Amelia’s Magazine | My mystical garden

Today I experienced something out of the ordinary and very magical as I visited Tatton Park in Cheshire. Although I’ve lived in the North of England all my life, I’d never previously visited these beautiful gardens. However, after seeing them and experiencing everything there is to see and do, I know I will be visiting again soon.

The day started early as I decided to make my trip to the park an adventure, so I thought the most enjoyable way to travel would be on my bicycle. Unfortunately for me, I managed to puncture one of my tires yesterday (the first flat tyre I’ve had in two years!) so I had to quickly mend that before setting off on my long journey. I printed off a couple of maps, made some sandwiches for lunch, said bye to my cat Elliot and then jumped on my bike.

I cycle round Cheshire a lot, I love that you can see so much and travel so far without the restrictions of road traffic and the expense of a car. Providing I maintain my bike enough to keep it working I take pride in the fact that I’m not contributing any harmful greenhouse gases to the environment by using it regularly.


Having not previously ridden in this area, it pleased me to find most of the journey was well sign posted and the path followed a very scenic route through the countryside. I took many photographs along the way, I strive to always record and document what I see, from interesting looking trees, pretty streams, acres of open fields and numerous interesting species of flora and fauna. At one point I stopped to take a closer look at some large thistles as they were very intriuging in appearance, covered in bees and hover flies. I left promptly when a yellow-jacket tried to sting me.


Not only did I see lots of wildlife on this trip, but also many interesting buildings and mechanical manmade machinery. The most memorable structure was the Lovell Telescope in the Jodrell Bank Observatory. Although this satellite is located near Goostrey and Holmes Chapel in the Borough of Macclesfield, I could see it standing tall above the trees in distant fields. It makes quite a contrast to the green and brown countryside, but it is a fascinating ice white structure.


There were many interesting pieces of new and old farming machinery to be seen along the way, some for which looked old and abandoned. There were also many old buildings to be seen, all of which fascinated me. I adore old and dilapidated buildings, and any structure with history and a story to tell. On these buildings exteriors I noticed thousands of details such as peeling paint, evidence of old plant growth on the bricks, and cracked and broken windows. I also discovered a sign for ‘Cuckooland’ hidden within the ferns on the side of the road. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to explore Cuckooland too… maybe next time though.


About halfway through my journey I crossed the M6 motorway. This was an instant stark contrast to the quiet and calm grassy fields I had been passing for the previous hour.

One of the most attractive and interesting buildings I passed on my journey was the Gatehouse to the Mere Golf & Country Club. It reminded me of a small palace from inside a magical fairytale as the façade is covered almost completely with green vine leaves. The windows feature detailed panelled pains of glass in painted metal frames. The brickwork includes geometric patterns created with alternating coloured bricks. There are beautiful turrets on all roofs, and the gardens are carefully tamed and delicately dressed with brightly coloured marigolds.


Much of the remaining journey towards Tatton Park was a concentration of very expensive looking houses mixed in with beautiful lakes and huge gardens, some of which were new builds with glass fronts and numerous extensions. I did have one near miss along this stretch of road when a super expensive looking car suddenly pulled out of a drive at about 50 mph and nearly hit me! Luckily he managed to brake in time to avoid a collision, and my heart skipped a few beats.

The rest of the cycle ride was lovely as it was very peaceful and there weren’t many cars on the road. Plus there was a huge downward sloping hill so I could give my legs a rest and ride really fast for a while.


As I reached the park as, not only was the weather really brightening up, but the first glimpse of wildlife I saw when looking in the fields was a herd of deer! It was quite breath taking and uplifting to see them strolling round in the huge grassy land.


A few more metres cycling and I had arrived at the entrance of the park. I was now feeling very excited as apart from getting in for free as I was on a bike, everywhere looked completely amazing and it really was like a vision from the most beautiful oil painting you have ever seen.

There were gigantic trees lining either side of the road leading to a huge sand coloured Edwardian mansion which stood proudly behind a well maintained courtyard. I had a brief look around the exterior and then made my way over to the farm to see all the animals.


