With the breakfast things washed and put away I spent an hour or so reading my book then took the dogs and went for a wander round the camping fields to chat to various other campers, finally making my way across to the show ground for the first performance by the dancing digger display team. As usual they were excellent and this time I managed to film most of their performance using the video facility on my camera, which I hadn't tried out before.
After a wander round the stalls I went back to the camping field to retrieve the van and set out on the next part of my day; I was driving the twelve miles or so to visit Christina, Sophie's 'other mum' but using my NT membership I stopped off at Calke Abbey on the way. This place was described as an un-stately home and though the outside looked fine, as I wandered round the inside I could see exactly why.
Built in the early 18th Century the house had been handed down through generations of the same family until it was eventually passed to the National Trust in 1985. Although a lot of remedial work has been done since then there has been no actual restoration and many of its rooms are now deliberately displayed in the state of decline in which the house was handed over to the Trust. With peeling paintwork, paper hanging off the ceilings, and damp patches and stains on the walls, most of the house was a total mess; added to that it seemed that various members of the family had been avid collectors and hoarders of books, furniture, paintings and all sorts of nick-nacks and every room was totally cluttered up with stuff.
Then there were the animals - the heads of various cattle and deer mounted on the walls and hundreds of glass cases containing various stuffed animals and birds, some of which are probably by now classed as endangered species. Almost every room I went in contained these things - apparently if it moved they shot it, if it was already dead they picked it up. Certainly a very strange and eccentric family!
Unfortunately most of the rooms and corridors were very dark and though photography was allowed, using flash wasn't, so even though I used the night shot setting on my camera some of the shots I got weren't as good as they could have been. Also many of the rooms I went in were such a mess that I didn't particularly want to take photos of them, though the state bed was certainly worth a couple of shots. Displayed in a huge floor-to-ceiling climate-controlled glass case it was certainly some bed, and the drapes and bed cover were beautiful.
Once I'd gone right round the house and arrived back at the entrance I made my way across the lawns and up the hill to the small church. There was no-one in there except one of the NT guides, and talking to her it seemed that the beautiful coloured window above the altar wasn't stained glass as I first thought but painted glass. I don't know who originally did it and when but it really was lovely and well worth a photo.
From the church I made my way round to the walled gardens and spent a while wandering round there before heading back through the shrubbery, down the hill and back up past the house to the car park, where I released the dogs from the van and took them for a walk round the nearby meadow before setting off on the second part of the journey to Christina's place. Driving slowly along through the meadows to the exit I came across lots of sheep and what at first looked like several bulls grazing freely not far from the track; these creatures had huge horns which curved round so sharply that they almost touched their faces at each side. On the face of it not the sort of animals you would want to mess with, but as a couple of them ambled over I saw they were actually cows; one of them had a horn which had grown in the wrong direction and was pointing upwards rather than inwards, giving the creature a rather odd look, but they both seemed fairly placid and stood quite calmly while I took their photos.
It didn't take long to get from Calke Abbey to Christina's; I was taking a chance that she would be in as I hadn't let her know I would be calling, however she was at home and was really pleased to see me and the two dogs, especially Sophie. It was great to have a catch-up over a coffee and I stayed for well over an hour before it was time to say my goodbyes for another year.
On the way back to Elvaston I made a slight detour from the main route and went to Staunton Harold reservoir to see if there was anything there worth photographing; unfortunately what looked to be the nicest part of the reservoir was mostly in shade as it was by then very late in the afternoon, but I did manage to get one shot of the view and another of a squirrel sitting underneath a nearby picnic bench so my detour hadn't been totally pointless.
By the time I finally arrived back at Elvaston the steam rally was well and truly over and various exhibitors were leaving the show ground in a steady stream; I knew it would be too late to get anything to eat from there so I drove to the next village and got something from the local shop. Back at the tent I made a brew - the cold water 'fridge' was still working well - then a while later I wandered across the field and spent a couple of hours chatting to John in his van. At one point during our conversation I happened to look out from the open side door and saw that the sky in the distance had gone very grey and there was a rainbow above the tree tops; it must have been raining somewhere, although our immediate area was still bathed in full sunlight. I watched the rainbow for several minutes as the colour fluctuated, brightening and fading then brightening again, then as quickly as it had appeared it was gone.
It was almost dark by the time I said goodnight to John and I could only just about see my way back across the field to the tent; I counted that as the final dog walk so with Sophie and Sugar settled in their bed in the back of the van I got my book from the tent and climbed up into my own bed for the last time that weekend.