Saturday, 19 August 2006

A Visit To Longleat

It was with rather bleary eyes on my part that we departed a little after 5am for Wiltshire, and Longleat. Did I mention that I came into some tickets, from my lovely Mother-In-Law-To-Be? It was quite a drive, but, by leaving early we made it to Wiltshire for about half past nine. I never fail to be amazed by the changing landscape as we travel. Essex is so flat, that hills just mesmerize me. I love it when the view looks like it is a patchwork blanket draped over someone snuggled up in bed.

I could blog for a very long time indeed about the infinite delights that greeted us in Wiltshire. For the sake of you all though, so you can read this before your tea goes cold, I shall try to be brief.

We first did the Safari Park element to the Longleat estate. It truly is amazing to be so close to the animals. And even more amazing to see them just roaming about in the fields. I felt so privileged to be there amongst them. We had a camel jump almost across our bonnet, I believe he was showing off his long legs, and reminding us that we were his guest, and there for his amusement- and most definitely not the other way around!

The highlight for me was the Fallow Deer Park. We bought a cup of deer food, and stopped the car- by the time we wound down our windows, these beautiful inquisitive heads were nudging at the windows. There were so greedy! But so noble too. I was able to gently stroke the velvet on the antlers of one, while he was gobbling away. If I ever should find myself transported to being the Mistress of Pemberley, I shall be sure to make sure I have a Fallow Deer Park of my own!

The house and grounds were amazing too- we knew there was going to be much to see, so we booked into a nearby farmhouse bed-and-breakfast so we did not have to overstretch ourselves. That in itself was amazing- a wonderful view of Cley Hill, and scrambled eggs for breakfast that had been laid by the hens in the garden.

Highlights of the house and garden for me were the tea rooms in the vaulted cellar, the slippers-for-horses-so-they-wont-mark-the-lawn, and the boat trip. There is a half-mile lake that you can go out in a boat upon. We went there early on the second day, having seen the queues on the first! It is quite an experience- there are sea lions who will jump out of the water to show off next to the boat, and at one end, some hippos. Despite being as ponderous looking as they are, they are actually really vicious dangerous animals. The only reason you can be in the lake with them is that they have been there since they were little hippos and are used to it- in the wild it would be a very different situation. There is an island in the middle of the lake which is home to two gorillas- one of them a silverback. We saw them- just there in front of us. They really took my breath away.

It was amusing to learn that the very low fence around the island is not to keep the gorillas on the island- they cant swim- but to keep the sea lions off. Apparently they are so cheeky that sometimes they try and get on the island and scare the gorillas- and sometimes even ride the hippos!

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