Statues of naked ladies but no penguins at Mount Pleasant Gardens

Family trips out to gardens are a rare event these days, with Tweenager preferring to launch sheep at buildings on Minecraft and Teenager happy to spend all day watching Dr Who re-runs. But I managed to entice them away from their screens with promises of penguins and flamingoes in nearby Mobberley.

Nic and I had visited Hillside Bird Gardens when Teenager was less than a year old and we have happy memories of beautiful gardens populated with lots of rare birds and, indeed, the odd penguin. Sadly, the garden closed some years ago, so when I heard it was open today, I jumped at the chance of going again. Teenager invited another teenager along for company and Sam (Tweenager) was happy at the promise of ice cream, penguin and pub in that order.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad – we had to forego penguins as the NGS garden opening had been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Pity we didn’t find out until we were standing outside the wooden gate reading the poster with a dozen other disappointed visitors. And the pub wasn’t even open yet for a consolation pint! Set on seeing Spring flowers and ensuring the kids were outside in the fresh air for a few hours at least, we headed off to another garden that promised more than just boring flowers (not my words).

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Mount Pleasant Gardens at Kelsall certainly staved off the boredom for an hour or so, with a stunning display of rhododendrons, tree peonies, heathers and Japanese maples, with some very quirky statues mixed in for good measure. I love gardens of this size, just big enough to offer a cup of tea and a piece of cake, but too small to have the gift shop, restaurant and play area that attracts the hoards.

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It’s fair to say we all loved it. The two Teenagers were in their element photographing each other amongst the flowers and draped over statues. Tweenager dashed up and down paths, looking for the best statue of Gandalf / Dumbledore / Hedwig and telling me what I should photograph next and on what setting (I only have myself to blame for that!). Nic and I loved strolling along the narrow paths, discovering hidden gems: a pond (I didn’t know carp ate ice cream cones); a simply gorgeous Japanese garden complete with tumbling waterfall; and array after array of vividly coloured rhododendrons and azaleas.

Whenever I’m out with the family I like to capture a sense of where we were and what we enjoyed doing and I hope I’ve done that today. There wasn’t enough time for me to indulge in as much flower photography as I would have liked (just an excuse to go again on my own), but I got some shots as I flew past!

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I much prefer candid photos to posed ones, even thought the kids are reasonably obliging. Lovely as their photo smiles can be, their faces lit with spontaneous laughter are the shots I prefer. Abii’s teenage friend was a little disconcerted at being papped every now and again but you can see how much fun they were having.

They say plans are made to be changed and late lunch at the pub turned into pizzas from Dominos (no complaints from the kids about that!) and a swift drink  in the pub whilst we waited for our takeaway.

Bank holiday done and dusted, no traffic jams, no shops and even some fresh air and sunshine!

For any fellow keen photographers, here’s a bit about the kit I was carting around today.

I’ve got a Canon 5D mk II that I use professionally and whenever I know I can keep it safe on family outings. Until recently I shot almost exclusively with Canon lenses but that’s changed recently after reading great reviews on generic brands. I decided, after a lot of soul searching, to exchange a superb, albeit very large and heavy Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 white lens for a couple of lenses that I thought I’d get more use out of. I was very sorry to see the 70-200mm go, but I wasn’t using it very often and I’ve developed tennis photographer’s elbow, from holding heavy kit.

I haven’t had much chance to use the new lenses:

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 (around £1000 cheaper than Canon equivalent and excellent reviews). Still quite heavy but oh, the quality of the pictures!

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens – a mere £300-ish and amazing for real close up, macro shots and a great portrait lens too.

After a few previous outings and today’s, I am thrilled with both of them and would recommend everyone consider generic brands before paying full whack for manufacturer’s own brand.

In a future blog I’ll take a closer look at lenses and talk about which ones I use for what.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our day out. Leave a comment and sign up for the newsletter at the top of the page so that you don’t miss out on photography tips and ideas.

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