Great Britain

Winter visitors lift the spirits at Oakwell Hall

Oakwell Hall and Country Park ranger Les Hughes on how visitors - feathered and otherwise - have helped to brighten grey days at the Birstall attraction.

GLOOMY, wet weather over the last few weeks may have given us a touch of the winter blues but regular visitors to Oakwell have had their spirits lifted by the sight of the cheeky robins that have made their home here.

There are a number of these feisty red-breasted birds around the cafe gardens, where they’re always on the lookout for stray morsels dropped ‘accidentally’ by visitors enjoying a spot of lunch.

GREAT OUTDOORS: Beware the captain's ghost!

And they will closely follow our gardening volunteers around as they unearth worms and insects –even perching on gardening implements to get closer to their prey.

It’s in late December that male and female robins start to pair up, staying together until March.

Famously, robins nest in curious places and in spring our volunteers are always extra careful when working in the depot yard for fear of disturbing a nest among the buckets, piles of logs and hose reels.

Similar bolder birds, such as blackbirds and dunnocks will no doubt be following our gardening team closely as they begin putting out winter bedding plants in the pots and beds around the hall, cafe garden and visitor centre to bring a dash of colour to the park.

Seasonal cheer is evident throughout Oakwell. In keeping with Christmas tradition, the hall has been decorated as it would have been in the 17th Century with cuttings of plants and shrubs from around the park, taking inspiration from the Tudor and Stuart periods.

Evergreens have been used in a tradition dating back to pre-Christian times, when they were seen as having symbolic and mystical powers:

l Holly was the symbol of everlasting life and protected people against storms, fire and evil.

l Ivy was thought to ensure the birth of healthy children and keep away plague.

l It was believed that rosemary protected people against evil and it was also kept for remembrance.

l Mistletoe was thought to protect against witches and bring good luck.

In other news, a visitor from North Carolina stepped in to play when the Leeds Waits musicians re-created a 17th Century Christmas afternoon at Oakwell Hall, on Sunday, performing seasonal music for a small audience in the hall.

Valerie Austin was on holiday with her husband Tom, visiting mutual friends of Alan and Pam Radford, who were playing with the group.

Finally, we are delighted that our mountain trail bike trail, opened earlier this year, has been voted second best in the country by readers of MBR magazine against some pretty amazing opposition.

For more about up-and-coming events check see the Oakwell Hall Country Park site at www.facebook.com/OakwellHall and our Friends of Oakwell Hall group site at www.facebook.com/friendsofoakwellhall.