Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6QN
Tel: 01625 534400 or see Tatton Park’s website for details of opening times and admission charges.
One of the National Trust’s heavily visited properties, the thousand-acre deer park with its meres is popular with locals, and the 50-acre garden attracts people from far and wide.
Run by Cheshire East Council, there are often special events for added interest, although these may have an additional entry fee, and will increase traffic and visitor numbers.
Within this mostly informal garden is the lake, surrounded by robust specimens of moisture-loving plants, and the Japanese garden. Built in 1910 by a landscaping team from Japan using authentic artefacts, it has the classic contents of tea house, goose (or zig-zag) bridge, stone lanterns and evergreens. The stepping stone path has been carefully placed so that kimono-clad users can move easily along them. Unfortunately you can’t follow in their footsteps. You have to view this garden from the boundary as it could not withstand the pressure of 100,000 visitors annually.
Alongside the Japanese garden is a larger landscape of lake, moon bridge (forming a perfect almond-shaped eye when reflected in the water) and Shinto shrine. The Shinto shrine is built of durable Japanese red cedar, slotted together without one nail or screw, and raised on stilts.
Huge borders of herbaceous plants and shrubs lead away from the house, passing a maze that will fascinate the children. A small (for Tatton) pond close to the maze boasts an abundance of royal ferns and aquatic plants, and there’s also water at the centre of the formal Edwardian rose garden.
The atmospheric fernery and the airy orangery provide a glimpse of Victorian gardening fancies, and an arboretum provides mature woodland for shady strolls.
The extensive parkland (pedestrians and cyclists have free entry) makes a marvellous place for children wanting to let off steam, with an adventure playground and farm animals providing extra amusement if needed.