On the way back from a lovely wedding in Shropshire over the bank holiday weekend, we stopped off at Attingham Park – a National Trust property comprising a big house and a bigger estate. We got there fairly early in the day, and since the house isn't open to the massed hordes until 1pm we snuck on a free tour at 11. This turned out to be an unexpected delight, as the tour was specifically about the usually hidden process of keeping a big old NT house clean throughout the seasons. I didn't realise quite how much careful effort goes in every day just to keep dust at bay, not to mention light, insects and humidity.

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To me the house isn't the star attraction here though (we went back and had a full look once it was properly open). The vast parkland grounds are what make it special, featuring grassland, woodland, deer, rivers and ponds. These are lightly littered with some interesting sculptures, which would be more impressive if they weren't accompanied by ridiculous texts explaining what they represent. I should have burned that leaflet! We almost missed the monopoly hotels on sticks poking out of the water of a pond.

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As we strolled through the bracken there was a section that was literally swarming with large very black and rather lugubrious flies. I've since identified these as St Mark's Flies, which apparently emerge at this time of year – traditionally 25th April (hence the name).

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Down by the river (I'm not sure if it was the Severn or the Tern) there were a couple of Grey Wagtails shooting out over the water for insects.

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