Saturday, 6 June 2015

Tatton Park

What would happen if the National Trust handed one of its properties over to be run by the local council? If you had asked me that question yesterday, I'd have said; "It would be neglected until it was utterly ruined. Either that or it would be over-commercialised until it was utterly ruined. I am hedging my bets here, but I am fairly confident on the utterly ruined thing."

But, not for the first time, I would have been WRONG. Today I went to Tatton Park, which was left to the National Trust in 1958 but is run and financed by Cheshire East Council and neither of those things has happened.


Tatton Park

Don't get me wrong; Tatton Park feels more commercial than most other NT properties. A bit of pre-visit research showed that it hosts over 100 events every year. I got very excited when I read about "Fergie at the Farm" as I thought Sir Alex Ferguson had found himself a new career, but Fergie turned out to be a cartoon tractor. Other events range from the Moscow State Circus to "Pigs Galore". How can anyone resist an event called "Pigs Galore"? 

But after a few hours there, I can report that overall it felt very similar to other National Trust places (and NT members get in free of course).

Here are my highlights:

1. The Gardens
Something strange is happening. Either I am developing a very unlikely love of gardens, or I have coincidentally managed to visit the two loveliest gardens in Britain in the past seven days (last week I went to West Green House Gardens). 

Tatton Park Gardens are stunning. There's a really good map that directs you round the various elements - there's a beautiful Italian garden right outside the house, a kitchen garden, a rose garden, a Japanese garden, a pinetum...you name it and Tatton has it. 
 
Tatton Park gardens

2. The Mansion
Tatton Park was owned by the Egerton family from 1598 to 1958. It became their main residence in the 18th century when John Egerton decided to build a new house, which was finished in 1716.


Tatton Park mansion

The house was then extended by various Egertons over the years. A lot of other estates have an up-and-down history, where one earl does loads of renovation work and then the next owner prefers to live somewhere else and leases it out to a farmer who lets his cows live there. But the Egertons all did something positive to the place - they seem to have remained financially solvent, which probably helped.

3. The Park
The park around the mansion covers 2000 acres. It has been a deer park since 1290 and there are still red and fallow deer wandering about (probably not the same ones). Humphry Repton was involved in the landscaping of the park - he prepared a plan of recommendations in 1791, which included improving the water features. Today there are two nice lakes, which help make it a pleasant park to walk through. It was very busy with joggers, walkers, dogs, cyclists, people having picnics; it's clearly a big part of the local community.

4. The Scones
If Tatton Park is run by the council then Tatton Park scones are probably baked by the council, which means I probably shouldn't include them in this study. 

But it's interesting to compare and contrast the all-important approach to scones:
1. The scones were sign-posted as 'Margaret's Scones' 
2. There was a big variety; fruit, cherry, raspberry, and blueberry 

Margaret is undoubtedly very good at baking scones - mine was enormous and very tasty indeed. I am also happy to report that as I joined the queue, the woman in front of me looked at my tray and shouted across at her husband; "Dave, get me a scone?" My work never stops.


Tatton Park scones

National Trust or not, I absolutely loved Tatton Park and I highly recommend it.

Tatton Park: 5 out of 5
Scones: 4.5 out of 5
Ghost sighting: 0 out of 5

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