This week started with sunny weather – pleasantly dry and autumnal before an altogether more wintery gloom descended on the country, with rain, wind and thick cloud.
I decided to capture the last of the autumn foliage at two very different rural destinations in Cheshire. Confusingly they have similar names, Marbury Country Park near Northwich and the small village of Marbury on the southern border of the county.
The Country Park is managed by Cheshire West and Chester Council, and is part of the Northwich Woodlands, a vast green space around the town, which includes large areas of reclaimed industrial land.
The Country Park is different though – it was once the site of the stately home of the Smith-Barry family. Their property, which resembled a French chateau, was built in the 1850s, but by the 1960s it had fallen into disrepair and was demolished. The surrounding land is no longer manicured, but has evolved into a very pleasant area of countryside, where families can walk, picnic and enjoy the wildlife, together with the beautiful displays of bluebells that cover the woodland floor in the spring.
One of the last vestiges of formality remaining at Marbury are the two Lime avenues which were planted in the 1840s to a design by landscape architect William Andrews Nesfield. My main reason for visiting was to photograph these in their autumnal glory. Back in 2005 I’d captured a stunning scene of glowing orange foliage in mid-November and I wanted to replicate this image using my latest equipment. Unfortunately this was a different season, the leaves had fallen and the trees provided a very threadbare display. I have featured my 2005 photo above so you can see what I was hoping for.
All was not lost and I set off for the second Marbury, nearly 30 miles away on the border with Shropshire. The village is deep in lush countryside, approached down narrow tree-lined country lanes. It was very quiet with few vehicles – possessing a sort of peaceful timelessness.
I had come to take some photographs of the 15th century St. Michael’s Church. It stands on a hill overlooking Marbury Big Mere, a lake which was once a kettle hole, formed by retreating glaciers 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. In 1998, while researching for a tourism leaflet I produced, I had completed a circular walk which started and ended in the village. The route took walkers beside the lake to a spot where there was an incredibly picturesque view of the church.
Trying to rediscover this place I set out along the lake shore, only to find my way blocked by a new barbed wire fence and a firmly locked gate. As I walked along the fence looking for a stile the ground became increasingly waterlogged – so much so my feet were soaked, a chilly reminder to buy some new walking boots!
Unfortunately my plans were foiled again, but I was able to capture some very nice photos of the church which was bathed in the warm autumn light. So all was not lost, some consolation as I started my very soggy and uncomfortable journey home.