[singlepic id=592 w=300 h=400 float=middle] A brilliant Sunday morning with a clear blue sky and a little mist in the air got me out of bed at 7am, and I was soon on my way and arrived at the empty Polesdon Lacey car park around 8.15. There was almost no-one there and everything was closed up, though activity was starting. I entered the grounds and was immediately presented with a superb scene of the drive leading to the house on the right, lit by the early morning sun, a small statue straight in front in the middle of the drive, and behind it the misty forest of Ranmore Common under the blue sky. There being no other visitors, I was able to photograph the house and ground at will without having anything in the way.

I wandered about the grounds and the park, trying to take images that would impart a sense of place, whilst capturing this gorgeous moment. It was only March 9th, but daffodils, croci and some other flowers were out already, and the snowdrops were beginning to fade. Polesdon Lacey looks southward, over a lawn that rapidly descends to the valley 50 metres below, so the view is then across the valley to Ranmore Common. There is a walled garden and a rockery and lots of sign-posted walks through the estate and beyond. It is all owned by the National Trust and is a major local venue for visitors to the house and gardens as well as dog walkers.
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After an hour, I began to fancy some breakfast, but the restaurant wouldn’t open until 10am, so I followed the sign posts across the fields, then down to the valley where you look across the field to Tanner’s Hatch Youth Hostel on the edge of the Ranmore woods. There were increasing numbers of walkers and cyclists out and it began to seem quite busy as I passed by Polesdon Farm. These sweeping valleys are one of the best features of the North Downs, with their wooded slopes and fields or paddocks carved out along the floor. Turning back up the hill on a lane, I was suddenly surrounded by people and dogs: lots of dogs of all shapes and sizes. Then when I got back to the car park, it was getting quite full, with a stream of cars waiting to enter along the road.
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The cooked breakfast that I had been imagining was not on offer, but I had a good egg sandwich and a large coffee which did the job. After this, I drove back to the main A246 towards Leatherhead, and parked in a car park by Bocketts Farm to walk up to Norbury Park. This is mostly a wooded hill above the River Mole, owned by Surrey County Council and run as a nature reserve, with the harvesting of wood, and for public access. At the top of the hill is a privately owned Georgian mansion that I had noticed from the local vineyards last year. There is a great view over the valley southwards, to Box Hill and beyond, but with the sun shining directly from the south, it wasn’t a great time for photographs.

As I walked through the woods and heaths, the warm weather brought out bright yellow brimstone butterflies, and the odd peacock butterfly: the latter tending to stop to warm their wings in the sunshine.

As I descended towards the river, vehicle noise from the Dorking road went from a constant buzz to a loud roar at times, moslty because the motor cyclists were showing off how fast and noisy they could be. It is a very pretty area, but far from peaceful.
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I stopped to admire a huge yew tree in a field and took a couple of photographs that didn’t capture it’s how impressive it was – I need to work on this. A little further on, I was walking along the west bank of the River Mole, and how this had changed since I was last here! The river flooded very badly during the storms in January and February and there were fallen trees, eroded banks and chaos down it’s length. The force of the water must have been huge and houses were flooded in the area. The river was still quite full, but fast flowing and very turbid.
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As I returned to my car, the visitor vehicles for the farm were spread up several fields, with more cars streaming in. Where did they put all those people?

So today’s photography has added some gorgeous images, particularly of Polesdon Lacey, to my collection for my North Downs book, and I’ve learned more about the area. However publication will be delayed because I haven’t got the winter images I need to complete the seasons. Although I might produce a pilot, just to see what it will look like….