July 20th 2017
Cobham Hall's Best Kept Secret
Not so many moons ago I was treated with an idyllic view of peace and tranquillity on my journey to work. Hard to believe in this part of the world? No, not if you are lucky enough to be travelling to Cobham Hall.
The sky was still the colour of rose and turquoise from those first morning rays of the Sun. A dawn chorus was in full voice. Emerald grass damp, with a glassy sheen of dew, topped with a fine caster sugar dusting of spiders’ silk. The mist sat low and brooding over the manicured lawns and curled under the branches of ancient trees, blurring the brickwork of the Hall giving it a slightly ethereal presence. It could have been a Turner or a Monet.
Very rarely is a historic house ‘just a house’; it is normally a focal point of a much greater estate and Cobham Hall is no exception. Over the last few years I’ve set out to explore this ‘Great Canvas’ and make it my mission to document the wildlife that call this home.
If you’re in luck, with a small piece of stealth, on such a Spring misty morning you can see our resident fallow deer. They are dark in colour and solitary by nature, but from September to April they gather in large groups to feed and mate. I like to think of them as the descendants of the great deer park of the Darnleys.
Very close by is our resident Red Fox: you may come across the remains of his work. Cobham’s badgers disturb the soil in the hollows in close competition with the rabbits, working always with one eye on the whereabouts of that Fox. On the first warmth of Spring, our Great Crested Newts begin to migrate to the ponds via sheltered rocks and stones.
Our abundant wildlife is not restricted to ‘Terra Firma’. You may hear a mournful cry from the skies. This is one of our resident Buzzards. Large birds of prey that find rich pickings from the M2, along with the smaller Kestrel and Sparrow Hawk, while our Tawny Owls take the night shift of small mammals. You will hear the drumming of Woodpecker and the cacophony of our many crows as they squabble by the Lodge. In Spring, the grounds are alive with many small birds building nests and chasing rivals. A quick glance from our teaching block will reveal a multitude of mini dramas unfolding before your eyes.
On frequent wanders with camera over my lunch hour, I feel the grounds are only just starting to reveal their many layered secrets. There is so much more to explore and see. Any time spent in the company of nature is time well spent.
Many people have said to me that Cobham Hall is a well-kept secret. I believe the grounds are a bigger secret waiting to be explored!