shock; I’d expected a comfortable early to mid-20 degrees, but the temperatures were an unseasonably 29-30 the whole time we were there.  Most people would have relished such heat, and at first it was lovely.  However, by the third day, I have to admit, I was longing for a cool respite from the intense sun and humidity, and as I stepped off the plane back in the UK a day later and breathed in the cool evening air, I felt relieved.  So as I listened to the garden chairs being blown across the lawn today, and longed for a little more light and some warmth on my skin, I thought we’re always yearning to be somewhere else.  We think that once we get there, we’ll be happy.  Yet, if we do reach that destination, be it a physical place, or a goal achieved, we often start to look for the next ‘somewhere else’.  We never just sit back and enjoy where we are at the time.  There’s always a need to move on, and whilst that can be a really positive thing, it can also prevent us from enjoying what we have right now.  We have to learn to be in the present moment, and enjoy the weather, without wishing we were somewhere else.

The healing energy of Imbolc


February 1st is known as Imbolc in the Celtic calendar, and is a time to rejoice at the increasing light and longer days.  At Spring Equinox, we began the journey back into the more active phase of the year, and last week I asked you to consider what you would like to achieve over the coming months.  I hope you have been planning lots of new experiences, and are feeling positive about the opportunities they will give you.  Yet with the cold, windy weather still around, maybe some of you are still feeling the emotional and mental pinch of winter as it fades away.  Imbolc is a time to heal past hurts, to move from negativity to a more positive frame of mind.  If the darkness is still hanging over you, then take time today to rest, reflect and ask yourself where you need to make changes in yourself and your life in order to ease those physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aches and pains.  The thought of change is often one which causes anxiety, and you may have to dig deep to make the life you long for a reality, but it is possible.  We may have to fight through insecurities to get there, which may test us to the full.  Yet with each challenge met, we grow.

Come back to the light


This is when it turns.  Amid the wind, rain and darkening skies, the light begins its journey back to the Northern hemisphere once more.  The Sun God will reawaken, and the days will gradually become longer.  The dark nights since Samhain have been a time of reflection and inner journeys in readiness for the return of the light and the more active phase of the year.  Now is a time to plan what you hope to achieve over the next six months, before Summer Solstice in June, and the turning of the wheel to shorter days and longer nights once again.  In the Celtic calendar, the Yew tree is linked to this day; the tree of resurrection and eternity.  They are long-lived and often found in graveyards, where they are said to protect the dead and ‘guard the doorway between this life and the next.’ (p.139, The Celtic Wisdom of Trees, Jane Gifford)  In the present day, New Year’s Eve is the time for making resolutions, but in the past, Winter Solstice would have been a time when we would affirm our intentions for the coming months, and bring about our own rebirth as we change and grow with each cycle of the year.    What dreams do you want to realise over the coming months?  What changes do you need to make?  At Winter Solstice, take the time to ask yourself these questions, and then as the days lengthen, make what you hope for now into a reality.

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Yew Tree photo courtesy of

A light in dark places



As the clocks go back to signal the descent into winter, I have heard many people this week talking of the darkness and cold to come over the next few months. This time of year is often the least liked of all the seasons; and its biting winds, freezing mornings and short days don’t help to make winter more likeable to some.  Yet I love cold, crisp sunny days when I can wrap up in colourful hat, scarf, and gloves and go for a walk, camera in hand, along a near deserted beach or through woodland.  In the Celtic tradition, winter is the time of year to travel inwards and reflect on your life; to prepare for the more active phases of spring and summer.  Autumn and winter are for rest and renewal, to learn and grow within, so that we are eager and re-energised for the warmer, longer days to come.  While there will be more darkness over the coming months, we can always find light in the sun, warm fires and candles, which will hopefully inspire us to reflect and make plans, and then, when the chill leaves and the warm breeze of spring arrives, we’ll be ready to act.