In Texas, state parks are the main way of getting out into some countryside, and they are almost invariably centred around a reservoir. Back in the UK, the network of public footpaths means that you don't have to go to a designated area to walk around. However, a proper country footpath often involves mud, brambles, stiles and other such pushchair-unfriendly obstacles, so we have found that, even here, reservoirs are still quite useful, not to mention beautiful, places to walk.
A few weeks ago we visited Staunton Harold reservoir, just south of here. Rain and snow had fallen overnight and frozen, so the visitor centre car park was closed, and the circular southern car park, when we found it, was doing an excellent impression of a skating rink. Having slid the car into a parking space, we skied gingerly down an icy hill, and a beautiful vista of the lake opened up before us.
We might have been content to drink in the view for a while, but Toby took one look and demanded a peanut butter sandwich. Grudgingly, we turned away and set about pushing the stroller through slush and snow.
A couple of swans greeted us, and the sparkling white fields shone in the morning sunshine.
The footpath, meanwhile, was varying between stream, mud and rocks, and the beauty was somewhat lost on us as we wrestled with the wheels and tried to keep a cranky toddler happy. Getting back to all this lovely countryside is definitely not quite the same when you are parents of a two-year-old, rather than free and single and able to walk all day if you feel like it!
In the opposite direction, northwest towards the Peak District, is Carsington Water. We drove up between verges dotted with white snowdrops and fields dotted with white sheep, and enjoyed a relatively warm sunny day. An old tower used for army training (signposted: "Bomb Tower") made a sheltered spot to stop for a snack, and the Miners Arms pub in Carsington village provided the adults with coffee and Toby with a slide.
Returning to the visitors' centre, we investigated Stone Island. Pillars are arranged along two spiral paths up a small mound, and a hole bored through each one focuses your view on part of the landscape. We conscientiously squinted through every rock before retreating to the ice cream shop for a more tasty investigation.
Happily immersed in chocolate, vanilla, and mint choc chip, we sat back and admired the view.