To see a dragonfly in November is very ususual. On Sunday, my dear wife and I found ourselves at a loose end and looked for somewhere picturesque in the locality to go for a perambulation. Perusing the "Walks in Gloucestershire" web page, we settled upon Woodchester mansion, which though local, was somewhere I have never ventured. So, we hopped in the van and off we went up to Nympsfield, where do lie many reminders of neolithic and bronze age habitation in the form of longbarrows, presumably so sited to give a lovely view over the Severn and thence Wales.
There is a long track down to the mansion itself. This photo looks as if I have taken it on an angle but actually the perspectives are a bit wonky in the valley itself. The valley is full of Welsh Black cattle who are sturdy little blighters and reputedly even more tasty than (and in their belted form, easily mistaken for) the belted Galloway with which our freezer is currently stuffed. The cows are good because they attract the flies that the rare bats in the belfry feed upon.The house was never finished. I don't know why. Probably the builders got distracted by a more lucrative client, or somebody died or something. It stands, unfinished, stark and beautiful, in the middle of the valley, a home to Greater Horseshoe bats and reputedly several spectral occupants which regular seances will put you in touch with. Personally, I find the gargoyles to be the most interesting feature. Bats are cool but ghosts never fail to disappoint.
There are a series of lakes, man-made by some Victorian landscaper, and it was here I saw an emperor dragonfly and another red one the name of which escapes me. It seems odd that with Christmas decorations in the shops, dragonflies are still to be seen. The elongation of both seasons seems to have brought together these two unlikely contemporaries. I tried to get a photo but they were too quick for me.
On the second lake is the boathouse. It is so very twee and you can just imagine atmospheric Summer trysts here, as the soft rain falls and Her Ladyship, freed of her crinolines, stares dreamily out of the window at the lake as the gamekeeper languishes, spent and disbelieving of his good fortune, on a pile of old horse blankets thinking socialist thoughts.
I think it is rather a lovely idea to have a boat parked under your floor. I wonder if there was a trapdoor, Thunderbirds style, through which one could drop down into a small dinghy for a quick getaway to the other end of the valley and the cover of the woods.
It was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm at perhaps 18C, but a breeze had been following us down the valley as we descended. The surface of the lake was initially covered in ripples until, suddenly, the wind dropped and...
I got a chance for an artistic shot of reflections and beech leaves. The sudden stillness was a bit spooky initially but once I got used to it, the place seemed full of peacefulness and I could happily have sat there all day, staring into the water. It was the middle of nowhere, remote, beautiful. The world surely could not intrude here.
After all these years of driving right on past this hidden treasure, I could not believe how extensive a place could be enclosed by the roads so familiar to me. There just didn't seem to be enough space.
Anyway, after a few moments of introspection, the rumbling of my stomach became too obtrusive to ignore and we headed back up the long valley to the van for a cup of tea and a kit kat. I confess that few things give me the feeling of peace as sitting in my van in a beautiful place, in the back of my van, with a cup of tea. Everyone needs a van or its equivalent, for peace of mind and mobile solitude. I have said it many times before but I love my van.