About two weeks ago I went home with my friend Ruth to spend a few days around Kettering, Northamptonshire. It's hard now to remember today just how cold and wet it was, as these photos attest, especially since the last few days have sparkled with dazzling warm sunshine and the once barren winter landscape has exploded in a glory of green leaves and bright flowers (I got quite sunburned today walking alongside the River Trent).
Although we shivered in winter weather two weeks ago, though, the gloom only served to heighten the atmosphere at Kirby Hall, a once stately Elizabethan manor house now fallen into ruins. However English Heritage has done a great job restoring parts of the hall and gardens to their original splendor. The small entry fee includes an audio tour that's extremely informative, explaining not only the history of the building and its owners but also about Elizabethan culture. I found it especially intriguing as I serendipitiously happened to be reading Bill Bryson's latest book, "Shakespeare" (I know I've posted about Bill Bryon several times on this site, but I swear I do read plenty of other authors!) Exploring Kirby Hall, or what's left of it, anyway, really brought Shakespeare's world to life for me, and the part when Ruth and I crouched in the ruins of a stairwell so we could eat our sack lunches out of the wind made the whole excursion even more adventurous.