On the way to the farm I past a few fields, the first of which contained a red deer, which had apparently recently been rescued. I also passed lots of black and white sheep of which two were very friendly and came over to day hello. One of them seemed to enjoy having his photograph taken as he kept sticking his head through the fence to get close to my camera. Or maybe he just wanted to eat it? For some reason he seemed to be enjoying eating a spikey plant, which I think must have really hurt his mouth to chew!


The farm is set in a corner of the park known as Tatton Dale and was, in its heyday, at the heart of the vast Egerton estates, feeding family, guests and staff at the mansion, as well as servicing the park and the outlying properties. Today it is still an authentic working farm that uses traditional farming methods and has recently been given Rare Breeds Accreditation for its commitment to helping to sustain rare breed farm animals.

Once in the farmyard you are spoilt for choice as to which animal you can see. The farm provides a picture of rural life where time has stood still since the 1930s and traditional breeds are still resident. Everyone is allowed to feed the goats and hens, meet the pigs and donkeys and visit Mary Sant’s 1930s cottage.

Visiting the cottage was one of the highlights of my day as I thought it was fascinating how they have retained all the original features of the cottage interior. It looks almost identical to how it did in 1930 when it was the home of the Farm’s caretaker, Miss Mary Sant. According to the records, Miss. Sant was responsible for cleaning the offices, closing the gate to the farm at night and locking up, for which she received £26 per year. It was quite an eye opener to be reminded of how people in my Grandparents generation lived, and how much this differs from our privileged living conditions today. There was only one piece of electrical equipment I could see, which was the radio, and of course there was no television!




I went back outside to have a look around the yard, and saw several large pieces of old machinery and iron structures. Inside the barns there were many different animals with their young, such as cows, horses, donkeys, sheep, chickens, ducks, and goats. Many of these animals are rare breeds, such as the longhaired sheep, which were very cute!





After looking round the remaining barns and workshop rooms I decided to head back to the mansion to have a look at the gardens. On the way I passed the bright green passenger train on the road, which carries people between the different areas of the park. It looked like lots of fun to travel on!

Back at the mansion, I had a bite to eat and then started to locate the gardens. There was a great atmosphere within the whole park as there is a parks for children to play on, rope slides and swings, and on that particular day they also had several fun fair rides, one of them being a beautiful carousel.

I found the shops and restaurant, and eventually discovered the entrance to the gardens where the Biennial artwork was also being displayed. To get into the gardens you have to walk though a narrow building containing various facts and photographs about the history of the park and gardens. As soon as you leave this building you are confronted with one of the most beautiful and breath taking sights you could ever see!

Walking into the gardens for me was like stepping into an Edwardian secret dream garden as lots of old features are fantastically preserved, and the variety of flora is immense and so beautiful. I walked around the orchard and pineapple house for a while, admiring every detail. I then decided to have a look at some of the featured pieces of artwork, which had been created for the displays.

It was he first Biennial show which has been featured in Tatton Park, and the theme was ‘Botanical Collections and Collectors’, suggesting new ways of looking at established spaces and their initial inspirations. Over 30 artists, performers and writers had developed new work in response to Tatton Park’s gardens, investigating the legacy of collections, collectors and the designed landscape amid current issues of climate change and globalisation.

The Biennial supports the work of emerging and established artists through a process that reveals the history of the Park. It is a launch pad for future events that will further understanding of exceptional artistic practice within the laboratory of this historic property, managed by Cheshire County Council and owned by The National Trust.

I managed to see and experience a couple of the featured displays, including the ‘Sensory Tour’ which was guided by Gayle Chong Kwan. This event invited participants to experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the grounds. Gayle asked the group to place a blindfold over their eyes, and she then proceeded to guide them around the kitchen garden so they could taste various herbs and learn about the produce which grows there.


Whilst in this garden I also discovered several funny scarecrows dressed in all sorts of attire. There was a tin can robot, a plant pot lady, a lady dressed in an evening gown, and even a scarecrow man dressed in a tuxedo with a curly moustache! I also found a piece of artwork which had been created by Lisa Cheung aka the Kitchen Goddess. It was a human-like vegetable sculpture with a round transparent head made from wire. This work was both sculptural and performative: a growing gown of plants, fruit and vegetables that will ultimately be eaten.





