A week ago we headed up to Tatton Park for the day to join in with their ‘100 years of Roald Dahl’ celebrations as something special to do at the end of half term.
We’ve not been to Tatton Park before, though it’s somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for a while – I love big old estates with historical stately homes and beautiful grounds. As a family of six a day trip of this kind can be quite expensive, so we took advantage of their ‘Totally Tatton Twit Ticket’ – just £33.50 for two adults and three children including the £6 parking charge which gives entry to the mansion, farm and gardens – a saving of over £20. We were prepared to pay for Sophie as an extra to the ticket but they waved her in along with the other three girls which was rather lovely of them. Definitely worth it, especially as you can use the ticket again on another day if you don’t manage to see all of the attractions (though you would have to pay for parking again).
Ella and Mimi had been looking forward to going for ages as they both love Roald Dahl stories (Mimi’s favourite is ‘The Magic Finger’ and Ella’s is ‘Matilda’), so there was much excitement in the car on the way there. If I’m honest, I was really excited too – I grew up enjoying classics such as ‘The BFG’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, so I couldn’t wait to see how the magic from the books had been incorporated into a fun day out. The journey took us just over an hour door to door and we made sure to arrive as it opened as there was a big classic car show being held there on the same day so we knew it would be super busy.
We decided to start our adventure in the Gardens. Our first encounter was with the peach stone from James and the Giant Peach, which you could actually go inside. From there we continued through the secluded Rose and Tower Gardens to find The Twits’ house, complete with furniture stuck to the ceiling, chairs and walking sticks that had extra bits glued to the bottom to make Mrs Twit think she was shrinking and dirty pants & beards hanging on the washing line! We then ventured deeper into the Pinetum and found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of impressive rhododendron bushes of every colour imaginable – it was glorious.
We discovered the serene and peaceful Japanese Garden (my personal favourite – it was so quiet and calm!) and continued on to the Choragic Monument, which boasted impressive views over Melchett Mere. Then it was a long, slooooooow stroll back down Broad Walk (Ella had developed some really big blisters on her feet so spent most of the day either gingerly tiptoeing barefoot or being given piggy-backs!), through Charlotte’s Garden, past the Italian Garden and down to where the Danny the Champion of the World adventure resided.
This was brilliant – a huge obstacle course with stepping stones, a tyre swing and balancing logs to navigate, all set within even more beautiful gardens. The kids had a blast completing the course (and even the husband and I joined in for parts of it too). By the time we’d done all of this the four girls were starving, so we made our way back out to The Stableyard where there were plenty of picnic tables to eat at. You’re not allowed picnics in the Gardens, presumably to avoid littering spoiling the gorgeous surroundings. There are lots of choices for places to eat (The Stables Restaurant, The Gardener’s Cottage Tea Room and The Tuck Shop) but we’d opted to bring a picnic with us as we’d already spent quite lot of money over the rest of half term and wanted to save a few pennies. Plus it was a lovely hot and sunny day and it seemed a shame to waste it by sitting inside to eat.
Once we’d refuelled we headed over to find Matilda in the Mansion. I thought the girls might be a bit bored by this bit and worried a little (ok, a lot) about them touching/breaking things, but actually they loved it (and nothing got destroyed – phew!). They pretended to be ‘posh ladies’ and walked around using ‘posh’ voices and holding their skirts out. There were sumptuous red carpets on all the stairways, so for those areas they imagined that they were Hollywood superstars and gracefully glided their way up and down the steps. It was so funny to watch them! When we reached the servants areas of the mansion they began calling everyone “Mi’lady” and switched to cockney accents – goodness knows where they’ve got all of that from.
You had to search for letters as you explored the Mansion, which eventually spelled out Matilda’s favourite book title once you reached the end of the tour. The girls had fun hunting them out and some of them were really well hidden so we had to keep our eyes peeled. There were stops on the way around where you could be a part of the story – a hat dressing up area for the part of the story where Mr Wormwood’s hat gets glued to his head and a classroom area complete with The Chokey and fun educational word games to play.
Of course the 18th century Mansion itself was stunning inside – dramatic period furniture, jaw-dropping pieces of fine art and (Ella’s favourite of course) a library filled with approximately 5000 books, some of which were incredibly old. You could quite literally feel the history in the atmosphere and I’m pretty sure that if you listened hard enough the walls were whispering stories about the generations that had lived there over the centuries.
My favourite was a non-descript little room down in the cellars. The Mansion was the Egerton family home and Maurice Egerton, the final Baron of Tatton, was rather fond of travelling. This small room housed the most incredible collection of curiosities – a mini-museum in the basement! There was everything from tribal weaponry to exquisite shells to hippo teeth to bomb fragments, all meticulously labelled with perfectly legible spidery penmanship from the past. I could have spent hours in there poring over each and every item, but by this time the girls had reached their limits so I reluctantly dragged myself away.
We got ourselves a little tub of ice cream each from The Housekeeper’s Store and sat in the sunshine to eat it. It was mid-afternoon by this point, the temperature was still rising and the girls were pretty tired. We could maybe have squeezed in seeing the Enormous Crocodile in the Parkland and Fantastic Mr Fox at the Farm, but the girls were desperate to play in the rather awesome Adventure Playground and we knew that we still had an hours drive ahead of us to get home and swimming lessons first thing in the morning. So after half an hour in the playground (zip-wires, climbing frames, swings, slides and obstacle courses galore), we headed home. We will most definitely be back though – the Roald Dahl celebrations continue until the beginning of October and with the Totally Tatton Twit Ticket we can get back in to see the Farm and Parkland without having to pay for anything other than parking.
Please note: I have not been asked (or paid!) to write this post – all images, thoughts, opinions, ideas and feelings are my own. We genuinely had a brilliant time at Tatton Park – its a great all round family day out (and if you have little bookworms like me, the Roald Dahl event is definitely worth a visit).