If you like country estates, you’ll love this!

Last summer, in Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep! I took you on a tour of our National Sports Centre at Lilleshall and gave you a potted history in among the photos of the beautiful grounds. Many of you have liked this post and those of a similar ilk, and I am so thankful to be living in the vicinity of these grounds, I thought I’d share these photos of Lilleshall in Spring. Unfortunately, we only had an iPhone, so some of the ones taken at a distance are out of focus, the zoom is really bad. I hope it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment.

These were taken on a gorgeous sunny midweek afternoon – these gardens really are breathtakingly beautiful and the trees are just overwhelming in their majestic beauty. Whatever season you visit, the colours are just stunning. The amazing thing is that it is always quiet and peaceful. During this visit, there were people from Rugby England (the sport not the town) on some sort of course; the England gymnasts and archers train here as well as the footballers, but local people can visit and use facilities, my husband has sports massage there and benefitted from their treatment when he had his bike accidents.

Get ready to be in awe! The rhododendrons take your breath away, there are at least five different colours, as well as yellow honeysuckle and bluebells.

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These wrought-iron gates are generally locked and the trail inaccessible, but this time they were left open invitingly. It led through a cool woodland with bluebells and yellow honeysuckle.

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When you come out of the woodland and back onto the trail, you’re confronted by this striking maple tree which stops you in your tracks. It reflects the light and displays so many shades of red, brown, orange, russet, burgundy .

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There was a lot of clearing going on near the mansion house too (which is a hotel, restaurant and wedding venue). I don’t know if it was all the result of Storm Doris or if they’re planning another structure:

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 While driving down the long, tree-lined drive on the way out, we saw a pair of pheasant, just I pressed the shutter the female flew off, again the zoom spoiled the photo:

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We are so lucky to have this wonderful playground on our doorstep. The young grandchildren love the freedom and space, we collect giant fir cones and spot rabbits, squirrels and pheasant.

It’s a wonderful place to recharge your batteries for an hour or two.

And all for free.

(Also posted on Haddon Musings 52 Weeks of Thankfulness)

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep!

Believe it or not, these are the grounds of our National Sports Centre at Lilleshall where Olympian gymnasts and archers, and professional footballers train. Not a bad place to work and train, eh?

It’s in a beautiful setting, I love the trees, especially this majestic cedar tree. It is stunning close up and the glade that it forms with the tall pines is home to lots of squirrels, rabbits, birds, pheasant and the odd fox and badger. We have brought friends and family, young and not so young, here to enjoy the peaceful surroundings in all seasons, even on Boxing Day!

The estate was originally in the demesne of Lilleshall Abbey but fell into private ownership during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monastries. For part of its history it was owned by the Dukes of Sutherland and the second duke’s wife played a large part in the architectural design and landscaping of the estate.

In 1949, The Central Council Of Physical Recreation bought the hall and several thousand acres of land and it has been used as a sports centre ever since. The future Queen Elizabeth II opened it in 1951. The entrance gates are replicas of those at Buckingham Palace.

The England football team trained there for two weeks before the 1966 World Cup – the fresh air and stunning views obviously did the trick!

I thought I would share a few photos from our recent visit.

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The view from the terrace

The water gardens are between the formal hedged garden and the woodland

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These water lillies looked like they were really enjoying the sun

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These are grapevines growing over the path

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There are several follies around the grounds.

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Count the chimneys – we got to at least 40! Imagine having to light all those fires and clean them after, not to mention the chimneys themselves. This is the side of the hall.

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At the far end of the estate there is a pet cemetery, one area for dogs, one for cats, some have their own headstones, some share them with others; there is even a memorial to a Russian wolfhound called Czar, who was given to the Marchioness of Stafford by Czar Alexander II in 1836 and lies buried alongside – but a little apart from – the other dogs and cats, as befits his aristocratic status!

I tried to take some video of our walk through the trees for a friend who could do with some sunny smiles, but finished up with a lot of footage of feet and pink knees! Apparently when I thought I was recording, I was in fact on pause and vice versa. Unfortunately when we tried to rectify this on a second visit, the rain came down and it doesn’t show the grounds at their best. Because we’d had storms in-between, the ground was too wet to retrace our steps (there used to be a canal system running through the estate, built to transport coal and limestone to and from local mines, and parts of it are very marshy, even in the summer). So I present to you some photos of sheep in a neighbouring field!

There is a lot of excitement around at the moment over the impending visit of the medal-winning gymnasts, who are currently having some much-needed chill-out time first.

Copyright: Chris McGowan