Among ancient trees at Croft Castle and Parkland

Wednesday 1 January 2020. It was the evocative description of Croft Castle and Parkland’s Ancient tree walk on the National Trust website that prompted us to visit this venerable country pile on New Year’s Day 2020. That and the fact that it boasts its own Iron Age hillfort, Croft Ambrey. Although the stately manor itself was closed for the bank holiday, the grounds remained open. Thus decided, we set out from our holiday let in Bobbington, Staffordshire, on an overcast day, drove the 60 or so requisite kilometres along quiet roads, and entered the estate’s grand drive. Upon parking, we noticed mud; soon we would discover how exceedingly muddy it was. And naturally we didn’t have Wellies. Croft Ambrey was our first destination. We started across the park in the direction marked on our map, feeling the gentle rise of the ground. We crossed a line of gnarled old trees, bare in their winter repose, and continued north. The turf was sodden but not quite boggy. We negotiated two gates and then a third, entered a wood and reached the outer ditches of the hillfort – and the path turned into a river of mud. We pressed on, braving brambly verges as we climbed in a vain attempt to avoid the worst of the mire, and arrived eventually at the grassy plateau at the top of the hillfort. The views over distant fields were lovely, despite the persistent mist that partly obscured them. In our splendid isolation we spent time sitting and reflecting (or perhaps running around), then circumambulated the hillfort and began to descend, once again slogging through liquid earth until at last we felt the relative terra firma of the park. A long pause at the friendly cafe was required at this point: coffee and cake all round. After an hour or so, the ancient trees demanded our presence. Trees are beautiful no matter their age; these ones – twisted, wise old things – were truly magnificent. We walked among them, along avenues and around individual specimens, marvelling at their longevity. We may have seen the thousand-year-old oak; I’m not sure. I hope we did. Finally, the children had had enough, and it was time to drive back to our pink and green cottage in Bobbington. It had been a wonderful day.

National Trust Croft Ambrey Walk

National Trust Ancient Tree Walk

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