Although the property is closed to visitors over the winter months, the wildlife continues to make Stoneywell their home and the cottage is a hive of activity as the big winter clean takes place.
Find a sense of peace and tranquility at Stoneywell when the property reopens in February. The SSSI (Site of Specific Scientific Interest) woodland is a particularly relaxing spot as though the trees themselves are taking a break and storing up their energy to get ready for a busy springtime.
During the winter months the woodland becomes a blank canvas as the bracken dies down and the leaves are strewn across the paths. Stand in awe of the majestic tree top canopy; and see if you can spot the Sessile and Pendunculate Oak, Silver Birch, Beech, Larch, Sweet Chestnut, Rowan and Sycamore. Whilst looking, make sure you keep your eye out for a squirrel drey or rook nest; these will be piles of sticks and leaves wedged into branches and might even have an occupant if you're lucky and quiet enough.
Whilst you might spot one of the muntjac deer, badgers or foxes that make the woodlands their home, you're more likely to see their tracks or hear them from their hiding places safely amongst the trees. Keep an eye out for signs of the wildlife that passes through both the garden and woodland as the damp ground and bare trees make this the easiest time to identify our woodland friends.
Don't forget to check the bird feeders at the backdoor of the cottage and behind the stables; there are often birds nibbling on the tasty snacks we leave for them. They can find natural food in abundance at this time of year with the berries from the rowan and holly, beech nuts, acorns and fungi.
Winter migrants like the Redwing and Fieldfare are found in the garden during this season. Similar in appearance to the Thrush, the Fieldfare has a grey head whereas the Redwing is easier to identify in flight when you can see their stand out patch of red hidden beneath the wing. Usually flying in groups both birds will remain in the UK until early Spring before they make the return trip home.
Spot a cobweb sparkling with dew on frosty mornings, and crunch through the piles of fallen leaves to remember the carefree days of childhood. There might even have been a sprinkling of snow, and the woodland is the perfect place to make your own tracks in the fresh white powder left behind by a flurry of clouds.
Colour can still be found this time of year, as long as you know where to look. The aptly named Christmas Cheer and Midwinter Rhododendrons are in flower and keep an eye out for berries and fungi peeping out from beneath the leaves, waiting for the wildlife for find them.
Wrap up warm and take time to soak up sights, sounds and tranquility as the garden and woodland take on a slower pace this winter, relaxing and recuperating for new growth to begin again in spring.