I then wondered deep into the gardens so I could explore the whole park. I was continually amazed with ever footstep and blink of an eye, as every single detail within the Park gardens were astonishingly beautiful. Some of the details I adored were; the panelled glass roofs on the greenhouses, the giant 20 foot dog shaped hedge, the secret hidden faces and beautiful patterns incorporated into the stone vases and seating, and the accuracy, symmetry and expanses of high detail incorporated into every single object or plant I saw.

However, my favourite garden of all the gardens in the park was the rose garden. To enter this garden you have to walk through an early 20th century tea house, and then all of a sudden you are confronted with a strong sent of roses, and the vision of thousands of roses of various breeds. Although, this was one of the smallest gardens, I found it the most inspiring and calming place to be within the park. It was a very intimate space packed with small pathways to allow you to walk between the plants, and there was also a beautiful stone and tiled pool situated in the centre as a focal point. In the early 1900s this was used as an occasional bathing area for the family in summer, and in other times of the year it was used as a pond for fish. When I saw the rose garden bath however, it was dry and contained several strange robotic fern creatures. They were standing stationary for a while, but all of a sudden as the clouds cleared and it became a lot sunnier, they began to walk about! These ‘Walking Ferns’ created by Paulette Phillips, were described as a herd of 10 solar-powered ‘fern-bots’. The inspiration for the idea was based on the Canadian Walking Fern, and the many fern species in Tatton’s collections.


I then proceeded to walk around the rest of the gardens in order to see the remaining pieces of distributed artwork and permanent garden landmarks. I saw ‘The Monument for the Happy Immigrant (Japanese Knotweed), which was featured in the Tower Garden. I encountered several of the large photographs, which had previously been taken of features within the garden, then printed onto clear Perspex sheets and suspended in the air in various locations. The idea behind this was to question your ability to recognise accurate perspective, when a disjointed view of perspective is placed in front of you.



I was running out of time, but as a result I got a bit lost in the Arboretum and Deep Woods. Hearing the warning siren to tell you it was ten minutes till closing time, so I had a little panic attack and continued to run until I eventually found the African Hut, and moments later saw the Mercury Pool which had a beautiful little fountain in the centre.



On my way back up to the mansion I passed several small wicker and wool sculptures, which were hanging in several trees. I later read that these were a collection of bird feeders, baths and tables created by the artist Shane Waltener. The idea behind them was to ask whether the exotic mix of seeds from Tatton’s global population of plants has brought new birds to the grounds.



One of the final beautiful garden features I saw before leaving the grounds was a life size fountain sculpture of a male mermaid. This was situated directly in front of the Mansion and it over looked the whole park and surrounding landscape.

It was sadly then time to leave Tatton Park and go home. I returned to the stableyard, jumped on my bike and made my way towards the exit. When I had almost reached the gates I was confronted with one last glimpse of beauty. I looked to my left and saw a field with hundreds of deer and stags. I slowly and quietly walked down the path towards them, and then walked on my knees a little so I could get much closer as they didn’t seem to mind that as much. I was very close, just tens of metres away from them and they didn’t seem to mind. I then made my way back to the road, and yet again became distracted with another herd of stags, which had huge horns.

Just as I was walking back towards my bike and about to leave, something amazing happened as the Park Rangers had encouraged all the deer and stags from the adjacent field to cross the road and join the stags. I stood still and the rangers passed me with an encouraging smile whilst he fed them so I knew I was allowed to stand and observe them running all around and past me until they were all together in the same field. It was an amazing experience and I would recommend a visit to the Park to everybody!

For me, Tatton Park is my very own mystical garden.

Nikki felt so inspired by her time in the Tatton Park Gardens she made us a beautiful illustration. Responding to a story she read about a lady who used to read and write in solitude in the gardens during the 1930’s, Nikki’s illustration entitled The Dream Collector deals with themes of of escapism and dreams. Have a peek at more of her beautiful mystical work here.

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