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Daily Journal

June 22 – Fairytales Can Come True
Castle Howard (Continued)

Leaving the house, we head for the gardens. Outside we are greeted by cool fresh air and follow a sign pointing the way to the Rose Gardens; up a slight incline and through the woods. As we walk, Dana tells us briefly about her two-day visit with another online friend, Marsie in Troon, near Ayr Scotland, before meeting us in Manchester. She says that she had Marsie's children rolling with laughter by making chimpanzee noises that she and her sister had perfected as children. Robin and I egg her on and soon the woods are filled with not only the eerie calling of peacocks, but Dana's chimpanzee impersonation.

The Rose Garden is magnificent; there's no other word to describe it. The walled garden is a lush refuge of color and intoxicating perfume. Banks and bowers of roses set against a backdrop of a tall hedgerow, roses climbing walls and trellises, roses surrounding sundials and benches – yellow, red, orange, white, pink and lavender roses. Through an archway we discover another section of the garden where delphiniums of every shade of blue and purple imaginable sparkle with raindrops that fell earlier in the day.

We leave the gardens, closing the wrought iron gate behind us and decide to take a short cut through the woods to view the Atlas fountain and statues of the South Parterre. Standing at the summit of the incline, Robin remarks, "It doesn't look too steep". "Those sound like famous final words," I reply, laughing. We walk very carefully down through damp russet pine needles.

Peacocks strut in full display around the fountain. At first we think there must be a female nearby that the males are trying to impress. We realize as we approach one male and his tail fans out, that it is a defensive measure – a warning that we are to keep our distance. Yet another, high up in the treetops, flies toward the fountain, his tail rippling in the breeze like ribbons behind him. The fountain is spectacular, but in my opinion, second to a towering statue of Silenus, holding the infant Bacchus.

We come upon another male peacock, with his tail trailing behind him. Robin approaches slowly – step by step, inch by inch – waiting for him to lift and spread his tail in display. When she is almost close enough to touch him he turns his head and squawks angrily in her face. She jumps and squawks back in reaction. We, and some other visitors nearby, all have a good laugh.

Time is catching up with us; we still have Fountains Abbey to visit, so we make our way to the gift shop where we purchase postcards of the castle and guidebooks. There is a separate book shop at the admission center, so we stopped there as well, and I find a wonderful book on medieval manuscript illuminations for only £4.99.

Castle Howard far exceeded my expectations of "something to get through" and I'm so glad we went. Thank you, Dana.

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