In the nick of time

That’s how we arrived at Sheffield Park in the middle of November. Having watched all my friends in the photography forum out and about capturing the incredible colours of autumn, we always seemed to have too much to do. These days, a day out at the weekend means we have to finish the zoo in one day – so that’s all the litter trays washed, the ferret room taken apart and given a thorough clean, the chicken run and the field shelter done and not forgetting blood testing our diabetic cat. We thought about it, but when the time seemed right, the weather was truly awful and I had started to think that for yet another year, it wasn’t going to happen. I know the truly wonderful colours don’t tend to appear until much later in the year. I was born in November and it has always been my favourite month, but even that was flying past and I was convinced the next frosty nights forecast only days away would put an end to the remaining leaves still clinging to the trees.

So we decided to go for it and half killed ourselves trying to fit a normally busy weekend into just one day. I was nearly on my knees by the end of Saturday, but we had done it. I checked the National Trust web site for details and my heart sank. It seems that we weren’t the only ones thinking of heading in the direction of West Sussex and there were warnings about Sheffield Park closing to visitors due to a lack of parking space. In the summer it wasn’t such a problem because they can use the nearby fields as an overflow, but they get waterlogged after rain and we had seen more than our fair share recently.

Sunday morning saw us up bright and early, but it still took nearly three hours to get the animals done before we could get changed. It was a fair drive too and we didn’t turn into the last road until nearly 11.30 and just as expected we saw the advance warning signs about limited parking. As we reached the entrance to Sheffield Park a few cars turned in before us. Were we too late? We passed one parking area after another before reaching the one at the far end and we were waved in. I could have kissed the attendant with his walkie-talkie as we drove into the last but one space. As the car behind us pulled up alongside, we could hear the instructions being fed back to the main gate that the park was now full. We couldn’t believe our luck!

We made the most of our visit, although some would have said the weather wasn’t good. The sky was very overcast and it was gloomy, but it didn’t matter because I had brought along my trusty tripod and I knew this light really brought out the wonderful tones. Red seemed to be the colour of the day and the featured image here was taken by the side of the lake. It needed an exposure of more than a second, but at least it wasn’t windy so I had no worries with the tripod. I was fascinated by the carpet of fallen leaves, but kept the trunk of the tree in to show the beautiful shapes.

Later on as we were leaving, I spotted a very old tree off to one side. However, no matter how much I moved around or fiddled with the tripod, I could see it wasn’t going to work. Either the sky crept into the shot, or the other trees made for a distracting background. So I moved in close for the photograph below. It reminded me of one of the old Ents from The Lord of the Rings. This has become one of my own personal favourites and I have a mind to get it printed and framed next year. We don’t have much suitable wall space at home, but I’ll find a spot somewhere.


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