I last visited Tatton Park over a year ago, which was the first time I’d been despite it only being around 30 minutes away from us. It’s a vast place. Covering 1,000 acres made up of a Deer Park, Mansion, Stable Yard, Farm – and of course the Gardens. You’ll find it virtually impossible to see everything in a single day. Despite now having been twice, there’s a huge amount I’ve yet to see.
The gardens themselves cover 50 acres and are made up of several areas. There’s a Walled Kitchen Garden with impressive glasshouses, a Rose Garden, Tower Garden, Italian Garden, Maze, Arboretum, Japanese Garden, ‘Charlottes Garden’ and more. All seamlessly linked by lawns and open areas. A number of buildings exist within the gardens too, including the impressive fernery, conservatory and ‘secret’ potting shed. Everything is linked by lawns and open spaces, but you can rarely see far beyond so each turn brings something new. It works extremely well.
I was impressed at just how well tendered the gardens were – absolutely nothing was out of place, everything was neat and tidy. The entire garden is managed by a team of only 14 people (plus approximately 50 part-time volunteers, including both hands-on and hands-off roles).
When I visited last year we went as a family and didn’t venture further than the Italian and Rose Gardens, which are fairly close to the Stables (through which you initially enter the gardens). This time I was alone and wanted to venture a little further. In particular, I was hoping to find the Japanese Gardens – a style I particularly admire. I walked through the stables – an area filled with shops and places to eat (with plenty of seating at which to eat), and through the garden entrance.
Free Entry for RHS & National Trust Members
Both RHS and National Trust members get free entry. Otherwise it’s £7 (£5 for children, or a family of 2 adults and up to 3 children for £19). As you enter, the first thing you find is the Kitchen Garden. Adjoined by Glasshouses and a small, well tendered Orchard, at this time of year a good range of fruits and vegetables could be seen in place. Everything was labelled, and I marvelled at myself for correctly identifying a number of specimens by sight, before reading the labels. Some, in particular, the Apple trees which can be found in abundance – many espaliered – often included additional details about the variety, such as who and why it was bred. It made for fascinating reading.
From there, you find the Rose Garden – a beautifully tranquil place with a central water feature. This garden has several levels to it, so there are numerous vantage points from which to take in the surroundings. Again, everything was clearly labelled, which is particularly useful if something catches your eye.
From this point, you can either enter the Tower Garden or venture through the topiary towards the ‘L’ Border, surrounded by various shrubs and lawns. Knowing this would send me towards the Fernery, I opted for this route. The Fernery is quite easy to miss because it isn’t especially visible behind the ‘L’ border – I found it by accident last year. However, it’s well worth a visit – almost like entering a tropical rainforest.
It’s not huge by any means. However, the humid atmosphere and running feature waterfalls really give it a special feel. It’s really quite easy to forget you’re in Cheshire! As someone that especially likes Tree Ferns, I could spend an age in here. However, the path is narrow, so it becomes quickly crowded if there are more than a dozen or so people in there at any one time. Fortunately for me, on this particular visit, I had the place to myself.
Following the fernery, you can venture straight into the conservatory. This was originally designed to show off the latest material in season at the time – and is home to the largest banana plant I’ve ever seen (though I’ll qualify that by saying I haven’t seen many!). From here, I headed towards the mansion. This takes you past ‘Wyatt’s Potting Shed’. Used by Lewis Wyatt himself – it’s sure to put your own potting area to shame.
The view from the Mansion is as you would expect – vast and elegant. Immediately to the front is the Italian Garden. A formal terraced garden with gravelled walks, beds forming patterns and beautiful wide borders. The design is best appreciated from the steps of the mansion, as you would expect. It has remained largely unchanged since 1860.
At this point, I went back on myself and returned back through the ‘L’ Border and this time towards the Broad Walk. This, aside from the Mansion view, offers the longest vista from any one point – though not completely flat, and thus you can’t quite see the end at all times.
The Leech Pool can be found on the left a short walk into this. The African Hut is found on the left around half way down. It’s at the African Hut that you join guided tours of the Japanese Garden, which are held Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1.20pm & 2.20pm during ‘high season’ – assuming these aren’t fully booked, you can join simply by ‘turning up’ – but otherwise you book at the garden entrance. A guided tour is, however, the only way of getting ‘inside’ the Japanese Garden. It is otherwise viewed from the boundary only, though you can see all sides of it.
The Japanese Garden
Unless you have a specific interest in this particular garden, you can see sufficient amounts to satisfy curiosity. I sadly missed these tours, but do hope to take one next time I’m there – the cost was only £2. From what I could see from ‘outside’ the space is impressive. Whilst, not a ‘true’ Japanese Garden, you’d be left in no doubt what it’s ‘supposed’ to be. Monty Don recently filmed here for his series on Japanese Gardens, which follows a similar pattern to Paradise Gardens. A series well worth watching.
Having already walked a good 6 miles at the Flower Show earlier in the day, and adding a further 3 miles exploring the Gardens here, it was at this point time for me to head back. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the gardens though. Having now been twice at the same time of year, I’m eager to return for a view during other seasons. I imagine every season will have something new to offer!