The Mariana Trench may be almost as deep as divers go but the last day of the deepest Atlantic depression in years felt very similar.
To be fair there was no fog or snow, but we had sunshine (some), cloud (much), rain (plenty) and hail (heavy) all driven by a ferocious wind. We arrived at mid-day and found plenty of space in the car park. By the time we left and sensible people were arriving for late afternoon both the regular and overflow car parks were nearly full of pre-booked cars.
It isn’t often that flash is required for outdoor photographs in the early afternoon, even in the Stumpery, where grotesque tree roots are upended and in some cases sculpted among Italianate shrubs and trees. The film ‘Nosferatu’ could have been made there. It is entirely in keeping with the mad Hervey family that once owned the estate. There were many growths of mistletoe on one of the trees, yet the Flaxman frieze of Trojan War images showed to great advantage.
We had misguidedly come for a picnic but decided to find an isolated spot in woodland rather than tables and benches near the car park. The sheep we saw just after beginning our walk had recently been shorn and seemed to regret it. Later there were other unshorn flocks who seemed all the happier for that.
Streams were in full flow and the lake we eventually chose to sit by (on a pump house) was surrounded by reeds. A coot and a mallard appeared on the water and swam towards us then turned away. Our picnic was more than rudely interrupted by the next downpour so we decided to move on – not back as might have been sensible.
The good thing for all users, including wheelchair and mobility vehicle, is that the circuit is hard-surfaced and gravelled so there is not much mud to negotiate as there once was. The road (it deserves the name and is so used) passes some of the follies of the family, now used for staff accommodation, and of course the church – all that survives of the original Horringer village, which was rebuilt in a range of romantic styles. There has been a church on the site for a thousand years, although there is a mock-Gothic one on the edge of the village, oddly near the gates of Ickworth.
There is a distant view of the house, or at least its rotunda, from the road as it undulates around the edge of the estate. (There are small hills in Suffolk and nearby is the former monastic estate of Hardwick, named after the herdwick sheep of Cumberland, where the parent house was built. The monks may have found some likeness but were perhaps grateful there were no steep hills or mountains.
Once headed back to the car park we had the wind behind us, which proved helpful for propulsion and for beginning the long process of drying clothes. It was hardly the best way to celebrate the partial relief of lockdown but as the villagers may have been told by the first Lord Hervey’s agent, beggars can’t be choosers.’