Only 8 people were on the minibus for today's trip to Ripley Castle grounds, where we met up with 4 ladies who had travelled by car. When we arrived in Ripley, it was very cold, grey and raining and some people had to be virtually prised out of the minibus. After paying our entrance fees, we set off on the walk around the lake. The groups enthusiasm did grow as we got moving, and there was more to see than we had anticipated. We saw a lot of snowdrops and also a small patch of aconites over the old Ice House. Unfortunately visibility was not good, but the views would be splendid in better weather. Light but steady rain continued throughout much of the morning, and turned sleety for a short time. There were some very interesting,ancient trees including the self-perpetuating beech tree (see the gallery). Some of the oak trees are a thousand years old and are very knarled. On the far side of the lake the path skirted the deer park, where numerous fallow deer could be seen.We probably saw about 10 species of fungi incuding stereum hirsutum, turkeytail and jelly ear. Several species were sited on a single large tree stump which was quite spectacular. On completing the path right round the lake, we stopped for lunch. The clever ones ate in the hothouses. The others didn't discover the hothouses until after they'd eaten. After lunch, we explored the hothouses,walled garden and kitchen garden by which time it was snowing.Only 18 birds were recorded, the highlight being a greater spotted woodpecker on a nut feeder in the kitchen garden.Most people headed for a hot drink in the tearoom before heading back.It had been a good day but bitterly cold and we were all keen to get home and get warm.